Holy smokes it is good to be back in the Flathead Valley! I’ve been on the road helping our good friends at Yeti put on the YETI Film Tour throughout the country but due to the ever evolving COVID-19, AKA Corona virus, AKA “The Rona” situation, the Yeti Film Tour is on hold and I find myself back in one of the most beautiful places on the planet, home. I’ve been fortunate to get out and fish several different pieces of water (moving and frozen) but only feel comfortable giving a report on the main stem of the Flathead.
Fishing this time of year is about quality over quantity. You aren’t going to “slay them bro” but you have a good chance at seeing a quality trout on it’s annual journey from Flathead Lake into the river systems to eventually spawn and that’s pretty cool. Water conditions are great with clear water and well defined winter holding water. At last check, the water temperature on the main stem has been creeping into the low 40’s and slowly rising each day. There have been quality fish caught on a variety of methods, including heavy nymphs fished deep under a bobber, swinging small streamers, and stripping streamers from a boat.
Effective nymphing rigs include brightly beaded stonefly and mayfly nymphs, as well as vibrant colored worms, mop flies, and other attractor nymphs. Keep your leaders long (9-12 ft) and taper down to smaller tippet (3x-5x), with two beaded flies and additional split shot if needed. The streamer bite has had its moments of glory and is a good option while moving to your next nymphing run or swinging through inside corners. Try small streamers in blacks, olives, yellows, and white. Your rate of sink and stripping techniques will vary due to the type of water you choose to fish.
The main stem has been more crowded than normal due to the circumstances pertaining to COVID-19. To some of us who are used to having the river to ourselves this time of year, it can be a little discouraging with the amount of people on the water but please be courteous to your fellow river users. We are going through “interesting times” and I predict that the local fishing pressure is going to be steady throughout the spring or until all the people with real jobs have to return to “the grind”. Be nice, keep the fish wet, and have fun out there!