This week has been interesting, huh? I won’t dive into the obvious but what I will tell you is what I and some fishy friends from around the Flathead Valley have observed on our local waterways this week.
The Flathead River system is fishing pretty similar to the previous week with the occasional nice fish coming to hand. Due to the colder, moisture heavy weather of the past few days, our water temperatures have dropped slightly, with water temperatures only reaching around 40 degrees for the daily high, these water temperatures are not conducive to bug activity but don’t let that deter you from having some fun on the rio.
Under the bobber.
The nymphing game is still king on the big river. Anglers are using a variety of flies fished deep under an indicator with the occasional split shot if needed. Flies such as San Juan worms, squirmy worms, weighted Pat’s rubber legs, twenty inchers, and hot beaded or brightly collored mayfly nymphs are dangling below bobbers throughout the flathead system. Anglers should look for winter holding water. Fish slow inside corners, as well as slow and deep seams, and pool tail outs to find willing trout.
Swing hard! The swinging game isn’t a bad option for this time of year. Large soft hackles and small streamers moving slow and low are a productive way to swing inside corners and pool tail outs. Match your sink tips according to water depth and speed.
The dry fly fishing is about as elusive as a N95 protective mask these days but its only a matter of time until our trout start looking up. Too early for that one?
I had the chance to get on smaller moving water west of the valley and the fishing has been more consistent. I haven’t been able to get a water temperature reading but there has been noticeably more bug activity compared to the bigger river to the east. It should be noted, that streams west of Flathead Valley tend to have more organic matter moving through them compared to the Flathead River system which effects bug densities and bug emergence. Late mornings and mid afternoons seem to be the magic hours for whitefish and trout feeding with blue wing olives (size 14-16), midges (size 18), and the occasional small stonefly (size 8-12) emerging throughout the day.
Catching earlier in the day favors the subsurface bite. Short leashing (nymphing with a standard 7.5 ft leader with 2-5 feet between your indicator and top fly) small blue wing olive and midge patterns anchored by a larger, heavy stone fly or worm pattern.
A well presented streamer in the deeper pools and slower water have moved some nicer fish. You might not get them to fully commit but its always fun to see a trout turn into a predator on a streamer. Try smaller cone headed streamers in whites, yellows, olives, and blacks.
Later in the day a few fish can be seen rising in tail outs. Small blue wing olive dries and cripples should get the occasional sipper to commit.
It’s a great time to be out on the water and the fishing appears to be getting better with each warmer day. It is only a matter of time until we have solid numbers of fish moving up from Flathead Lake and a size 16 purple haze is all you will need to tie onto the end of your leader. Until then, keep chucking those heavy nymphs and streamers. Don’t forget eye protection!