Clark Fork River, St. Regis, Montana
Clark Fork River, St. Regis, Montana
Thursday I headed for St. Regis, MT for two days of guided fishing on the Clark Fork River. It snowed most of the day on my drive over to Montana and it continued to snow during the night.
Friday morning found Brooks Sanford, owner of the Clark Fork Trout & Tackle fly shop (http://www.clarkforktrout.com) and I driving east to the Dry Creek boat launch. We got the drift boat into the water as the snow kept falling.
Up to a couple of days prior to my arrival, the Skwalla Stoneflies had been crawling out of the river and then the females were dropping back onto the river to lay their eggs. The fish had keyed in on this yearly event and wanted to eat Skwallas. However, with the cold weather back upon us, the Skwallas decided to stay in the water waiting for warmer times.
I started nymphing, which is usually a very productive form of fishing on the Clark Fork when the trout are not taking dries off the surface. We fished for about 3 hours with only one fish caught and decided to take a break and have lunch. We had hoped that it would warm up a bit to get the Skwallas moving, but it only started to snow some more.
We did notice a few fish slurping the surface while we ate, so when we hit the water again I brought out my dry fly rod and started casting large Skwalla dries, at times trying both single and double flies. That was the ticket. Even though the real Skwallas were not out (we only found one on the water) the fish knew they wanted to eat them so they were taking my foam Skwallas. I caught a lot of fish that afternoon, a nice 18 inch Brown, a lot of Cutthroats and Rainbows and some good looking CutBows, mostly in the 15 to 17 inch range. All the fish were fat and sassy. They had wintered very well with lots of food to eat. Even though the water was cold, they all fought like the champs they are.
I caught my last fish right around 5 PM. By then it was starting to get dark and very cold in the valley and the fish stopped feeding. The weather forecasters were saying it was going to be warmer on Saturday so we had high hopes of having a Skwalla hatch in the afternoon. But then, what do weather people know?
On Saturday morning we launched in Superior and did the drift down to Sloway. The morning was almost a repeat of Friday morning only this time I had two fish to the boat by lunch rather than just one. One was on a nymph and the other on a Skwalla dry fly. We decided to take an early lunch because a really cold wind was kicking through the valley, but we could see some clear skies behind the clouds so we hoped it would warm up a bit. The rest of the afternoon produced periods of warm and then periods of cold spells.
After lunch all I did was fish the dry fly. We would have a slow spell then I would catch a fish or two or three, then another slow spell, then more fish. Some of the fish were found slurping the surface under the foam in the back eddies. This was great sight casting to rises, and with the wind and varied currents it proved to be challenging. Others were caught along seams that Brooks knew contained fish, so it was just a matter of casting and twitching the flies to different seams and different distances from shore.
We noticed the Robins were working the shoreline going after Skwallas that had just climbed out of the water. So while they were not flying as yet, the stoneflies were trying to do their thing. Some drifts proved very successful really close in to shore (within 6 inches) others out in the seams 10 to 15 feet from shore, frequently in seams that had some foam in them. I just kept alternating my target zones trying to find where the fish were.
While we only saw one Skwalla those two days, the Blue Winged Olives and Midges were hatching like crazy. At times it looked like small armadas drifting along with the current. The fish were not really paying any attention to these flies except those flies that had been caught in the heavy foam. We tried BWO droppers off the Skwallas, but for the most part the fish ignored them and only went for the big bugs.
See the photos in two blogs at:
Last edited by sagefisher; 04-05-2009 at 11:26 PM.
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IFFF Life Member
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Washington State Council FFF
Alpine Fly Fishers Club
President & Newsletter Editor--The Dead Drift