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fishing, fly fishing, stoke, skwala, skywalk fishing, dry fly, brown trout, Montana Wild

Although we weren’t able to be on the water today, a few of our good friends took to the river in full force, and got in on some of the most epic skwala fishing that Montana has to offer. While this hatch can be totally hit or miss, the boys hit it hard yesterday, netting a total of almost 60 fish, not to mention a hand full that got away. Wondering what the day looked like? Check out the day’s stats below.

fishing, fly fishing, stoke, skwala, skywalk fishing, stoke, buck nasty, brown trout, Montana wild

  • Water Temperature: 38 – 40 degrees.
  • Air Temperature: 40 – 50 degrees.
  • Weather Conditions: Overcast.
  • Float duration: 8 hours.
  • Fish count: 55+

While fishing was productive from noon until 8:00, peak time seemed to be from 2:00 to 5:00, with fish keying in on a variety of skwala stoneflies, and going ballistic on any big bug the boys seemed to float past them. It’s day’s like this that hardcore fly fisherman dream about, and only the ones who are passionate enough to closely watch and chase the hatch will be rewarded. Bugs were found on the surface and on the banks of the river throughout the day, indicating that the hatch is in full swing. Although they boys killed it today, the skwala hatch can be extremely hit or miss, with fish going nuts one day, and shutting off the next. After talking with them for awhile, they explained that they thought the fish were feeding so actively this day due to cold temperatures on 4/3 and forecasted cold temperatures for 4/5 as well. It’s warm windows like these that can commonly provide excellent fishing for the aspiring skwala angler. If you’re looking to get out and start skwala fishing, here’s a list of a few things you’ll need.

fishing, fly fishing, outdoor media, Montana Wild, stoke, skwala

  • Fly rod and reel (5 or 6WT)
  • LOTS of flies (stop into your local fly shop and pick their brain on what to use OR tie you own sick nasty bugs)
  • Waders and wading boots (skwala fishing can typically be very cold, and in nasty weather. You’ll definitely want to dress warm and be ready for unexpected weather at any time.)
  • Rain jacket.
  • Access to a boat (while you most definitely can fish skwalas from shore, you’ll be able to fish a lot more water from a boat, and be more exact with your fly presentation.) Don’t have access to a boat? stop into your local fly shop and ask about rental boats, or hiring a guide for the day.

Last but not least, make sure to get out and have fun on the water! After all, that’s what it’s all about!

Words: Calvin Connor

Photos: Tucker Lehr

skwala hatch, skwala, skwalla, fishing, spring, bitterroot river, montana

This week we dropped our trailer for our film SKWALHALLA.  You can read more about the hatch and film HERE.  If you missed it here is the trailer:

We really started fishing the hatch in 2012.  New to fishing and eager to get out after a long winter, this hatch was a welcomed respite from worm chucking and turd swinging.  In 2013 we fished the hatch with more dedication, hoping to unlock the secrets of the hatch so that days could be spent catching fish on a dry and not just staring at foam float downriver for eight hours.  While some may claim this hatch is so easy to hit we’ve found it to be quite the opposite.  With a 2+month weather and water temp window these bugs can pop with little to no reason one day and be gone the next only to reappear three weeks later in the same spot.  An angler dedicated to seeing the hatch in all its glory often has to be borderline obsessed with time on the river the biggest factor in catching glimpses of the best days.  That year we filmed a few days but had relatively nothing to show for the effort.  2013 came around and we again set out to fish the hatch and were met with slightly better success.

skwala, skwala hatch, montana, fly fishing, video, film

Getting just the right drift was the ticket to catching this rainbow.

Again we filmed a bit but with no mission and no goal it was only worth added time spent behind the camera gaining valuable experience filming fishing.  2014 came and once again we walked banks searching for rising trout and skwalas crawling through the rocks.  A few epic days without the camera had us feeling more confident.

skwala, skwala hatch, skwalla, montana, spring, fishing, bitterroot

Travis with one of a handful of fish caught in a small stretch of river

Around this time I had become better friends with Josh Rokosch, a local of the valley and one knowledgeable skwala fisherman.  Growing up fishing the hatch meant he was a wealth of knowledge and in 2013 he had expressed his desire to make a skwala film called Skwalhalla.  The title essentially means Skwala Valhalla and we were right at the center of the best skwala fishing to be found.  Things didn’t work out to begin filming then or in 2014, but more groundwork was laid and a project was starting to line up.

skwala, skwala hatch, bitterroot, river, fishing, spring

Beautiful colors on a skwala eating cutty

As 2015 rolled around we agreed to begin filming Skwalhalla.  The film was meant to document the glory of the hatch and the epic dry fly eats associated with it.  No long, boring storyline, just good friends, good times and big eats.  We filmed 4 days that spring and got a few shots but far from what we needed to make a film.  With no funding of any kind this was going to be a personal project and that meant no real deadline.  With the ball slowly rolling we ramped up production in 2016 and filmed a total of 11 days searching for more eats and bigger fish.  That may seem like a lot of days but often film days never seem to be amazing fishing days.  Sure there are a few every once in a while but often if you get 5-10 really good shots in a day you’re crushing it.  Running a camera for 8 hours on a river can be tough and shots get missed, fish get missed, the exposure or focus was off, the audio was cracking, or something didn’t line up that made the shot just ok.  Again this is entirely self funded so if the fishing sucks and we’re sick of filming then the camera goes bye bye and usually someone catches a fish within 5 minutes haha!! Typical.

montana, skwala, skwala hatch, hatch, fishing, spring, film, video

Late afternoon riser

With lots of footage logged we were still missing a few shots that would round out the film.  One area which was lacking was high quality bug footage.  When you’re focused on catching fish and filming eats you’re not always looking to film the naturals crawling around on banks.  With plenty of eats in the bag we set out to find skwalas doing their thing, crawling out of the river, hatching, squirming on the water and flying off rocks and logs.

skwala, fishing, montana

A slow day but proof that things were about to heat up

Day one of 2017 and boom we hit it right on the money.  Skwalas were crawling all over the first log we pulled up to and we logged some awesome shots.  One thing to note is that we saw lots and lots of bugs that day but the fish weren’t keyed into them yet.  We fished hard but just didn’t get the eats.  The streamer actually got pulled out and turned up a few nice fish though.  The next day we switched systems and got into some amazing fishing.  With plenty of footage on the hard drives we made the gamble to go to a stretch of water that hadn’t seen much traffic and hoped we would be rewarded.  That choice paid off in a big way with a half dozen of our best eats of the film taking place on that float.  With so much success we decided to go back to the same spot the next day.  The weather was essentially the same and flows remained stable but the fishing was night and day.  The fishing had turned off and only a few eats were had.  It wasn’t how you’d hope to end a film trip but that’s the nature of the hatch.

fly fishing, log jam, trout, spring, montana, filming the skwala hatch

Side channel log jams. Fortunately we were able to pull the braces off and slide through

At the end of it all we had spent over 20 days filming for this movie and we’re damn proud of what we’ve created.  The final film is 21 minutes long and filled with over 70 dry fly eats.  The storyline is simple and it’s filled with good music and even better fishing.  Projects like this are big undertakings, but we hope they push the progression of fishing films in the right direction.  This is undoubtedly the best video documentation of the hatch to date and your support of this project goes a long, LONG ways in helping fund more content in the future (both free and paid).  At the end of the day we can’t do this without the support of our fans.  Please consider purchasing SKWALHALLA, it will get you stoked for spring fishing!!!

Words by Zack Boughton

skwalhalla, skwala, skwala hatch, montana, wild, film, video, bitterroot river
montana, spring, bitterroot river, bitterroot, skwala, skwala hatch, fishing

A large squall that narrowly missed us on a spring float.

Winter is long in most of the West.  Many fisherman have gone months without handling a fly rod and have either went into full hibernation or have been busy tying flies for the upcoming spring.  Late January and early February the temps start to rise and nymphing can be good, especially with the ever deadly San Jaun worm.  It works but it also gets old quick.  Fortunately the skwala hatch is just around the corner.  In limited spots across the West a medium sized stonefly called the Skwala (skwala americana) begins its emergence onto river banks, logs and other structure around the river.  Emerging from their shucks they begin to crawl around and eventually search for a mate.  After mating the females return to the water to lay their eggs and the lifecycle continues its cycle.

montana, spring, bitterroot river, bitterroot, skwala, skwala hatch, fishing

A male skwala stonefly

That’s a highly simplified version but the key here is that the trout start looking up in a big way.  Being able to toss a size 10 foam body dry fly in the middle of a snowstorm to a 20″ brown will absolutely change your perspective on spring fishing.  But that doesn’t mean the hatch is easy to hit perfectly.  Fishing a day here or there means you might not even get a glimpse of the potential and could very well think the hatch sucks and why would a guy waste his time throwing a dry when nothing eats it?  Given spring in Montana weather and water temps can drastically change as well as river flows.  The hatch can pop one day and be dead the next even without a significant weather/temp change.  It can be good in one five mile stretch one day and in an entirely different area the next.  Often a few bugs show up around mid-February and can last well into April.  Finding the right window on the right stretch is the tough part.  But when you hit it right it’s absolutely amazing.  Big fish and even bigger eats.

montana, spring, bitterroot river, bitterroot, skwala, skwala hatch, fishing, montana

A hefty cutbow that ate a skwala dry.

After a few years of talking about making a film to show the highlights of the hatch we finally decided to go for it.  That was 2015 and with no funding and no real plan we filmed 4 days that spring.  That year gave us just a taste of what was to come as only one of those days really worked as far as getting any good shots on camera.  We then filmed 11 days in 2016 knowing that we needed more good footage to really capture the eats we had hoped to show.  Filming fishing is always a tough gig.  You can almost count on the fishing to be worse the second the camera comes out, it’s just how it is.  Throw in missing shots, having the exposure or focus wrong or just not being in the right place at the right time and you’re lucky if you log 5-10 really great shots in a day.  We now had filmed enough eats but the bug footage was lacking.  Actually capturing the bugs hatching had been tough and we decided we needed one more year to round out the footage and add a few more good fish to the mix.  After three years and over 20 days spent filming we called it complete and got to editing.  A few long weeks in the edit bay left us with a rough cut and another week of polishing saw the film finished and complete.  Three years and lots of work, money invested, long days and even longer nights and we are proud to present the trailer for SKWALHALLA.  The full film will be available for purchase on Vimeo On Demand on February 1st and is now available for Pre-Order at this link > https://vimeo.com/ondemand/skwalhalla  Enjoy the teaser!

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-Written by Zack Boughton