Skwala Season Has Arrived in Western Montana


Skwalamania has arrived in full force in western Montana.  This much anticipated event of the fishing season was delayed by record snow and cold in February, but it is finally upon us.  The skwala stonefly is the first big bug hatch of the year and holds the potential to offer some of the best dry fly fishing of the season.

Cabin fever gets the best of most anglers before the hatch even happens and this year was no exception.  The first stitch of nice weather brings trout junkies out of the dark holes they’ve been hibernating in to throw nymphs and streamers on the Bitterroot.

The river was busy this past weekend and everyone with a fly rod had the same hope.  They hoped to see an adult skwala crawling on the streamside rocks, or better, floating helplessly in the water.  Any sign at all that dry fly fishing was a remote possibility would do.

Skwala Fly Fishing season, western Montana, Missoula, Montana. Fish It. Montana Trout Outfitters.

Skwalas, the bug that anglers go crazy for.

Those wishes weren’t answered and the anglers who found success found it subsurface.  We are on the verge of some great fishing though.  While I haven’t seen an adult skwala yet I do have reports from some reliable sources of a stray bug here and there.  The nymphs are starting to stack up in the shallows and the river continues to drop and clear.

The weather is forecast to be relatively cool but we still may see the first push of bugs toward the end of this week.  Anglers willing to brave the conditions could be rewarded with the first consistent dry fly fishing of the season.

Trout, Skwala Season, Fly Fishing in Western Montana, Fish It, Montana Trout Outfitters.

Trout can’t resist Skwalas either.

The best fishing is in the afternoon, and right now the key is to focus on slower moving water.  The water temps are just too cold to find trout living in their typical summer haunts.   Stonefly nymphs and other standards like san juans, princes, and pheasant tails have all produced lately, and if you happen to be out there when the dry fly fishing actually starts to happen consider fishing just a single skwala.  Droppers and double dry rigs can prevent you from getting the fly in tight to structure this time of year.  Sometimes simple is better and a single dry fly is as simple as it gets.

Fishing in Missoula, Mt, Skwala season in western Montana. Fish It. Montana Trout Outfitters

Gorgeous afternoon on the Bitterroot River.

The hatch IS going to happen!  The only question is when.  I plan to be out there every chance I get because the skwala hatch is an annual event not to be missed.

Tight Lines,

–Tony Reinhardt


Tony Reinhardt BioTony Reinhardt is the owner, outfitter for Montana Trout Outfitters in Missoula.  He has been a guide on the rivers of western Montana for 16 years and absolutely loves his job.  When he’s not working you’ll find him fishing with his two children or in the woods hunting.