The Bitterroot River has been fishing very well for the past two weeks. Many a fish have been caught and fishermen are happy to be back on the river.
The river is crowded, but the fishing is the best we have seen in some years. The skwala flies dominate the scene and will continue to do so for the next three weeks and the March Brown fly that usually shows up in April is beginning to hatch this week.
If you can go fishing do so, because it is there for the novice and the expert to catch some good-sized fish while the water is still cool and the fish are very active.
The Bitterroot often gets too crowded for some fishermen. When you look up and down the river and see more than one or two boats and/or fishermen, then it is crowded because the winding river does a good job of covering up the signs of crowding pretty well.
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What do we do when this situation arises? Some fishermen head for home only to return another day or time, hoping that the crowding will be over. Most of the time it is.
Some fishermen travel to other rivers that usually don’t have the crowds early in the season but still provide some good fishing.
From Hamilton, fishermen travel either to Rock Creek or the Big Hole to satisfy their drive to fish. Either fishery is great and will provide some good fishing with less crowding. Both are relatively close and can be accessed readily.
They are both quite different so if you have not been to either river some learning may be in order. Rock Creek is a short drainage and can only be fished by raft or boat until July 1. Then you can use a boat to access fishing areas, but you cannot fish from a floating device the rest of the year. The river is quite fast because of the drop in elevation from the headwaters to the Missouri River.
The Big Hole is more of a meandering river like the Bitterroot. Its regulations regarding floating the river are a little more relaxed, and it has some regulations on it for guides and outfitters to make sure there are days that are available for recreational fishermen only. These days have the least pressure and will provide some fund angling and floating on this river.
Wherever you fish this weekend it will provide some good opportunities for you. There are plenty of stoneflies and mayflies to enable you to have some fun and catch some fish. Even though the weather is getting good, put some sunscreen on because most of us are not ready for the summer weather, as we have been covered up all winter.
It’s too early to have mosquitoes, but while adding some sunscreen to your vest or pack add the repellent to make sure you have it when the need arises.
Have a great weekend on the Bitterroot and remember to watch out for the other person.
Bill Bean writes a weekly fishing column for the Ravalli Republic’s Saturday Outdoors section.