Don't you just love the weather in Montana? When you go on a fishing trip at this time of the year, you get to pack two different bags of clothes.
One bag is for hot sunny days or cloudy rainy days. The other bag has your long underwear, a down-filled vest and winter jacket, socks and boots.
The swings in air temperature can be dramatic from day to day, and having the right clothes to wear for the day's weather is important.
Fish obviously don't have different outfits to slip on to stay comfortable - they simply go to a depth where they will feel comfortable when the water temperature changes.
Cold fronts and high pressure systems can create dramatic changes in surface water temperature. A month ago the surface water temperature on Canyon Ferry Reservoir was a balmy 68 degrees. The walleye bite was on!
Last Friday, thanks to the cold front that brought snow to much of western and central Montana, that same surface temperature on the lake was a much cooler 50 degrees. The end result for fisherman was a very slow walleye bite.
The good news this week is that the air temperatures are now in the 80s and the water temperature has warmed up. The walleyes are back on the bite. A lot of the fish being caught are around the 14- to 16-inch class, but once in a while the big ones get hungry too!
"I thought I had a new state record," Bob Culp told me on Sunday from Canyon Ferry after fishing Saturday, "I was fishing alone and locked into a huge walleye. I got it up to the boat and got in a hurry to net it, because the waves were moving me too close to the rocks. The fish came off the hook."
Culp, who is from Frenchtown and fishes Canyon Ferry a lot, says it is by far the biggest walleye he has ever seen.
Yes, fishing is fun when they are biting and it is even more fun when you can help pay for your gas money with the fish you catch. That happened to me recently when we discovered a blue tag on one of the walleyes that we caught while fishing Canyon Ferry.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has tagged walleyes in the lake. When you redeem the blue tag at the FWP office in Helena, they will send you $75. They started the $75 tag program last year.
In terms of what Montana weather can do to you, I should mention that I fished Little Bitterroot Lake last week with Matt McCombs on a warm and beautiful Monday afternoon. We caught 16 kokanee salmon with three of the fish 14 inches to 16 inches in length. We lost a couple of nice fish, too, jigging in 40 feet of water with a pink Swedish pimple and a pink glow hook tipped with maggots and white corn.
But the next morning, our fishing plans changed at the boat ramp with 2 inches of snow already on the ramp and more swirling around our heads. Yes, even though we didn't fish, that second clothes bag with the winter clothes came in very handy.
However, Berny Croy, Jens Gran and I didn't need warm clothes on Monday. We fished Lake Mary Ronan under warm sunshine and caught a limit of kokanee salmon in the matter of three hours.
Mark Ward's statewide Montana Outdoor Radio Show airs Saturdays from 6 to 8 a.m. in Missoula on KGVO 1290 AM. E-mail Ward at email@example.com.