Social Distancing and Fly Fishing

With the entire world in panic-mode, I slip on my waders and head for the river.

There is so much I do not understand. I have so many questions. Why aren’t there enough tests? How long does the virus live on surfaces? When will restriction be lifted and life return to normal?

As I walk the path that leads to the river, the only question I have now is which fly to try first.

Headed to the River to Fly Fish in March

Yes! No one at a favorite spot

Catching a Rainbow Trout on a San Juan Worm in March

Fooled another one with a San Juan Worm

Fishing Locally

We are blessed. Only a few hundred feet out the back door lies Rock Creek. Yet, I yearn to be exploring a new river or tributary.

Next best thing to do is to fish a new spot on the creek.


Rock Creek flows more than 50 miles before joining the Clark Fork and heading west to the Pacific. Many miles upstream, the river passes through a wide valley. In late winter, the wider the valley, the more sunshine and warmth. Important qualities in mid-March.

We hoped to see rising fish, but on this 39 degree day, it wasn’t to be. Fishing was slow at first; it was late morning and still cold.

Following the Foot Path

Our chosen spot was new to us but certainly not new to others. A well-worn path lead from our parked car both upstream and down. On this bright day, we chose the path upstream.

Catching Cutthroat Trout in Montana

Yes! No one at a favorite spot

Nymphing on a Stream while Social Distancing

Fishing a Nymph Off The Bank

Nymphing the Deeper Runs

Winter often sees the lowest streamflows of the year. Fishing pre-runoff, always look for the deepest pools to dead drift nymphs or strip streamers through. Water temperatures are low and cold and trout are not feeding aggressively.

We found success with double nymph rigs. A heavier attractor to get the flies down, followed by your best guess on what a trout will eat.

For us, our rigs were a size 12 tunghead prince as the top fly and a size 18 beadhead flashback pheasant tail in size 18 as the meal. This setup brought in several nice cutthroat, a rainbow, and two browns. A whitefish chowed down the big prince as the flies drifted through some soft water.

As the afternoon warmed, we saw midges and tiny mays in the air, but no fish on the surface. The water temperature read 34 degrees.

Nymphing on a Stream while Social Distancing

Nymphing and Social Distancing

Sunday Short for March 29, 2020

Organizing Fishing Stuff

Not everyday in Montana is filled with sunshine. On the dreary days in late winter 2020, with social distancing now the standard, we decide to be productive. Tim busies himself at the tyer’s bench in the cabin while I tackle the OMG, WTH mess I have in my fishing vest. Yes, I’m old-school and still wear my Simms vest.

Spring Hatches in Western Montana

Skwala, Blue Winged Olive, Midges, Nemora, and Western March Browns are the hatches for March and April. Tim has created his own pattern for the March Brown, his favorite spring bug.

Tied on a size 14 fine dry fly hook, he uses a purple-ish gray dubbing he ribs with a dark thread. He uses micro-fribbits as tail material and two natural CDC feathers as a wing. Simple and seductive to trout.

Mindless Tasks

At the end of the fishing season, hunting gear quickly replaces fishing in my rig. Spring comes only to reveal my autumn haste.

With news headlines becoming scarier by the day, I head into my office and tell Alexa to play my favorite playlist on Pandora. We have boat bags, vests, packs, fly cups from a dozen flyshops filled with what looked good then, and fly patches overfilled.

With my favorite music playing, I feel normal again. Which box should I put these pink sowbugs in?  Do you think tippet dated 2012 will still work? 30 years of fly fishing stuffed into pockets, boxes, and bags.

It took two days to sort last year’s fishing season. If you haven’t yet got your gear organized for the season, I highly recommend it. #therapy #thistooshallpass

Organizing flies and social distancing

Preparing For Better Days

Tying Flies - March Brown Hatch

Tying Up A CDC March Brown

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