In Praise of Spring in the Northern Rockies

by Mark McGlothlin on March 26, 2013

in Local's Prerogative

Jeremiah:  “Would you happen to know what month of the year it is?”

Bear Claw Chris Lapp:  “No, I truly wouldn’t.  I’m sorry, pilgrim.”

Jeremiah: “March. Maybe, April.”

Bear Claw: “March maybe.  I don’t believe April.  Winter’s a long time going?  Stays long this high.  March is a green, muddy month down below.  Some folks like it.  Farmers mostly.”

BarnDaySpringMy friend Gere called it the mud season back in the days when we ran our horse farm up in the Flathead.

And mud season it was, when the ground finally thawed, snow piled for months began to melt and every square foot of holding pen and our dirt and gravel south parking area (about an acre) turned to gooey muck. Pastures flooded as they showed their first blush of green. High calf muck boots were worth their weight in gold.

Those teasing days when the sun was bright, the winds calm and the temperature pushed to the mid-50’s brought short sleeved shirts out of hibernation, the robins back building nests and the crocus pushing up through the morning frosts. None of us gave a damn there’d be 5 inches of new snow in a day or two; it was finally spring.

Even better, those transitional spring days brought fishy afternoons free of iced-up guides, making nymphing the main stem of the Flathead or the Swan much less of a task.

The first few really warm days (relatively speaking of course) always put a flush of color in the rivers, though we’d still get out for a float every chance we could to huck big streamers and just be out on the water. Lots of folks overlook the potential of throwing big streamers in high water…

The first sunburn of the season, earned on the river, is an event to be celebrated.

Northern Rockies fly fishers tend to get particularly restless this time of year. We know blue winged olives will soon join the pygmy midges we’ve been trying to match for a few months now, followed by the Skwala feast (rolling along nicely in places even today), March Browns, Mother’s Day Caddis and eventually the smorgasbord of late spring and early summer bugs that will rule the river.

Call it what you will – a green, muddy time; the yo-yo season, the transitional window, the shoulder season or just plain spring.

Some folks like it. Fly fishers mostly.