On the Beach

Life isn’t always a beach, but the good stuff usually involves moving water

By Rob Breeding

It’s Spring Break season. Some of my students took advantage of the week off to travel. Whenever possible, that destination is usually a warm beach somewhere.

That’s a reasonable response to the end of a long winter in the Northern Rockies, when the sensation of sunshine on bare skin is sublime.

A warm beach is a long way off and often out of reach financially for many of my students — mostly small-town kids from Montana and Wyoming. So I’m not hearing many stories about partying on the beaches of Florida or Mexico.

The most frequent refrain goes something like this: “I went home. It was boring, but I saw some old friends. It was nice to get away from your class for a week.”

I grew up in Southern California so warm beaches are in my DNA. Despite that, the beach is low on my list of destinations when my profession affords me a week away from work this time of year. The late March/early April timing of Spring Break means one thing: fly fishing. Make that fly fishing with a reasonable expectation your guides won’t freeze up.

The window before spring runoff hits can be short – especially so in a year such as this when it’s been unseasonably warm. Skwalas are coming off right now on rivers that support the big stoneflies. Other hatches will soon follow.

March Browns and Gray Drakes are two early spring hatches that usually beat high water. The nice thing about these mayflies is that — while not skwala size — they are considerably larger than the tiny blue-winged olive or midge patterns we have to use on tail waters that support winter hatches.

No more squinting to see your fly. For us old guys that’s a good thing.

The rush is on. It’s not just the torrent of high water anglers have to worry about. Prior to high water there’s a period when rivers are gradually on the rise. Unfortunately, rising water usually slows the fishing. So even if things haven’t turned to chocolate milk the river can be off. The other problem with increased flows this time of year is that the uptick is generally the result of melting snow. So while the water level comes up, water temps often drop.

But none of that is an excuse not to fish. Life isn’t always a beach, but the good stuff usually involves moving water.

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