Ten Tips for the Skwala Stonefly Hatch - UPDATED

March 16, 2018

No offense here, but not all fly fisherman are good fly fisherman.  I have a lot of good friends that are bad fly fisherman.  They still have fun, but they are often ill prepared and complain about the fishing being dead.  Especially during the Skwala Hatch.  Since they are friends I'm not afraid to call 'em out and also give them some friendly advice. Preparation pays when it comes to catching fish, and its fun.  Don't overthink it, but you should at least think.  The timing of the Skwala hatch typically allows the angler plenty of time to get ready.  At the moment its going full tilt and we have good conditions over this upcoming week. 

Pre-Game Tips for the Skwala Hatch

  1. Where are you going to fish?  I'm not talking about the name of a river.  Where will you park?  Where will you float?  How will you hike into the river?  What holes, pockets, or log piles will you target?  If you can't answer these things and cherish success maybe a little scouting trip is in order.
  2. What flies will you use?  Why wait till game day to buy a bat or mitt?  Get some flies.  There are no secrets here.  Get your flies, get them in your box.  Skwala Flies
  3. How is your leader supply?  Get your stuff out, organize your pack or vest and get your tippet and leaders manifested and ready.  I like a 9' RIO 3X Tapered Leader
  4. What if the river is muddy?  This might mean a strategy change, OR you might take advantage of the poor conditions to scout new access points or just work on your fishing.  Your casting, mending, wading, and reading water will all get better despite the tough bite.  There is no better way to improve your game than to struggle a bit.  Tough love.  
  5. What if there is no Skwala hatch?  What do I do? Go home?  Haha.  No, there are lots of other options but be aware that due to tempermental weather and water conditions in March that the hatch may not be happening.  Be ready with plan B and don't be afraid to use a variety of small nymphs, streamers, or Blue Winged Olives.  As April 1st approaches be thinking about March Browns.  Have a plan b.  
  6. A few other things... floatant, wading boot laces, wading belt, wading staff, etc.  Find this stuff in that sorry excuse for a garage of yours.  Clean it up while you are at it.  That place is a mess.

The Bug, The Skwala, the Legend

Understanding hatch dynamics is critical to angling success, plus it makes your days on the water much more rewarding when you fully understand the natural cycle of insects, water, and trout.  During the winter, the trout have been shivering and hungry (much like a fly fishing guide), and as spring begins the trout become aggressive.  The big trout are especially hungry because they will be spawning soon and need the extra energy.  This timing makes the Skwala hatch unique because it occurs at the fringe of spring just as the water warms enough to warrant aggressive feeding.

We thoroughly enjoy learning about the insects our hand tied flies imitate.  Sure you can have success simply stopping by the fly shop and seeing what’s “hot” and never giving the insect it imitates a second thought, but learn a little about the insect and you might be surprised at how rewarding fly fishing becomes.  Our girlfriends, wives, and non fly fishing buddies have endearingly dubbed us as “bug dorks”… fine by us because we will be the “bug dork” in the picture with a big trout!  If you want to be that guy or gal too, start by learning about the Skwala Stonefly.  It is olive colored, the nymphs live in fast water, it has 6 long legs, 2 long antennas, 2 long tails, is 22-38mm long, and tastes like chicken.  The most common hook size is #8-12.

A Stonefly's life cycle works like this.  It is born, it lives in the river for 2-4 years, and then it crawls out on the bank to complete its metamorphosis.  It breeds, then the females return to the water in the afternoons to lay eggs and many get eaten by trout on the surface at this time.  In the process of migrating to the shore, trout gobble up the nymphs (the aquatic stage of the bug).  This process makes it one of the best hatches of the year because it draws the fish towards the shore for good dry fly fishing opportunities!  This also makes the Skwala hatch unique.

Ten Skwala Stonefly Fishing Tips

The first thing to keep in mind is that the water is still cold.  Adult Skwalas don't start to hatch until the water hits about 42 degrees although we have seen them hatch around the 40 degree mark.  In cold water the fish are not going to live in traditional whitewater riffles.  They are going to be in the slower walking speed pools, especially on the edges where the water is about 24" deep.

Tips for Fishing the Skwala hatch on the Yakima River
  1. Fish walking speed water 
  2. Get long drifts Nymph the edges of the pools where trout sit to intercept migrating nymphs 
  3. Dry fly when the water is over 42 degrees 
  4. If you miss the hatch too early that is ok!  Bigger fish are typically more abundant at the very start of the hatch 
  5. Don't expect big numbers, hope for big fish 
  6. Dress warm and invest in a good Winstopper jacket (comfort helps you have fun even when the weather and fishing is rough)
  7.  Try twitching your fly in calm water 
  8. Use a dry dropper with a tungsten beadhead nymph - Here are a couple of suggestions:  Jighead Tungsten Beadhead Nymphs, ALL Tungsten Beadhead Nymphs
  9. Focus on slow, clean, and quiet drifts.
  10. The best skwala fisherman present their flies as delicately as they would a #18 BWO
  1. Great article,tried fishing adult skwala on Friday ,no takes put on a bwo and fished for risers and did very well around 2 to4 pm great day
  2. Big BWO hatches in the upper, MB nymphs are on the move as well as Skwalla. Dry fly fishing on Skwalla and BWO are picking up, water takes a bit more time to rise so this coming weeks should be awesome. The rain in the forecast could really kick up the mayfly action!
  3. teach me how to catch a fish on a fly rod and where you fish on the river.
  4. Which rock should I stand on and at what time? Can someone take the fish off the hook from your shop?