The Bitterroot River
Photo from Andrew Hettick

Podcast Ep. 126: Dry Fly Hatches and Presentation on the Bitterroot River with Andrew Hettick

In this episode we WadeOutThere with Andrew Hettick from Southwest Montana.  Andrew grew up in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley, but found his connection with fly fishing in college at Montana State. 

Podcast episode appears at the end of this short article.

After coming home from school he began pursuing a career as a fly fishing guide on his hometown river.  He has been guiding and fishing there ever since.  Andrew is passionate about sharing this special place with anglers young and old and helping them catch trout on the fly.  We discuss the Bitterroot River, dry fly hatches, and presentation techniques for mending and feeding line.

We discuss: 

  • The Bitterroot River
  • How guides search for structure and logjams after run-off to ensure safe floats
  • Dry fly hatches on the Bitterroot
  • Dry fly techniques
  • River etiquette and how it changes as our rivers see more people
  • Feeding line versus mending 
  • Laying out good casts with dry flies

Words From Andrew

Thirty minutes in all directions and you can find a trout that can keep your line tight.

If you only have a few fish out of a dozen that want to eat on top, your just trying to cover as many fish as you possibly can to create a larger opportunity for yourself.

You can be behind a boat and that boat can be fishing three feet off the bank, and you can come up right behind them and fish inches if not a half a foot off the bank and do significantly better.

All you do when you get frustrated is you’re making things so much harder on yourself.

If I had one fly to survive on to eat fish on on the bitterroot it would be an Adams.

With the technology of rods these days it’s amazing what you can do with a $200 fly rod.

Good things come to those who mend.

(Jeff Grey)

Key Takeaways

  • Lowland snow that sits in the valley with warm temps is enough to discolor the water and raise water levels in the spring.
  • The first large stonefly of the season on the Bitterroot is a skwala
  • Pink worms, coffee colored Pat’s Stone, and flashy streamers can work well in dark, higher water.
  • There is not a large number of brown trout in the Bitterroot.
  • Bitterroot is a great dry fly river, where you can consistently catch fish (and big ones) on top.
  • Starting in March (with the exception of high flows in run off) the Bitterroot is dry fly accessible.
  • Starting in May are the salmon fly and golden stone hatches.
  • Debris and logjams from runoff can close off sections of the river.
  • Each year after high water guides float each section to check the channels.  They will walk it first or use a raft with light gear, to see what is going to be a problem.
  • The Bitterroot Stone comes after the salmon flies.
  • There is a very small green drake hatch.
  • PMDs are typical for July.
  • August is good trico fishing when the water is often low. 
  • Pods of trout feeding on tricos will often be in the slicks at the back of pools.
  • July and Aug are great for hoppers ants, and spinners.
  • Mayflies like blue wing olives come out in the Fall, as weather is cooling and there is typically more water.  Also in March and April.
  • Using a post on a midge cluster can help you see it. 
  • Clusters are easy to tie.
  • There is lots of wood on the Bitterroot.  It can pay off to be close to it with your flies.
  • Two flies: a simple Adams in size 12-14, or a Purple Haze (purple Adams) are good flies on the Bitterroot.
  • Pat’s Stone is good all year long, in tan, black and coffee, or natural colors.
  • Rod tip low creates a larger hookset.
  • A technique when mending is to lift the rod all the way up with a wiggle at the top to get the leader off the water.

Learn More

You can get in touch with Andrew or follow him on Instagram at:

To schedule a guided trip with Andrew visit:
Freestone Fly

If you want more information on some of the topics we discussed try reading these blog posts from WadeOutThere:

READ: WADEOUTTHERE | The Art of the Missed Hookset
READ: WADEOUTTHERE | What Makes a Good Day’s Fishing

If you enjoy the Wadeoutthere Fly Fishing Podcast, and want to help it grow, please leave a rating and review.

I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I enjoyed talking with Andrew. WadeOutThere friends.


Jason Shemchuk

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