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Kootenai Angler – March Update

Posted on Mar 15, 2016 by Dave Blackburn

“March is a green muddy month down below, some folks like it, FARMERS mostly.,” said Bear Claw Chris Lapp in a famous line from the movie, Jeremiah Johnson.

It was the movie that I saw in the 70’s that was most instrumental in planting that westward migration seed in me. March is a month on the Kootenai that can have some decent fishing days, including some good dry fly action.

Kootenai_River_Rainbow_TroutThis March however its been inconsistent at best with lots of rain and varying flows as the water managers are trying to meet a target elevation in Lake Koocanusa above the dam. River flows have been ranging from 4000 cfs to 22,000 as we keep getting a lot of spring rain. The dam administration has to keep varying the flow to manage the snow melt and rainfall from Canada.

Along with the varying flows we’ve had daytime highs all over the board from mid thirties to mid-sixties. Its been kind of a weird spring. Our ski hill, Turner Mountain, shut down a couple of weeks ago. It was a decent season for snow, and our watershed moisture with all the rain has been close to 100%. That means another good fishing season with plenty of water. The rest of Montana is not so fortunate. There continues to be a drought in much of the rest of the Big Sky state.

There are a lot of anglers that avoid coming to Montana from mid-July to early September due to all of the drought related fishing restrictions and closures that have been consistently happening for the last decade. We are lucky to have consistent water temps released from the Dam during the hot part of our summer. We have never had any kind of drought related fishing restrictions or closure on the Kootenai. Its one of the benefits of being on the states largest tailwater fishery. Speaking of large fisheries, I recently wrote a description of our river for a book that one of our friends was putting together. You can read it here: Big Waters – Kootenai.



About dave

Dave Blackburn started tying flies and fly fishing at the age of 10 and has been fishing and guiding the Kootenai River in Montana for more than 25 years. He graduated from West Virginia University with a BS in Forest Resource Management with an emphasis on water quality and aquatic ecology. He traveled westward and ended up in Montana on the banks of the Kootenai in 1981 where he now resides with his wife, Tammy. He is on the board of directors of the Kootenai Valley Trout Club. He has been a past director of the the Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana and the Montana Council of Trout Unlimited. Dave chaired the Upper Kootenai River Preservation Society, which was instrumental in defeating the Jennings Rapids Dam project. Dave is a FFF-certified casting instructor and a contract tyer for Umpqua Feather Merchants. He teaches fly tying and fly fishing at Flathead Community College. His photos and articles have appeared in Flyfisherman, Fly Rod and Reel, and The Flyfisher magazines.