Spring is a much-heralded time for western U.S. trout anglers. This is when winter loses its grip on the land, the days grow longer, weather patterns generally stabilize, and fishing becomes a lot more comfortable and productive.
Accompanying that warming air and water temperature is the appearance of multiple aquatic invertebrates. Steady midge hatches join heavy numbers of blue-winged olive mayflies. The first thick emergence of caddis, and on some streams, March brown mayflies, appear. All that activity gets the blood flowing. But for many western fly-fishers, nothing beats the first large bugs of the year—skwala stoneflies.
In fact, skwalas give fly-fishers their first opportunity of the new season to break out boxes of stoneflies and large attractors, and cast easy-to-see surface patterns to rising trout. The skwala hatch doesn’t match the popularity of salmonfly, golden stonefly, or green drake hatches, which arrive later in the year. But for some dedicated anglers, skwalas are a focal point, and I know a couple people who chase skwala emergences from stream to stream over a six-week period from mid-March through early May. To help you imitate these early-season monsters, and make the most of your pre-runoff time on the water, here are a few considerations and tactics that have worked for me, year after year, on waters sprinkled around the West.