About Jason Orzechowski

Outfitter, Fly Fishing Guide and Owner of Wolf Creek Angler - Chasing a dream, counting my blessings daily and writing about it in the midst of mountains, rivers and trout in amazing Montana.

The Shape of Water 2020

It’s that time of year again when we take a closer look at current snowpack, long-term weather and precipitation forecasts, current flow conditions and current reservoir data at Canyon Ferry to come up with some kind of prediction of what you might expect to see for water conditions on the Missouri this spring and summer.

Five days into April we’re still looking at snow on the ground in Wolf Creek, left over from last week’s spring snow storm but heading into this week it looks like we’ll be seeing some more spring-like weather with temps in the 50’s through the middle of the week and possibly climbing into the mid 60’s on Thursday before another cold front moves through next weekend. I would bet we haven’t seen the last snowfall of the year but hopefully we’re on our way to those warm, sunny spring days on the MO.

The snow water equivalent is looking good with everything in the region in the 100 to 140 percent of normal range and the majority or locations at right around 120 percent of normal. This is right where we like to see things at this point in the season though snowpack fails to tell the whole story. It looks good now but a sudden warm up could rapidly deplete that snowpack and leave us well below average and similarly we could still see plenty of high country precipitation accumulating and setting us up for the possibility of higher flows depending on what we see in the way of spring rains.

Missouri River flows below Holter Dam are currently at 5180 CFS and have remained relatively steady all winter in the 4500 CFS – 5000 CFS range. I would expect to see that pattern remain over these next couple of weeks and then tick up in late April as the spring flows begin to take shape.

Canyon Ferry is currently 73% full with inflows at 3395 CFS and outflows of 5283 CFS. March weather resulted in near normal precipitation, while cooler temperatures occurred throughout the Missouri River Headwaters.
The one-month outlook forecast, dated March 31st, is an equal chance for normal, above, or below normal precipitation and a 50 percent chance that below normal temperatures will occur during April in the Missouri Headwaters.

Based on these factors the current model for April is predicting most probable flows holding right about where they’re currently at with the minimum probable at around 4500 CFS and the max probable at right around 6K. Not a lot of variation in April which will make for ideal fishing conditions.

The show starts in May as run-off begins and while we’re always hoping for at least a few days of flushing flows (over 15K) it looks like the most probable model has us bumping up to just 8000 CFS with the minimum being right around 4,000 and the maximum at just over 10,000 CFS which we would gladly take.

Looking beyond May this far out isn’t all that practical but at this point the best guess is for most probable flows holding at that same 8K before leveling out in the 5,000 cfs range while the max probable peaks around 14K and the minimum probable holds steady at around 4,000 CFS. At this point it’s really anyone’s guess so we try to steer clear of making any bold predictions about June this far out.

It’s all dependent on spring precipitation which we’re assuming at this point will be at or slightly below normal but again, it’s a bit like trying to predict what will happen with the Coronavirus, the models are only as good as the data that goes into them. The more data, the more accurate the model so we’re content to just sit and wait and see and hold off on any prime-time predictions until we have more data. (For both the Coronavirus and the water conditions).

All that being said, I will make the same bold prediction I make every year. There will be water (how much or how little we don’t know) and there will be fish (plenty) and we will be fishing.

Stay tuned for up to date reports and conditions from Wolf Creek Angler.

Stay At Home

Late last week Montana Governor Steve Bullock issued a Stay at Home Directive which went into effect on Saturday and which is set to run at least through April 10th. The directive requires Montanans to stay home and temporarily closes all non-essential businesses, of which we of course are one.

We appreciate and understand the intent of the directive and we encourage everyone to abide by the order and by so doing, hopefully get things back to some sense of normalcy soon. We had shut down guiding operations early last week as well as closed access to the shop in an effort to comply with social distancing standards. Our lodging had remained open and though hotels/motels do fall under essential businesses in the directive we have decided to close everything down for the duration of the order in keeping with the spirit and intent of the directive which is that people should be staying home as much as possible for the duration. We understand that outdoor activity (close to home) is allowed and encouraged and fishing certainly meets the standard however in our view driving somewhere far away enough from home that overnight lodging is required is not really in keeping with the intent of the order.

For this reason all operations are shut down until further notice.

That being said, we are taking orders over the phone as well as by email and we’re happy to ship you anything you need. We’ve also seen a trend on social media encouraging folks to buy gift cards from the businesses they want to support as this immediately puts much needed money in the hands of these businesses. We applaud the trend and would be thrilled to sell gift cards in any amount. Our gift cards are good for everything we sell from lodging to guide trips to merchandise and they never expire. Please call the shop if you would like to purchase a gift card or any other item we can ship to you.

Like all of you, we are hopeful that the future will become increasingly clear as the uncertainty is crippling us all.

In spite of the darkness there is light and I am humbled by the support we’ve received from all of you. The emails and phone calls from our regular customers just checking in to see how we’re doing mean the world to me and the willingness of many to leave deposits in place for future trips has been overwhelming. We’ve also had a steady trickle of folks calling for flies and fly lines and leaders etc which I would bet in many cases have not been needed and I simply can’t express how grateful we are for all of this support through these uncertain times.

Every day draws us closer to the time this will all be a memory. As the weather warms and the grass starts to green and the songbirds return we are hopeful.

Stay Safe, Stay Sane, Stay Home!

By |2020-03-30T20:13:30+00:00March 30th, 2020|Categories: Local Buzz, Shop Life, Uncategorized|0 Comments

ON HOLD

 

Missouri River Guide Trips ON HOLD

Following days of agonizing over how to proceed under the current Covid-19 circumstances we have made the decision to close our doors and also to suspend guide trips effective immediately until conditions allow for a loosening of suggested social distancing norms.

We will continue to offer curb-side service for those seeking flies or other merchandise but the shop doors will be closed to the public indefinitely. Please call the shop (406)235-4350 to place orders and pay via credit or debit card and we will deliver curbside to your vehicle at Wolf Creek Angler or to your doorstep in and around Helena. We’re also offering free shipping on orders over $50.

We have been vigilant about sanitizing and disinfecting touch surfaces but we’ve come to the conclusion that we’re simply not able to practically observe the CDC suggested 6 feet of social distancing within the confines of the shop or within the confines of a drift boat.

We’re not putting a time line on this closure other than to say “until further notice” as the situation continues to evolve rapidly but you can rest assured that we are keeping a very close eye on things and will re-open the shop and resume guide trips just as soon as it’s safe and responsible to do so.

Those with trips scheduled for the next couple of weeks have been notified and given the opportunity to reschedule.

We’ve not been ordered to close as of this moment but if we’re to adhere to the concept of only essential businesses being open at this time we really have no choice but to close for the time being. As much as we like to think of fly fishing as essential to our mental health it’s a bit of a stretch to include fly fishing retail or guide trips in this category so by all means you should get out and fish on your own and soon enough we will gather again to share the magic of social interaction within the framework of moving water and rising trout.

Thank you again for your support through these uncertain times. We are so appreciative of your business and your words of encouragement and we can’t wait to get back to doing what we do best.
Stay Safe. Stay Sane.

By |2020-03-25T17:13:16+00:00March 25th, 2020|Categories: Local Buzz|Tags: , , , , |1 Comment

Escape

Your Escape from a new reality. Photo by Chris Beaudoin

It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by the doom and gloom of the moment, much of which is real, some of which is perceived but perhaps unfounded.

We’ve never seen anything like what we’re seeing now and the reality is we’re likely in for a rough ride in 2020 in the broadest (global) sense but if you drill down and look at this not only from the community health and safety perspective but also from an economic consideration it gets all too real all too fast.

And to be clear, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be doing exactly what we’re doing as communities, as states, as a nation, as a world, but the economic damage this virus and our reaction to it are inflicting on the economic system at all levels is truly incomprehensible.

You don’t have to look far to see the real impacts happening all around us as businesses are ordered to close and those remaining open face an uncertain future with all social and economic normalcy grinding to a halt.

So yes, the future is uncertain and we’re all riding this out together hoping and praying life will return to normal sooner than later. It feels like we’re living in a dream with the world turned completely upside-down.

It was under these uneasy circumstances that I took to the water a couple of days ago and I need to report that I did not expect nor was I prepared for the level of escape afforded me by this outing. An escape from the news, an escape from the looming economic challenges troubling my mind, an escape from a surreal reality where we’re watching numbers and waiting for the next shoe to drop.

We’re watching the numbers of infected and the number of deaths increase while at the same time watching the markets rise and fall in chaos. Our physical health is the driver as we collectively wait. We dread contracting the virus as we brace ourselves for what we’re told will be the worst of the outbreak happening over the next couple of weeks. Our economic health has already contracted the virus and no amount of social distancing will prevent the mass infection which has already taken hold.

Our mental health is also at risk of infection and while it is the responsibility of everyone to stay informed and adhere to the advice of the experts, the amount of hysteria being driven by some in the media is overblown and irresponsible and we must tune it out if we’re to stand a chance of maintaining our mental health.

So back to the water – I was asked by my good friends at SOVRN Creative in Helena to help with a media shoot to promote fly fishing and while I was more than happy to jump in the boat and row them down the MO, it wasn’t until an hour or more into the float that I realized what an incredible boost this was to my psyche.

No phone calls, no texts, no watching infection stats, no watching the roller coaster market, no dealing with cancellations….none of it. It was six hours of bliss, a perfect escape as yet again the river comes through and carries away the worries of the day.

A few friends, a few fish, a few beers and a desperately needed escape. And it’s readily available anytime you want it. Part of the escape for me was being able to hang out with friends but if you’re all about the social distancing there’s no better place to quarantine, just you and the fish and the magic of the river.

So in the midst of this stoppage of life as we know it, we’re still here, open for business and wanting to help you access this great escape. We’re trying to strike a sensible balance between social distancing and commerce and we will continue to adjust the way we’re doing things as the situation changes.

As outlined in my previous post we are offering you, our customers options to promote and comply with distancing measures. We encourage you to take advantage of any one of the following options;

Curbside Service – We are more than happy to take orders over the phone and have your product ready for you curbside when you get here. Just give us a call and tell us what you need and when you will be here and we’ll ring you up, process your credit card payment, assemble your order and deliver to you at your vehicle when you arrive.

Limited Delivery in the Helena Area – As above, give us a call and tell us what you need and where you live and we’ll ring  up your purchase, process your credit card payment, assemble your order and deliver your product to your doorstep in the greater Helena area in most cases the same day.

Free Shipping – Orders of $50 or more ship free for the time being. Give us a call or email us at info@wolfcreekangler.com with your order and we will process your payment, assemble your order and ship anywhere free of charge.

Darken our Door – We don’t want you to feel unwelcome in the shop, we’re just doing what we can to encourage responsible social distancing. But should you prefer to darken our door you can rest assured that we’re cleaning and disinfecting throughout the day. The shop is clean and the staff is healthy. Should that change, we will let you know and we will adjust our options accordingly.

We encourage you to buy your Montana fishing license online which you can do here and if it’s just a shuttle you need you’re encouraged to call that in. We would also ask that if you are feeling sick or just under the weather that you would not enter our shop.

We are so thankful for your continued support through these strange times and we’re looking forward to the day when we can encourage and return to a shop full.

Stay safe and WASH YOUR HANDS!

UPDATE

How the world has changed in the four days since I posted our initial thoughts about Covid-19/coronavirus. And while everything prescriptive which I wrote in that post still applies (WASH YOUR HANDS) there have been some developments nationally as well as locally which need to be addressed as they relate to your 2020 Missouri River fishing plans.

At the time of posting last Thursday Montana had zero reported cases of Covid-19, we now have six. At the time of that posting school was in session and while social distancing was being talked about, people were still going out to eat. That day we saw a state of emergency declared by Governor Bullock followed by a National State of Emergency declared by POTUS on Friday and since then we’ve seen all schools in Montana ordered closed for at least the next two weeks and as of today many counties in the state have ordered that all restaurants and bars be closed mirroring what is happening nationwide. It’s as surreal as it gets but we are hopeful that instituting these measures now will “flatten the curve” and slow the spread and hopefully put us in a better position collectively to move past all of this as soon as possible.

Montana is not currently a Covid-19 hot zone and we don’t expect it to become one, but we will of course keep everyone updated on any changes. It is thought that the big, spread-out nature of Montana can be of benefit when it comes to the social distancing recommended by the CDC.

Following the lead of others, we are instituting immediate changes to our Cancellation Policy for all guide trips and lodging scheduled between now and May 31st, including new bookings.

We will now allow you to make changes to your reservation inside of 30 days without forfeiting your deposit provided you use the deposit to book another trip in 2020. This policy allows you to keep your reservations in place and if illness or travel restrictions prevent you from coming at the last minute you will not be out your deposit. We feel this policy adequately addresses the current issues and we will keep the policy in place for as long as circumstances dictate, meaning if all of this stretches into the summer or fall then we would look at pushing bookings into 2021. All this being said, we do still HIGHLY RECOMMEND Trip Insurance!

Additionally, we want to stress once again that we take extremely seriously the guidelines, advice and directives administered by the World Health Organization, the CDC, Montana DPHHS, Lewis and Clark County Department of Public Health and other involved agencies. We are doing everything in our power to provide for the health and safety of our employees and our customers and will continue to adapt as the situation unfolds.

For the time being know that we are meticulously cleaning and disinfecting the shop regularly and we are taking extra steps to ensure all our rooms are clean, disinfected and germ free. We are currently operating essentially with a staff of one, so I’ve got a pretty good idea of the health of the staff. As business picks up and we start to build up our seasonal crew, monitoring the health of our employees and guides will be of paramount importance and we will not allow any employee or guide to work if they are sick.

As an ode to social distancing for the time being we encourage our customers to call in their shuttles and purchase fishing licenses online and while we’re by no means closing our doors to the public at this point, if you’d like to phone in your bug/leader/tippet etc order, we’ll be happy to meet you curbside. Rest assured, the shop is clean but it’s difficult to maintain the recommended 6 feet distance within our cozy confines.

Thank you for continuing to support us through these uncertain times. We’re looking forward to hosting your social distancing for as long as we need to and really looking forward to coming out on the other side of this hopefully much sooner than later.

By |2020-03-16T23:37:02+00:00March 16th, 2020|Categories: Local Buzz, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Weathering the Storm

These are no doubt crazy times. It feels like the world has gone mad and unfortunately this time that madness can be felt everywhere…even in Montana.

Many who settle in places like Wyoming and Montana do so to escape the madness and while there are no confirmed cases in Montana, and just one confirmed case in Wyoming at this time, it feels like it’s just a matter of time as cases are obviously on the rise. Just as a matter of housekeeping, you may have seen  reports that Montana has one confirmed case of COVID-19 but according to the Montana DPHHS the patient acquired the illness outside of Montana and has not returned to the state since becoming ill.

It’s easy to get sucked in to the doomsday media hype and if you spend too much time listening to those talking heads you’re bound to start to panic sooner or later but that’s obviously the absolute worst thing you can do.

Obviously the markets are reacting to the hysteria and that is not an ideal scenario.

Don’t get me wrong, I am in NO way dismissing the seriousness of the situation but calm must prevail.

I watched the president’s prime-time address last night and I have to say that I didn’t find it particularly calming or reassuring but listening to the analysis afterwards was insane and maddening and disgusting and this gets to the heart of why it’s important to stay informed but why you shouldn’t be seeking information through a partisan filter.

As you would expect, the right said the address was great and the POTUS is doing a terrific job of handling things while the left proclaims he’s botched this from the start. I can’t stand listening to either side.

Here’s what we know. The coronavirus is here and it will likely be something we’re dealing with for a while. Confirmed cases are on the rise due in large part to increased testing and while the increase in cases looks scary the bright side is that the mortality rate is dropping rapidly due to the fact that the more reported cases there are the lower the death rate will be.

This is an interesting take from the Washington Times

We do not yet have a vaccine for the coronavirus but there are common-sense measures we can all take to avoid getting sick. I’ve heard a lot of talk that this shouldn’t be compared to the seasonal flu and that’s fine but the preventative measures are exactly the same. WASH YOUR HANDS!!

From the CDC…

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

• Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
• Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

Older adults and people who have severe underlying chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness. Please consult with your health care provider about additional steps you may be able to take to protect yourself.
Take steps to protect yourself

Clean your hands often
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
• If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Avoid close contact
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick
• Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
Take steps to protect others

Stay home if you’re sick
• Stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care. Learn what to do if you are sick.

Cover coughs and sneezes
• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
• Throw used tissues in the trash.
• Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Wear a facemask if you are sick
• If you are sick: You should wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then you should do your best to cover your coughs and sneezes, and people who are caring for you should wear a facemask if they enter your room. Learn what to do if you are sick.
• If you are NOT sick: You do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask). Facemasks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers.

Clean and disinfect
• Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
• If surfaces are dirty, clean them: Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.

To disinfect:
Most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will work. Use disinfectants appropriate for the surface.
Options include:
• Diluting your household bleach.
To make a bleach solution, mix:
o 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water
OR
o 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water
Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Check to ensure the product is not past its expiration date. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted.
• Alcohol solutions.
Ensure solution has at least 70% alcohol.
• Other common EPA-registered household disinfectants.
Products with EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens pdf icon[7 pages]external icon claims are expected to be effective against COVID-19 based on data for harder to kill viruses. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products (e.g., concentration, application method and contact time, etc.)

Common sense right? Get off the panic track and do what you can to avoid exposure to the virus.

So here’s what we’re doing at Wolf Creek Angler in response to the Coronavirus threat…

Disinfecting/Cleaning early and often

We’re taking extra measures to make sure there are no viruses, corona or other, hanging around at WCA. We’re disinfecting often in the shop and you can rest assured that nobody is reporting to work if they are sick.

We are closely monitoring the guidance of the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding the spread of the virus. Our focus is to ensure we meet our guest needs while doing our part to keep you, our associates, and our communities safe.

We have enhanced techniques used to clean guest rooms after each stay. We are paying particular attention to high touch point areas, to include room keys, public areas, door handles, locks and latches, light switches, and bathroom fixture handles as well as kitchen appliance handles and controls.

Our guides have been instructed to take extra precautionary measures like wiping down high touch surfaces in vehicles and boats and we are providing hand sanitizer to each of our guides for use by clients as well as the guides themselves throughout the day. Guides have also been instructed that they are not to report to work if they are sick.

If social distancing is major part of avoiding the virus then might we suggest that there is no better place to engage in social distancing than on Montana waters.

We strongly encourage you to limit your intake of doomsday catastrophizing and instead turn to neutral expert sources for information.

Here are a couple we follow closely.

Johns Hopkins University

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Montana DPHHS

Stay informed. Keep Calm and Fish On. We’re looking forward to a great season on the Missouri, regardless of the madness!

Not so fast…

As if on cue, winter is about to make a return coinciding nicely with our recent decision to open additional lodging units to accommodate the increase in traffic spurred by last week’s warm weather.

We had been looking at a full house for the weekend but as it stands now we have ample availability should you decide to tough it out.

Temps look fine this week but it’s going to be breezy today and tomorrow. . We’ll make 50 today and close to it tomorrow but expect gusty winds 11-18 with gusts to 30 today and 18-26 mph with 30+mph gusts tomorrow. Thursday may be your best bet with a high of 42 and winds 5-9 mph.

Winter rolls in on Friday with snow and a high of 34 and then the bottom drops out with lows in the single digits Friday night. We’ll struggle to make it into the teens through the weekend so while I had hoped we were past this (should’ve known better) I guess we’ll be resuming the fight against frozen plumbing! If we can make it through the early part of next week things look to trend warmer beginning on Tuesday.

Maybe not a great fishing weekend but it’s not all bad as another shot of precipitation certainly won’t hurt.

We’re currently looking at 100 to 120 percent of normal snow water equivalent throughout the region which should translate into another good water year on the Missouri.
Updated projections from the Bureau of Reclamation indicate most probable peak flows in the 8K range and summer flows in the 5 to 6K range. Max probable peak at this point looks to be somewhere in the 13K range and minimum probable holds steady around 4K all season long.

So what does that mean for your 2020 season flows? It’s still early to tell but odds are we’ll see some decent volume (not flushing flows by any stretch) early on, leveling off to somewhere in the 6K range for your Prime Time.

Once again, spring rainfall (or lack thereof) can make all the difference in the world but at this point we’re liking what we’re seeing for the Missouri and also liking the fact that current projections indicate a good water year throughout the region and perhaps minimal Hoot Owl restrictions but time will tell.

This is the time of year when most calls to the shop turn from booking trips to inquiring about what the conditions will be for said booked trips. While we’re definitely not experts, from a layman’s perspective it appears as though that volume shift away from early June towards mid-June/early July we saw in bookings in 2019 and in our current bookings was the right call.

In spite of the winter weather hiccup we’re anticipating an early and busy spring season. Half of our lodging units are now open and the rest will follow as soon as the weather permits and the traffic volume dictates.

The word is that Shotgun Annie’s will be opening for the season this Thursday. It’s been a long winter without them being open and we’re super stoked to have them back.

If you decide to sit this weekend out why not take some time and book yourself a spring special guide trip. $400 for a full day for one or two anglers. Book two days on the river and a night of lodging and we’ll throw in a second night’s lodging for FREE!

Spring merch arriving daily by the truckload at Wolf Creek Angler. Stop by the shop and see what’s new.

Welcome to March on the Missouri

 

Fred Davison Wolf Creek Angler Guide

As I drove in this morning it sure felt to me like spring was in the air. 40 degrees with a mix of clouds and sun and a light rain…quintessential early spring conditions. If it wasn’t for the howling wind it might be the perfect day to be on the water.

Fast forward two hours and I’m staring out the shop window at sheets of snow blowing across the horizon. And then, just like that, there’s the sun again. Yes, this is spring time in the Rocky Mountains.

If it wasn’t for the high wind warning I suspect there would be some traffic today. This is the kind of weather that gets people thinking about spring fishing and the forecast going forward this week is likely going to bring them out in droves.  After all, with temps expected to be in the low 60’s on Friday, who can resist?Sure it’ll likely be breezy but once you get into the 60’s the wind is much easier to tolerate.

Lodging is starting to book up for the weekend, we’ll have more available possibly by this weekend but for sure by next week so give us a call if you’re thinking of coming out. And don’t forget our spring guide special is in full effect. $400 Full Day guide trips for one or two anglers. Book two trips and a night of lodging and we’ll throw in the second night of lodging for FREE. That’s right – FREE LODGING at Wolf Creek Angler.

If you’re inclined to DIY – we’ve got two fancy new Adipose drift boats for rent (a Runoff and a Flow) and the Mending Waters Montana boats are once again available for rent via mendingwatersmontana.org FREE to all vets and active duty military personnel.

The water is in great shape with flows currently at 4480 cfs and water temp bumping up against 36 degrees. It’ll get there soon. Flows will bump over the next two days, back up to around 4900 cfs by Friday.

Nymphing and streamer fishing will be your methods of choice but don’t count out dry fly fishing. Breezy conditions typically take this option off the table but you never know. Sometimes you come upon that perfect spot, shielded from the wind where the midge feast is occurring. If I were wade fishing I probably wouldn’t go through the trouble of bringing the extra rig unless conditions were just right,  but you’d be a fool not to have a dry fly rod at the ready in your boat from here on out as spring fishing commences.It’s on the early side but if you’re fishing from a drift boat I wouldn’t hesitate to spend some time prospecting with a Skwalla or chubby. You just might get surprised.

Likewise, nymphing is still in the winter zone but it’s about to undergo a transformation as the water warms and the fish start to move and the spring bugs begin to emerge. I’ve been sticking with the Bubble Yum/Rainbow Czech/Amex/Pederson’s Sow/Pill Popper/Caviar Scud point fly trailed with a tailwater sow/soft hackle sow/zebra midge/Yum Yum/Ray Charles etc but there’s no reason you shouldn’t start to work some baetis nymphs into the mix. Jujus’, Radiation Baetis, BWO Wondernymphs, Olive S & M’s, Split Case BWO’s, Magic Flies, LGM’s, Olive Lightning Bugs etc. would all be good options going forward but if you’re happy with your winter rig’s performance then by no means should you change it up. You do you!

There’s been plenty of talk about the streamer action as of late and the talk has been that if streamer fishing is your thing and you’re not out there, then you’re missing out right now. It’s been primarily a swing game but don’t let anyone tell you you can’t strip. I wouldn’t get overly aggressive with your strip just yet but a nice slow strip with plenty of pauses in between has been very effective. Polar leeches, Mojo minnows, Kreelex, Clouser-type minnows and buggers have been steady movers out of the bins these last few weeks and will continue to be good options. Don’t be afraid to go bigger, bulkier and flashier though. The big browns seem to be on the hunt and on the right day don’t seem to be overly selective. Fish what you like. Again…you do you!

Reports have been good for most sections though I haven’t heard much from Pelican down. It’s likely on the cold side down there. Wolf Creek to Craig is a great go-to and Craig to Dearborn has been my preference as of late. I’ve heard decent reports from the canyon and Holter Dam will likely be a busy place very soon so go where you like and do what you like to do…it’s time for spring fishing on the MO’.

Farewell to February


We’re closing out February with another spring-like weekend and even though I’m pretty sure there’s bound to be some winter to come I can’t help but shift gears.

Conditions are still favorable with snow water equivalent still at over 120 percent of average in most areas but at the same we’re looking at bare ground and mild temps here on the Missouri. As I’ve been saying for most of the winter, it’s the best of both worlds with snow in the high country to feed our flows and mild conditions where we’re at giving us ample opportunities to get out on the water.

Winter/Spring Special in FULL EFFECT as we speak. $400 Full Day Missouri River Guide Trips and the most affordable lodging option around at $99 (plus tax) for a clean and cozy bungalow with private bath and full kitchen facilities. Now through the end of April book two days on the water and one night of lodging and we’ll throw in a second night of lodging for free. I challenge you to find a better deal ANYWHERE on the MO!

The winter slumber is about to come to an end, slowly but surely. We’ll soon be opening additional lodging as required and while we don’t have a firm date, I know Shotgun Annie’s will be opening in March.

The fishing has been consistently strong over these past weeks with very little in the way of traffic. Saturdays have been busy but only by winter standards. It’s been the perfect winter to fish the Missouri and there haven’t been many doing it so we urge you to get out here and enjoy the solitude while it lasts.

Warm, sunny days will be here before you know it and with them the crowds which, from the shop perspective, can’t come soon enough but we have definitely been enjoying good fishing and an abundance of solitude on the river.

If you’re on the fence, wondering if it’s worth fishing this time of the season, wonder no more. Every day you’ve got the potential for excellent nymphing, ever-improving streamer fishing and even some good top water action on the right days when the wind stays down. And it’s only going to get better from here on out.

As the water warms the fish will start moving out of those deep winter runs, expanding your opportunities both sub-surface and on top.

It’s still a winter nymph game and will continue to be so for the next month. Anything with a pink or orange bead is a good start and a little soft hackle is never a bad call. Pill Poppers, Caviar Scuds, Rainbow Czechs, Hot Bead Rays, UV Crush, Pink Amex, Pederson’s Sow, Bubble Yum Scuds, Pink Weight Flies, Tailwater Sows, Cotton Candy, Yum Yums Pink Lighting Bugs and don’t forget your Zebra Midges. All of these and many more available now at WCA.

Top Water – it’s a midge game. Fish your favorite midge cluster paired with an Adams or single midge. Griffiths gnats, black sippers, Grizzly Midge Clusters, Bucky’s Midge Cluster, Hi Vis midge etc.

The streamer set has started to mobilize. Action has been decent and is trending upwards. Still a lot of swinging happening which may be your best bet but strippers don’t despair, it’s about to turn. A couple of degrees and it could blow up.

When will that happen? It’s anyone’s guess but this weekend looks prime with temps back into the 50’s Friday and Saturday. It’ll be on the breezy side but it definitely looks to be fishable.

We do have limited lodging available which I expect will fill for the weekend so don’t wait to make that call.

Also – if you’re out and about, stop in and see Chewy this weekend. After a long winter on the IR he will be back in the shop all weekend.

Call ahead for up to the minute reports and conditions.

Under the Influence Part Two

Long ago and far away – pre fly fishing days in Ontario with my dad

This is the second installment of a two-part post.

A couple of weeks ago I shared a blog on our Facebook page from HATCH Magazine that asked the question “Which Anglers have influenced your Fly Fishing?” The post got a good response and got me thinking about my own fly fishing history and remembering all of those who played a role in my journey from curious observer to reluctant participant to sell it all and move to Montana to be a fly fishing guide and fly shop owner.

As is the case for many of us, the towering figure in my personal fishing history most responsible for my being where I’m at today would have to be my dad.

This breaks slightly from the theme of that Hatch blog because my dad was not a fly fisherman but that aside, he did instill in me that sense of awe and reverence elicited by the sight of mountains and forests, the sound of babbling streams and raging rivers, the smell of spring rains and the feel of a trout on the line.

Like many, I grew up fishing conventional gear. I was handed a Zebco rod at the age of five, prompting a journey which continues today.

I fished worms with a bobber for bluegill, sunfish and bass on the lake I grew up on in Michigan, and eventually graduated to hardware. My first experience on a trout stream was also fishing with worms but the memories I have of those early days trout fishing the White and Pere Marquette Rivers in Western Michigan have much more to do with experiencing moving water than with catching fish.

Michigan’s Pere Marquette River

I remember donning my first pair of waders and stepping into those rushing waters. I remember feeling the force of water pushing against me, lifting my feet off the gravel bottom. It was like nothing I’d felt before. It was both thrilling and terrifying and I loved it.

The twists and turns of the stream framed by the emerging spring vegetation under the radiant heat of the April sun left a permanent mark on my memory and I still recall those mid-spring Midwestern days on the water like they were yesterday.

But it wasn’t all warm and fuzzy. Numb fingers on cold mornings, an often-times less than patient guide who was doing his best to enjoy his own escape while making sure nothing terrible happened to his kid, snags and tangles and what felt like an awful abundance of SNAKES all tipped the scales in favor of staying home.

I don’t recall how often we trout fished, probably not more than a couple of times a year, but it was enough to plant the seed. I wasn’t always thrilled to be going and I don’t recall really ever being given a choice but the bribe of snacks for the ride helped and once I stepped in that water I always enjoyed myself. I began to learn where the trout live and why, Reading Trout Water 101.

At some point in my late teens it all clicked and I fell in love with trout fishing. I began to pursue it on my own which has obviously led me to all sorts of places but it was all rooted in those early days on the water with my dad.

He was an avid outdoorsman and did what he could to bring me into the fold but I think more effective than his efforts was his passion. I grew up surrounded by books about National Parks and wilderness and hunting and fishing. I grew up watching my dad head out the door, shotgun, rifle or fishing rod in hand, only to return with all manners of tasty table fare. We watched Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom every week on television and we actually saw The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams in the movie theatre. The concept of wilderness was not a foreign one in our house.

Having spent his army days at Fort Lewis in Washington State, my dad always had a fondness for the Pacific Northwest and the western half of the country in general. When I was eight or nine years old we did the family cross country trek from Michigan to California, traveling through the Dakotas, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon to get there.

The pictures I had poured over time and again in those National Park books on the shelf at home were brought to life as I took in the plains and forests and snow-capped mountains and rivers and Big Skies and red wood trees and finally the big blue Pacific. There is no doubt the immersion in wild places which occurred on this trip planted the seeds for my future as I fell in love with the place I would someday, some way, call home.

My dad and I fished together in an on-again, off-again manner over the years. He spent most of his fishing efforts on Lake Michigan where he operated a charter boat. I worked as his first mate for a couple of seasons but never cared for that type of fishing.

The solitude and the poetry of the trout stream continued to captivate me. We fished Ontario’s Superior tributaries annually for steelhead which pulled me even further into the wade fishing fold and then fly fishing caught my eye.

As is the case for so many of us in this business, A River Runs Through It played a pivotal role in attracting me to the sport of fly fishing and reinforced my infatuation with Montana. After seeing it, I sheepishly told my dad I wanted to try fly fishing. Sheepishly because, as already stated, he was not a fly fisherman and he was not a fan. In fact, I don’t recall him ever having much nice to say about fly fishing in general.

My first fly rod was a Shakespeare kit that he gave me. I don’t remember what weight it was but looking back it seems like it was likely a #8 or #9 weight. Whatever the case, it was a broom stick and not only was it a broom stick but it was a broom stick I mismatched with a trout line because I was afraid to ask questions at the K-Mart where I purchased the line and no backing. Obviously my time on the lawn trying to cast this ridiculous set up did nothing to inspire me to actually try this on the stream. I quickly abandoned the idea of fly fishing based on my experience with this set up but that desire to learn the quiet sport lingered though the intimidation factor would ultimately keep me gear fishing for several more years.

Little did I know how much this particular episode would relate to my future as the owner of a fly shop. It’s where my customer service is rooted. It seems like a few times a season a kid will show up with a similar set-up and a similar hesitation to ask questions about what, for the beginner, is an insanely confusing, overwhelming and intimidating sport. I pride myself on having been in those shoes and I always do everything I can to simplify things and to encourage the would be fly fisher to ask all the questions they want but not to over-complicate it.

My second fly rod was a Cabela’s PT(Progressive Taper) #5 weight which also came in a kit but this one I’d done the research on and it was much better suited for what I was wanting to do. Casting remained a struggle but there was hope. I flailed around on the water with this rig but I would always take my spinning gear as well and would usually spend no more than a couple of minutes frothing the water before switching over to the deadly Panther Martins I loved so much.

I dabbled in fly fishing for trout for a couple of years while continuing to gear fish, mostly for steelhead with my dad.

He called me one summer afternoon when I was 29 and asked me if I wanted to go trout fishing with him. We hadn’t trout fished together in years. My passion for the sport was growing, his seemed to be waning. While I was starting to become proficient with the fly rod I opted for my spinning gear to avoid his criticism. We agreed on a time and place and I headed there early to get a shot at the best water.

I heard his vehicle pull up and a few minutes later heard his door close so I made my way to a spot where I could signal to him where I was. I waved and thought I had seen him wave so went back to fishing. He looked to be about a 10 minute walk from me.

A half hour later I wondered where he was and figured he must have found good water so I continued to fish. Finally he emerged from the brush looking perturbed and a little out of sorts and told me he had gotten turned around trying to make his way to the creek.

It was now getting towards dark so we fished within ear-shot of one another and then made our way back to the vehicles. Neither of us caught fish that evening. The Panther Martins were ineffective, as were the Rooster Tails.

 

When we got back to the vehicles he offered me a beer and cracked one himself. At this point in his life my dad was not a beer drinker so I found it maybe a little strange but I was incredibly moved by the gesture which I felt affirmed our emerging relationship. My dad and I clashed a lot over the years and were never particularly close. This invitation to fish followed by streamside beers exemplified the new norm. We worked closely together in the family business and the battles of the past were gone. He was 60, I was nearing 30, the time had come to develop an adult relationship and it was perfect!

In retrospect, I think he had other reasons for inviting me to go trout fishing that summer evening. It was purely a gift.

I was anxious to talk him into trying fly fishing and I was looking forward to a summer of trout fishing and a fall of deer hunting with him.

Alas, it was not to be. This would be the last time we would fish together. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor a couple of weeks later and was gone before I turned 30.

20 years later, looking back, while he didn’t have so much  to do specifically with my fly fishing history, there is no one more responsible for shaping who, what and where I’ve come to be.