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.

Winter Returns

And just like that winter is on its way once again.

You didn’t think it was over did you? It’s barely even begun!

Winter Storm Warning in Effect from 2 PM today through 11 AM Friday above 5500 feet, Winter Weather Advisory in Effect for areas below 5500 feet.

For the Winter Storm Warning heavy snow is expected. Total snow accumulations of 8 to 30 inches. Winds gusting as high as 40 mph. For the Winter Weather Advisory total snow accumulations of 1 to 6 inches possible.

Just the way we like it! Another big shot of snow for the high country adding to our snow pack which is already in decent shape and manageable accumulations (or possibly none at all) where we live. It’s the best of both worlds!

It looks like highs near 40 for the remainder of the week with lows hanging right around 30 for the next few nights. We’ll see a blast of arctic air mid-week next week with high temperatures dropping back into the teens with lows in the single digits or colder. Now is the time to get on the water.

It’s on the breezy side today but the rest of the week could provide excellent fishing conditions with overcast skies, the potential for snow each day, moderate temperatures and relatively calm winds in the 6 – 8 mph range through Friday.

Often times the leading edge of these weather systems can flip the switch on the fishing. It’s been decent all week by most reports we’ve heard but it could be downright epic these next couple of days. There’s only one way to find out. You won’t know if you don’t go!

We offer the best winter lodging value on the MO at just $99/night (plus tax) for a cozy bungalow with full kitchen and private bath. Two twin beds and a Full pull-out sofa sleep 3 very comfortably and a rollaway will accommodate a fourth if need be.

And while a lot of the competition offers discount “Spring Special” trips come March, Wolf Creek Angler offers the best deal on the river ALL WINTER LONG. $400 for a FULL DAY GUIDE TRIP with the best guides on the water. And as if that weren’t enough we’re giving away FREE LODGING. That’s right….FREE as in ZERO Dollars!

Book two days of guided fishing and your second night of lodging is on us. Try to find a better deal…you won’t. And the best part…NO CANCELLATION FEES, NO QUESTIONS ASKED. Winter weather can change rapidly which makes planning a trip tough to do. If the weather turns or if you simply change your mind you’re off the hook.

We hope you take advantage of the weather these next couple of days and enjoy what could be the best fishing yet of 2020.

Even if you decide to pass on this amazing deal and do things on your own we hope you make us your one-stop on the way to the river. We’ve got anything and everything you need for winter fly fishing on the Missouri. The best and biggest selection of Missouri River winter bugs ever assembled under one roof in Wolf Creek, Adipose Drift Boat Rentals, shuttles, Simms waders and boots, cold weather gear and the best deals of the winter on rods/reels and so much more.

State of the Missouri

The Pat Barnes Missouri River Trout Unlimited Chapter  hosted the annual State of the Missouri earlier this week at Montana Wild in Helena.

FWP Region 4 Fisheries Biologist Jason Mullen once again presented summary data for both the Missouri and Smith Rivers as well as updates on various special projects in the region.

This is always a highly anticipated and generally well-attended program which covers everything from fish counts to flow data to angler days.
A big thanks to Jason Mullen for his willingness to share this data with us. All data and graphics are pulled directly from his presentation.

Fish numbers were slightly down last year in both the Craig and Cascade sections. The Craig section is the 5.5 miles from Wolf Creek Bridge down to Craig while the Cascade section is from the power lines above Pelican Point down to Cascade.

The figures indicate fish greater than 10” per river mile. Craig rainbows came in at 2,860 while browns totaled 390 per mile. Both are slightly down from 2018 as well as slightly below the average of 3,391 rainbows and 568 browns per mile.

Cascade rainbows came in at 1104 with browns coming in at 238. These numbers were roughly on par with 2018 and below the averages of 1588 and 390 respectively.

Size wise we’re still looking at pretty incredible average size with the majority of fish in the 16” – 19” range. In 2018 we saw an abundance of 12” and 13” browns in the Craig stretch, not much for those in 2019.

One of the most encouraging slides of the presentation every year is the one indicating Relative Weight or overall weight in relation to length and while I’m not exactly sure what comprises this figure the healthy target according to Mullen is in the range from 95-105 and as you can see the Missouri supports a very healthy population, and has for some time. This Relative Weight, more than anything, is what keeps you coming back. It’s what makes that 16” bow take you into your backing.

Switching to flows – we had a good water year in 2019 with flows peaking at around 11,500 CFS in April and holding nicely between 5 and 6,000 CFS throughout the summer season. The only thing that could have made this better would have been a couple of days of flushing flows at 15K plus but we’re not complaining. 5-6K throughout the summer is just about as close to perfect as you can get.

How busy was the MO?

170,736 angler days (2017 data) ranked the Missouri River number two in the state behind the Madison which reported 207,334 angler days. Busy for sure but down from the 183,479 angler days in 2015 which ranked us number one in the state.

 

This was roughly a 50/50 mix of resident and non-resident anglers and generated an estimated $61,082,010 in revenue for trip-related expenses.

Fishing is, and will continue to be, a HUGE part of Montana’s economy and we feel incredibly blessed to be a part of that economy.
That is why we take none of it for granted and we work overtime to protect and conserve the resource. We are so thankful to FWP and DNRC for the work that they do and we encourage everyone who enjoys and takes advantage of this incredible resource to join or contribute to organizations such as Pat Barnes Trout Unlimited, Missouri River Flyfishers and UMOWA.

Winter on the Way?

Three days into fall and unfortunately the talk is having much more to do with the coming weather than about the fall fishing.

Today might be the nicest day we’re going to see for some time.

A high wind watch is in effect for tomorrow with west winds 30-40 mph with gusts of 60 – 65 mph possible in portions of central, north central, southwest and west central Montana. The local forecast is calling for cloudy skies with a 40 percent chance of rain and a high near 64 with west winds 13 – 22 mph gusting to 30. A far cry from what the high wind watch is calling for but just be mindful of the potential for high winds if you’re planning on fishing tomorrow.

Friday looks like a classic fall fishing day with rain likely and a high near 50 with calm winds. Did someone say streamer fishing?

Saturday things get interesting with rain and snow, becoming all snow after 3pm. High near 37. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches possible and it doesn’t stop there.

We’ll see snow all weekend with highs in the 30’s and lows in the 20’s right on into the early part of next week. The snow will taper off on Monday but it looks like we’re settling in to high temps in the mid 40’s through the end of next week. Will we see an Indian summer to follow? We hope so. Winter is fine but we’ve been really looking forward to fall and hope to see plenty of it before winter takes hold.

Again, most of the chatter this week has had to do with the weather but that’s not to say that folks aren’t fishing. It’s been a moderately busy week on the river with less-than stellar reports overall but fear not, better days are ahead. As sure as day follows night good fishing will return though sometimes I feel like simply adjusting one’s expectations can go a long way in turning things around.

You aren’t always going to have 30 fish days, and you probably wouldn’t enjoy them all that much if you did. Sure, everyone loves to have those days once in a while but it’s the work you put into it that brings the reward. Crack the code and its game on. Sometimes the code can’t be cracked. Sometimes the fish simply aren’t eating. It’s the challenge that keeps us coming back.

And it’s not as though the fishing sucks. It doesn’t. There are plenty of fish being caught and plenty of fish being hooked and lost. They’re hot right now and will give you a fight. You may lose more than you land and some of those lost are likely going to be the biggest trout you’ve ever hooked, that’s the beauty of losing them. No fish, no proof either way. They can be as big as you want them to be.

Nymphing as always is generating the numbers but we’re getting them on top as well and those willing to play the streamer game in the autumn weeds are occasionally getting rewarded with a Missouri River fall trophy.

Traffic has been concentrated from the dam to Craig though there’s no reason you shouldn’t be fishing the rest of the river…the fish are everywhere.

Best bets for nymphing have been status quo with Zebra Midges and Tailwater sows leading the charge. We’ve also continued to have good luck with weight flies and tung darts as well as Rainbow Czechs. Don’t hesitate to throw some small mayflies in the mix. #18 Green Machines, pearl lightning bugs, olive WD 40’s, Jujus and BWO Magic Flies are all good options.

We’re in-between on the dry fly scene as we await fall baetis but in the meantime try ants, beetles, caddis, October Caddis, pseudos and Callibaetis. You can’t go wrong with a Purple Haze or October Caddis trailed with an ant, a buzzball or a cdc caddis emerger. Get creative and show them something they haven’t seen.

Streamer guys have been getting them on small black buggers (are those even streamers?) but as always, fish the bugs you believe in. Confidence is the X Factor and it can make all the difference in the world.

If you’re coming out to fish the MO this weekend bundle up and if you happen to get caught unprepared for winter weather stop by WCA for layers upon layers of Simms cold weather gear. We’ve got you covered from base layer to outerwear, literally from head to toe. Gloves a plenty, socks, hats, Cold Weather shirts, guide flannels and of course a full lineup of G3 and Freestone waders and boots.

We’re not expecting much traffic this weekend but we’ll be here regardless, 7 AM daily. Rain, Snow, Sleet….whatever the case may be, we are your full service Missouri River fly shack.