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’.

The Countdown is Underway

With spring just 29 days away we can’t help but turn our thoughts to what’s soon to come.

And while it wasn’t very spring-like this morning with temperatures in the single digits, the early dawn and the sunshine and clear blue skies today have us thinking spring fishing on the Missouri.

Spring ranks high as one of our absolute favorite times to fish the MO’. As winter loosens is grip the water temps begin their slow ascent awakening our hungry trout from their cold-weather stupor and igniting the instinct to feed with reckless abandon.

The rainbows are looking to stockpile calories for the upcoming arduous spawning season while the brown trout key in on high calorie targets like baitfish. Couple this aggressive feeding with the least amount of aquatic vegetation you’ll see all season long and you can see why spring is THE absolute best time to fish streamers on the Missouri River.

The fish are hungry for nymphs, they’re hungry for streamers and as if that weren’t enough, they’re more than willing to eat a dry fly as midges and later BWO’s provide great top water action and pave the way for the coming summer dry fly smorgasbord.

You might think that with all these fishing opportunities available in the spring we’d charge a premium for guide trips but if you thought that you’d be wrong. Quite to the contrary, spring just so happens to be the time when we offer the best rates of the season for guide trips and lodging.

Like trout emerging from a somewhat dormant winter existence, outfitters, guides and fly shops are also emerging from winter dormancy. As is the nature of the business, we’ve expended substantially more than we’ve taken in over the winter months and it’s time to start feeding again! Spring trip specials are our way of enticing you into getting an early start on your season. Dust off those cobwebs and get dialed in for the coming season.

At Wolf Creek Angler we’re thinking spring all winter long so unlike some of the other shops who make you wait almost until it’s technically spring by the calendar, we offer our spring special ALL WINTER LONG! $400 FULL DAY GUIDE TRIPS and great deals on lodging. And speaking of great deals, we’ve got the best lodging/guide trip deal on the river hands down. Book two days of guided fishing and a night of lodging and your second night’s lodging is on us. That’s right – FREE LODGING at Wolf Creek Angler. Try to find a better deal…you won’t. I guarantee it.

So while you might think February is a little early to start talking spring fishing, we disagree. If the weather allows for it, why wouldn’t you come get an early start on your 2020 season?

Case in point – the coming weekend looks pretty darn good with temps nearing 50 each day. It will likely be breezy but not enough to prevent you from having a great day on the water.
Things have been quiet so far this week with the colder temps and snow but I’m expecting we’ll see a fairly busy weekend. At this point we do have lodging available but I expect that will book up for the weekend. Guides are chomping at the bit, ready to get back to work.

The fishing has been consistently good these past couple of weeks and should continue to hold steady. Water temps are holding at around 35 which will continue to dictate winter locations/techniques but a tic or two up could make a huge difference, especially if you’re itching for the streamer game.

Give us a call for real-time updates and conditions or to book your spring special lodging and guide trips.

Under The Influence Part One

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.

While I don’t have any TITANS of the industry in my history, there are a couple of individuals who come to mind when I ponder this and I’ll likely treat this in a couple of installments in order to do it justice.

Mike Lenahan

When I was attempting to make the transition from fishing conventional gear to fly fishing I stalled out because I was afraid of making a fool of myself on the water trying to cast a fly rod. My casting work on the lawn was coming along but my fear of being seen on the river flailing away kept me fishing conventional gear more often than not until I met Mike Lenahan.

Mike was CEO at Resource Recovery Corporation of West Michigan where I served on the board and he and I would get together and fish occasionally. I told him I wanted to learn to fly fish and he was happy to oblige. I don’t know that it was his favorite thing in the world but our next trip to the Pere Marquette River he convinced me to leave the spinning gear in the truck and then proceeded to spend the majority of that outing teaching me to fly cast and to mend.

I don’t believe there were fish caught on that trip but what I do remember about it was finally feeling like I could actually cast and just being so excited that I was really fly fishing after years of flailing around and being too embarrassed to take my fly rod on the water if there was even a remote chance that someone would be there who might see me making a fool of myself.

Mike and I fished a few times after that and he was there when I caught my first brown trout on a fly. It was a glorious experience! And while I don’t recall exactly what all Mike taught me about fly fishing I can say that had he not taken the time to go with me that day and had he not convinced me to leave my spinning gear in the truck I might still be fishing gear!

Paul Drewry

Once I started to develop some proficiency at fly fishing for trout I decided it was time to give Steelhead fishing a try.
Our veterinarian Paul Drewry was an avid fly fisherman and we spent a fair amount of time at dog appointments talking fly fishing. The subject of steelhead fishing came up and Paul told me exactly what setup I should purchase.

I drove to my local fly shop and bought a 9’6” #7 St Croix Avid and a Solitude reel. It was the sweetest rig and compared to my Cabelas trout setup, my first foray into what at the time felt like high dollar gear. Little did I know this was just the gateway drug but it was a great way to ease in to it.

I’d spent enough time fishing dry flies on a #5 that this #7 felt like a whole different world to me. At that time most of the folks fly fishing for Great Lakes steelhead were indicator fishing which was a completely foreign concept to me. Sure, I’d dropped a hare’s ear off of a hopper before but this was a whole different animal and while I was excited to learn something new, I could feel myself sinking back into intimidation paralysis. Paul was able to help!

We spent a few early spring days wade fishing the Pere Marquette where I had grown up fishing worms for trout and spawn bags for steelhead. Paul clued me in to how to nymph a steelhead run.

Those days were filled with snags, re-ties, bad casts and more bad casts and while I caught plenty of tree branches both on the river bank and the river bottom, after three or four outings I had yet to hook into anything that felt remotely like a fish.

And then everything in my fishing universe changed….

Paul invited me to float with him one spring day. I’d never set foot in a drift boat and wasn’t sure what to expect.
Nothing has had a bigger effect on my fly fishing life than stepping in that boat that day. The change in perspective from standing in the water to standing in the bow of that drift boat was life altering for me. That was the day I knew I’d be buying a drift boat and that was also the day my psyche underwent a transformation from reluctant participation to obsession.

As we made our way down the river I was captivated by every log jam, deep bend and shallow riffle. I’d spent more than my fair share of time on a boat on Lake Michigan and I’d been down the river a time or two in a canoe but this, this was something different. We floated probably 5 miles that day, a relatively short float, but it really struck me when I recognized a bend in the river as the start of the 1/2 mile or so of water I’d fished since I was a little kid. This short stretch of river was my entire fishing world for so many years. It WAS the Pere Marquette to me. Now, floating through my “world” in just a few minutes time I discovered just how small my world was and the idea that stepping in that boat opened up an entirely new frontier completely blew my mind.

I fished a bit that day but the fishing was not what was significant on that trip. It was all about the journey from wade fishing with all of its limitations to a new world of opportunities I’d never even considered.

Following that trip I immediately started looking into boats. I didn’t think I could afford to buy a drift boat so I bought a pontoon but as I assembled that boat all I could think about was how awesome that day in the drift boat was. All that room for all the gear you could possibly need. I disassembled the pontoon, put it back in the box and returned it and headed to Newaygo to order myself a drift boat.

I picked up my brand new Hyde in November and began to plot the future. However, one big obstacle did remain…I had no idea how to row a drift boat. I figured the best way to learn was to dump the thing in the water and figure it out. Looking back, launching the boat at Rainbow Rapids (the only stretch of water on the Pere Marquette even remotely resembling a rapids) was probably not the wisest decision but it did reinforce the fact that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, as if there was any doubt.

I think we ran into or over every boulder in the rapids but spun our way through without sinking the boat and once below the rapids, just when I was feeling like I was getting the hang of it I ran the bow of the boat into two steel posts while trying to power forward through a bend leaving a permanent reminder on the bow of my shiny new boat of that maiden voyage.

Following that trip I invited Paul to fish with me, asking him if he would give me some tips on rowing. He obliged, sitting behind me most of the day and teaching me with taps on the shoulders and audible commands of “push” or “pull”. It was slow going but by the end of that day I felt like I had at least a rudimentary understanding of rowing.

The Pere Marquette was a great river on which to learn to row a drift boat. Not much in the way of rapids but plenty of log jams and tight bends offering ample opportunities to sink a boat (which thankfully I’ve yet to do, though I’ve had a couple of close calls).

I’m eternally grateful to Dr. Paul Drewry for his excellent care of our pets during those years as well as for opening the doors to a new world for me.

Fred Davison

At 30 years old I was not really looking to make friends. I was busy with work and had a kid on the way and even though I was enjoying fishing it was something I enjoyed doing on my own.

I met Fred when he was doing drywall work in our house as we prepared a room for the coming baby. Fred’s wife worked in the same office as my wife Sheila and they arranged for him to do the drywall as he was running his own drywall company at the time.

The first day I talked to Fred was just for a couple of minutes when he was working on the house and I came home from work and grabbed my gear, heading for Canada for solo steelhead fishing.

I told him where I was headed and he mentioned that he liked fishing but didn’t like it THAT much, that he’d drive 8 hours to do what he could do in our back yard. I assumed he must not really be into it. Little did I know we would end up spending the next 11 years on a fishing odyssey, both trading in our conventional gear for fly gear and getting to know the Pere Marquette and other local waters intimately as we indulged our habit which turned us both into streamer junkies and eventually led us to leave what we knew behind and start a fly shop in Montana.

Fred is one of those people who is really good at everything he does and seemingly everything he tries and he seems to pick up most of what he tries on his own with very little formal instruction. Over those eleven years Fred picked up fly fishing, fly tying, hockey, home brewing, boat building…just to name a few, and was pretty damn good at all of them. The boat building may have been a stretch but it did float and even made it down the river a few times!

The first time I fished with Fred was on the Pine River with conventional gear. He pulled a 17” brown off the bank on one of his first casts with a gold Panther Martin and I noticed he could read the water better than most anyone I’d seen.

I don’t know how much we discussed the idea of fly fishing but we were definitely on the same page. I called him one day to tell him I had bought a fly rod…he had as well.

I was given a guide trip on the Pere Marquette for my birthday that summer and I asked Fred to join me. It was a fun trip though not one I would say had much of an effect on my fly fishing history. Neither of us was crazy about the guide and I can’t say that I learned much on that trip but what I do remember was an after-dark explosion on a mouse pattern, followed by a second which I actually connected on. I lost that battle much to mine and the guide’s disappointment but the after-dark thing grabbed hold and would eventually become an obsession. I also remember a thunder storm rolling in and the guide having to row out the last couple of miles through that storm which wasn’t pleasant for anyone involved but it was an experience to be sure.

The following spring I convinced Fred to go to Canada with me on the steelhead trip. If I recall correctly we stuck to conventional gear on that trip but on the way home we caught the BWO hatch on the Holy Water of the Ausable near Grayling and shortly thereafter we discovered the Gray Drake hatch on the Pere Marquette and went night after night. Then it was Hexagenia in the swamps, hoppers through the summer and salmon fishing in fall.

At that time we hadn’t yet attempted to fly fish for steelhead but we booked a guide trip that winter and each caught our first steelhead on a fly rod. We’d both been bitten hard by the bug though as was typical the obsession took hold in different ways.

I was attracted to the gear, the boats, the brands, and the destinations….everything about fly fishing. Fred liked tying flies and catching fish and could care less about Simms or Sage or Hyde or Orvis or any of it. He just wanted to fish and as was usually the case when he tried something new, he was rapidly becoming a very good angler and fly tier.

When I bought my first drift boat it opened up a whole new world of adventure for Fred and I and we spent countless hours on that boat, both of us developing proficiency on the sticks as well as learning the addresses of many a hefty brown as we picked apart the PM with sinking lines and streamers.

We fished every month of the year and covered the entirety of the PM.

During the summer months we would fish all night frequently, developing different patterns and techniques for fishing mice and learning to row and cast in the dark.

We would occasionally float the Ausable or the Upper Manistee but most of our time was spent on the Pere Marquette. It was an education by immersion.

We fished through a lot of life events during those years. There were good times, bad times, sad times, dark times… and the river was always there for us even when we were blind to it.

My focus started to turn towards going and fishing other places including Montana which I first fished probably around 2008. Once I’d done that my dreams got big and my mission became figuring out an exit strategy and a way to move to Montana.

Long story short we left Michigan in 2012 and I bid farewell to Fred and while I was thrilled to be in Montana it was tough losing my fishing partner of the previous decade.

As doors opened in Montana I got in touch with Fred to see if he would be interested in going into the fly shop, lodging and outfitting business. With nothing really holding him back in Michigan, he agreed to join us as a partner in Wolf Creek Angler.

His plan was to spend the seasons in Montana and go back to Michigan in the winter to be with his family though the year we bought the place he spent a good part of the winter here doing the remodel on the shop. It seemed like the perfect arrangement but things being what they are and adding up like they do, we opted to go our separate ways after a couple of seasons.

Times change, people change, circumstances change and ultimately things happen as they’re supposed to but that being said, regardless of how it turned out for us at WCA, I’ll always cherish those years Fred and I spent learning to fly fish and honing our skills while developing a wonderful friendship.

Weekend Report

Today is Day 2 of being under a WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY which has thus far brought ideal fishing conditions to the MO.

When I took my morning drive to Wolf Creek Bridge yesterday before work, conditions were so incredibly perfect that I decided I needed to be on the water. Without too much arm twisting I was able to convince one of my regular clients to come out and spend the day on the water. It was the right call.

43 degrees, overcast, not a breath of wind and not a soul to be seen ANYWHERE! We did the go-to Wolf Creek to Craig section knowing that this time of year it’s all about staying put once you find the fish. Nymphing was good from the start with the Pederson’s Sow/Tailwater Sow rig continuing to produce. I haven’t changed my nymph setup in weeks!

The wind came up shortly after we launched with the bridge still well in sight, blowing upstream and rapidly transforming our perfect conditions. There was a brief discussion of calling it and blowing back up to the ramp but we quickly rejected that idea and decided to power through it.

It’s tough to hold a line in a north northwest blow but the upstream portion of the row around is definitely easy. The fishing actually picked up as the winds did the same and a slight adjustment from #18 to #16 on the Tailwater Sow made all the difference in the world.

We found fish in the majority of places I expected to find them and got them roughly 2 to 1 Tailwater Sow to Pederson’s Sow. A solid day of nymphing in spite of the deteriorating conditions and then, just like that the wind died and we were treated to glassy water and rising fish. My client is not a dry fly angler so he invited me to take a shot at them. A quick rigging and a couple of casts later I had my first dry fly eat of 2020, followed by another, both small browns hungry for midges. These were my earliest fish on dry flies in a couple of seasons so that was definitely a highlight of the day for me.

Conditions were again idyllic for the remainder of the day though the action slowed considerably in the afternoon but overall – not a bad day to fish the Winter Weather Advisory!

Today looks like it’s going to be a similar day weather-wise. Winds are calm and we’re holding steady at 39 degrees though there is a steady snow falling this morning. They’re calling for less than half an inch today and maybe around an inch tomorrow so it could be a good weekend to fish the Missouri though the respite from the wind looks like today only so if you’re looking to fish dry flies, today would be the day.

The Winter Storm Warning which was in effect through this morning for elevations above 5500 feet appears to have produced plenty of precipitation so it really is the best of both worlds with snow pack building while we enjoy spring-like weather and dry fly fishing on the Missouri.

We’ve seen a few people this morning but I wouldn’t expect any overcrowding out there. We do have lodging and guides available this weekend so let us know ASAP if you’d like to make it a Missouri River Winter Fishing Weekend.

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.

Fall Returns

November on the Missouri

November is upon us and it looks like we could be in for a great week of fall fishing ahead and if we’re lucky, maybe even a couple of more weeks of chasing trout before the holidays take over our collective schedules.

Expect good BWO action this afternoon and throughout the week and don’t miss out on what could be our last, best weekend of the season. We’ll see sunshine and highs near 60 on Friday and perfect BWO weather through Veteran’s Day on Monday with a chance or rain and snow each day and temperatures somewhere in the 40’s.

With a forecast like this we’ve decided to delay our closing of the cabins for at least another week so if a weekend retreat to the MO’ sounds appealing give us a call and book your room and while you’re at it why not grab a guide and leave the rowing to us?

Winter rates are now in effect which means you can get a cozy cabin or bungalow for just $99 plus tax. Rooms sleep 3 comfortably and include a full kitchen and private bath. Shotgun Annie’s is open for dinner and is a great dining option during your stay in Wolf Creek but it’s also nice to have kitchen facilities so you can do breakfast etc on your own.

We’ve got plenty of availability from here on out but I expect we’ll book up for the weekend.

Following another round of winter weather last week we’re thrilled with the fishing forecast and can’t wait to get on the water.
Potentially epic dry fly fishing, solid nymphing and good to great streamer fishing are all a possibility so there’s something for everyone right now.

I always have a nymph rig at the ready but this is the time of year I like to roll the streamer rig all day long, only taking breaks for major bugs and irresistible pods of feeding fish. Fall brown trout are among my favorite things in the world!

And speaking of all day long….Daylight Saving Time has ended and while we loved getting that hour of sleep back on Sunday morning the days are now short, and for the meantime, getting shorter. We’ve not been in any rush to get on the water early so with an 11 or 12 o clock start you don’t have a whole lot of time before darkness falls, currently around 5 pm. Keep this in mind when choosing where to float.

Wolf Creek Bridge to Craig (or something in the 5 mile range) is perfect for this time of year though I wouldn’t hesitate to do something a little longer, in the 7-9 mile range, if you want to dedicate your day to streamer fishing.

Best bets for bugs this week are as follows:

Dries – Brook’s Sprout Baetis, Olive Parachute Adams, Wilcox’s Micro May BWO, Para BWO, Drown Spinner BWO, Nyman’s DOA Cripple Baetis, Flash Cripple BWO, Quigley’s BWO Hackle Stacker, CDC Caddis Emerger, CDC Baetis Emerger, RS2, Bucky’s Midge Cluster, Buzzball.

Nymphs – Rainbow Czech, Bubble Yum Scud, Tungsten Tailwater Sow, Caviar Scud, Little Green Machine, Olive or Pearl Lightning Bug, Juju Baetis, Juan’s Hi-Def Baetis, Firebead Ray, Pill Popper, Black Zebra Midge, Redemption BWO, Split Case BWO, Olive S & M, BWO Magic Fly, Soft Hackle Sow

Streamers – Polar Leech, Hothead Kreelex, Lil’ Kim, MK Ultralite, Craven’s Dirty Hippy, Galloup’s Mini Dungeon, ZK’s Inflated Ego, Circus Peanut.

Best colors on streamers have been olive, tan, natural, brown and black but don’t limit yourself. Throw what you like and switch often until you find what’s working. I’m guilty of running the same bug until I find a fish that wants it rather than the other way around and would probably do well to heed my own advice.

We’re on late fall/early winter hours at the shop opening at 8 am daily and it’s starting to get a little lonely out here so we hope you make us your first stop on your next trip to the MO.

Great Expectations

The Crew from Schultz Outfitters

In between winter storms we hosted one of the bigger groups we’ve ever had last week and while the weather provided for some nice days on the water the fishing remained somewhat challenging.

With four days to fish we spread out far and wide from Land of the Giants to Cascade and while we did manage to find everyone a decent fish or two the fish gods were stingy, giving us just enough action to keep things interesting and to entice the majority of the group into making at least a soft commitment to return to the Missouri for another go around next year.

The group we were hosting was put together by Schultz Outfitters in Ypsilanti Michigan so it was a real treat for me to be around a group of Michiganders all week. I also had the pleasure of teaching some rowing basics to one member of the group who had driven out ahead of the rest in order to pick up his new boat which he had delivered to the shop. What a great group and what a fun experience. I can’t wait to have them back again.

So back to the fishing report, yes on the slow side but hope springs eternal and we’ve got Great Expectations for the days and weeks ahead.

We’re enjoying the post-storm sunshine today and we’re glad to see the snow disappearing yet again, hopefully at least for a few weeks this time.

We’re back in the 40’s and 50’s starting tomorrow and maybe even up in the 60’s again by mid-week next week. Plenty of sunshine on tap over the 10 day and night time lows holding in the 20’s and 30’s, keeping water temps on the drop. Water temps are currently sitting at around 52 degrees.

Random BWO sightings being reported each day but I don’t believe we’re there yet. Keep those epic BWO days in your Great Expectations file and get out there on those cloudy days, preferably when it’s spitting rain and snow. It’ll happen sooner or later. In the meantime there are plenty of pseudos and caddis around to keep you busy if your idea of fall fishing on the MO involves dry flies only.

Nymphing has been moderately effective, depending on the day. There are fish congregating in the grass flats though they aren’t as grabby as we’d like them to be which has caused many to skip the dam and go in at Wolf Creek or lower.

The canyon has been fishing pretty good, relatively speaking and we’ve heard some decent reports from the lower as well. Don’t be afraid to spread out and try some different water. When things are on the slow side it’s the perfect opportunity to get out and explore parts of the river you aren’t as familiar with. You might be surprised what you find.

Best sellers from the nymph bins continue to be purple weight flies, Little Green Machines, Split Case BWO’s, Olive and pearl Lighting Bugs, Rainbow Warriors, Rainbow Czechs, Tung Darts, Tailwater Sows, Nitro Caddis Pupae, Black Zebra midges, Olive S & M’s, BWO Magic Fly, Dark Peep Show, Olive Psycho May and still moving a fair amount of Zirdles (tan or natural as of late). I’ve not had much luck with the zirdles lately but they’ve definitely had their moments based on what we’ve been hearing.

Streamer fishing should be heating up soon. I’ve heard a couple of solid reports but those have been few and far between. I ran an exclusive streamer trip on Friday and boated one really good fish, only moving a few others the entire day but take that for what it’s worth and get out there and strip.

Weeds are an ever-present hindrance though I’ve seen them MUCH worse. Prepare mentally ahead of time. Stay Calm and strip.

Best bets on the streamers have been Sparkle Minnows (shock), Mojo minnows, Black buggers, JJ Specials, Circus Peanuts, MK Ultralights, Dirty Hippy in brown or black and we’ve also had some action on Mini Dungeons, Baby Gongas, D & D’s and Inflated Egos.

As with the nymphing the fish have not been collectively grabby on the streamers but the ones we’ve picked up have been aggressive. If streamers are your thing put in your time and have great expectations. It’s the right time of the year for hunting unicorns and that next cast could be the one.

We’ve got a few more weeks of fall prime time ahead but the end of the season is in sight. We’ll likely start closing/winterizing some of our lodging soon and while there are folks around you can expect some relative solitude out there going forward.

The shop is still open from 7 AM – 5 PM daily for shuttles, bugs, cold-weather gear, Simms boots and waders and so much more.

After a busy week last week the guide calendar is thinning out so if you’re thinking of booking yourself a fall guide trip on the Missouri this wouldn’t be a bad time to do it.

Winter specials for lodging and guide trips coming soon and we’ll update you as soon as we know the winter schedule at Shotgun Annie’s. Expect fewer dining options in the area as the fall progresses but remember we offer lodging with kitchens so you can cook for yourself.

It’s been a weird one weather-wise and fishing wise but we’re still optimistic that there’s some great fall fishing ahead.

Welcome September

Big Game Season coming soon

Good bye summer, fall is on the way and with it our “second season” on the Missouri.

Soon the empty parking lots at the boat ramps and the empty beds at WCA will be filled again as the crowds return to experience what many feel is the absolute best time of the year to fly fish in Montana.

Mind you “crowds” is a relative term and while there will be a marked increase in traffic over what we’ve seen for the past month or so it won’t be anything like what we see during the height of the season in June and July.

Fall is busy, but not CRAZY busy which is a large part of the appeal for those who skip the summer months and reserve autumn for their Missouri River pilgrimage.

Chilly mornings and evenings separated by an abundance of blue sky and sunshine (with a few dark and cloudy days mixed in) and temps that are not too hot, nor too cold. It’s the PERFECT season as far as I’m concerned.

And the fishing? The fishing can be absolutely phenomenal (and sometimes not) but if I had to choose a favorite time to fish the Missouri (and actually to fish in general) this is the time!

Flannel shirt hot coffee mornings followed with a good soaking of autumn sunshine…does it get any better? Why yes, actually it does. Pair the above with a good long float, your favorite streamer stick and colored up browns on the prowl….it’s NIRVANA. We live for this!

Or, if you prefer the top water game Tricos are sporadic but still going  strong and there’s plenty of hopper and ant fishing ahead of us. It won’t be long before we see October Caddis in the mix followed by the eagerly anticipated fall baetis hatch but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. After all, it’s just barely September.

Nymphing has been hit or miss but overall we’ve enjoyed pretty damn good nymph fishing all season long and while we may have hit a late summer lull things should start to pick up from here on out. Keep focusing your efforts on the medium fast to fast water as well as the swirly water where you’ll likely find the fish suspended.

Keep fishing those crayfish along with beatis nymphs, zebra midges and sow bugs. Best sellers as of late have been 2 Bit Hookers, Peep Shows, LGM’s, Jujus, Tailwater Sows, Black Zebra Midges, purple Lightning Bugs, Pheasant Tails, tan UV Czechs and for some reason Crack Back and Split Case PMD’s. Split Case BWO’s, BWO Magic Flies and Soft Hackle Sow bugs should get it done as well.

Rooms are starting to fill and last minute guide trips have been the norm as of late which works out great during the lull but that’s all about to change. Starting around mid-September our guide calendar gets pretty full so if you’re thinking of a fall guide trip on the Missouri or Blackfoot don’t wait any longer.

Lodging availability is good through early October when we hit the prime of our second season but even then we’ve got some holes to fill so call and book your guides, rooms and drift boat rentals today.

We’re fully stocked for fall with new cold weather gear and waders and boots a plenty from Simms. And don’t miss out on the best deals of the season during our second annual Fall Rod and Reel sale…25% off all rods and reels. It’s the perfect time to treat yourself to a new Loop, Echo or Redington rod and Lamson or Ross reel.

Fall shop hours are 7:00 AM – 6:00 PM daily.

Farewell to Summer Days

Autumn is a magical time on the Missouri – photo by Wolf Creek Angler

Summer is rapidly coming to a close. And as always, it’s bittersweet.

After all, we do LOVE summertime in Montana. It’s in large part what brought us here and what keeps people coming back.

Long days. Blue skies. Wet wading or floating your favorite stream while soaking up the sun. Warm nights, barbeques, beers on the deck, live music under the stars, visits from friends and family and spending time together before the world clocks back in.

Summer number six at Wolf Creek Angler was a good one and flew by faster than the rest as they tend to do.

Soon we will sadly bid farewell to summer as autumn takes hold but there’s really no need to despair.

Sure, summer is amazing but autumn runs a close second as far as I’m concerned.

The transition has already begun. The days are growing short, so much so that it’s actually dark when I’m driving to work in the morning and again before I go to bed.

The calendar shows summer for another three weeks but there’s a chill in the air (40 degrees in Wolf Creek as I write) most mornings and evenings. We will unofficially say goodbye to summer this Labor Day weekend and close the books on a great summer season while we gear up for the “second season” on the Missouri coming soon.

For many who call this part of the world home, the change in seasons shifts the focus away from fishing to hunting which maintains the late summer and early autumn solitude on the river but for others fall is considered THE best time of the year to fish.

In several weeks we’ll celebrate the arrival of the autumn equinox and with it, a second round of busy chaos as anglers from all around once again set their sights on the Missouri.

Of course Mother Nature has the final say on when the second season begins and ends but we’ve come to expect good fishing and good commerce generally through early November.

We’re open through all of it and beyond. We are your four season Missouri River fly shop. Lodging options dwindle as the temperature drops and we’re forced to winterize but we’ve always got at least a few rooms available, even in the dead of winter. In fact late fall into winter is when Wolf Creek shines as much of the fly fishing infrastructure in and around Craig starts to shut down making Wolf Creek the place to be with two bar/restaurants, a gas station/convenience store and a first rate full service fly shop with onsite lodging all just minutes from Holter Dam and Wolf Creek Bridge.

The feeling must be in the air as the phones have been busy and we’ve been booking a lot of fall trips these past few days. October is prime by fall standards but don’t hesitate to book September dates as well. November is hit and miss but can often deliver the best fishing of the fall as the shift to winter begins ushering in epic days of BWO’s.

Nymphing is always a good bet on the Missouri and fall is no exception but for those of us addicted to the streamer game fall means one thing and one thing only….big cantankerous browns on the prowl. They’re angry and aggressive and colored up in autumn splendor and there’s no better time to target them. Strip through the autumn, swing through the winter….it’s about to be streamer time on the MO (and every other stream in Montana).

So enjoy these last weeks of summer to the fullest but embrace the arrival of fall. It’s a magical time on the MO!

Dog Days of Summer Special Happening NOW at Wolf Creek Angler

Dog Days on the MO’

The long-awaited Dog Days of Summer Special has returned, giving you yet another reason to drop everything and make your way to Wolf Creek and the amazing Missouri River.

Now through the end of August book a night’s lodging and a full day guide trip and we’ll throw in a second night for FREE.
The Dog Days have arrived but don’t let anyone tell you the fishing is no good in August.

Can we guarantee phenomenal fishing? Of course not, but the fishing has been consistently good with enough tough days mixed in to make it challenging and keep things interesting.

We make it a point to give you honest and up to date reports based on our own real-time experiences as well at the feedback we’re getting from other guides, customers and guests. The last few reports we’ve shared have been very positive for good reason, but we should take this opportunity to mention that there have been a couple of days where things were slow from start to finish. As you might expect this time of year, under the heat of the summer sun, there have also been plenty of days that started strong but shut off during the height (and the heat) of mid-day.

We’re occasionally called out for making things out to be better than they are but you can rest assured that our reports are always honest and we’ll be the first to tell you when things are tough. There’s nothing to gain by painting a rosy picture when the fishing is tough. You’ll find out soon enough for yourself if that’s the case and will likely disregard anything we’re saying as dishonest going forward.

That being said, if our overall experience for a given time period (generally a week in our case) has been good and if we’ve gotten mostly positive reports overall from our guides and guests during that time, we’re going to report that the fishing is good but since we are talking about fishing it’s not to say that you won’t show up and have a slow day out there. It’s the nature of the beast. There are many factors involved, a few of which we have some control over, most of which we do not so the bottom line is that you should utilize our reports for what they are which is a snap shot of the overall productivity of the fishery in a given time frame, but know that no matter how great things may have been it doesn’t mean they’re going to stay that way.

What we can say is that dry fly opportunities have been abundant. PMD’s have all finally come to a close (for the most part) but Tricos and Caddis are filling in the gaps and terrestrials are starting to shine. We always like to throw in a disclaimer when talking hopper fishing as the Missouri is not known as a great hopper river but, that being said, naturals are plentiful out there right now and hoppers are getting eaten daily. So while the MO may not be known as a great hopper river it’s always worth your time to throw them. Some of the biggest browns of the season always fall prey to the hopper. Run in tandem with an ant or drop a nymph to increase your odds. My go to as of late….#10 More or Less Hopper in Peach.

Fish tight to the banks in the hopper zones but don’t overlook those mid-river flats and riffles. The fish are there.

Nymphing remains good with zebra midges, lighting bugs, PT’s, LGM’s, Tailwater Sows, Czechs, Weight Flies, Tung Darts and the rest of the usual suspects all producing with proper placement. Short leashing has had its days though fish are in the depths as well so fish the water you believe in….the fish are there.

We’re open daily at 7 AM for all of your Missouri River fly fishing needs. We’ve got the hardest working guides on the water, clean and affordable lodging, Adipose drift boat rentals and a shop full of everything you need for your day on the water. Check out our great deals on summer sportswear from Simms as we clear the way for fall gear arriving SOON.