Reflections on Fall Fishing

It’s no secret. If you follow this blog and others covering the Missouri River and Montana fly fishing in general then you know that this has not been one of our better fall seasons.

The weather has been unseasonably cold and the fishing did in fact start slow. Fishing has picked up but business has remained slow. The consensus is that once we had our second or third winter weather event earlier in October people pretty much pulled the plug on fall fishing plans…and who can blame them?

Dealing with cold weather conditions when you’re fishing is one thing in March when we’re coming out of months of winter’s Deep Freeze but when we’re only a few weeks beyond the end of summer frozen guides and frozen fingers are a little tough to take.

I know, I Know…Forget the Forecast right? We’ve got gear to cover any and all conditions and to theoretically remove adverse weather from the equation. Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age but to me the prospect of battling through extreme weather to fish for trout becomes less and less appealing every year.

Now that’s not to say that I won’t fish in cold weather. I most definitely will but the cold weather parameters in which I’ll fish have narrowed considerably to the point where it’s a safe bet that if the temperature is less than 28 degrees it’s going to need to be otherwise perfect or I’m likely not going. Throw in some blowing snow and wind, especially a north wind, and I’m out.

Part of this has to do with the fact that I’m blessed with the opportunity to pretty much fish all winter long so I can pick and choose my days. I understand that this isn’t the case for everyone and I appreciate and applaud those who stick it out and fish through it, whatever “it” may be.

If you’ve made your fall fishing plans well in advance and it happens to be cold and snowy when your flight arrives in Montana then you’ve got a choice of either battling through or sitting in your room and waiting it out. I get it, and once again, I respect and applaud those who battle through it.

Two weeks ago one of our fall regulars who comes every October from Maine arrived to the coldest conditions we’ve seen this fall and he didn’t miss a beat. Snow, Wind, Cold…nothing stopped him. He bundled up and did his thing and caught plenty of trout and was even rewarded with the “best BWO day he’s ever had here”. You’re a legend Bob!

I on the other hand was content to sit in the shop and count flies and wait for a better day but as Bob proved, sometimes even the most miserable conditions can end up being amazing days on the water.

Truth be told, for me it’s getting up the motivation to go. Once I do that, I’ll fish through some pretty gnarly conditions. It’s just a matter of overcoming the temptation to stay inside where it’s warm and the wind is not beating you up.

Once out there it’s rarely as bad imagined and once you throw a couple of good fish into the mix it makes it all worthwhile. But what about when it is as bad weather wise as you had imagined it would be and there are no fish in the mix? Well, as I found out recently, depending on the company you keep, it’s actually possible to still have an amazing day on the water.

It ended up being a great lesson for me because when you’re immersed in this industry culture you tend to drift from some of those attitudes and ideas and states of mind that brought you here. It’s important to not only fish, but to connect with friends while fishing so that you can rediscover the magic that drives our business. The magic involved in planning a fishing trip with your friends and then spending amazing days with people you love doing what you absolutely LOVE doing which is fishing.

Weather be damned. An outing with your best fishing buddies has a way of emboldening no matter what the conditions to the point where you magically might not even notice the weather. Despite the fact that I have the tremendous blessing of being surrounded by this magic all season long sometimes the grind can cause a disconnect. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, being a part of your fishing experience…of your Magic, is an honor and a privilege and there’s no better job in the world than the one that I have. I truly believe this and any time I feel the drift I can step back and snap out of it and realize just how lucky I am.

That being said, it’s one thing to acknowledge and realize how blessed I am to do what I do for a living, but it’s an entirely different thing to reconnect as a participant rather than as just an observer and that’s exactly what I was able to do several times this fall which has got me high on fishing again, more so than in quite some time.

I don’t want you to misunderstand me. I absolutely LOVE to fish and I fish A LOT. Usually at least twice a week, and more often than not I fish alone. It’s how I decompress. It’s how I strategize. It’s how I get my head straight and I love every minute of it but it does lack fellowship and camaraderie and while I usually don’t think too much about such things any time I have the opportunity to fish with others I’m reminded of just what a critical element of the overall experience these things can be.

Two weeks ago I headed down to the Yellowstone for my annual fall streamer trip. I’ve been doing this trip for five or six years and the last several years it’s really blossomed as it’s become just as much about hanging out with friends I don’t get to see often as it is about fishing.
Just prior to leaving Helena my friends sent me a picture of the river…the slushy, icy Yellowstone. For about three seconds I considered bailing but thought better of it and made my way to Mammoth. The river was full of ice flow from Livingston to Yankee Jim but looked better from Yankee Jim to Gardiner so our plan was to float the top stretch.

We awoke to temps in the teens but it was calm in Mammoth. As we entered the valley however the howling wind became apparent and worse yet, the river was now full of ice flow from Gardiner down leaving us with no options to float the Yellowstone.

Brent and Sara suggested we go fish the Madison between the lakes, a stretch of water I’d never fished but about which I’d heard plenty of stories of giant browns caught on streamers. We made our way through the park which was pretty well absent of any traffic. It was a beautiful ride. I’d never been in the park when it was this snowy or this empty so I thoroughly enjoyed it.

When we got to the river the temperature was hovering right around 20 degrees and snow was beginning to intensify. We suited up and hit the water and proceeded to freeze for a couple of hours. Frozen fingers and frozen gear but awesome looking water nonetheless. A few tailing fish here and there. I had a brief battle which I lost and Brent nymphed up a couple of whiteys….that was it for the fishing but disappointment was the furthest thing from my mind as it was an awesome couple of days hanging out with a couple of my favorite people in one of my favorite places in the world.

A couple of weeks prior I had journeyed with the family to Calgary for a long weekend. We went to check out a Wings and Flames game and to spend some time checking out a city we’ve come to enjoy immensely. Prior to our going I had reached out to a fishing contact I knew in the area to ask about streamer fishing on the Bow.

Dana Lattery www.flyfishingbowriver.com had paid us a visit at Wolf Creek Angler last spring and had told me that if I was ever in Calgary I should look him up and he’d take me fishing. We all say this a lot in the business and it’s usually sincere, but it rarely comes to fruition.

Dana responded as promised and we ended up spending a great day floating the Bow and getting to know each other. We talked shop and began to put together plans for future group trips going both ways. It seems everyone likes to visit different water on occasion and the relatively close proximity of the Bow River to the Missouri River make for the perfect fly fishing exchange.

Fishing was marginal but hanging out on new water with great company was a highlight of my fall fishing experience.

So a little bit of rambling on here but the point of all this is that in spite of less than ideal fishing conditions this fall I’ve had some great fishing experiences which I wouldn’t trade for anything. A busier late season at Wolf Creek Angler would have been nice but these are the ebbs and flows of business and besides… it ain’t over yet!

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.

Sun Setting on Season Six

It’s been a weird fall here on the Missouri.

We were robbed of fall colors and the gradual transition from summer heat to autumn chill by snowstorms and arctic air in September and early October.

October is traditionally one of our busier months and this year is no different but that being said I do get the sense that things are coming to a close a little prematurely.

The river is quiet, the streets of Wolf Creek and Craig are quiet and while we’re still getting a fair amount of nice days one just gets the sense that winter is starting to take hold, at least in a psychological sense.

The fishing has been hit or miss these past weeks and while we have seen a couple of BWO events we’ve yet to experience an epic day of dry fly fishing. I think the best is yet to come which will work out well for those of you maintaining your Missouri River fall fishing schedules.

Nymphing and streamer fishing have been so so depending on the day but it seems like we’ve had more than our fair share of challenging days this fall. Maybe that all turns around this week. There’s only one way to find out for yourself.

Go-to water has been Wolf Creek down with better reports consistently coming from the canyon. We’re running medium depth rigs, occasionally shortening up for the shallow fast runs. Good point fly options have been Rainbow Czechs, Pill Poppers, Rainbow Weight Fly, Bubble Yum Scuds, Tungsten Tailwater Sows and Tungsten PT’s all in the #14-#16 range. We’re trailing soft hackle sowbugs, Tailwater Sows, Little Green Machines, Zebra Midges, BWO Magic Fly, Split Case BWO, Olive lightning bugs, rainbow warriors, olive S & M’s and other miscellaneous mayfly nymphs and generally running with a single split shot.

It varies by the day and by the section you are in but we’ve found the fish are predominantly in medium depth, faster water. Don’t rule out the slow stuff but it hasn’t been great. When you hook up take note of the water you’re fishing and target that type of water throughout your day. Chances are that’s where you’ll find them….or not.

Streamer fishing requires a lot of work and some commitment but has been worth the effort for the most part. Weeds are still an issue and will continue to be for some time but they are localized and you can find plenty of clean water in which to strip. Stick to your favorites and fish them like you mean it. Best colors for us have been olive, black, natural or gray.

Bombing the bank and stripping through the shallows has been effective for me but from what I hear they’re getting them on the swing as well.

Dry fly opportunities seem to present themselves daily but you need to be ready to go at any given moment. Rig up that dry fly rod and keep it within reach while you’re nymphing and/or streamer fishing. Pseudos, maybe some BWO’s and the occasional caddis are all a possibility. We’ve had luck fishing a caddis blind when fish are up and eating but that seems to be fading so my suggestion would be to rig with your favorite BWO set up and hope for bugs.

Solitude is in abundance right now and will be from here on out. You can expect to see some boat and wade angler traffic on the nicer days but even on the busier days you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a piece of water to have all to yourself.

The forecast is calling for snow tomorrow and again on Saturday. Could we be treated to an epic day of BWO dry fly fishing? I wouldn’t rule it out!

In between we’ll see another couple of days of Indian summer with highs approaching 65 on Friday but expect the mild temps to be accompanied by breezy conditions. And speaking of breezy conditions, a high wind warning is currently in effect through 7 pm tonight for west winds 30-40 mph, gusting as high as 60 mph. Batten down the hatches!

Next week looks chilly but definitely doable. Cold on Monday and Tuesday with highs in the high 20’s/low 30’s but warming into the 40’s by the middle of the week.

We’ve still got plenty of lodging options available though we are closing the motel for winter this week and will follow suit with the cabins when it makes sense to do so. As always, our bungalows will remain open all winter long for the die-hards out there.

Guide trips are winding down and guides are beginning to disappear but there are still enough of us around that we shouldn’t have any problem filling those last minute guide trips.

Great deals still to be had at the shop with our Second Annual Rod and Reel sale still going strong and we’ve got all the gear you need for Cold Weather fishing.

Shop hours are 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM Monday – Saturday and 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM Sundays.

Welcome October

The return of autumn on the Missouri River

The winter storm that brought historic September snows and cold to Montana last weekend has come and gone and despite the lingering cold these last two days, it looks like we’re on our way to more seasonable fall weather as the week goes on.

We’ll see temps climb back into the 50’s starting today and it appears as though we may see a bit of Indian summer the first part of next weeks with temps near 70. Night time lows in the 30’s will keep things chilly for those early morning and late evening outings but a far cry from the low teens we saw Tuesday morning which took a toll on our psyches as well as on some of our exterior plumbing.

We did lose a few trips to cancellation over the weekend but those who kept their dates and fished through a couple of cold mornings were rewarded as the plummeting water temps and dramatic weather change seemed to have perhaps flipped the switch on fall fishing.

We had some good streamer and dry fly reports from yesterday, just in time for our big group trip from our friends at Schultz Outfitters in Southeastern Michigan happening all this week. Of course these Michigan folks are no strangers to cold weather fishing but we’re all stoked to see fall weather return and I’m sure they are as well.

Hopefully we’ll lose the rest of our snow here at the shop today and fingers are crossed that water will again be flowing through our aforementioned exterior plumbing in an orderly manner (not spraying out of cracked pipes) by this afternoon. Unfortunately we’ve embarked upon the season of long shadows here in the Wolf Creek canyon and while we do still have a parking lot full of sunshine we won’t see sun in the back yard until spring and it won’t be long before we lose our sunlight in the front so suffice it to say, we’re enjoying it while it lasts.

But enough about the coming winter woes…..right now the warm up is underway and we’re in the midst of our busiest three weeks of the fall season. The empty lot is empty no more and the quiet shop is now abuzz with activity, at least for the next few weeks. We do have a few vacancies here and there but for the most part rooms are going to be hard to come by until late October. If you’re planning on coming out over these next few weeks I’d recommend you call sooner rather than later as things are rapidly filling up.

Expect plenty of traffic out there (though nothing like during the summer season) if you’re headed this way and make sure to make us your first stop on your way to the river for shuttles, bugs, cold weather gear and so much more including the best streamer selection in the canyon.

Nymphing will continue to provide the numbers but there are plenty of other options if bobber fishing doesn’t excite you. Streamer fishing is heating up and is definitely worth your time though weeds will be an ever-present frustration. Keep calm and strip!

Pseudos and caddis have been providing plenty of top water action in a target-rich environment. The cool water temps should facilitate BWO action soon. In the meantime terrestrials will be back in play on the warm sunny days so make sure you’re stocked up on ants and beetles and the like.

Fall fishing is underway and it’s about to go off!

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.

Mid September on the Missouri

Autumn is starting to take hold

September is rapidly disappearing as the 2019 season continues to fly by. The lonely days of late August/early September are gone and the river is getting to be a very busy place again. The official start of autumn is just a few days away and if this week is any indication it’s going to be one busy fall on the MO’.

No more sitting around drinking coffee and staring at the computer screen all morning…its go time again.

Traffic has been heavy in the shop this week with a bunch of guide trips and drift boat rentals and more and more folks just stopping by for shuttles and bugs having heard about us and wanting to check out the shop. The word is out, especially for those coming in from Helena, Bozeman, Billings, and Missoula…really anywhere other than Great Falls. We are your first stop on the way to the Missouri and we are closer to Holter Dam and Wolf Creek Bridge than any other shop. And even if you’re coming from Great Falls, if you’re planning on fishing at the dam, WCA is the most logical place to stop for your shuttles and flies and anything else you need for your day on the water.

We are your outfitter owned and operated full service Missouri River fly shop. We’re your one stop shop for guides, affordable lodging, drift boat rentals, Shuttles, Simms waders and boots, Loop rods, Lamson reels and so much more including the largest selection of Missouri River bugs ever assembled under one roof in Wolf Creek Montana. Don’t miss our Annual Fall Rod and Reel sale going on now. 25% off all rods and reels and deeper discounts up to 40% off on clearance items from Ross, Redington and more.

Fishing has been good enough and it’s about to get much better.

Some slow days out there last week (and this week as well depending on who you ask) but things seem to be trending in the right direction as we await Autumn Splendor and Fall Fishing Nirvana on the Mighty Missouri.

Holter Dam has been crowded this week, both with anglers and with trout. It’s where most will be concentrating their efforts from here on out but just because most people are fishing at the dam that doesn’t mean you have to.

There are plenty of fish from Craig down as well so don’t limit yourself. If you’d prefer a more solitary experience then by all means spread out and try something new.

Nymphing has been and will continue to be your best bet for numbers. Purple weight flies, black Zebra Midges, LGM’s, Tailwater sows, Olive Redemptions, Peep Shows, 2 Bits, Tung Darts, Nitro Caddis, Radiation Baetis, Purple or Pearl Lightning Bugs, Rainbow Warriors, Juju’s….lots of bugs on the menu right now in the sub-surface game.

Hoppers have peaked and will continue to fade, ants are where it’s at. Caddis are getting eaten as well with the standard tan elk hair caddis and the larger October varieties all getting looks. Tricos on some days, with pseudos and callibaetis also in the mix. Fall BWO’s still a few weeks away. Dry Fly tip of the day – try trailing a CDC Caddis emerger when you’re targeting those sipping trout. They might not like your dry fly game but a CDC Caddis emerger fished in the film gets eaten way more often than you’d think even by the most discerning fish.

Streamer fishing has been heating up and will only get better as we move through the fall. If you’re a streamer junkie this is your time. A detailed report coming soon but suffice it to say that Wolf Creek Angler is your Missouri River Streamer headquarters. We’ve got the right streamer lines for any and all situations and while we don’t like to brag we have heard it said that we’ve got THE BEST STREAMER SELECTION on the MISSOURI. A word of caution for those just getting into the game….weeds, though not as bad as they could be, are an ever-present challenge when fishing the MO in the fall. Anticipate the challenge and STAY CALM. Streamer fishing is hard work. Weeds make it harder work and can drive even the most patient angler to the brink. Just try to stay focused on the hoped for results….the big payoff…the BEHEMOTH dwelling in the hidden depths of the MO.

Fall shop hours are 7 AM to 5 PM daily.

We hope to see you soon for the best of Montana fall fishing.

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!

Late Summer on the Missouri

Hopper Time on the MO!

As expected, things on the Missouri have gone from quiet to crickets as August grinds on.

Wolf Creek has become a lonely place, especially on a Monday morning with no rec floaters and just a few anglers around.

It’s the time of the season when we like to catch up on summer projects and also the time when many in the Missouri River fly fishing industry like to take advantage of the slowdown and escape for a spell. Summer is coming to a close and for many of us this is the best opportunity we have to unplug, relax and enjoy some summer downtime.

For some that means getting out of town for late summer vacation. For others it means more time fishing or perhaps a bit of both. In any case it’s a great chance to recharge and reset in preparation for the second season which is soon to be upon us.

Painting, cleaning, watering, washing, mowing, procrastinating, dusting, fixing, scrolling, planning ….all happening daily at Wolf Creek Angler.

And how’s the fishing you ask?

Fishing has ranged from slow to good to great depending on who and when you ask but overall I’d say it’s been solid.

Tricos have been hit or miss which is kind of the nature of the beast but even so, there have been ample opportunities for those willing to put in the time and believe it or not we’re still seeing PMD’s in fishable numbers almost daily. How long will they last? I wouldn’t expect much longer but I’ve been saying that for about three weeks now so take it for what it’s worth and fish em’ while you can.

There are piles of hoppers around this year and so far hopper fishing has not disappointed. We’ll always preface our hopper reports with the disclaimer that the MO is not known as a great hopper river but we’ve got no complaints about this year’s hopper action. Pair your hopper with an ant or drop a small nymph or just throw solo and avoid the wraparound issues the hopper rigs seem to be so prone to.

We’ve had good action most everywhere we’ve fished them so don’t limit yourself to any one stretch. There are hoppers everywhere. Fish the banks, fish the riffles, fish the flats…you might be surprised where those fish will eat a hopper.

Nymphing has been very productive, especially at the dam. Split Case and Crackback PMD’s, Tailwater Sows, Peep Shows, Purple Lighting Bugs, Frenchies, PT’s, 2 Bit Hookers, Weight Flies, Zebra Midges, Zirdles, Claws R and Snapping Crays all getting eaten consistently. We’ve been running deep (6’ – 8’ overall) and getting plenty of action but the word is that the short leash has been productive as well.

Blue skies and sunshine on tap all week long with highs in the 80’s and low 90’s. Cool nights continue with lows in the 50’s. Enjoy these lazy late summer days on the Missouri.

We’ve got an abundance of lodging available and while many guides are enjoying the downtime most would rather be working. Don’t miss out on our Dog Days guide trip and lodging special through the end of the month. Book a full day guide trip and a night of lodging and your second night of lodging is on us.

We are your go- to full service Missouri River fly shop with everything you need for your day on the water and we are closer to Holter Dam and Wolf Creek Bridge than any other shop…we’re right on your way!

We’ve got clean and affordable lodging, the hardest working guides on the water, vehicle shuttles, Adipose Drift Boat Rentals and a fully stocked shop with the best products from the best brands in the industry including Simms, Rio, Smith, Lamson, Ross, Loop, Fishpond, Umpqua, Montana Fly Company, Korkers, Echo and many more.

We’ve also got an open RV spot available now through October 1st. $25/night – Full Hookup AND free WiFi.

And don’t forget we are the Exclusive host of the Mending Waters Montana drift boat program providing drift boat rentals FREE OF CHARGE each and every day to all vets and active duty military members. Book your boat today at mendingwatersmontana.org

Come enjoy the Dog Days with us at WCA.

Autumn Creeping In

Chris with a Pre-Autumn Streamer Eater from this past weekend. A sign of things to come!

There’s plenty of summer left on the calendar, six weeks to be exact, but with the cooler temps and cloudy wet weather we’ve been experiencing one can’t help but feel like Autumn is starting to creep in. The weather trend will continue through this week with highs struggling to reach 80 and nighttime lows dipping into the high 40’s. We got a good dose of thunder, lighting, rain and hail yesterday and it looks like the next chance we have for that will be towards the end of this week but whether it’s in the forecast or not you should always be prepared. There’s nothing worse than being caught out in it without the proper gear.

The greens are starting to fade to browns, yellows, oranges and reds. There’s a chill in the air most mornings and evenings and the black bears have started to show up to feast on the choke cherries which are rapidly ripening. Antlers are reaching full growth and many are starting to turn their attention to hunting with Upland Bird Season and Archery season just weeks away.

Pre-season football has begun and college football begins in earnest two weeks from Saturday. School starts two weeks from Wednesday so yeah, summer is slipping away from us.

Fishing this past weekend felt fallish as well with a good crowd in the grass flats and plenty of fish willing to play. It’s been a long-time coming but we did finally have a good day on the Zirdle with all but a few fish opting for the big bug. Plenty of dry fly opportunities as well with ample Tricos and caddis. Ants were a good option as well between thunderstorms. Hoppers not so much but look for that to improve this week with a little sunshine and a little heat.

Streamer fishing will try your patience right now with the challenge of weeds and other floating and submerged debris but if you can maintain your composure and work through it you’ll likely find some willing players exactly where you’d think you’d be finding them. Bring on the fall fishing!
The late August doldrums are definitely in full swing as evidenced by the lack of traffic out there but those in the know will tell you that August fishing on the MO can often be nothing short of exceptional. Not to say that’s always the case but we normally manage to put together some pretty good days out there in August and the best part is that with the exception of the dam you’ll more than likely have it all to yourself (relatively speaking of course).

Lodging is wide open and guides are suddenly finding themselves with time to kill so book a trip today and put them to work. Remember now through the end of the month you can take advantage of our Dog Days of Summer Guide Trip and Lodging Special. Book a full day guide trip and a night of lodging and the second night of lodging is on us.

Summer deals in the shop are still in full swing but the goods are rapidly disappearing. 25% Off Simms summer sportswear including Guide Pants, Guide Shorts, Stone Cold and Big Sky shirts, Rip Rap wading sandals and more. And don’t miss our Annual Fall Rod Sale coming soon….25% off all 2019 rods and reels from Echo, Redington, Loop, Ross, Lamson and more.

Enjoy these last weeks of summer and don’t despair. Autumn is coming soon and just happens to be our absolute favorite time of the year to fish in Montana. It’s a magical time on the MO and beyond.