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.

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.

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.

Late January Update

The January Thaw continues this week.

If you’re looking for a Missouri River Winter Trout Fix this is your time!

Weekends have been busy by January standards and with temps expected to break 60 degrees on Saturday, I’d expect some company out there. That being said, as you might expect with that warm air usually comes wind and it sounds like that will indeed be the case on Saturday with a predicted southwest wind 18-22 mph, gusting to 47 mph.

Could make for tough fishing conditions but we won’t likely feel 60 degrees again for quite some time, at least let’s hope that’s the case. Snow pack is still good, it could be better. Let’s hope for some winter following this warm up.

Despite the warm air, it’s 100 percent Winter Fishing on the MO right now with water temps still hovering around 34.5 degrees and flows holding steady at around 4600 cfs. The fish are holding in the slow, deep winter runs, though some of these are producing much better than others. Go pink, go deep and make sure you’re covering the whole run. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, the fish are widely distributed in the run and are relatively easy to locate. Other times they may be in the narrowest of slots and can often times prove almost impossible to find. That or they simply aren’t eating but generally speaking, if you spend enough time picking these spots apart you should be able to get a few to eat.

We’ve gotten a lot of calls about streamer fishing this week and if you know me you know I’m going to tell you it’s ALWAYS worth trying but stick to the nymph rigs if you’re looking for numbers. Swinging the tailouts has been moderately effective as has a painfully SLOW strip with ample pauses through the slowest of the slow, lakey spots. Clouser type minnows, kreelex, buggers and polar leeches have all been effective. Not so much on the larger, flashier patterns but as always, fish the patterns you believe in. They’ll out fish any HOT fly any day. It’s amazing what a difference a little faith in your fly makes in the way you fish it. The fish notice and respond accordingly. Other times they don’t.

Midges daily accompanied by sporadic rises but the seemingly ever-present Missouri River winds are shutting this game down more often than not. Keep the dry fly rig handy just in case.

What you need to know as you plan your rapidly approaching Super Bowl weekend…

Wolf Creek Angler is your winter one-stop shop on the Missouri…no need to go anywhere else. We’ve got you covered with the best winter lodging and guide trip deals on the river and a shop FILLED with stuff you need and deals you can’t afford to pass up.

Lodging – $99 (plus tax) for a spacious bungalow with full kitchen facilities (pots/pans/dishes/utensils all included) and private bath. Two twin beds and a pull-out full size sleeper sofa sleep 3 extremely comfortably. A rollaway will accommodate a fourth but four gets a little tight.

Winter Guide Trips – Just $400 for a full day for one or two anglers. Book two days and we’ll throw in a second night of lodging for FREE! Try to find a better deal than this….you won’t!

Mid-Winter Sale

We’re in the midst of our mid-winter sale in the shop. 25% off ALL RODS AND REELS and a FREE ARC fly line with purchase of any rod and reel combo.

30% off all winter sportswear including Simms Coldweather shirts and guide flannels.

50 % Off ALL REMAINING 2019 warm weather clothing. Guide pants, guide shorts, select sun hoodies and more.

It’s late January in the fly shop and there are deals to be had!

Shop hours 8:00 am – 3:00 pm Wednesday – Saturday, 9:00 am – 1:00 pm Sundays. Those are the published hours but with this nice weather we’ve been in the shop every day. Full disclosure, we’ve not been able to run shuttles since Chewy broke his leg in December but we will ALWAYS make the call for you to book your shuttle with another shop so you don’t have to make another stop prior to hitting the water.

As always, we’re open for guide trips and lodging EVERY DAY.

 

PBTU Ice Bowl

If you’re in Helena and are looking for something to do on Saturday evening we invite you to join us for the Pat Barnes Missouri River Trout Unlimited Ice Bowl TU Membership Drive and Winter Social at 5 PM at Sleeping Giant Lanes. Pat Barnes TU will be providing the lanes and snacks for all in attendance.

Super Bowl Sunday

The shop will be open in the morning but we will likely be closing early as the festivities commence. Another NFL season soon to be in the books. Yet another struggle for my Detroit Lions. Maybe next year…in the meantime

Go Chiefs!

January Thaw

Winter Solitude on the MO’

Just back from sunny Sacramento and the International Sportsmen’s Expo. We escaped the arctic blast just in time and have returned to a January Thaw so the timing couldn’t be better.

Photo by John Orzechowski

I spent the first part of last week just before we left for California crawling around under the shop thawing frozen pipes in the midst of the coldest temps we’ve seen in quite a while. Fast forward a week and we’re in the midst of a serious warm up that has us thinking spring.

High temps will be at or near 50 degrees all week long and while tomorrow looks to be breezy, conditions couldn’t be much better than they are today. Wind on these warmer days is to be expected but with the exception of tomorrow it really doesn’t look to be too bad. Even tomorrow at 19-24 mph out of the southwest, gusting to 32 mph I wouldn’t let that stop you.

After spending four days talking fishing with prospective clients and returning to this spring-like weather I can’t wait to get back on the water and I’m definitely ready for the season to get underway. I’m well aware there’s plenty of winter ahead but we’re definitely going to take advantage of these current conditions while they last and you should too!

The river is in great shape at 4220 CFS and 34 degrees….perfect winter water. Get out there and get your winter trout fix this week. We’ve got lodging available for just $99/night (plus tax) and full day guide trips for just $400 for one or two anglers all winter long. We’ve gotten a few bookings for the weekend already and I’m sure we’ll be full come Friday so don’t waste any more time. Call and book yourself a mid-winter trip to the Missouri before the cold and snow return.

And speaking of bookings, late June and most of July are rapidly approaching FULL so don’t put off those summer plans any longer if you want in on some of the best trout fishing on the planet.

We’ll delve into flow predictions in more detail in the coming weeks but for now all you need to know is that we’re looking good as far as far as snow water equivalent goes with everything sitting at, near or over 100 percent of average. The latest flow predictions are indicating a decent water year with flows most likely peaking at around 6500 cfs. It’s way too early to tell what we’ll actually see come spring but we’ll keep you posted throughout the winter months as a more accurate flow picture begins to come into focus.

We hope you’ll make us your first stop on the way to the Missouri this week. We’re fully stocked on all the hottest winter nymphs and streamers and we’ve got plenty of midge patterns as well if you’re looking for top water action. We’ve also got some great deals going on fall/winter inventory as we make way for spring gear arriving soon.

30% off all Simms winter outerwear and base layers and don’t miss our Mid-Winter Rod and Reel sale…25% off ALL RODS and REELS and a FREE ARC fly line when you purchase a rod/reel combo.

We’ve got everything you need and more for your day on the water including Adipose Flow drift boat rentals, Simms waders and boots, Hand Warmers, nets from Rising and Fishpond, lines, leaders and tippet from RIO, the best coffee in the canyon and so much more.

Winter on the Way

Well it had to happen sooner or later.

Following weeks of mild weather with well-above average temperatures winter is about to arrive in Western Montana.

The 40 degree days we’ve been enjoying are soon to be replaced with single digits so count yourself lucky if you were able to make it out fishing over these past several weeks and if you didn’t you’ve got a couple of days left before the arctic blast hits.

Today looks to be the last best day but temperatures will linger in the 30’s for the next couple of days before plummeting into the teens on Sunday and colder yet early next week. The coldest day looks to be Tuesday with a high of -8 and a low of -17. It starts to tick upward later in the week and looks to be back to around 20 by next Friday. We’ll see if that turns into a warming trend or not but I wouldn’t plan on doing any fishing next week.

We’ve been getting a lot of calls from folks wondering if there is any ice on Holter Lake (which there isn’t) but that’s likely to change next week. We’ll keep you posted.

For those looking to make it out before the cold hits you need to know that the past couple of days have been the best nymphing action we’ve had in weeks. We can’t promise you that this will continue to be the case over these next couple of days but I think there’s a good chance it could be.

Winter bugs, winter water….as easy as it gets.

We did our first guide trips of 2020 yesterday and the day did not disappoint. This same group fished with us on January 3rd of 2019 and had a similar day so they really know how to hit it right.

Wolf Creek to Craig, deep buckets, pink bugs, hungry trout, and rods bent. That is the report from yesterday and the previous several as well.
Days like these make winter nymphing the worst kept secret on the Missouri. The wind can be a nuisance but outside of that, when it’s on like this it doesn’t get much easier. The choice of bug is typically not critical. Pill Poppers, Pederson’s Sow, Amex, Bubble Yum, Cotton Candies, Tailwater sows, Caviar Scuds…all the same stuff we’ve been pushing for the past month or so. Again, when it’s ON the specific bugs don’t seem to matter all that much which makes it nice because you can roll with the same rig all day rather than feverishly swapping out bugs and racking your brain trying to figure out what they want.

Run deep in the buckets with a bb split or two and hot spot your way down.

We did see a few folks around yesterday but for all intents and purposes the river is VOID of traffic which is another reason winter fishing can be such a blast.

Again, we can’t promise you great fishing every day but at just $400 for a guide trip  you can’t beat the price and as is always the case with winter trips, if the weather turns or if you simply change your mind, no harm no foul…NO CANCELLATION FEE! You won’t find a better deal ANYWHERE so why not book a winter day on the MO with us now? You’ve got absolutely nothing to lose.

If you prefer the wait and see approach that’s ok too. We can generally accommodate your request with as little as a day’s notice. Keep in mind we can also provide quality lodging at an affordable price so you can spend your time on the water, not on the road. $99 (plus tax) for a cozy bungalow with full kitchen and private bath. Bungalows sleep three very comfortably.

Hunker down for the coming arctic blast and then make a plan to get out and fish the Missouri this winter when things warm up.

We have shifted into our winter schedule at the shop. We’re open from 8:00 AM – 3:00 PM Wednesday – Saturday and 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM on Sundays BUT there’s a very high probability that we will be closed on days when the temperature is at or below 20 degrees so please call ahead on those really cold days if you’re planning on us being open.

Accordingly, we will likely be closed most of next week or will just be here for limited hours.

That being said, we are open for lodging and guide trips EVERY day and calls are forwarded when the shop is closed so don’t hesitate to give us a call any day to book.

2020

The Holiday Haze is lifting and we’re excited 2020 is finally here.

While there was a fair amount of couch time I spent much of yesterday taking down Christmas decorations at home and am doing more of the same here at the shop today. With the holidays falling mid-week this year it feels like two weeks of the world on hold and as enjoyable as I’m sure that is for those fortunate enough to have all this time off, I for one am ready for a return to the normal routine.

As much as I enjoy the glow of the Christmas tree, the day the tree comes down always feels like a psychological weight lifted as we move on from the holiday haze and start engaging in the everyday again. We’re not quite there yet as these next several days will round out the break but with the decorations put away we’re that much closer to normalcy.

Obviously, for me normalcy is restored when traffic returns to the river so by the calendar we’ve got a long winter ahead before the 2020 season gets underway but judging by the mild extended forecast I’m optimistic we may see that traffic begin to trickle in sooner rather than later.

Whether this happens or not, the days are getting longer and with the holidays in the rear view people are already shifting their focus springward judging by the number of calls we’ve received the last couple of days for spring and summer lodging and guide trips. Have you booked your dates yet? There’s no time like the present.

2020 is starting much like 2019 did weather wise with very mild temps in the immediate forecast. High 30’s and low 40’s this week but breezy as you would expect and much of the same for next week. River flow is currently 4460 cfs with a water temperature of 34.5 degrees. Winter water conditions to be sure.

If you’re looking to get out you’ll want to target the slow winter water. It’s officially the season of pink if you’re planning on nymphing so check your stock on Pill Poppers, Bubble Yums, Pink Rays, Pederson’s Sow, Rainbow Czechs, Pink Lightning Bugs, Caviar Scuds, Cotton Candy, Pink Amex, Rainbow Warriors, Firebead Sows and more. We’re fully stocked on all of these and many more of your winter water essentials so stop in and replenish your winter nymph boxes before hitting the water.

As we’ve been reporting these last couple of weeks traffic has been MINIMAL. Many of the anglers I have seen out there have been swinging reportedly with varying degrees of success. Polar leeches, Kreelex, MoJo Minnows, buggers and leeches are all viable options. Swing those troughs and tailouts. If you’re unsure of where you should be fishing a quick drive up and down the river corridor on a moderately busy day can be extremely helpful (or you could just stop by the shop and ask us where you should be fishing). Take note of where you see people fishing and return to those spots when you can. It’s not that those are the ONLY place you can catch fish but there’s definitely a reason you see people in those same runs, day after day, season after season.

And don’t feel like you HAVE to swing. There are always fish to be caught stripping as well. I can’t think of any conditions in which I wouldn’t strip, save perhaps the weediest of summer days but even then I’ll at least give it a try. I’ve caught plenty of fish on the strip every month of the year, regardless of water temp. Obviously conventional wisdom dictates the colder the water, the slower the strip and that’s something you need to be mindful of but that being said you just might be surprised what happens with a moderately fast retrieve (with plenty of pauses) in 34 – 35 degree water. I’ll generally do a strip/swing/pause mashup during the cold water months but I’ve had plenty of trout smash a streamer in cold water with a moderately fast retrieve so don’t rule it out. Switch up your retrieve and your bugs until you find what works and keep your expectations reasonable. You aren’t likely to have any off-the-charts action days during the winter months but you never know. To me, a chase or two and maybe a nice fish to hand beats a bobber any day but that’s just me.

Along those lines of low-percentage winter techniques I’ve seen enough midge activity every time I’ve been out lately that it might warrant having a dry fly rod rigged up. Most of what I’ve seen for rises have been sporadic but I think if you were to put a lot of effort into finding feeding fish you would likely be able to avail yourself to numerous opportunities and maybe even fool one or two into eating.

Remember we’ve got great winter lodging and guide trip rates and with the mild weather ahead I expect we’ll start to see some people around again and while the holidays are over the great deals in the shop are still going strong. Do us and yourself a favor and take advantage of some amazing deals on great gear while you help us clear the way for spring arrivals coming soon.

Our normal winter schedule goes into effect next week. Shop hours will be 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM Wednesday – Saturday and 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM on Sundays. We will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays for the time being but that could change based on the weather and the traffic. We’ll keep you posted.

Pre-Thanksgiving Fishing this weekend on the MO

There are all sorts of reasons you ought to include fishing the Missouri in your weekend plans, not the least of which is the fact that these next few days of 50 ish degree weather could in fact be the last of the nice weather for a while.

Add to that the certainty that we’re all about to be swept up into a busy holiday season starting next week and I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t try to get out for one last Missouri River hurrah before the holidays (and winter) are upon us.

Oh, and it just so happens we do have limited availability for lodging this weekend as well as a number of guides still hanging around who’d like nothing better than to log another day or two before calling it a season.

And while the Mending Waters Montana boats for veterans are in dry dock for the winter we do still have Adipose Flow drift boats available for rent all winter long.

So if you’re not interested in watching Saturday’s Brawl of the Wild and you’re not going to take advantage of the nice days to put up those Christmas lights before the snow flies again then I’d expect you might want to be on the water this weekend.

Angler traffic has been sparse to say the least which means you can have it all to yourself. I expect we’ll see some folks around this weekend but it’s doubtful you’ll be waiting in line at the boat ramp and you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a piece of water to call your own.

We’re still dedicating most of our time on the water to streamer fishing with mixed results but nymphing continues to be productive and you may still encounter some dry fly opportunities though that window is rapidly closing.

Water temps are continuing to drop (currently 40.5 degrees) which will get those fish moving into the slow winter water. I wouldn’t say they’re all there yet but they are likely moving in that direction so don’t overlook those spots.

What traffic there is seems to be favoring the Wolf Creek to Craig stretch but there’s no reason you shouldn’t fish the dam and we also really like the Craig to Mid (or even just to Stickney) float this time of year. Just keep in mind that our daylight is continuing to shrink so don’t over commit or you’ll be rowing out in the dark.

We’re here at 8 am daily, anxiously waiting to help you out with whatever you need. Whether that’s bugs, leaders, indicators, hand warmers, gloves, socks, hats, waders, boots, sunglasses, free coffee (the best in the canyon), advice, a room, a guide….whatever it is, we’re happy to help. And while our shuttle service can be hit or miss this time of year we’re always happy to help hook you up with a shuttle whether we’re the ones doing it or not.

How about Christmas shopping? We can help you out there as well.

Great deals on rods and reels and something for all of the fly anglers on your list including Wolf Creek Angler gift cards in any amount good for anything and everything we sell from merch to guide trips to lodging and so much more.

Mid November on the MO’

The schizophrenic fall weather has continued this week on the Missouri. We started out at 2 degrees on Monday and made it into the 30’s later that day, it’s been in the 50s every day since.

This weather pattern should hold through the weekend and we’ll see temps approaching 60 on Sunday and Monday. Our next chance for snow will be mid-week next week when things return to more seasonable conditions.

What does this mean as it relates to fishing the MO’?

While we can’t predict with any level of certainty how good (or bad) the fishing will be here’s what we do know. 50 degree days in November are days you should fish. Winter is on the way so enjoy it while it lasts.

I may have jumped the gun on closing cabins for the winter as we’ve had to turn several people away the last couple of days which leads me to believe that there will be some traffic out there this weekend but that being said, things have all but grinded to a halt these past couple of weeks so I think it’s a safe bet that you’ll have plenty of water all to yourself should you decide to come out for a Missouri River fix.

Reports have been a little hard to come by as of late but Zach and I have made it out just enough to confidently report that there are indeed fish to be caught any way you like to catch them. Nymphing and streamer fishing have been good enough….not great…but definitely worth your time. Dry fly fishing has been sporadic but has definitely had is moments. Look for a decent day of top water action tomorrow with extensive cloud cover. BWO’s and midges are the game. Swing by the shop and stock up on best bets for flies.

A couple of things to note for the coming weeks….

Mending Water Montana free boat rentals for vets program will be on hold for winter starting this Saturday, November 16th. The reservation system will be inactive but boats will be available again in March.

Shop Hours are getting a little weird. We’re open at 8 AM EVERY DAY. Closing times vary. Sundays are a definite 8 AM – 1 PM. We’ll keep you updated should we decide to nix a day or two from the weekly schedule but for the meantime count on us being here every morning and call ahead if you’re coming out later in the day just to make sure someone will be around. Along these lines, we’ll be closing at 1 pm this Saturday.

Lodging is full for the weekend but we do have availability beginning on Sunday.

Fall Rod and Reel Sale still going strong. 25% off all rods and reels and deeper discounts on select models.

All remaining summer sportswear 50 percent off.

Gift Cards make great stocking stuffers and are available in any amount and are good for anything and everything we sell.

We will be closed on Thanksgiving Day (November 28th).

Things are quiet most days in the shop so I’d love it if you would stop by and say hello. Jake is starved for attention and I always enjoy talking to someone other than myself!

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!