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!

Unseasonablly unseasonable this fall on the Missouri

In the midst of yet another winter weather event time is rapidly running out on fall fishing 2019.

Cold and snow have kept many an angler away starting with a late September snow storm and continuing through much of October. This is our fifth significant bout of winter weather and though we have had a few nice days in between winter weather events, the unseasonably cold weather has seemingly brought our 2019 season to a premature close.

All that being said, we do live in the Rocky Mountains so it’s certainly not unheard of to have some significant winter weather during the fall but if we look at the numbers it’s obvious that this fall is considerably outside of the parameters which define “normal weather conditions”.

Since that first winter storm that hit at the end of September we have seen well below average temps and well above average precipitation. In some cases the amount of recorded snowfall has already reached over half of the annual average and we’re seeing snowfall amounts not normally reached until February or March during the average winter.

Last Friday we reveled in 75 degree highs before waking up to several inches of snow on the ground on Saturday morning.

The good news is we’re well on our way to building the snowpack that will hopefully provide another great water year in 2020. Not everyone was thrilled with average flows in the 5K range during most of the season on the Missouri but it was a good year for the health of the river even if the wade fishing may have been a little more challenging and two consecutive summers with minimal Hoot Owl closures around the state is nothing short of awesome.

So while we’re definitely not blind to the silver lining it has been a slow fall season on the MO’. Rightly or wrongly we’ve come to expect a busy October and early November. So far this has not been the case in 2019 but we could still finish strong with a couple of decent weeks ahead of us.

It will be unseasonably cold tomorrow and Wednesday but this round of snow is over for the most part and temperatures will warm by the end of the week, running much closer to average. Next week looks promising with highs in the 40’s. The warm days are nice but they are usually accompanied by a fair amount of wind this time of year. The upcoming warming trend might just bring us the classic fall weather we’ve been waiting for. Not too warm, not too cold, not too much wind….just right for those pursuing trout as well as those pursuing big game.

Winter lodging rates go into effect this Friday….$99 for premium lodging (kitchen and private bath included). We’ve shut down the motel for the winter but still have cabins and bungalows available. Winterizing/closing the cabins is next on the to-do list but I would think we’ll go at least another week or two after which time we will have bungalows available all winter long.

We picked up a few random guide trips last week and do have a few more on the books between now and the end of next week but it feels like we’re definitely getting down to the final days. That being said, we’re hopeful and optimistic that we could in fact see some downright epic days out there during these next two weeks so keep an eye on the weather and if it looks good give us a call to book an expert guide and cozy lodging and close this season out right.

Shop hours still officially 8 AM – 5 PM Monday – Saturday and 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM on Sunday but this is becoming more and more weather dependent. It wouldn’t hurt to give us a shout before heading out just to make sure.

 

Of Winter Storms and Trip Insurance

As we sit through our second winter storm of the fall today it seems like a good time to talk about trip insurance.

Early October is traditionally a great time to come fish the Missouri. Sometimes it’s not!

We started the day yesterday at around 60 degrees and by early afternoon temps had dropped into the 30’s. With a Winter Storm Warning in the forecast for Tuesday afternoon through midnight tonight it was quickly determined by clients and guides alike that it would be best to set this day out.

This isn’t always the case however and unfortunately if the guide/outfitter decides the conditions are fishable then the clients are on the hook to either fish or forfeit their deposit.

With more snow, temperatures below freezing and a stiff north wind in the forecast today’s conditions are bordering on extreme. And while there will undoubtedly be some folks on the water today I think most guides are more than happy to sit this one out but what if they weren’t?

A couple of degrees warmer and a little less north wind and it’s fishable….probably not pleasant, but fishable nonetheless.

This late in the season we’re closing in on the home stretch and just like the roaming bears currently packing on calories in preparation for a long winter hibernation those who make their living in this business on this river are trying to stash as much money away as possible to make it through until spring.

Losing a day of pay is not optimal for any of us and while we understand not wanting to fish in adverse conditions the fact of the matter is we book dates well ahead of time and hold them and if we weren’t holding them for client X we’d be holding them for client Y. Ideally those days come and go and they’re all beautiful weather and perfect fishing conditions but we all know this isn’t the case.

Cold and snow are always a possibility in the spring and fall and wind is ALWAYS in the mix, no matter what time of year. Summer days can be HOT and rainy and smoky and weedy. Water can be high, water can be low. Fishing can be hot, or not. We have zero control over any of these factors and while you can choose your dates based on historical data you simply never know what you’re going to get.

Let me make one thing clear. There are conditions which are hazardous and client safety is our number one priority. We won’t fish in lightning and we won’t fish in extreme cold or extreme wind. Our guides have all been instructed that if there are any conditions they are not comfortable with then they are not to go, regardless of whether the client wants to go or not. We will make the call if we deem the conditions unsafe and in these cases clients will receive a full refund.

More often than not however the conditions are not hazardous, they’re just not ideal. Rain, snow, wind, high water, low water, cold, heat, smoke…they can all make for tough fishing. We get a ton of calls from clients looking at the crappy forecast and asking if they can move their days. The answer is NO. Your guide is likely booked every day so it’s simply not as easy as waiting for a nice day.

Again, we understand not wanting to fish in nasty weather and we probably wouldn’t want to fun fish in these conditions either but the bottom line is we have a relatively short time in which to make our living each season and the nature of the beast dictates that we hold fast to our somewhat stringent cancellation policy. Sometimes we get clients who reluctantly fish through it, other times we get those who refuse to go and forfeit their deposit. There’s not an abundance of joy and happiness in either situation.

But what if there was a way to insure against not only unforeseen emergencies but also crappy weather or just a change of plans? What if there was a way to make sure you wouldn’t lose your deposit AND your guide/outfitter would get paid?

Well it just so happens there is such a thing. It’s called Trip Insurance and we offer it to all of our clients whether they’re doing guide trips and lodging through us or simply staying with us and fishing on their own.

It’s the same story with our lodging as it is with our guides. We’ve got a limited number of rooms and they book up early which makes them unavailable. A last minute cancellation for a week of lodging during prime time can be devastating to us as the likelihood of re-booking the room with such short notice is minimal. Once again, if we’re holding lodging dates we need to be paid for those dates.

Our travel insurance offered by IMG provides various coverages with three different purchase options which you can explore here. We recommend the premium Travel LX plan which covers up to 75% of the cost of the trip for cancellation FOR ANY REASON as outlined below and while the insurance is an additional expense it will cost you much less than losing your 50 % deposit.

As you can see, LX gives you blanket coverage for just about any situation but whether you purchase premium coverage or not we recommend you purchase some level of insurance for your sake and ours. Pricing is available here. Just enter your trip details and they’ll take care of the rest.

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.

Frozen February

Following a week of subzero temps the forecast is calling for a bit of a respite these next few days with highs supposedly approaching the mid 30’s today before dropping back into the 20’s for the remainder of the week. Back to single digits on Sunday and then we’re hoping for that warm up which will get us back on the water.

There’s snow in the forecast for tomorrow and a chance of scattered showers and flurries throughout the week. The snowpack is moving towards average in most drainages so although it’s still very early to say with any degree of certainty what the water situation will be this spring we’re liking what we’re seeing at this point.

Current “most probable” flow predictions have us holding in this 5,000 CFS range for the next couple of months with a bump to around 6,000 in May and a peak of <7,000 in June and then back to around 5,000 for the summer season. If it plays out this way you really couldn’t ask for better conditions for summer fishing. We wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more of a flushing flow at the peak but following last year’s 18-20K which kept the walk/wade crowd from coming and all but eliminated spring dry fly fishing, we’re good with the busy spring that these flows would bring.

Max Probable predictions have us creeping up towards a peak of 10K before dropping into the 6-7,000 range for the summer while the Minimum probable has us dropping into the 3500 CFS range by April and holding there for the season. Fingers crossed that this won’t be the case.

If you’re brave enough to venture out this week wading is likely your best bet as the ramps and the parking lots have not been plowed. If you’re wading there’s a fair amount of shelf ice out there, mostly in and around that slow water you’re going to want to be fishing so please use caution and also keep an eye out for those floating chunks of ice.

We’re starting to do a brisk lodging business with the hard water crowd now that Holter is fishing well so if you do see a weather window coming and you think you’d like to come out and fish with us try to call well ahead of time as the weekend lodging tends to fill up by the middle part of the week.

The shop is open from 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM Wednesday – Saturday and 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM on Sundays, weather permitting. We’re open EVERY DAY for lodging and guide trips and speaking of lodging and guide trips…don’t miss our winter guide trip and lodging special. That’s two nights of premium lodging and a full day guide trip for one or two anglers for just $500. You won’t find a better deal anywhere.

It’s been a lonely February so far at Wolf Creek Angler. Here’s hoping for warmer weather and mild winter days on the water. We hope you make us your first stop on the way to the MO for lines, leaders, tippet and shuttles. Simms waders, boots and cold weather gear. Loop, Echo and Redington rods. Ross, Nautilus, Lamson, Echo and Redington reels and of course the largest selection of Missouri River flies ever assembled under one roof in Wolf Creek Montana.