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.

The Window is Open

Winter Bows on the MO – photo by Wolf Creek Angler

As we close out the first month of 2019 we’re emerging from a cold snap but the window of fishing opportunity will be open for the rest of the week before we plunge back into arctic air starting on Sunday.

We’ll see temperatures in the low to mid 40’s for the next several days with a very manageable south southwest wind forecast in the 10-15 mph range. It looks even better on Saturday.

No need to weigh watching the Super Bowl against fishing on Sunday…with highs in the teens and snow in the forecast the Super Bowl party is where you’re going to want to be.

Prior to that however you should make every effort to get out and fish between now and then. We’ve currently got lodging available through the weekend but it will more than likely fill by the end of the day today.

This would be the PERFECT opportunity to take advantage of our Winter Guide Trip and Lodging Special. $500 gets you a full day guided Missouri River float trip for one or two anglers and two nights of premium lodging at Wolf Creek Angler. We challenge you to find a better deal ANYWHERE.

Don’t need the lodging? Full Day float trip is just $400. Don’t need the guide? Winter lodging is just $99/night (plus tax). Wolf Creek Angler offers the BEST WINTER FISHING DEALS on the MO’ Hands Down!

Swinging, stripping and bobber fishing should all be good for the next several days and with a drastic weather change happening on Sunday fishing could be prime on Saturday on the edge of that system. It could also be a bust but there’s only one way to find out. You won’t know if you don’t go!

Nymphers should target the SLOW, DEEP winter water. Pink anything, firebead anything, sowbugs, Zebra midges, Pill Poppers, Pederson’s Sow, Caviar Scud, soft hackle sows, UV Crush, Bubble Yums, Rainbow Czechs, Ray Charles….the usual suspects.

Swingers and strippers you know what you like but best sellers have been Polar Leeches in Olive and Copper, Kreelex and Hot Head Kreelex in gold and brown or silver and gold. Mojo Minnows, Skiddish Smolt and Sparkle Minnows should also get the job done.

Stop by for bugs and shuttles and while you’re here don’t forget to check out our best deals of the year on winter wear as well as blow out pricing on all of our Redington waders and boots. These deals are too good to pass up and won’t last long.

Men’s and Women’s Sonic Pros and a few pair of Sonic Pro HD and HDZ’s left as well as women’s Willow waders and boots and a good assortment of Skagit and Prowler boots. Call ahead and we’d be happy to see if we have your size and hold it for you.

We’ve also got Adipose boats for rent and if you happen to be in the market for a new (used) boat this season we’re selling our 2014 RO Deville as well as my 2013 Clackacraft Eddy. Give a call or message us on FB for more info or to make an offer.

We are your pre Super Bowl Missouri River fly fishing destination!

Late January Report

The 2019 Season is Coming Soon

It’s hard to believe but we’re a week out from closing the books on the first month of 2019. The coming season looms large and the December doldrums have been replaced by days filled with a lot of time on the phone booking and confirming trips and lodging.

Lately we’ve also spent some time shoveling snow which we haven’t had to do much of so far this winter. While we’re keeping a close eye on the snow pack and spending some time on the water battling ice in the guides we know that the season will soon be upon us and winters cold will be but a distant memory. After all, spring is a mere 55 days away. Can you feel it?

I’ve admittedly become less of a fan of winter fishing over the past several years, perhaps I’m getting soft in my old age. But I do love this time of year. There may be snow on the ground and the thermometer may be hanging south of 20 degrees but spending time on the phone much of the day talking with clients about their upcoming fishing plans has a way of transporting you to hot summer days in the rowers seat. As the rooms and the guide days fill in the season begins to take shape, once again shifting gears from contemplating what was to preparing for what’s coming SOON.

Bookings for the prime season are up from last year which means a lot of you have fishing on your minds. If you’re thinking of fishing and staying with us this season it’s probably time to stop thinking about it and make those reservations. It feels like it’s going to be a busy year on the Missouri, especially after we lost a good part of the dry fly season last year due to the high water. There are a lot of folks who skipped last year who’ve already secured their dates for 2019 so don’t let this one get away from you.

There’s so much to do to get things ready for the coming season and not a lot of time left to get things done. Time has run out on putting off winter projects…its go time for property maintenance and also for shop stuff.

The cold weather gear needs to move to make way for spring shipments which will be arriving soon. We’ve already received our big SIMMS wader and boot shipment and while those waders look great hanging in the shop, they’d look even better leaving the shop on you so if you’re in the market for new waders this spring we’d love it if you got them from us.

It’s also time to review preseason orders and make sure we didn’t miss anything.

Rest assured we’ll have everything ready to go come spring. Our major project is completing renovations in the motel which will commence next week. Upon completion of #11 all motel rooms will be fully renovated and while some of you have only ever stayed in the renovated version of the rooms those who have been with us from the start will appreciate what I’m talking about when I say it’s nice to be able to be proud of these motel rooms because I definitely wasn’t prior to the renovations.

Another winter project was getting the WiFi situation figured out. This has been a constant issue and one which we’ve made several attempts to fix. The problem was that the WiFi signal was not reaching the bungalows (#12,#13 and #14). Well, it is now. Mind you we don’t have the fastest internet in Wolf Creek but we have the best that is available to us and now that signal is covering the whole property.

As always you can expect continuous improvement at Wolf Creek Angler. It’s our mission to do everything we can to provide you with an excellent experience and one which you’ll hopefully remember for all the right reasons. It won’t happen all at once but we’re chipping away at things and judging by our annual growth and by the vast majority of the feedback we receive our efforts are making a difference.

January Water Report

Perhaps it’s a little early to start talking about what we’ll see for water this spring but since we’ve already been fielding plenty of calls on the subject here’s what we know.

Snowpack across western Montana is currently sitting in the 80-90% of normal range. It could be much worse but the fact is we could use some precipitation. Following record precipitation last year, this winter has been a return to what has unfortunately become somewhat of the new normal.

The January long term forecast is for above average temperatures and below average precipitation which could translate into a busy month of fishing on the Missouri while those waiting for the ice to form on Holter Lake may be waiting all winter long.

We’re thankful for any business we get during the long winter months so we’ll take the traffic but here’s hoping for some major precipitation over the next couple of months.

Regardless of snowpack, we’re anticipating a great year ahead on the Missouri. River flow predictions are calling for a likely scenario of flows holding steady in the 4,500 CFS range through the winter months and peaking in the 6,000 CFS range in May and June.  This is great news to the wade anglers who missed out on fishing the Missouri last spring.

Max flow predictions show flows holding in the 4500 CFS range through February and then bumping up around 1000 CFS each month through June with a peak in the 10,000 CFS range while the minimum flow predictions show a steady drop in flow over the winter, leveling off in the 3500 CFS range beginning in April and holding there for the remainder of the season. This is not ideal. Let’s hope we see the most probable scenario (or max probable) play out.

We’re anxious to see what effect last season’s high water scrubbing is going to have on the hatches this year. It could be an epic dry fly year on the Missouri! Will we see the caddis explosion that has occurred following high water years in the past? Only time will tell. One thing looks fairly certain however, that being that we will actually have dry fly fishing before July. We missed much of the traditional dry fly prime time last season so we’re anxious for some BWO and PMD activity.

As per usual this is all speculation. We’re using the best information we have available to loosely predict what we might see this spring but Mother Nature always has the last word.

We’re not climatologists, we just sell fish hooks for a living so we’re content to leave the actual business of forecasting to the experts. We’ll keep you up to date on snowpack and flow conditions all winter long but at this point it definitely feels like it could be a return to dry fly nirvana on the MO in 2019.

In the meantime winter fishing is HOT right now. The nymphing is good to great depending on the day and streamers have been effective both on the swing and the strip. We’ve seen some midge activity with sporadic feeding. If we continue to see mild conditions throughout the winter expect good midge fishing as early as late January and throughout February and March.

We’ve been busy with lodging and have been getting a lot of calls about our winter lodging and guide trip special. The rumors are true! $500 for a full day guided float trip on the MO and TWO nights of premium lodging at Wolf Creek Angler. Our lodging options are quite limited during the winter so things tend to fill up quickly. If the mild weather persists and the demand is there we may look at opening more lodging up sooner rather than later. We’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime – give us a call and book your cure to cabin fever today and while you’re at it, make those spring/summer plans if you haven’t done so already. Prime dates are filling fast.

2019 Off to a Fishy Start

New Year on the fly. Photo by Matt Hargrave

One week into 2019 and we’re off to a fishy start having done our earliest ever guide trips on January 3rd. It looks like we’re in for a mild winter so hopefully we’ll be running a bunch more trips and while we may be losing out on some lodging for the ice fishing crowd (zero ice on Holter to date) I think we’ll more than make up for it with river traffic.

The Wolf Creek Bridge parking lot looked like July this weekend with rigs filling the pretty yellow lines. It’ll be interesting to see how that all works out this spring when things are going full bore. At this point, with around a dozen rigs in the lot (roughly half full), it felt a little crowded but I’m sure everyone will adjust just fine this spring when it’s all about the peace and harmony.

The forecast is calling for highs in the 40’s for the majority of the ten-day outlook with no high wind warnings and zero chance for precipitation in the mix (though it is howling today with 40 mph gusts). The January outlook is for above average temperatures with below average precipitation which means there’s no time like the present to book yourself a winter guide trip with Wolf Creek Angler.

$500 for a full day Missouri River guided float trip for one or two anglers AND two nights of premium lodging all winter long! Guide trips only with no lodging are $400 and lodging with no guide trip is $99/night plus tax. Try to find a better deal on the Missouri…. I guarantee you won’t.

Winter fishing techniques are a go. Deep nymphing and swinging or slow stripping streamers are what you should be doing from here on out.

Deep, slow water…. double nymph rig 7’ – 9’ overall with or without split shot (your call). I like a #12 Pink Amex or Rainbow Czech paired with a #16 or #18 caviar scud, Petersen’s Sow, Pink Lucent bead Ray, Tailwater Sow, soft hackle sow, Zebra Midge, Pill Popper, UV Crush, Cotton Candy etc. They’re all good. They’ll all catch fish if the time is right and you get them in the zone.

The best time of day has been in the 10:30 am – 2:30 pm zone. Nighttime lows are dropping into the 20’s so no point in starting any earlier than 10 am. Let things warm up a bit, you’ll be glad you did. Predictably, most of the traffic has been in the upper stretches but with things being as mild as they are there’s no reason you shouldn’t be fishing below Craig or right on down through the canyon.

Hot head Kreelex, Brown and Yellow Kreelex, Skiddish Smolt and Polar Leeches in various flavors have been the go-to options for swinging. I’m still stripping Sparkle Minnows, MK Ultra and Ultralites, Dirty Hippies and D & D’s and occasionally trailing a Polar Leech off any of them and moving plenty of fish.

There have been plenty of folks staking out their claims and swinging out there and there’s been no shortage of walk/wade nymphers as well. If you’re fishing from a boat, be courteous and grant them their space. It may be busy by winter standards but there’s miles of good water. No need to crowd anyone.

The water temperature is holding steady in the 35-degree range which is right about where it should be. The fish are not going to expend a lot of energy chasing down a meal whether it’s a nymph or a streamer though I’ve found that you’re much more likely to entice the chase with a streamer when they’re looking for a quick calorie fix.

Once again, whether nymphs or streamers you’ll want to get them deep enough that the fish don’t have to move much for them. If streamers are your thing you should be dredging right now and stripping ever so slowly.

Embrace winter fishing on the MO’. After all, spring is still a long way off and you can’t sit inside all winter long. Make plans to escape to Wolf Creek and enjoy winter solitude on the Missouri. The shop still closed on Mondays and Tuesdays for the time being but we’re always open for lodging and guide trips and speaking of that…have you booked your dates for spring and summer yet? If you haven’t you should. Prime dates are filling fast.

The First Day of Winter has us thinking SUMMER!

The Winter Solstice is upon us. The shortest day and longest night of the year.

It’s a special day as it means we’ve crossed that threshold officially beginning the countdown to summer 2019.

Sure, we’ve got a long ways to go but beginning tomorrow each day will be a little bit longer and before you know it we’ll be right back into Prime Time on the Missouri.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Winter Solstice is the moment at which the Earth’s axis tilts the Northern Hemisphere farthest from the sun’s warmth. This year’s Winter Solstice is unique in that it coincides with the onset of the December Full Moon. Often referred to as the Cold Moon, December’s full moon is also known as the Long Night Moon, the Moon Before Yule and the Oak Moon. Along with the Cold Moon the Ursid Meteor shower will also be visible in the night sky during the longest night of the year. The forecast is calling for a mostly cloudy night in our neck of the woods but if you can find yourself some clear skies it could be quite a show.

As if the Winter Solstice weren’t reason enough to celebrate we’re also just a few days out from Christmas with New Year’s Eve looming so while the longest night of the year might not sound like a cause for celebration if you focus on what’s beyond it like holiday festivities and more importantly like long summer days and bugs and trout you’ve got every reason in the world to celebrate!

Thinking about summertime… photo by Wolf Creek Angler

We’ll be raising a glass tonight, how about you?

Why not continue the celebration by spending the first weekend of the winter on the Missouri. The weather looks to be decent with sunny skies on Saturday, mostly cloudy skies on Sunday and highs near 40 both days and while the winds continue to howl today the forecast looks favorable for diminishing winds beginning tomorrow.

Knock out your last minute Christmas shopping at Wolf Creek Angler and treat yourself to a day or two on the water. We’ve got all kinds of great deals going on right on through Christmas on the stuff they really want, not just the stuff that didn’t move this year. Waders, boots, rods, reels, sportswear, outerwear and much more from the best brands in the business….all at the best prices of the season. You can’t afford to pass these deals up.

We’ve also got lodging available for $99/night and guides on call for $400 full day Missouri River guide trips just in case you want to make a weekend of it. Remember, $500 (plus tax) gets you two nights of premium lodging and a full day Missouri River guide trip for one or two anglers all winter long. This is the best deal you’ll find on the MO this winter, hands down…we guarantee it!

Happy Winter Solstice!

Long Awaited Missouri River Fishing Report

 

For whatever reason I haven’t fished the Missouri much these past few weeks, save a couple of short walk in outings.

December is definitely the slowest month traffic wise on the Missouri but it’s not because it doesn’t fish. The short cold days of December find many busy with the holidays and for a lot of guides, outfitters and shop owners December truly is the end of the season which means it’s time to catch up on end-of-the year paperwork and other such unfishy things.

Counting flies, completing and submitting outfitter logs and begging folks to come out and deplete shop inventory are a few things I’ve been doing. A lot of guides have winter jobs which are typically in full swing by now so we just don’t see much activity during the month of December.

Once the holidays have passed cabin fever starts to set in and a break in the weather will typically bring them out in droves but for now all is quiet.

While looking at the unseasonably warm forecast for this week I decided I really needed to get back on the water. So far this winter most of my days off have coincided with cold temps, wind, domestic projects, lethargy or all of the above. On the days I’ve thought about fishing the weather has changed my mind but with a few winter trips coming up and a fish shaped hole in my constitution I decided Monday was the day.

WCA/Iron Fly guide Brad Turner and I battled a bit of wind but for the most part had very mild weather, at least by December standards. We skipped the dam and opted for the Wolf Creek Bridge to Stickney run intent on devoting a good part of the day to streamer fishing.

Winter water and winter nymphs are producing though it certainly wasn’t lights out. A half-hearted effort perhaps but we were content to pick up a few fish just to affirm the water and bug selection prior to moving on to the big bugs.

Winter is the season of status quo as far as nymphing goes. Rainbow Czechs, Pink Amex, Pill Poppers, Rainbow Weight flies, Tailwater sows, black Zebra midges, Soft Hackle Sows, Firebead anything, UV Crush, Bubble Yums, Cotton Candies, Pinkalicious, Yum Yums, Pink Lucent Bead Rays….you know the drill. Whatever you do adjust depth and weight before getting carried away with changing bugs. You can often run the same bugs for weeks at a time.

Seeing as we were mostly interested in streamer fishing we soon switched rigs and had good action from the start with Brad picking up a nice bow and a good brown within the first mile of water. Things slowed a bit after those first two fish but we did have several stretches where we lit them up. Brad got em’ on the D & D’s and I powered through a couple of slow at-bats with the JJ Sparkle Minnow before they honed in for last light.

A solid day all around with six or eight to the boat, moving another dozen or thereabouts. More bows than browns this time around but you never know what you’re going to get.

Winter is typically swing season on the MO’ thanks to our friends downriver who have pretty much singlehandedly created the two hand Trout Spey craze which has done nothing but grow since I’ve been here. Kudos to Headhunters Fly Shop for creating an entirely new market on the Missouri. It’s a super effective method and an entirely different way to fish.

I have yet to board that train preferring instead to stick with what I know and LOVE which is streamer fishing of the single hand variety. I prefer covering long stretches of water, fishing from the boat with big heavy lines, big bugs and stripping more than swinging though swinging certainly has its moments. Mind you I have nothing against the Trout Spey game, it’s just not my thing (as of yet).

When I first came to the Missouri I was told by many that it wasn’t a great streamer river. I was told that Intermediate lines and small streamers were what was most effective and while this may be the case from a numbers standpoint I think folks are limiting themselves with that mentality.

Is the Missouri a great streamer river? It depends how you define “great” but to me moving 20 fish in a day and hooking a third or more of those is pretty great. The biggest fish I ever caught on the MO’ came on a hopper but outside of that the majority of big fish I catch are caught on streamers.

Will they eat big streamers? You bet. Again, you might increase your numbers fishing smaller bugs but I’m of the mindset that if you’re hunting big fish you should be running big bugs. I hooked the fish above on a #4 Sparkle Minnow. This was an average sized brown (17” give or take) already in the process of consuming about a 6” rainbow which apparently wasn’t quite enough of a meal.

It’s quite possible that the majority of the diet of these fish on the MO consists of smaller leeches and bait fish but that doesn’t change the fact that they are opportunistic feeders and that they are predators. Put a big bug in front of the right fish and he’s going to eat it. The bigger the bug the bigger the fish? Not necessarily but odds are that the bigger fish are going to target the bigger meals. Sure they’ll eat the small stuff too but in my mind by running bigger bugs I’m minimizing the odds of hooking smaller fish and maximizing the odds of hooking a beast.

I like to dredge and I like to hit every nook and cranny of any kind of bank structure. I like to work the buckets and the tailouts and soft edges near the bank. I like to switch up the retrieve until I find what works and to a lesser extent I like to change bugs and colors but truth be told I have my go-to bugs which seem to work more often than not and you’ll usually find I’ve got one of these half dozen or so offerings rigged and ready at any given time. That being said like most streamer junkies I’m a sucker for bugs that swim so if it darts and dives and flounders like the wounded bait fish it’s supposed to mimic I’m all over it.

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of days they simply aren’t interested in chasing streamers and on these days you always have the option of bobber fishing but more often than not I’ll throw streamers all day long regardless if that’s what we set out to do.

Who knows, maybe someday I’ll get in line with the Trout Spey set but for now there’s nowhere I’d rather be than standing in the bow of a drift boat, 7 or 8 weight in hand trying to coax monster browns up from the depths or out from the cover. I live for this. A close second however would be sitting in the rower’s seat serving up prime water to someone just as obsessed as I am with the streamer game.

I will say that this is my preferred time to fish streamers. Now until the weeds return next summer is prime streamer time and while the fish may be a little on the lethargic side as the water temps drop it makes it all that much more challenging and rewarding to coax them in to attacking.

Single hand, two handed, streamers, bobbers….do what you like and don’t miss out on what can sometimes be truly epic winter fishing on the Missouri.

Early December on the MO

Winter Solitude on the MO’

All has gone quiet on the Missouri save the wingbeats of the waterfowl and the occasional volley of shotgun blasts.

Winter is taking hold.

The water temps have dropped into the high 30’s and with single digit overnight temps expected ice will start to be an issue on the lower reaches of the river.

It’s time to turn your attention to the winter water. Deep and slow. That’s where you will find them. Deep rigs with a bb or two and something pink….there’s your Missouri River winter nymphing rig. Use it from here on out all winter long.

Fishing pressure has been close to non-existent and I wouldn’t expect that to change much for the time being though with temps climbing back near 40 this weekend and into next week you might see a few folks out there looking for a winter fix.

December is definitely our slowest month of the year. People generally put fishing on the back burner during the holidays and we don’t see a lot of holiday shopping traffic as most people stick closer to home to do their shopping. That being said, for those willing to make the trip we’ve got all kinds of great gift ideas and with end-of-the year pricing in effect we’ve got the deals you can’t afford to pass up on the good stuff.

We’re doing a Redington wader and boot blow out sale clearing the way for our spring shipment of Simms waders and boots which will arrive next month. Forty percent off all in-stock Redington waders and boots until they’re gone. We’ve got Palix, Sonic Pro, Sonic Pro HD, Sonic Pro HDZ, Women’s Sonic Pro, Women’s Willow, Women’s Siren and youth Crosswater waders. For boots we’ve got Skagit and Prowler as well as women’s Willow boots.

They’re going fast. Call or message the shop before you come out for current inventory.

Can’t make it out to Wolf Creek? No problem. We’re happy to ship anything anywhere.

In addition to the big Redington sale we’ve got great sale prices on all of our outerwear and sportswear and if you’re looking for a rod and reel look no further. 25% off all rod/reel combos now through the end of the year.

And while we’re talking about deals….don’t forget our winter guide trip and lodging special. $500 for a full day guide trip and two nights of premium lodging. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY is going to beat this deal!

If you don’t need the lodging winter trips are $400 for a full day for one or two anglers. If you don’t need the guide but do need lodging our winter rates are $99/night plus tax for premium lodging complete with full kitchen and private bath.

A few more weeks and we’ll be turning the corner. Longer days lie ahead. From what I’m hearing it sounds like we’re in for a somewhat mild winter. If so, we hope to be a part of your Missouri River winter fly fishing plans.