Reflections on Fall Fishing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fall Returns

November on the Missouri

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best bets for bugs this week are as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

Mid September on the Missouri

Autumn is starting to take hold

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fall shop hours are 7 AM to 5 PM daily.

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

Welcome September

Big Game Season coming soon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Autumn Creeping In

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cruising through Summer

It’s that time of the season when things go quiet.

Dry fly fishing remains prime with an abundance of opportunities available to feed your top-water addictions.

Whether you like targeting specific fish with tiny trico patterns or blind fishing a meaty (and highly visible) terrestrial this is your time.

Tricos, Caddis, the last of the PMD’s, beetles, ants, hoppers…it’s a top-water extravaganza with something for everyone but as luck would have it everyone has rapidly transitioned to no one.

The crowds have disappeared. The fish have not, though we’re certain they’re enjoying the break.

If the fishing is so good, you may be asking yourself, then why have the crowds disappeared?

It’s a valid question and one which is tied to the normal cycles of the Missouri River summer season. These coming weeks are traditionally quiet ones as the prime timers have come and gone and many have started to set their sights on fall.

The exodus typically coincides with hot weather and weeds, neither of which ruin the fishing but suffice it to say that neither really add much to the enjoyment of your Montana fly fishing experience.

This year is a little different.

Yes, hot weather has arrived but it’s been a relatively cool summer up until now and the temps are still unseasonably cool at night which is helping to keep the river cool. These cooler temps along with summer flows in the 6000 CFS range thus far (though dropping now) have helped to keep us virtually weed free through the prime time and things are still in good shape. Expect more weeds as flows continue to drop.

The long winter and the slow march to summer has delayed our “normal” bug schedule by a couple of weeks which means that not only are we STILL fishing PMD’s but we’re just getting started on Tricos so we’re anticipating solid dry fly fishing for the rest of the summer season. Throw in respectable caddis activity and the option of fishing terrestrials and you’ve got a near-perfect time to fish the Missouri.

And as if that weren’t enough to make you change your late summer plans lodging has just become extremely available and extremely abundant and while our guides are enjoying a day or two off they’d rather be working than not so I can’t see any reason why you wouldn’t be booking yourself an August trip to THE best trout fishery in the country this summer.

Tons of bugs plus tons of fish minus crowds of anglers = the perfect time to fish the MO’.

Best Dry Flies this week – Rusty Spinner, Brook’s Sprout PMD, PMD Drowned Spinner, Hi Vis PMD Spinner, Double Wing Trico, Trico Indicator Spinner, Hi Vis Trico Spinner, Trina’s Hi Vis Sprout, Griffiths Gnat, Buzzball, Bloom’ Parachute Caddis, Outrigger Caddis, X Caddis, Front End Loader, CDC Caddis Emerger, Cornfed Caddis, Para Adams, Purple Haze.

Best Bets for Terrestrials – Moorish Hopper, More or Less Hopper, Water Walker, Cinnamon Parachute Ant, Hi Vis Beetle, Bloom’s Stealth Ant, Parachute Ant, Spruce Moth.

Not to be overlooked the nymphing has been good with a smorgasbord of bugs getting eaten.
Tailwater Sows, PMD Redemption, Frenchie, LGM’s, PT Black, Purple Lightning Bug, Weight Flies, Tung Darts, PMD Wondernymph, Doc’s Summer Bug, Juju purple, 2 Bits, Psycho Mays, Peep Shows and yes, even Zirdles are FINALLY getting noticed.

Fish on top, fish below, fish blind, fish deep, fish shallow, fish fast and medium fast water (skip the slow). Heck, take advantage of the relatively clean water and fish streamers…You know I am.

Your options are limitless right now on the MO.
W

e are your one stop shop for everything you need for your day on the water. The best guides on the river; clean and affordable lodging; Adipose Drift Boat Rentals; Simms waders, boots, sportswear and accessories; sunglasses from Smith and Suncloud; nets, packs and accessories from Fishpond and Rising; ice; fishing licenses; and much more including the largest selection of Missouri River bugs ever assembled under one roof in Wolf Creek Montana.

Open daily at 7 am.

Weekly Update

PMD’s are what’s on the menu. Stop by Wolf Creek Angler for the widest selection of Missouri River flies ever assembled under one roof in Wolf Creek Montana.

When I posted late last week we were hoping to see the switch flipped on bugs and dry fly action by the early to middle part of this week but then Christmas came early and we were treated to an epic day of blanket PMD hatches and sipping trout on Friday. I was more than happy to be wrong.

We did endure yet another cold front with some parts of the state even seeing substantial snow over the weekend but the weather didn’t seem to have as adverse of an effect on the fishing as I thought it might. Friday was definitely the best PMD day I’ve experienced so far this season. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the switch has been flipped but if you are looking to make a day of dry fly fishing you should have ample opportunities from here on out.

Some days are better than others but there are varying amounts of bugs and you can usually find at least a few willing players if you look hard enough.
Nymphing is still your numbers game but expect to have to work at it…it hasn’t been easy but it’s all good once you crack the code. Mind you the code changes daily, and sometimes even hourly but it’s the challenge that keeps you coming back.

Deep nymphing has been productive and when it’s not the short leash has performed (for some). We’re finding fish in faster water, shallow to medium depths and also suspended in the go-to swirly spots. Green Machines have been the most consistent bug (size matters, #16’s, #18’s and #20’s all getting some love depending on the day). Split Case PMD’s , PMD Psycho May, S & M, Redemption, Frenchies, Gold Lightning Bugs, Crack Backs, Military Mays, Peep Shows are all good choices for PMD nymphs. Keep those Tailwater Sows close at hand as well. Some days it’s all they’ll eat, other days they’re hit and miss but keep in mind that there are ALWAYS sow bugs in the river so they are NEVER a bad call. We’ve had a bit of success with Weight Flies and Tung Darts but the Caddis game has not yet been great. Zirdles and Crays are getting the occasional eat but we’ve yet to see the fish really key in on them. We’re hoping it happens soon. After last season’s Zirdlepalooza we went DEEP on the Zirdle stock so come replenish your supply….we’ve got piles of zirdles in all colors and sizes.

Best bets for dry fly fishing include Rusty Spinners, PMD Spinners, Sprout PMD’s , Flash Cripple PMD’s, Hellen Keller PMD’s, Film Critics, CDC PMD Emergers, Nyman’s DOA Cripple and the like. Might we also suggest trailing your PMD pattern of choice with a CDC Caddis Emerger. Mix PMD’s and Caddis you ask? Yes. Do it. You’ll thank us later.

And speaking of Caddis, don’t forget your Elk Hair Caddis, Bloom’s Parachute Caddis, X Caddis, Outrigger Caddis, Cornfed Caddis, Extended Body Caddis and more all available now at WCA.

Streamers? Maybe worth a shot before the weeds take hold but fading fast. Get dialed on your dry fly and nymphing game and fall streamer fishing will be here before you know it. And before that happens don’t forget HOPPER season will soon be upon us. We’ve already had some success on ants and beetles and we’re hoping it shapes up to be a great terrestrial year.

The river is busy and there are plenty of folks around but with 30 plus miles of fishable water there’s plenty of room to spread out and if you think outside of the box regarding launch times/locations you can often have vast stretches of river virtually to yourself. (Think EARLY or LATE start).

These early weeks of summer are homecoming time at WCA with our regulars from around the world returning once again to enjoy their home away from home. It’s my favorite time of the season with familiar faces all around.

Look for summer sales to start soon at WCA as we begin to clear the way for fall arrivals and don’t forget our third annual Make America Fly Again Half Price Fly Sale coming July 4th.

We hope you make us your first stop on your way to the MO’ for guides, drift boat rentals, shuttles, ice, sun protection, Simms wading gear and sportswear and the much ballyhooed largest selection of Missouri River flies every assembled under one roof in Wolf Creek Montana.

The Wait

We teased you last week with some hopeful optimism.

Expectations were that following the weekend cold front and the return to normal weather conditions early in the week that the dry fly fishing could very well explode.

Prior to the cold front things were looking promising with increasing numbers of PMD’s showing up on the upper stretches and an occasional caddis here and there sparking the interest of many who’ve been patiently awaiting a decent caddis season on the Missouri.

Mid way through the week and well into warm weather conditions the waiting continues. Those in search of surface action have had to work extremely hard to find bugs and harder yet to find rising fish. They’re out there but it ain’t easy.

And while the Dearborn has continued to rapidly drop, bringing the canyon into near-perfect water conditions…the dry fly game down there has been nearly non-existent this week. Nymphing and streamer fishing the lower stretches hasn’t been anything to write home about either though there has been a fair amount of traffic  seeking the inevitable.

And so the wait continues.

When will it happen? It’s anyone’s guess but I have a feeling it will be very soon.

We’re looking at daytime temps in the high 70’s and low 80’s for the next 10 days. Water temps are edging up, currently closing in on 57 degrees with flows at 6200 CFS. It’s been a frustrating couple of days for those seeking dry fly Nirvana but it’s got to be coming soon. Conditions still seem right for the convergence and creation of the proverbial perfect storm which will perhaps usher in a truly epic season of dry fly fishing on the Missouri River.

Don’t give up hope. You won’t know if you don’t go. What better way to spend your day than floating down the Missouri on an idyllic late spring day. Blue skies, hills covered in green, warm and gentle breezes, singing song birds and the occasional rising trout….can you imagine anything more Zen than this?

Don’t like Zen? There are other ways to endure the wait. As long as you’re out there why not feed the fish where they are which is UNDER the water.

Nymphing has continued to generate the numbers though even the subsurface game has had its challenges as of late. You can’t go wrong with a tailwater sow and a green machine but there are billions of other bugs you could be throwing as well. Sows and scuds will always find fish but the waters of the MO are teeming with a smorgasbord of fish food right now. Mayfly nymphs should most definitely be a part of your arsenal from here on out, particularly the PMD variety. PMD Magic Fly, S & M, Redemption, PsychoMay, Split Case, Crack Back…and on and on. Piles of PMD patterns filling both sides of the bins at WCA.

Likewise, you should also be representing the caddis we’re all eagerly awaiting. Bloom’s Weight Fly, Tung Darts, Nitro Caddis, Pulsating Caddis, UV Czech Caddis….throw the kitchen sink at them.

Streamer fishing has been hit and miss but as always, it’s worth the effort. Streamer junkies aren’t typically about the numbers, they’re looking for that one big fish and will happily endure a day of casting for a shot at a big fish or two.

If you’re thinking streamers think Sparkle Minnows, MK Ultras, Thin Mints, Clousers, Mojo Minnows, Montana Mouthwash, ZK’s Inflated Ego etc and don’t overlook the small stuff. Try a zirdle or a pine squirrel leech…you just might be surprised.

Start your day at WCA for shuttles and bugs and so much more.

Dry flies or not….it’s Prime Time on Montana’s Missouri River.

Sunshine and Mud on the MO’

Farewell (for now)  to Rainy Days on the MO’

Following what seemed like weeks of cloudy, wet cold days the clouds have parted, giving way to the soul-warming, psyche lifting giant yellow orb in the sky.

It’s a mixed bag of clouds and sunshine today but it looks like we’re headed for warmer temperatures and an abundance of sunshine over these next ten days with highs inching into the 70’s tomorrow and near 80 by the end of the week.

Sure it may have been the most epic early spring fishing we’ve seen in some time on the Missouri but I think everyone is ready for some nicer weather.
In spite of insane March Brown madness these past weeks in addition to some solid streamer days and off the charts nymphing more days than not, traffic has been somewhat light so while we’ve been loving the fishing this spring on a personal level we’re ready for business to blow up which it looks like it’s about to.

The assumption is that the bright skies ahead may put a damper on the dry fly fishing but regardless, PMD’s and Caddis await and it won’t be long before we’re in the summer dry fly groove on the MO.

Following the weekend rain event we’re seeing traffic concentrated at the dam again with Little Prickly Pear and the Dearborn dumping mud. We’re finally looking at a relatively precipitation free extended forecast but the warmer temps will obviously keep runoff moving.

Snowpack remains in the 120 percent of average range for the Missouri main stem and right around 100 percent for the Upper Clark Fork and Sun, Teton and Marias drainages. The Madison, Gallatin and Smith drainages are all in good shape at close to 140 percent of average while the Flathead is trending in the 80 percent range with only the Kootenai running low at 50 percent of average.

What’s this mean for your Missouri River late spring and early summer fishing plans? We’re expecting flows to hold in the 8,000 CFS range for the remainder of May and into early June. The Dearborn is dropping so look for things to clear over the course of the week and look for traffic to steadily increase from here on out.

Runoff will soon push much of Montana’s fly fishing traffic to the Missouri so if you’re headed here expect to have some company.
We do have limited availability on lodging and guides for the next two weeks so it’s the perfect opportunity to get out and enjoy great fishing and great weather on the Missouri.

We are your one-stop shop on the way to the MO with lodging; guides; shuttle service; lunches; Simms boots, waders and sportswear; rods from Loop, Echo and Redington; reels from Lamson, Ross, Nautilus and Echo; sun protection; lines, leaders and tippet from Rio; optics from Smith and Suncloud and don’t forget….we have the largest selection of flies ever assembled under one roof in Wolf Creek Montana. And these aren’t cheap shop ties, these are the real deal highest quality bugs money can buy from Umpqua, MFC, Solitude and YFG.

You’ve found your new Go To on the MO and need go no further than Wolf Creek. If you’re starting at the dam or Wolf Creek and coming from anywhere other than Great Falls then why would you add 15 miles to your trip by driving to Craig for shuttles and provisions and then driving back to the dam or Wolf Creek to launch. There’s absolutely no need to do that because we’ve got everything right here that you’re driving to Craig to buy.

We love Craig too but we want to save you the time, the money and the hassle.

We sincerely hope you’ll make Wolf Creek Angler your first stop on your next trip to the Missouri.

Guiding For The Future

Tom Miner Creek – a classroom like no other

Entomology 101

Hydrology 101

Guide Ethics – Campfire Discussion

Home away from home at the B Bar Ranch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the pilot program of Guiding for the Future, an Advanced Guide Training Program established “to inspire dedicated stewardship of aquatic ecosystems while increasing knowledge, professionalism, and ethics of fishing guides, outfitters, and the fly-fishing industry.”

The program came about in part as a reaction to the PKD outbreak which closed down the Yellowstone River during the summer of 2017.

I first heard about G4F in the winter of 2018 while attending a Montana State Council Trout Unlimited meeting in Livingston. Montana TU Executive Director David Brooks mentioned the program to me and asked if he might pass my name along to Brant Oswald and Sean Blaine who were in the early stages of creating the program, as an outfitter and active member of TU who might be interested in participating.

I was intrigued with the concept but also somewhat suspicious of the motives behind it as it seemed very possible that it was simply a ploy to add more regulation to what is already a heavily regulated industry.

Blaine and Oswald presented the concept later that spring at the Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana Annual Meeting. Still somewhat skeptical, I jumped at the chance to participate in the Steering Committee meeting held last April in Craig MT.

It was here we discussed the nuts and bolts of what Guiding for the Future would be and as it became clear to me that the vision was for guides and outfitters in Montana to have the opportunity to separate themselves from the pack through this continuing education program my skepticism turned to optimism as we discussed putting together a program unlike any other  out there.

The program would be offered annually by application only and would fill the void in our industry which is met by continuing education in most every other trade or industry. Rather than being just another requirement for a guide or outfitter license like a First Aid/CPR certificate, Guiding for the Future would be an opportunity for a guide or outfitter to separate themselves from the pack by receiving a well-rounded education going well beyond the basics.

Guiding for the Future would not be a guide school. The assumption would be that a guide or outfitter interested in this program would already be an experienced guide or outfitter looking to take things to the next level. The course would consist of an On-line curriculum followed by a three-day practicum to give students hands on training in the field.

In March this year the program was announced via FOAM and those interested were invited to apply. One look at the curriculum and I was sold.

Online coursed included;
– A History of Fish and Wildlife Conservation in the United States
– Laws and Regulations
– Hydrology and River Ecology
– Entomology
– Fish Ecology
– Water Users and Challenges
– Guides as Stewards
– Beyond Flies and Drifts

Happily, I was accepted into the Pilot Program and delving in to that first online module I was pleasantly surprised by the scope and depth of the material.

With just a few weeks to complete the online portion of the course time constraints were a challenge, though a challenge is exactly what I had hoped Guiding for the Future would be.

Last week we were invited to the B Bar Ranch in Tom Miner Basin near Gardiner for the 3 day practicum which included both classroom and field instruction.

This portion of the course had me out of my comfort zone but it didn’t take long to settle in. A few familiar faces and a bunch of new ones made for an awesome opportunity to network with others in our industry and after a couple of days of sharing the classroom and the dinner table with these folks it soon evolved into a very comfortable and friendly setting.

Standing high above Tom Miner creek observing the glacially carved valley through which the creek flows the significance of the Guiding for the Future program couldn’t have been more evident. While a group of us discussed hydrology and stream morphology a group of students waded into the stream below us, overturning rocks in search of the nymphs that provide forage for the trout we chase. Still another group stood on the bank of the creek near a head gate of an irrigation diversion listening to a surface water hydrologist from DNRC explain how stream flows are calculated, bringing life to those graphs and numbers we follow so closely all year long.

Back in the classroom, topics ranged from candid discussions with an FWP Warden Captain regarding laws and regulations governing our industry to leveraging our role as outdoor industry professionals to advocate during public comment opportunities.

An in-depth look at water rights in Montana was a highlight of the program for me but I also very much enjoyed a look at fish biology and ecology and the role required of us as guides and outfitters and as stewards of this resource.

Risk assessment and CPR training kept us grounded in the realities of having clients in our charge every day and the absolute necessity of being proactive when it comes to client safety and health and field work with Yellowstone Ecological Research Center taught us how we, as guides, can play a direct role in monitoring stream health through water sampling.

This was not nail knots and casting clinics (although there was some of that as well). This was big picture education on a broad range of topics which I believe are of vital interest to all of us who work in this industry.

As G4F proclaims… Montana’s rivers are undergoing increased demands for water, recreation, and environmental services. These demands, in the face of increased periods of drought and other stressors, impact the rivers’ resilience and fisheries, while also translating into increased potential for conflict among users. In response, Guiding for the Future (G4F) is part of a new continuing education program led by the Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana (FOAM) that provides advanced levels of knowledge and skill development for professional fishing outfitters and guides throughout the state.

To me it’s a No Brainer and the general consensus amongst those of us who participated is that we hope G4F certification eventually becomes the norm, rather than the exception.

When you see this sticker on your guide’s boat you can rest assured that you are with a guide who not only cares about putting you on fish but who has also gone the extra mile to provide you with a safer, richer experience that goes far beyond flies and drifts.

At Wolf Creek Angler we’re Guiding for the Future

And while the fishing is, and should always be, the primary focus, wouldn’t it be nice to go deeper? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to talk with your guide about how rivers work, how water rights work, how conservation has evolved, how the life cycle of different bugs has a bearing on the fishing day etc. all the while having the confidence in your guide’s knowledge of the rules and regulations AND knowing they have the skills to respond in an emergency if called upon?

We hope and expect that this program will gain popularity not only amongst guides and outfitters but also amongst our clients. Keep an eye out for the G4F logo in sticker form on your guide’s boat or on the website of your favorite outfitter or fly shop and know that when you fish with those who have gone through this certification program you are fishing with individuals who take their profession very seriously and who have gone the extra mile to better themselves and the industry as a whole through advanced education and training.

There is nothing else like this in the country right now and I for one feel privileged to  have been a part of the pilot program and I plan on doing whatever I can to contribute to the program in the future.