February Blues – Cabin Fever Edition

 

We continue to dream of warmer days as February is rapidly shaping up to be one of the coldest on record with no end in sight.

We’ll see highs in the teens and 20’s for the remainder of the week with lows in the single digits or well below zero most nights.
The only fishing report we’ve heard comes from Holter Lake where the perch fishing has been slow.

Sure we’re tired of the cold and we’re getting a little stir crazy as Cabin Fever persists….ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY. ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY.

ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY

ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY. ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY. ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY.

ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy
All work and no play makes jack a dull boy

All work and no play makes jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a Dull Boy. All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All Work and NO play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no Play makes Jack a Dull Boy…

but looking on the bright side, these Missouri River trout have had weeks of peace and quiet with very little harassment from anglers. They’ve been busy burning calories and should be anxious to eat a well-presented fly if things ever warm up.

Look for this to be a phenomenal spring to fish the Missouri.

Summer is booking up nicely as we start to anticipate opening up more lodging for the season. Renovations are close to being complete in the motel and we’re confident you’re going to love what we’ve done with the place.

The shop is FULLY stocked for late winter fishing and spring deliveries are starting to roll in so we are anxious to see some shoppers again and we’d love for you to take advantage of some great deals on winter wear and help us clear the way for spring gear. It’s a win win.

This would also be a great time to gear up for the wading season with a new pair of Simms or Redington waders and boots. We’ve got you covered!

Looking for a boat? We’ve got a couple of great drift boats for sale and they’re priced to move. If you’re in the market for a boat we’ve got a 2013 Clacka Eddy and a 2014 RO Deville, both in great shape. The Clack is my personal guide boat, the RO was one of our rental boats. Give us a call or message us for details.

So what are we doing to get through the winter?

We’re excited to host Tipsy Tying in the shop this Friday evening at 8 pm and there are a couple fishing film events happening in Helena in March starting with the IF4 at Grandstreet Theatre on March 8th followed by two showings of the Montana Fishing Film Fest on March 24th at Lewis and Clark Brewing Company. We hope you join us for them both. If we can’t fish we can at least watch movies about people fishing to bide our time while we wait for spring to arrive.

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.

Of Deep Freezes and Fishing Films

We’re in the midst of a DEEP FREEZE here on the Missouri having had temperatures plummet from near 50 degrees last Saturday to single digits and below on Sunday which is where we’ve been since. We’ll see a slight reprieve tomorrow and Friday as we warm into the teens and low 20’s but right back to negative numbers on Saturday through the middle of next week.

Suffice it to say we haven’t got much for a fishing report this week although I hear they’re catching perch on Holter. A pre Arctic Blast float last Friday netted good results on the nymphing front with plenty of action on anything of the lucent pink bead variety.

This week we’re passing the time shoveling snow, watching the SNOTEL charts and patiently awaiting the next thaw.

It was actually perfect timing for the annual Fly Fishing Film Tour which we attended last night in Helena. There’s something about drinking beer and watching fishing movies with a theatre full of fellow anglers on a bitterly cold and snowy night in Montana that just makes perfect sense.

I was trying to remember how long ago I started attending these things, I believe it’s been 10 years or more and while the films tend to blend into one after so many years it’s always cool to see enthusiastic young anglers at these shows. This is the audience we’re targeting so while it may seem like we’re seeing the same films over and over again it’s important to keep in mind that there are young eyes watching to whom this is all brand new so hopefully the F3T isn’t going anywhere.

Often times the films are neutral to me. I don’t dislike them, I’ve just seen most of them in one form or another but every once in a while one will come along which captures my attention and draws me in, immersing me not in the subject matter of the film but rather in my own history as an angler. Maybe it’s a mountain stream, maybe it’s moody Midwestern sky backlit with the fading colors of fall…these are my connections and these are the ones that transport me from a sold out theatre in snowy Helena to a lifetime of memories on the water. Memories of those I’ve fished with, some of whom are gone, some of whom have returned. Memories of moments in time captured by pieces of water I’ll never let go and contemplation of my journey from there to here and of the way passing time manifests itself with tinges of regret and strong doses of hope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And sometimes connection is a mere nod of appreciation of a frame or a story or just the here and now of gathering amongst so many friends and acquaintances. This place and these people mean the world to me.

So while I may not always talk these film tours up (as I should) there seems to be in every one at least a moment or two that trigger all of this which is exactly the point of going.

And besides…what else are you going to do an a sub-zero snowy night in February? If you happened to miss the F3T the IF4 will be coming to Helena to Grandstreet Theatre on March 8th followed by the Montana Fishing Film Festival at Lewis and Clark Brewing Company on March 24th. Do yourself a favor and check them out.

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.

A call to action

This is a call to action recently issued by Pat Barnes Missouri River Trout Unlimited. We are expanding this call to action to all of you who enjoy trout fishing on the Missouri River. Please take a minute to read and more importantly we urge everyone to click on the link below and submit your comments to FWP.

CALL TO ACTION – Every Member Needed!

Good Afternoon,

As some of you may have heard, Montana’s Statewide Management Program & Guide Draft is out for public comment until February 4th.  The Statewide Management Program & Guide is the guiding document for how FWP manages fisheries statewide.  As you may have also heard, Walleyes Unlimited is pressuring FWP to consider walleye a native species east of the Continental Divide, which could potentially alter the current management of walleye downstream of Holter Dam.  This would threaten the Missouri River trout fishery we have all come to love.

PLEASE, visit the link below and comment on the plan to back the Department’s science-based management as a non-native species in Montana.  Particularly, not to alter the current management status of walleye in the Missouri below Holter Dam as anything other than “suppression”.  If nothing else, please copy and paste the language below into the “Comments” section at the link below and click “Submit Comments”.

“The Statewide Management Plan & Guide should uphold the current status of walleye as a non-native species in Montana’s waterways.  I support the peer-reviewed science that guide’s the Department’s classification of this illegally-introduced species as non-native to Montana.  Additionally, I support the full suppression of walleye management in the Missouri River below Holter Dam.  People cross continents to fish for wild trout in the Missouri River, and altering the management of walleye from anything other than full suppression places unnecessary risk on this world class fishery that draws millions of dollars to our local economy.  Thank you.”

http://fwp.mt.gov/news/publicNotices/fishing/pn_0091.html

Right now, the Missouri River needs your help.  PLEASE take 3 minutes and leave a comment. The effort by Walleye Unlimited to have the Missouri managed as a walleye fishery is organized and energized. The Missouri River’s trout need your comment.

Thank you,

Sincerely,
PBTU Board Members

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.