Weekend Outlook

 

Game On – Photo by Jim Murray

Mild conditions persist as January draws to a close.

River traffic remains surprisingly light and while our lodging has been extremely busy this month, the majority of those staying have been ice guys who’ve been cleaning up on the perch on Holter.

Speaking of lodging, we’re full for the remainder of this week but next week looks like continued nice weather with highs near 50 on Monday. We should see a gradual increase in river traffic from here on out so if fishing the Missouri is on your to do list then make that call today and book your lodging and/or guide trips. Weekends have been booking up generally by Monday or Tuesday.

Waiting for our spring special? The wait  is over.

Spring may be two months away but the WCA Spring Special is here! $550 for two nights lodging and a full day guide trip now through the end of April. There are other deals out there…nobody, and I mean NOBODY can touch this one! It’s the BEST DEAL on the MO hands down and the best part is you don’t have to wait until spring.  As if that weren’t enough there are NO CANCELLATION FEES for these trips. Book today, if the weather turns or if you simply change your mind you’re off the hook.

If you’re looking for a guide trip this weekend we won’t be able to do the lodging but we’ll do the trip for $400. Guides are getting HUNGRY. Book the best today.

Spring merchandise is starting to trickle in, look for great deals on winter gear soon as we make room for the new.

Good reports from the ice, decent reports from the river though the wind has been ever-present lately making things a little unpleasant out there. Expect more of that the next several days and deal with it. Nymphing has been good, definitely better on some days than others. Status quo on the bugs. Streamer fishing has not disappointed. Strip or Swing…the choice is yours. Midges in small numbers but that will ramp up soon if you’re itching for dry fly action.

Don’t forget to stop by the shop if you’re out here this weekend. We are your Missouri River Winter fly fishing one stop shop with everything you need for your day on the water. Shuttles, hand warmers, cold weather gear from Simms, the largest selection of Redington gear on the river, Adipose and RO drift boat rentals (including a brand new Project Healing Waters Adipose Flow free to all vets and active duty military) and the near legendary largest selection of Missouri River flies ever assembled under one roof in Wolf Creek Montana.

We’ve also got a few tickets left for Tuesday’s Fly Fishing Film Tour in Helena. Get yours before they’re gone!

 

Welcome Spring

Springtime on the Missouri – photo by Wolf Creek Angler

The long, cold winter has finally come to an end.

Spring arrived yesterday in a seasonably average fashion with temps in the 40’s and a mix of sun and clouds.

Traffic on the river was virtually non-existent following what was definitely the busiest weekend we’ve seen in 2017. It remains on the quiet side today though there are a few west-siders around seeking respite from their own raging waters.

It looks like it’s going to be a nice week to fish the Missouri with temps in the 50’s and 60’s throughout the week with plenty of sunshine and the ever-present, though minimal chance for rain and snow most every day.

Spring is an awesome time to fish the MO’ as the water temps rise and the fish get active and go to work stockpiling calories in preparation for the rigors of spawning happening now and in the immediate future. More on this to come but PLEASE mind your steps when wading out there taking care not to trample the redds.

So how’s the fishing? It’s definitely been a mixed bag of reports over these past few days but overall I would say it’s leaning towards being on the slow end of things. That being said, what could you possibly rather be doing than shaking off the winter with a trip to the MO’, regardless of the fishing conditions?

Firebeads, pink scuds and sows, Rainbow Warriors, Rainbow Czechs, Pink Amex, Casne’s Pinkalicious, LGM’s, Lightning Bugs, Tailwater sows, Bubble Yums, soft hackle sows, zebra midges….they’re all worth a try. How about a San Juan Worm fished in the dirty water? The currently gauge-less Little Prickly Pear is pumping some mud as is the Dearborn so don’t overlook the worms and definitely don’t shy away from throwing streamers. The water remains on the cold side,  still in that 37 – 38 degree range but it’s world’s away from the sub 35 degree temps of the past few months and it’s only going to get warmer so expect things to improve dramatically very soon.

And as if the possibility of good to great nymphing and streamer action weren’t enough we have had some solid dry fly action as well depending on the day with good midge hatches and hungry fish eager to rise to a well-presented midge cluster. We’re stocked up on midge patterns with plenty to choose from but having your dry fly rod rigged up and ready with a Hi-Vis Parachute Adams and a Griffiths gnat or Bucky’s Midge Cluster is about as close to a sure-thing as you’re going to find should you be lucky enough to encounter those sipping trout.

Wolf Creek and Craig are still in winter mode where services are concerned but that’s all about to change as Izaak’s returns this Friday evening. The bar opens at 4 pm and they will be serving dinner from 5 pm – 9 pm six night’s a week. They will be closed on Mondays. It sounds like John and his crew have been hard at work this winter making improvements to their already awesome space. We can’t wait to see (and taste) what’s new.

Should you find yourself here on Monday in need of dinner make your way to The Oasis  in Wolf Creek. Breakfast, lunch and dinner served Thursday – Monday. We’ll have yet another dining/drinking option here in Wolf Creek this season with Shotgun Annie’s, formerly The Frenchman and Me. They were hoping for an April 1st opening day but that has been pushed out to June 1st. We can’t wait!

The shop is open daily  from here on out with hours changing as the season progresses but for the time being you’ll find us here at 8 AM every day anxious to help you out in whatever we can on the Missouri and beyond.

Piles of new gear arriving daily. A full reel case, a full rod rack, more clothing items than we know what to do with, waders and boots piled high and bins overflowing with all the bugs you need, no matter where you’re fishing.

Lodging options are about to double as we open the remaining cabins today and tomorrow and we’re aiming to have EVERYTHING open by the first week of April, including the completely renovated and soon to be much coveted room #8.

Don’t forget our Spring Lodging and Guide Trip special running through the end of April. $500 for two night’s lodging and a full day on the water with one of our expert guides. You won’t find a better deal ANYWHERE! There are other deals out there….NOBODY can touch this one.

 

 

 

Winter’s Last Gasp?

While we are currently sitting at just shy of 20 degrees and are under a winter storm warning through this evening a major warm up is on the way. Could it be that this is winter’s last gasp?

Not likely. But regardless,  we are looking at mid 40’s for the weekend and it looks like we’ll hit 60 next week as the official start of spring looms, now just 10 days away.

Ideally things warm up and the snow goes away locally while winter holds tight in the high country for a while which looks like it’s going to be the case judging by the latest SNOTEL map which continues to grow increasingly blue indicating snowpack over 110 % of average for much of the region.

We’re expecting it will be busy on the river this weekend and next week, at least by late winter standards,  with nice weather, warming water and hungry fish looking for a spring feast.

We’ve got plenty of lodging available and will be opening more soon to accommodate your early spring fishing plans. We’ve been doing a few trips here and there but guide trip season will get underway in earnest next week as the spring special trips start to roll. We’ve still got plenty of availability for March but April is starting to fill as word has gotten out about THE BEST SPRING FISHING DEAL ON THE MISSOURI….HANDS DOWN! $500 for two night’s lodging and a full day on the water with the hardest working guides on the river through the end of April.

You won’t find a better deal ANYWHERE!

Even if you don’t take advantage of our $500 special we’ve got great rates on guide trips without lodging as well as lodging without guide trips. $350 full day guide trips through the end of April and lodging in our cabins or bungalows for just $99/night plus tax.

It’s going to be a spectacular spring on the MO’ and the shop is fully stocked with everything you need and more with new shipments of Missouri River fly fishing essentials arriving daily. We’ve got cold weather gear from Simms and KAST; wading gear from Redington and Korkers; eyewear from Smith Optics and CLiC; Nomad nets, packs and accessories from Fishpond; lines, leaders and tippet from ARC, RIO and Trout Hunter; rods from LOOP, Echo and Redington; reels from Nautilus, LOOP, Ross, Echo and Redington and the near LEGENDARY largest selection of bugs ever assembled under one roof in Wolf Creek Montana.

Don’t miss our ever-expanding streamer selection including a bunch of EXCLUSIVES from ZK you won’t find ANYWHERE ELSE. Streamer Season is upon us and while we unapologetically love nymphing any time of year and love to fish dries to sipping trout on warm summer days (and cold winter days as well) it is chucking streamers that really gets us fired up. It’s all about the chase!

We’ve got a bunch of new WCA logo gear you’re going to love and you’re going to want to keep an eye on our sale rack throughout the spring as we clear out the cold weather gear and make room for warmer weather fare. That means the best deals you’re likely to find anywhere on top quality gear from the best brands in the business.

We’ve also offer RO and Adipose Drift Boat rentals and Missouri River shuttle service and if we don’t have it or can’t do it, we’re happy to connect you with the people who can. We pride ourselves on having a great relationship with every other shop in the area and while it’s no secret we are all competing for your business our  business as a collective is taking care of your fly fishing needs and we will gladly send you to another shop if we aren’t able to accommodate you.

We think it’s going to be a great season on the MO’ and we hope to see you soon.

 

On the Road Report: Spring Sting Edition.

springsteen

Sorry to confuse you folks out there buts it’s Spring Sting  not Springsteen. I can understand the confusion, especially when you say it fast enough. Needless to say we won’t be talking about The Boss, New Jersey’s favorite son. Instead I feel the need to address a feeling I’m sure many of you are sharing with me at this time. It took W.C.A guide, beer slinger and all around bearded, flannel clad hippie trout-bum Matt Hargrave to put to words that I’ve been battling with internally for the past two or so weeks. It’s the Spring Sting, that feeling you  get when you’ve been pent-up in the canyon for close to eight months, the weather is reminiscent of my time in Southeast Alaska, it’s cold, my waders still leak  and fishing options are limited because gauges across the state look a lot like, well sort of what you would expect with the warmer weather last week, crap. The good news my friends, looks can be deceiving.

(more…)

On The Road Report: Well, Sort of Edition.

billybrown3

I know I promised everybody another installment of OTR but I failed. I failed and I’m sorry. It’s just between getting the shop ship shape for Spring, a phone that doesn’t seem to stop ringing, moving myself into the summer cabin, crappy weather and two couch surfing trout bums over the past few days I just couldn’t manage. It’s really just the combination of the latter two, I blame the hippies and wind. Either way, I was able to make it out with two good buddies of mine Will from Bozeman who just needed an excuse to get off the Gallatin and Bill, guide at large getting in some spring fishing before the season really kicks off . So it’s sort of an On The Road Report, for those two guys at least. Between the three of us we did two pretty similar floats, Mid-Cannon to Pelican and Mid to Mtn. Palace, with two very similar results. Not sure they were the ones any of us expected, but whatever, that’s fishing.

First float was with Will from Mid to Pelican. Looking back on the weather report from that morning and the overall length of the float, it was willbrownambitious. Roughly 11 miles with wind and rain moving in later that afternoon. In hindsight we should have taken out at Prewett Creek. Wind was haneous, to the point that I considered dawning my p.f.d. after one particular gust of wind. Despite the hostile weather later in the day we managed to pull in a few on nymphs and got some great chases and hook ups on streamers. B.W.Os were out for a while before the rain rolled in, but we had a pretty short window to fish to risers podded up in the soft water.

billybrown2Second trip was with Bill from Mid to Mtn. Palace. Lessons learned from the day before we stuck to the shorter float. Lots of wind throughout the canyon but the skies were clear this time. Didn’t see as many baetis as the previous day, likely because of the bluebird conditions. Still saw a few coming to to surface on clusters of midges. I was able to pull a few decent bows’ to the boat on nymphs but Bill stole the show with a pair of back to back Browns on the streamer. Kid hasn’t been in town 24 hours and hangs 40″+ of buttery Missouri River goodness. Probably had a lot to do with the fly though, hand tied by your truly, articulated with just the right amount of flash.

Like I said before, two similar floats with two similar outcomes, and not what we were expecting. Over the course of the two days between the three of us, we got more chases, hits and hookups from big streamers off hard banks and in deep trenches. Coincidence? Maybe, but my thought is that the bigger fish lower in the system are HUNGRY! I’m talking HANGRY, charging out of the depths with a vengeance and just crushing the fly. What I’m getting at is that in might be worth your while to dedicate a day to throwing some big junk and trophy hunting. Ditch the bobber for float or ten and you may surprise yourself. If you do decide to play the streamer game, here’s five for your box I think will drum up some beefcakes. Okay and some dries and nymphs too…

Streamers: Circus Peanut, Sex Dungeon, Cat Toy, Articulated Sparkle Minnow & ZK’s Mercenary.

Nymphs: Tung. Split Case BWO, LGM, Psycho May, BWO Wondernymph & Rainbow Czechs.

Dries:  Q’s Cluster Midge, WCA Trude, Prachute Adams, Buzzballs & Sprout Baetis.

~Cheers, Chewy.

End of the Week Fishing Report: Better Redd than Dead Edition.

Just to clarify for all the baby boomers out there, no this post will not be addressing the merits of Communism. A Commi is a Red and a trout spawning is a Redd, got it? With the official first day of spring just around the corner it’s the time of year our resident trout make their way from the slower, deeper water into shallower, quicker water, side channels and tributaries to procreate. I won’t bore you with the full biological breakdown of the process, instead just a few basics of what to look out for so you can try and avoid the egg piles.

Photo courtesy of MT FWP

Photo courtesy of MT FWP

Like I said, when trout are spawning they like shallow, gravel bottomed areas with a decent current moving over them. Before the females lay their eggs they’ll use their bellies to create somewhat of a shallow bowl in the gravel, clear of aquatic vegetation and silt. This nest is what makes the egg piles visible to us and where the eggs will lay for a period of a few months before they hatch. Eggs aren’t usually visible on the gravel because after they’re fertilized the Hen (female) will move upstream of the pile and toss gravel into the current to cover them, protecting the eggs from predators. At this point fish are particularly vulnerable to other creatures higher on the food chain, including us.

At this point I could hop on my soapbox and tell you all how, unethical, unsportsmanlike and down right disrespectful fishing these egg piles is; but I won’t.  Suffice it to say that if you are intentionally fishing redds, your actions are having a huge negative impact on everybody’s fishery. On to the fishing report….

rainbowstinger

Fishing on the MO has been pretty killer lately. Lots of good reportsBrownpolarleech from all disciplines on the fly. The surface game has been hit or miss depending on wind and time of day. Midges are still the name of the game for a few more weeks until B.W.Os start making their ever so welcome appearance. Nymping has still been the most productive means to get fish to the net. Typical winter/spring fare still at the top of the menu for the time being. Along with the spawn comes the hot-bead hatch; smaller sizes like a 16-14 have been doing well in a variety of flavors. Matched with a larger lead fly like a 10-12 in a czech, sow-bug imitation has been a solid double set up for the past few days. As water temps have been increasing the streamer bite has picked up quite a bit as well. With fish more willing to chase down some bigger morsels after their cold water inebriation I’ve focused a lot of my time attention here for a few reasons. 1) I usually equate bigger flies with bigger fish, 2) The eats are usually explosive and 3) It’s a nice change of pace from following a bobber all winter.  Been getting most of my hookups either right off the bank on the strip or dredging it through drop offs and seams. Whatever way you decide to get fishy this weekend make sure to swing by and check out the greatest fly selection in Wolf Creek, here are my humble fly suggestions to get you going for the start of spring…

Dries: Q’s Peacock Cluster, Griffiths Gnat, Hi-Vis Midge, Hanging Midge & Midge Emerger.

Nymphs: Pinkalicious, Amex, Rainbow Czech, Hot-Head Sow, Tailwaters Sow, Granatos Snack-Nasty-Sow & Zebras

Streamers: Polar Leeches, Hot-Head Buggers, Skiddish Smolt, Micro-Suckers, ZK’s Ragnar & Boufaces’

~Cheers, Chewy.

Spring Fever – guest blog by WCA Guide Eric Mondragon

 

Higher flows on the MO are perfect conditions for the worm!

Higher flows on the MO are perfect conditions for the worm!

On March 29th I fished the Missouri from Wolf Creek to Craig with a friend. With flows over 6,000 CFS I wanted to get out and do some recon to see where the fish are holding and what they are interested in eating. Well, they were where I thought they would be and with a little adjustment of leaders, indicator and weight, we were busy hooking up most of the day.

I’d be lying if I said the hatch was pretty precise. I spent about a half hour with a silver skittish smolt on the line and moved about six fish. They were hitting that streamer, but I was more focused on nymphs because I have some guide trips scheduled in the near future and I want to be prepared for clients. The fish hit on anything with a hot bead and the infamous extended red-bodied nymph (a.k.a red San Juan worm). We didn’t really try any other nymphs.

We noticed a midge hatch around noon in some of the quiet water back eddies. However, we only saw a few fish up so the midge are nothing to get excited over yet. Water temperature is in the high thirties, but I think when we hit the low forties, we will see more midge and blue winged olive hatches. Then the fish will rise.

I am really excited about what I think will be a nice water year, or maybe a normal water year. There has been a lot of talk about what is the ideal water flow number. I don’t necessarily think there is an ideal. It is sort of like discussing fish counts. In reality, fish need to eat to live. As a guide, it is my job to find out what they are interested in on any given day. The conditions and flows are largely out of my control anyway. When I am out there I am not thinking about flows or counts. I am just concerned about the fish on the end of my fly line.

More recently, I fished with the boys from Montana Fly Company. They were shooting footage for a new short film. The working title is “The Purist” and it is projected to be released in a year or two. A camera operator shot footage from my boat. Another camera operator filmed from a second boat manned by Rob Weiker, a guide from Whitefish, Montana. Montana Fly Company sales representative Stirling Ross Tyler fished from Rob’s boat during filming.

I got to throw a line in the water during breaks. It was cold all day, but fishing was good. We started with green machines and juju baetis nymphs along with some hot beads and black zebra midge and floated the stretch from Holter dam to Craig. It was a busy day chasing indicators. We had so much fun and didn’t even break out the streamer box. We caught quite a few rainbows and a few brown trout and they looked really good and healthy. The MFC film crew were cool cats and I hope to fish with them again.

On The Fly – Guest Blog from Wolf Creek Angler Guide Eric Mondragon

 

Eric's Home Office

Eric’s Home Office

As winter keeps its grip on the Missouri, the itch to fish looms. The phone rings weekly as outfitters from around the valley call to book my services for the upcoming fishing season. I find myself spending hours behind the vice tying flies for friends and clients alike. The anticipation of spring’s arrival is driving me crazy. “If it was here now, it would be late” is an expression I often use.

Fly tying started for me more than thirty years ago. Since that time, I’ve seen and fished many fly patterns. My tying memories started when I was in the seventh grade in 1977 or 1978. A teacher started a tying class at school. When I was eleven, my skills were really bad. I probably still need a lot of work in that area, but not for lack of trying. I used to tie nice, pretty flies for friends as gifts. Then, I tied for specific clients for practice. As a guide, I am required to tie in volume. Therefore, the flies are not as pretty, but they are more durable.

Artificial flies have humble beginnings. It is as simple as a hook, some thread and feathers or fur. That is pretty much it. My tying journey started out with supplies that fit in a shoe box and that is where they were stored. Over the years, I collected supplies. (My wife would say “hoarded”) Thirty plus years later, my stash fills a roll top desk, a full size glass cabinet with drawers and a sizeable stack of plastic organizers in my office. I am proud of the selection, but I am also very lucky.

My wife says that the fly tying materials are like children. Over time, the cost is more than you expect, plan or admit. The materials get their own room and you spend a lot of time cleaning up after them. The end product causes joy, frustration, uncertainty and pride.

To “pay it forward” a bit, I recently cleared out some of my own material stock for the fly tying class I started at Cascade school. This is the second year for the class and local fly shops stepped up to the plate in a big way. Big R Supply and Head Hunters fly shops donated some awesome materials, which is greatly appreciated.

As I write this, I am staring out the office window daydreaming of warm, sunny days and lots of big trout feeding on flies. Preferably the flies I tied for myself, friends and clients. My enduring dream includes the hope that the kids in the Cascade school fly tying class will be exposed to a whole new world. As it turns out, fishing is a fine obsession.

The one constant over the years since that fly tying class at my local school: there is no finer feeling than catching a fish with a fly you created. I hope that the next generation has the same great experience, over and over and over.