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.

Unseasonablly unseasonable this fall on the Missouri

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sun Setting on Season Six

It’s been a weird fall here on the Missouri.

We were robbed of fall colors and the gradual transition from summer heat to autumn chill by snowstorms and arctic air in September and early October.

October is traditionally one of our busier months and this year is no different but that being said I do get the sense that things are coming to a close a little prematurely.

The river is quiet, the streets of Wolf Creek and Craig are quiet and while we’re still getting a fair amount of nice days one just gets the sense that winter is starting to take hold, at least in a psychological sense.

The fishing has been hit or miss these past weeks and while we have seen a couple of BWO events we’ve yet to experience an epic day of dry fly fishing. I think the best is yet to come which will work out well for those of you maintaining your Missouri River fall fishing schedules.

Nymphing and streamer fishing have been so so depending on the day but it seems like we’ve had more than our fair share of challenging days this fall. Maybe that all turns around this week. There’s only one way to find out for yourself.

Go-to water has been Wolf Creek down with better reports consistently coming from the canyon. We’re running medium depth rigs, occasionally shortening up for the shallow fast runs. Good point fly options have been Rainbow Czechs, Pill Poppers, Rainbow Weight Fly, Bubble Yum Scuds, Tungsten Tailwater Sows and Tungsten PT’s all in the #14-#16 range. We’re trailing soft hackle sowbugs, Tailwater Sows, Little Green Machines, Zebra Midges, BWO Magic Fly, Split Case BWO, Olive lightning bugs, rainbow warriors, olive S & M’s and other miscellaneous mayfly nymphs and generally running with a single split shot.

It varies by the day and by the section you are in but we’ve found the fish are predominantly in medium depth, faster water. Don’t rule out the slow stuff but it hasn’t been great. When you hook up take note of the water you’re fishing and target that type of water throughout your day. Chances are that’s where you’ll find them….or not.

Streamer fishing requires a lot of work and some commitment but has been worth the effort for the most part. Weeds are still an issue and will continue to be for some time but they are localized and you can find plenty of clean water in which to strip. Stick to your favorites and fish them like you mean it. Best colors for us have been olive, black, natural or gray.

Bombing the bank and stripping through the shallows has been effective for me but from what I hear they’re getting them on the swing as well.

Dry fly opportunities seem to present themselves daily but you need to be ready to go at any given moment. Rig up that dry fly rod and keep it within reach while you’re nymphing and/or streamer fishing. Pseudos, maybe some BWO’s and the occasional caddis are all a possibility. We’ve had luck fishing a caddis blind when fish are up and eating but that seems to be fading so my suggestion would be to rig with your favorite BWO set up and hope for bugs.

Solitude is in abundance right now and will be from here on out. You can expect to see some boat and wade angler traffic on the nicer days but even on the busier days you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a piece of water to have all to yourself.

The forecast is calling for snow tomorrow and again on Saturday. Could we be treated to an epic day of BWO dry fly fishing? I wouldn’t rule it out!

In between we’ll see another couple of days of Indian summer with highs approaching 65 on Friday but expect the mild temps to be accompanied by breezy conditions. And speaking of breezy conditions, a high wind warning is currently in effect through 7 pm tonight for west winds 30-40 mph, gusting as high as 60 mph. Batten down the hatches!

Next week looks chilly but definitely doable. Cold on Monday and Tuesday with highs in the high 20’s/low 30’s but warming into the 40’s by the middle of the week.

We’ve still got plenty of lodging options available though we are closing the motel for winter this week and will follow suit with the cabins when it makes sense to do so. As always, our bungalows will remain open all winter long for the die-hards out there.

Guide trips are winding down and guides are beginning to disappear but there are still enough of us around that we shouldn’t have any problem filling those last minute guide trips.

Great deals still to be had at the shop with our Second Annual Rod and Reel sale still going strong and we’ve got all the gear you need for Cold Weather fishing.

Shop hours are 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM Monday – Saturday and 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM Sundays.

Great Expectations

The Crew from Schultz Outfitters

In between winter storms we hosted one of the bigger groups we’ve ever had last week and while the weather provided for some nice days on the water the fishing remained somewhat challenging.

With four days to fish we spread out far and wide from Land of the Giants to Cascade and while we did manage to find everyone a decent fish or two the fish gods were stingy, giving us just enough action to keep things interesting and to entice the majority of the group into making at least a soft commitment to return to the Missouri for another go around next year.

The group we were hosting was put together by Schultz Outfitters in Ypsilanti Michigan so it was a real treat for me to be around a group of Michiganders all week. I also had the pleasure of teaching some rowing basics to one member of the group who had driven out ahead of the rest in order to pick up his new boat which he had delivered to the shop. What a great group and what a fun experience. I can’t wait to have them back again.

So back to the fishing report, yes on the slow side but hope springs eternal and we’ve got Great Expectations for the days and weeks ahead.

We’re enjoying the post-storm sunshine today and we’re glad to see the snow disappearing yet again, hopefully at least for a few weeks this time.

We’re back in the 40’s and 50’s starting tomorrow and maybe even up in the 60’s again by mid-week next week. Plenty of sunshine on tap over the 10 day and night time lows holding in the 20’s and 30’s, keeping water temps on the drop. Water temps are currently sitting at around 52 degrees.

Random BWO sightings being reported each day but I don’t believe we’re there yet. Keep those epic BWO days in your Great Expectations file and get out there on those cloudy days, preferably when it’s spitting rain and snow. It’ll happen sooner or later. In the meantime there are plenty of pseudos and caddis around to keep you busy if your idea of fall fishing on the MO involves dry flies only.

Nymphing has been moderately effective, depending on the day. There are fish congregating in the grass flats though they aren’t as grabby as we’d like them to be which has caused many to skip the dam and go in at Wolf Creek or lower.

The canyon has been fishing pretty good, relatively speaking and we’ve heard some decent reports from the lower as well. Don’t be afraid to spread out and try some different water. When things are on the slow side it’s the perfect opportunity to get out and explore parts of the river you aren’t as familiar with. You might be surprised what you find.

Best sellers from the nymph bins continue to be purple weight flies, Little Green Machines, Split Case BWO’s, Olive and pearl Lighting Bugs, Rainbow Warriors, Rainbow Czechs, Tung Darts, Tailwater Sows, Nitro Caddis Pupae, Black Zebra midges, Olive S & M’s, BWO Magic Fly, Dark Peep Show, Olive Psycho May and still moving a fair amount of Zirdles (tan or natural as of late). I’ve not had much luck with the zirdles lately but they’ve definitely had their moments based on what we’ve been hearing.

Streamer fishing should be heating up soon. I’ve heard a couple of solid reports but those have been few and far between. I ran an exclusive streamer trip on Friday and boated one really good fish, only moving a few others the entire day but take that for what it’s worth and get out there and strip.

Weeds are an ever-present hindrance though I’ve seen them MUCH worse. Prepare mentally ahead of time. Stay Calm and strip.

Best bets on the streamers have been Sparkle Minnows (shock), Mojo minnows, Black buggers, JJ Specials, Circus Peanuts, MK Ultralights, Dirty Hippy in brown or black and we’ve also had some action on Mini Dungeons, Baby Gongas, D & D’s and Inflated Egos.

As with the nymphing the fish have not been collectively grabby on the streamers but the ones we’ve picked up have been aggressive. If streamers are your thing put in your time and have great expectations. It’s the right time of the year for hunting unicorns and that next cast could be the one.

We’ve got a few more weeks of fall prime time ahead but the end of the season is in sight. We’ll likely start closing/winterizing some of our lodging soon and while there are folks around you can expect some relative solitude out there going forward.

The shop is still open from 7 AM – 5 PM daily for shuttles, bugs, cold-weather gear, Simms boots and waders and so much more.

After a busy week last week the guide calendar is thinning out so if you’re thinking of booking yourself a fall guide trip on the Missouri this wouldn’t be a bad time to do it.

Winter specials for lodging and guide trips coming soon and we’ll update you as soon as we know the winter schedule at Shotgun Annie’s. Expect fewer dining options in the area as the fall progresses but remember we offer lodging with kitchens so you can cook for yourself.

It’s been a weird one weather-wise and fishing wise but we’re still optimistic that there’s some great fall fishing ahead.

Of Winter Storms and Trip Insurance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome October

The return of autumn on the Missouri River

The winter storm that brought historic September snows and cold to Montana last weekend has come and gone and despite the lingering cold these last two days, it looks like we’re on our way to more seasonable fall weather as the week goes on.

We’ll see temps climb back into the 50’s starting today and it appears as though we may see a bit of Indian summer the first part of next weeks with temps near 70. Night time lows in the 30’s will keep things chilly for those early morning and late evening outings but a far cry from the low teens we saw Tuesday morning which took a toll on our psyches as well as on some of our exterior plumbing.

We did lose a few trips to cancellation over the weekend but those who kept their dates and fished through a couple of cold mornings were rewarded as the plummeting water temps and dramatic weather change seemed to have perhaps flipped the switch on fall fishing.

We had some good streamer and dry fly reports from yesterday, just in time for our big group trip from our friends at Schultz Outfitters in Southeastern Michigan happening all this week. Of course these Michigan folks are no strangers to cold weather fishing but we’re all stoked to see fall weather return and I’m sure they are as well.

Hopefully we’ll lose the rest of our snow here at the shop today and fingers are crossed that water will again be flowing through our aforementioned exterior plumbing in an orderly manner (not spraying out of cracked pipes) by this afternoon. Unfortunately we’ve embarked upon the season of long shadows here in the Wolf Creek canyon and while we do still have a parking lot full of sunshine we won’t see sun in the back yard until spring and it won’t be long before we lose our sunlight in the front so suffice it to say, we’re enjoying it while it lasts.

But enough about the coming winter woes…..right now the warm up is underway and we’re in the midst of our busiest three weeks of the fall season. The empty lot is empty no more and the quiet shop is now abuzz with activity, at least for the next few weeks. We do have a few vacancies here and there but for the most part rooms are going to be hard to come by until late October. If you’re planning on coming out over these next few weeks I’d recommend you call sooner rather than later as things are rapidly filling up.

Expect plenty of traffic out there (though nothing like during the summer season) if you’re headed this way and make sure to make us your first stop on your way to the river for shuttles, bugs, cold weather gear and so much more including the best streamer selection in the canyon.

Nymphing will continue to provide the numbers but there are plenty of other options if bobber fishing doesn’t excite you. Streamer fishing is heating up and is definitely worth your time though weeds will be an ever-present frustration. Keep calm and strip!

Pseudos and caddis have been providing plenty of top water action in a target-rich environment. The cool water temps should facilitate BWO action soon. In the meantime terrestrials will be back in play on the warm sunny days so make sure you’re stocked up on ants and beetles and the like.

Fall fishing is underway and it’s about to go off!

Winter on the Way?

Three days into fall and unfortunately the talk is having much more to do with the coming weather than about the fall fishing.

Today might be the nicest day we’re going to see for some time.

A high wind watch is in effect for tomorrow with west winds 30-40 mph with gusts of 60 – 65 mph possible in portions of central, north central, southwest and west central Montana. The local forecast is calling for cloudy skies with a 40 percent chance of rain and a high near 64 with west winds 13 – 22 mph gusting to 30. A far cry from what the high wind watch is calling for but just be mindful of the potential for high winds if you’re planning on fishing tomorrow.

Friday looks like a classic fall fishing day with rain likely and a high near 50 with calm winds. Did someone say streamer fishing?

Saturday things get interesting with rain and snow, becoming all snow after 3pm. High near 37. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches possible and it doesn’t stop there.

We’ll see snow all weekend with highs in the 30’s and lows in the 20’s right on into the early part of next week. The snow will taper off on Monday but it looks like we’re settling in to high temps in the mid 40’s through the end of next week. Will we see an Indian summer to follow? We hope so. Winter is fine but we’ve been really looking forward to fall and hope to see plenty of it before winter takes hold.

Again, most of the chatter this week has had to do with the weather but that’s not to say that folks aren’t fishing. It’s been a moderately busy week on the river with less-than stellar reports overall but fear not, better days are ahead. As sure as day follows night good fishing will return though sometimes I feel like simply adjusting one’s expectations can go a long way in turning things around.

You aren’t always going to have 30 fish days, and you probably wouldn’t enjoy them all that much if you did. Sure, everyone loves to have those days once in a while but it’s the work you put into it that brings the reward. Crack the code and its game on. Sometimes the code can’t be cracked. Sometimes the fish simply aren’t eating. It’s the challenge that keeps us coming back.

And it’s not as though the fishing sucks. It doesn’t. There are plenty of fish being caught and plenty of fish being hooked and lost. They’re hot right now and will give you a fight. You may lose more than you land and some of those lost are likely going to be the biggest trout you’ve ever hooked, that’s the beauty of losing them. No fish, no proof either way. They can be as big as you want them to be.

Nymphing as always is generating the numbers but we’re getting them on top as well and those willing to play the streamer game in the autumn weeds are occasionally getting rewarded with a Missouri River fall trophy.

Traffic has been concentrated from the dam to Craig though there’s no reason you shouldn’t be fishing the rest of the river…the fish are everywhere.

Best bets for nymphing have been status quo with Zebra Midges and Tailwater sows leading the charge. We’ve also continued to have good luck with weight flies and tung darts as well as Rainbow Czechs. Don’t hesitate to throw some small mayflies in the mix. #18 Green Machines, pearl lightning bugs, olive WD 40’s, Jujus and BWO Magic Flies are all good options.

We’re in-between on the dry fly scene as we await fall baetis but in the meantime try ants, beetles, caddis, October Caddis, pseudos and Callibaetis. You can’t go wrong with a Purple Haze or October Caddis trailed with an ant, a buzzball or a cdc caddis emerger. Get creative and show them something they haven’t seen.

Streamer guys have been getting them on small black buggers (are those even streamers?) but as always, fish the bugs you believe in. Confidence is the X Factor and it can make all the difference in the world.

If you’re coming out to fish the MO this weekend bundle up and if you happen to get caught unprepared for winter weather stop by WCA for layers upon layers of Simms cold weather gear. We’ve got you covered from base layer to outerwear, literally from head to toe. Gloves a plenty, socks, hats, Cold Weather shirts, guide flannels and of course a full lineup of G3 and Freestone waders and boots.

We’re not expecting much traffic this weekend but we’ll be here regardless, 7 AM daily. Rain, Snow, Sleet….whatever the case may be, we are your full service Missouri River fly shack.

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.