Welcome to Big Water July

Summer Days on the Missouri

2020 continues to confound.

It’s hard to believe but July is upon us, and with it, the continued peak flows of the season. 10,900 CFS at the time of this writing with a couple of more bumps to come today and tomorrow. We may in fact be bumping up against 13K by tomorrow and while that’s far from ideal for the legions of wade anglers currently either sitting on the sidelines or renting boats, it’s not all bad.

Canyon Ferry is currently 100 percent full with the flood control pool currently 14.5% full. Inflow is 10,377 with outflow at 10,040 CFS. We’re approaching equilibrium with plenty of water for the season ahead. That’s good news.

Soon enough the flows will be reduced and conditions will again approach perfection. In the meantime we’re already looking at flows exceeding 12K below the Dearborn but after cresting yesterday things are on the drop and it shouldn’t take long to clear.

Water temps are still holding at around 59 degrees thanks to below average temps during the day and downright chilly nights which have been dipping into the 40’s regularly. It doesn’t feel much like summer but it will soon enough. Our extended green season will soon be behind us but thankfully healthy flows should maintain for the season.

Despite the higher flows the fishing has actually continued to be fairly consistent both for the dry fly crowd and the nymphing set alike and the hard core streamer contingent continues to thwart convention, taking advantage of the extended clean-water season. We’ve been exploiting these higher flows and the color being added by the LPP and Dearborn to put together some respectable days on streamers and it looks like we could have at least another week of it.

We’d recommend concentrating your efforts sub-surface for the remainder of the week as the additional couple thousand CFS promised for the next two days may effectively shut down dry fly fishing for the time being. If you simply can’t accept that then focus on the side channels and soft water locales for your dry fly fix. We’re not sure when she’s coming down but it shouldn’t be long. If I had to venture a guess I’d say that we should see flows start to fall by the weekend and certainly by next week.

Dry Fly options still PMD’s and Caddis. Tricos on deck. Best bets – Rusty Spinners, PMD CDC Spinner, Buzzball, Film Critic, Flash Cripple, Blooms Parachute Caddis, Outrigger Caddis, Cornfed Caddis, CDC Caddis Emerger. We’ve gotten a few calls inquiring about Terrestrial Fishing this week and while it’s not quite prime-time for terrestrials you could certainly do worse things than throw an ant these days.

Best bet for nymphing – PMD nymphs (Crack Backs, Split Case, PMD Redemption, Frenchie, Psycho May, S & M PMD, Magic Fly, LGM) Caddis Pupae (Purple or Gold Weight Fly, Tung Dart, Nitro Caddis) and general purpose staples like Fish Finder Worms, Pheasant Tails, Sow Bugs and Czechs.

Streamers – Olive buggers, Lil Kim, Sparkle Minnows, MK Ultras, Dirty Hippie (Brown), Mini Dungeons, MoJo Minnow etc. Fruit Rollups and Pine Squirrel Leeches are never a bad call and crayfish have had their moments as of late.

Boat rentals have blown up this week so you’ll definitely want to call ahead if you’re thinking you’re going to rent a boat. We’re in the thick of it with guide trips but do have openings for those last minute plans. Lodging is full of holes due to Covid cancellations. We’re busy with lodging but not nearly as busy as we should be during the first week of July so if you’re thinking of changing summer travel plans and possibly putting together a trip to the MO give us a call. It’s likely we can get you set up with guides and lodging in the weeks to come.

The balancing act continues in the shop, trying to keep things somewhat minimal while at the same time making sure we have all the staples you need and thus far I feel like we’ve done a good job with it. Flies, leaders, tippet, fly lines, tools and accessories are fully stocked. Hats and T’s and gifty things….not quite so much.

Official summer hours are 7:00 AM – 5:00 PM daily. Guide trips have been going out around 8 AM and Rental Boats have been being delivered at the crack of dawn.

We’re keeping a close eye on the Covid situation and doing everything in our power to operate in the safest possible manner for our clients as well as our employees. You can rest assured we’re committed to our cleaning/disinfecting protocols in the shop and we’re leaning heavily towards requiring masks for our customers. Not quite there but we’ll keep you posted.


Summertime on the Missouri River

And just like that summer (and big water) arrived.

Here we are with but a week left in the month of June which doesn’t seem quite possible but alas, it is so.

These last couple of weeks have been as good as it gets for PMD’s and the Caddis have been making a strong showing as well providing a wealth of opportunities daily for the dry fly angler. A week ago water conditions were optimal with flows at around 6500 CFS and no expectation of increases.

Fast forward to today and we’re sitting at 9300 CFS with a couple more bumps on the way this afternoon and tomorrow which will likely take us to around 10,500 CFS. Needless to say, those here for the wade fishing are not pleased.

Thanks to a bunch of rain and a substantial snow event in the high country last week the SNOTEL chart is once again in play. Canyon Ferry Reservoir is currently 100 percent full so it doesn’t look like there will be any shortage of water on the MO in 2020.

So what’s that done to the fishing?

I haven’t heard a report post 9000 CFS but with things on the rise yesterday we found ample dry fly opportunities in the Craig to Mid stretch and from what I understand the caddis in the canyon yesterday evening hearkened back to days of old. Hopefully more of this to come!

This past week also seems to have ushered in the Prime Time traffic and while it may be short of what we are used to seeing in late June it’s a drastic change from what has been. The river is busy, the ramps are bustling with activity, the restaurants are full (by Phase two standards) and traffic in the shop is steady all day every day.
There are a lot of folks around right now coming from all corners and while we’re thrilled to be doing something close to normal business we are mindful of the fact that the Coronavirus is still a thing and we’re still having to operate with restrictions in an effort to prevent the spread.

Our “new normal” routine includes cleaning and disinfecting the shop throughout the day. We’re masked up and we’re strongly encouraging our customers to wear masks in the shop as well. Our housekeeping procedures continue to reflect the seriousness of the present circumstances and you should know that we are continuing to make the safety and health of our employees and our customers and guests our number one priority.

Our guides continue to take extra measures to clean and disinfect boats and equipment as well as their vehicles and while we’re confident we can safely deliver you to and from the river in our guide rigs, you are always more than welcome to meet us at the put in and have your vehicle shuttled to the takeout if you don’t feel comfortable riding in our vehicles.

We’ve definitely observed a softening of adherence to safety measures among the public over the past couple of weeks as things continue to open up and as we move towards what is actually beginning to feel like “normal” but we encourage you to remain vigilant. Case numbers continue to increase in many areas of the state, likely due in large part to the tremendous increase in testing but that being said, people are still getting sick so we’re 100 percent committed to doing everything in our power to keep this thing held in check and keep our shop and lodge open and our guides on the water.

Hot and sunny summer days on tap this week through Saturday. We’ll see things cool down again and likely some precipitation starting Sunday and into the first part of next week.
Lodging and guide trips are in full swing right now and the phones have been EXTREMELY busy with folks looking to book dates later this summer. We are approaching our busiest time of year but we do still have some holes in the schedule due to cancellations.

Give us a call if you’re interested in a trip to the MO this summer and we’ll see if we can make it happen.

June 9th Bugs and Water Update

The Bureau of Reclamation made liars out of us last weekend as flows bumped to near 9500 CFS on Sunday and Monday thanks in part to a storm system which brought a fair amount of precipitation to the area in the form of both rain and snow. This, just after we’d gone on record in our blog a few days earlier, stating that our most probable peak flows would top out around 7K. Such is springtime in the Rockies. We’ve seen a couple of decreases in flows since and at the time of this writing we’re sitting back near that proclamation at 7730 CFS and with another drop scheduled for tomorrow morning that should take us right back where we started.

Friday was one of the tougher days we’ve had out there this year as we saw those flows bump throughout the day shutting the fishing down for all intents and purposes and mobilizing a steady flow of woody debris river-wide.

The bump in flows and some rainy and cold weather discouraged much of that local weekend traffic we’ve been seeing but with the river on the drop, the PMD’s popping and the return of warm weather later this week and into the weekend I’d expect we’ll be seeing the start of summer traffic soon. Believe it or not the first day of summer is just a week from Saturday which I’m having a difficult time even comprehending but be that as it may, it’s time to settle in and salvage this 2020 season as best we can.

The aforementioned PMD’s should help in that endeavor as we are feeling like the current conditions and trends are pointing towards what could be a phenomenal PMD event. A return to flows in the 5-7K range and water temps hovering around 58 degrees are exactly what we need and if yesterday’s proliferation of bugs is any indication we’re in for some excellent days of hunting heads from here on out.

While you’re waiting for bugs and rising fish focus your efforts sub-surface. Tailwater sowbugs will always catch fish but that being said, it’s definitely time to take advantage of what’s going on down below which is PMD nymphs struggling to make their way to emergence. Split Case PMD’s, Crackbacks, Magic Flies (Rusty or PMD), Angelcase Emergers, Military Mays, Psycho Mays, Redemptions, Frenchies, plain old BH PT’s and many more will cover your bases as you anxiously await surface opportunities.

A short leash rig comprised of an adequately buoyant PMD adult trailed with a pheasant tail or Split Case PMD nymph in the shallow flats can be deadly as the trout move into those feeding lanes and set up for the duns.

Busier days lie ahead with lodging filling up and more and more trips hitting the water each week. That being said, we do have openings for both and we’d like nothing better than to play host to your adventure on the Missouri River.

See you soon for Prime Time, PMD Edition on the greatest river in the lower 48!

A Different June

A Different June for sure but regardless, PMD’s have emerged on the MO’ – photo courtesy of montana-riverboats.com

We’re three days into June and while in some respects things seem to be approaching normal, in many others the sense of Covid weirdness still pervades.

The biggest stride towards normalcy we’ve seen in months happened on Monday as Montana entered Phase II of reopening which included the lifting of the mandatory 14 day quarantine for those coming from out of state. We did have some spur of the moment lodging and guide trip bookings from out of state residents on Monday and Tuesday but for the most part Phase II feels about like Phase One did with light traffic on the river and an eerily quiet atmosphere in Wolf Creek and Craig.

Weekends have been a different story, feeling much more like the heart of the season with overflowing parking lots and flotillas of drift boats, rafts and all manner of floating apparatuses. Montanans were out in force over the weekend taking advantage of the clean, controlled flows of the MO and also re-discovering the Dearborn River in droves.

We’ve always advised against scheduling your guide trips on weekends, particularly on Saturdays. It’s no different this season. There has been a well-documented shift towards outdoor activities since things began to open up and we’re expecting that this trend will keep things busy here on the weekends as Montana residents stay close to home.

Obviously, our hope is that things get steadily busier during the week as we transition into Phase II but at this point our loss of out-of-state business is your gain as this could be the least fishing pressure the Missouri River has seen in decades. Between the continued Covid restrictions around the country and the travel complications caused by a reduction in air traffic the MO will likely see a relatively quiet June so if you have avoided the Missouri in the past due to the crowds and you are within a day’s drive we would love to be your June destination on the Missouri.

Conditions couldn’t be better. The weather has been nice and the water is in great shape. Flows are currently at 5100 but will bump over the next two days, nearing 7,000 cfs on Friday. Water temps are ideal at around 57 degrees and the Dearborn and Little Prickly Pear are dropping rapidly and should not be a factor going forward unless we get a bunch of precipitation.
Snowpack is dwindling but we’re in good shape for a good water year.

Oh, and the fishing? The fishing has been consistently solid and is about to get super fun as PMD’s emerge on the scene. We’ve had some sporadic bugs but it’s just getting started so if you’ve ever wanted to fish the PMD hatches on the MO’ now is the time. We’re also seeing plenty of caddis around though the fish have yet to settle into surface feeding mode. Rising fish have been few and far between but fear not, it’ll happen soon. Make sure you’re out there when it does.

In the meantime, nymphing has continued to be the go-to with, you guessed it, tailwater sow bugs continuing to be the nymph of choice. Split Case and Crack Back PMD’s, PMD Magic Fly, PMD Redemption, Psycho Mays, Peep Shows, S & M’s, Frenchies all on the menu right now. Gold or Purple Weight Flies, Tung Darts and other Caddis pupae patterns are all good choices for a point fly and we’ve heard a few rumors of the Zirdle getting eaten as well. Medium depth, fast (ish) water with or without lead, depending on the day. Target those nymph runs while keeping an eye on those PMD flats for bugs and rising fish. Rusty Spinners, Buzzballs, PMD Sprouts, HI Vis PMD’s, Film Critics, Flash Cripples, Doc’s PMD all good PMD Go To’s. All these and more currently filling the bins at WCA.

Restock that caddis box as well with Outrigger Caddis, Cornfed Caddis, Bloom’s Hi Vis Caddis, Stockingfoot Caddis and the ALMOST ALWAYS EFFECTIVE CDC Caddis Emerger. The time is drawing near!

We haven’t heard much on the streamer front this week but with the bump in flows coming and hopefully at least a couple of weeks left before the weeds arrive you could do worse than bombing the banks with big bugs as you hunt for rising fish.

The bottom line is the fish are here, the bugs are here….the people really aren’t. It’s a rare and golden opportunity to enjoy some summer solitude on the Missouri.

The shop is open at 7:30 daily and while we may be a little skinny on T shirts and trinkets this season we’re fully stocked on the stuff that matters. Bugs, Bugs and more bugs. Lines, leaders and tippet a plenty.

We’ve got good availability on lodging and guide trips through around the third week of June and limited availability of both right on through prime time. Shuttles, sun protection, Air Lock Indicators, Simms wading gear and sportswear, Adipose drift boat rentals, essential tools and accessories and a sensible inventory of rods and reels from Loop, Echo, Redington, Ross and Lamson.

We are the preferred fly fishing destination operation on the Missouri, close enough to the action but far removed from the chaos. We are closer to Holter Dam and Wolf Creek Bridge than any other shop and it won’t take but a few minutes spent on the porch at cocktail hour, scanning the hillsides for roaming critters, to realize that what the town of Wolf Creek lacks in publicity it more than makes up for in genuine Montana Ambiance.

Shotgun Annie’s is open daily from 11 AM to 8 PM and serving breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays from 7:30 am – 11:00 am and our friends at Izaak’s just down the road in Craig is open Wednesday – Sunday from 3:00 PM – 9:00 PM. We urge you to support them both.

We’re also loving the breakfast and dinner delivery right to your door from MO’ River Eats. Call your order in the night before and have an amazing breakfast delivered to your door. Order the morning of and Kelli will return in the evening with absolutely delicious dinner once again delivered right to your door.

Are things weird this season in Wolf Creek and Craig? Of course they are, but we can’t stress enough the opportunity this is presenting to those in close proximity to enjoy relative solitude on one of, if not THE BEST fishery in the lower 48.

Book it!

Phasing Out Phase One this week on the MO’

As we close out the month of May this week I dare say things around here are actually starting to feel something close to normal.

There’s no doubt, the seemingly parallel universe of life under Covid19 has thrown all of us off. It seems like yesterday we were doing our late winter plotting and strategizing in anticipation of the coming season and then, just like that, time stopped but at the same time accelerated to the point where we’re now looking back at spring and wondering where it went as we begin to approach prime time on the Missouri River.

We got a taste these past couple of days of what’s hopefully to come with holiday traffic streaming into Wolf Creek and Craig. Nice weather, good fishing and the unofficial start of summer brought the crowds to the river this weekend.

A perfect way to end the week which brought us the best news we’ve heard in a long time as Governor Bullock announced that Phase II of Montana’s reopening would begin on June 1st. Included as part of phase II is the lifting of the mandatory 14 day quarantine for out of state travelers which was cause for celebration amongst not only fly shops, fishing guides and outfitters but also amongst the collective outdoor tourism industry in Montana. We spent last week passing the good news on to our out of state clients who’ve been anxiously awaiting a verdict on their summer travel plans.

Mind you we’re not abandoning safe practices and social distancing measures but the continued downward trends in the numbers along with news from the CDC late last week that the virus does not spread easily on contaminated surfaces as had previously been thought, is cause for optimism and yet another step closer to normalcy.

In keeping with the good news, it looks like it’s going to be an absolutely beautiful week on the MO’ and with the Dearborn and Little Prickly Pear on the drop we’ll look forward to spreading out again and seeing what’s happening in the canyon once the mud clears.

The Holter Dam to Craig beat was busy over the weekend but traffic has been light during the week. Make it a point to get out there this week and enjoy the Montana solitude before the out of state traffic returns next week.

Mid 70’s to mid 80’s on tap all week long with plenty of sunshine and highs near 90 on Saturday. I expect we’ll see a busy river again this weekend.

BWO’s and March Browns in the rear view but there have been caddis around and PMD’s won’t be long.

Nymphing has been good to great most days with the best action in the faster water, medium to shallow in depth. The Tailwater Sow Bug continues to rule the day but we’ve also had good action on worms, Rainbow Czechs, Pill Poppers and Little Green Machines. I’ve been cycling in some PMD standards like the Magic Fly and Crack Back PMD but we’re not quite there yet. Keep them in the mix but don’t spend too much time on them it they’re not producing.

Streamer fishing has continued to be inconsistent but could be good this week as things start to clear. Water temps are in the low 50’s and will be on the rise this week so don’t be afraid to move those bugs. Mix it up with short, fast strips with plenty of pauses and a few long strips thrown in for good measure. Switch up your bugs, your colors and your retrieve until you find what works (or until you hit the takeout, whichever comes first)! We’ve got a few weeks left before the aquatic vegetation becomes an issue. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Per the Covid retail protocol we’ve been trying to run as lean as possible but we’re stocked up on essentials with our focus on flies and terminal tackle this season. Plenty of Simms waders, boots and sportswear on the shelves and a workhorse lineup of rods and reels from Loop, Echo, Redington, Ross and Lamson. We’re also stocked up on sun protection from Blackstrap, Buff and Simms (which double nicely as masks) and we’ve got enough packs, tools and accessories to meet most, if not all of your needs. Anything we don’t have we’re more than happy to order for you.

We’ve got plenty of lodging available these next couple of weeks and guides are standing by. We’re happy to be resuming our out of state bookings next week but we have had substantial cancellations and we’d like nothing better than make up some of that ground and get some folks back in our guide boats and cabins. Give us a call if you’re interested in booking lodging, guides or drift boat rentals for PMD season…I think it’s going to be a good one!

Spring 2020 – A season of opportunity for the Montana angler

Amidst a covid crisis which has threatened our physical as well as our financial health world-wide, the sun continues to rise and set each day.

The ways in which we experience our world have undergone drastic change over the past two months with social distancing, shelter in place orders, arbitrary and ambiguous designations of which businesses are “essential” during a pandemic, empty store shelves, masks, meat shortages, travel bans, zoom meetings, fear and loathing and an uneasy uncertainty about what the future holds.

But through all this chaos in the structure of our lives the rhythms of the natural world continue, taking no notice of the covid chaos. Spring continues to transition into summer. The grass gets greener, the days get longer, the air gets warmer, the flowers grow and the rivers flow.

Spring has always been a great time to fish the Missouri and that hasn’t changed. What has changed however, is that with non-residents being required to quarantine for 14 days when traveling to Montana PRIOR to taking part in any activities, traffic on the rivers is but a fraction of what it would normally be during this time of the year.

And while that’s bad for fly shops and outfitters, it’s a golden opportunity for Montana anglers to extend the quiet season on rivers and lakes all around the state. The absence of out of state visitors means less traffic at the ramps and on the water, less pressure on the fish and an abundance of solitude, during what is usually an extremely busy time of the year, especially on the Missouri as run-off elsewhere forces an influx of traffic to the perfect water conditions on the MO.

That being said, we did just experience what was by far our busiest weekend of 2020 with a full house and a steady parade of customers in and out of the shop all weekend long. Things actually felt “normal” on Saturday (which would have been Caddis Fest) with boat ramps buzzing with activity and an armada of drift boats and rafts occupying every stretch of water. The hope is that these were all Montanans converging on the MO, taking advantage of the nice weather and the great fishing and reveling in the freedoms afforded by phase one of our reopening. The assumption however is that not everyone on the water this weekend was a Montanan.

We are so anxious to welcome all out of state visitors back to Montana. Not only are we looking forward to seeing you all again but our livelihoods actually depend on it. That being said, we’re of the opinion that Montana has done a great job of handling this thing thus far so we urge you to abide by the quarantine rules currently in place and wait until the quarantine is lifted before you travel here. We have a feeling that will be very soon.

In the meantime this is a season of opportunity for the Montana angler. An opportunity to have what will likely soon be very busy rivers all to yourself during the prime of spring fishing.

Wolf Creek Angler is your Missouri River destination with everything you need for magical days on the Missouri. The hardest working guides on the river, clean and affordable lodging, Adipose drift boat rentals, vehicle shuttles, Simms waders, boots and sportswear and the legendary largest selection of flies ever assembled under one roof in Wolf Creek Montana. And don’t forget, we are also proud to host the Mending Waters Montana drift boat program providing FREE drift boat rentals to all vets and active duty military personnel. Book your boat today at mendingwatersmontana.org

By |2020-05-19T21:02:24+00:00May 19th, 2020|Categories: Shop Life|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

Rainy Day Blues

Have it all to yourself (for the time being) this spring on the MO’

We’re three days into a dreary, wet and cold week on the Missouri with likely a couple more on the way. Welcome to springtime in the Rockies!

Our forecast for the remainder of the week looks to be much of the same with cool temps and a chance for rain and or snow most days but we should start to see some peeks of sunshine starting tomorrow. The grey days can be a little tough to take sometimes but on the bright side things are greening up nicely and it looks like we’ll see a bit of a warm up this weekend.

We’re still dealing with a mandatory 14 day quarantine for all out of state travelers which is substantially limiting our business right now but thankfully as things continue to open up in Montana we’re seeing business start to pick up as many look to get out of town and take advantage of having one of the premier trout rivers in the world right in their back yard. Lodging has really started to pick up and we’re managing to do a few guide trips here and there as well. All of this has us feeling cautiously optimistic about the future as we continue to adapt to the new normal.

Obviously things are far from normal but the hope is that if we continue to work hard at doing things right through these early phases of the re-opening then hopefully we’ll be able to expedite the easing of restrictions.

We’re still obsessively cleaning and sanitizing in the shop and limiting customers to four at a time. We’re wearing our masks and we appreciate when you do as well. I don’t see getting away from these practices anytime soon and whether we’re actually dealing with exposure to coronavirus or not it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a clean and germ-free shop.

Ditto with our enhanced housekeeping procedures. We’ve essentially doubled the time it takes to clean a room with the additional steps we’re taking to clean and disinfect so you can rest assured your health and safety, along with that of our employees, is our number one priority.

Guide trips look and feel a little different these days as well with a lot of disinfecting of surfaces and equipment happening as well as more attention paid to keeping our boats and our rigs clean. We’re wearing our masks in the vehicle on the way to the river as well as in the boat and asking our clients to do the same. Some aren’t crazy about the mask thing but it’s not so bad once you get used to it and if it allows us to get out there and put our clients on fish we’re happy to comply.

Slowly but surely it’s starting to look more and more like an actual season. Shotgun Annie’s and Izaak’s are open for business (with social distancing directives in place) so the food challenges are becoming less so. Annie’s is open Monday – Friday from 11 AM – 11:30 PM and 7:30 AM – 11:30 PM on Saturday and Sunday. Please note, closing time is dependent on how much business they are doing so I wouldn’t wait until 10 pm and head there for dinner, at least not without calling first. Izaak’s is open Wednesday – Sunday from 3 PM – 9 PM. We’re super-stoked to have them both back and we encourage you to support them through the challenges of limited capacity re-opening.

One more food option we’re super excited about this season is Mo’ River Eats. Kelli is providing us with exceptional lunches for our guide trips this season and also offering breakfast and dinner DELIVERED to your room at Wolf Creek Angler. You’ll find menus in all of our rooms with contact information so if you want a great dine-in option for dinner or want to start the day with an amazing breakfast burrito, breakfast sandwich, sausage biscuits or a Greek Yogurt Parfait all you need do is let Kelli know by 9 pm the night before and she will deliver items right to your room. I’ve sampled breakfast, lunch and dinner and highly recommend them all and the fact that she delivers is a game-changer. I’m expecting a busy season for MO’ River Eats as word gets out and hope you’ll give them a try.

So there you have it. We’ve got all kinds of lodging available AND you have a multitude of options for dining, including bringing your own food and preparing it in your fully furnished kitchen AND THE FISHING IS GOOD AND GETTING BETTER.

Dry fly fishing, nymphing, streamer fishing…all solid options right now.

So while things are still weird out there we are happy to provide you with an escape from the weirdness. Fresh air, moving water, wild trout….I can’t think of a better escape. And while we’re definitely hoping for a rapid return to being able to host out of state clients, at this point their absence is your gain as traffic is but a fraction of what it would normally be this time of year.

We hope to see you all very soon.

Spring Fishing Heating Up

Spring is streamer time on the Missouri

As we emerge from the Covid-19 lockdown the timing couldn’t be better as spring fishing is just starting to hit its stride.

Bumps and drops in flows along with plenty of color coming from the Little Prickly Pear and Dearborn have made things somewhat inconsistent for the past week or so but with the creeks on the drop for the moment and the anticipation of stable flows and water temps for the next while we should be in good shape for the weeks to come.

Per the norm for this time of year the numbers (both fish and boats) have been at Holter Dam. The dam to Wolf Creek run has been the most consistent. Wolf Creek to Craig has had its moments but has been hit or miss for sure. Traffic below Craig is sparse and almost non-existent below the Dearborn save a few of those streamer guys plying the mud for prowling giants.

Nymphing is without a doubt your best bet for numbers right now with all of the usual suspects in play. Point flies of choice in my boat have been Ninch’s Pill Popper, Caviar Scud, Pink Amex, Tan UV Czech, Firebead Steelie Worm and Rainbow Weight Fly. Trail with #16 Tailwater Sow, #18 PT Green Machine, #16 UV Yum Yum Scud Pink, #18 Olive Lightning Bug, #18 Olive S & M, #18 Black Zebra, Soft Hackle Sows, #16 Pink Ray, #18 Magic Fly BWO etc.

The fish are on the move and we’re typically finding them in medium depth, fast (ish) water. Start around 5’ bobber to bb and adjust accordingly. Most of the known hot spots are producing, at least in that dam zone. Follow the traffic flow, observe adequate social distance between boats (much much more than 6’ please) and please don’t anchor up in the middle of the run. If you’re not getting into fish take a look around you and see what’s going on. If others are hooking up and you aren’t watch what they’re doing, where they’re going etc and follow their lead. And those boats with the red and white stickers – those guys generally have a pretty good idea of what’s happening and the vast majority of them are happy to help. Whether you’re having trouble cracking the code or encountering more serious (non-fishing) issues, don’t be afraid to seek help from those with the red and white tags.

Dry fly opportunities are not abundant at this point though there have been BWO’s around. It’s a right time, right place situation so keep that dry fly rod rigged and ready for action. We’ve been doing well with Sprout Baetis, Olive Para Adams or Para BWO’s trailed with your emerger or cripple or choice. Midges are abundant though finding fish eating them has been a challenge. If you find a sipper or two try feeding them a Bucky’s midge cluster or Griffiths gnat. We’ve also had good luck with Black Midges and Black Sippers….all available now at Wolf Creek Angler.

The streamer game should be good right now. It isn’t great. We’ve put a lot of time and effort into it these past two weeks and have come away disappointed more often than not. A few flashes here and there and the occasional hook up but overall not what you’d expect. We did find some success yesterday with a couple of shallow water explosions right on the bank which makes it all worthwhile but it’s important to keep your expectations in check.

I’m not saying you can’t mix streamer fishing with nymphing or dry fly fishing but you can’t crack the streamer code when you’re chasing bobbers or head hunting. Get serious. Grab your streamer boxes and leave the rest behind. Change size, color, retrieve, target water and any combo of these variables often until you crack the code and keep your expectations in check.

The fishing forecast for this week looks good. We’ll see a storm system move through the area tomorrow afternoon into Wednesday bringing cooler temps and some precipitation in the form of rain and a rain/snow mix Wednesday.The weekend looks good with partly sunny conditions and temps in the low 60’s with a slight chance of rain each day.

We’ve got plenty of lodging available and we’re also continuing our spring guide trip special as well as our lodging and guide trip special. $400 Full day guide trips through the end of the month and get a second night of lodging on us when you book two days of guided fishing and a night’s lodging. Please note, due to the 14 day mandatory quarantine for out of state visitors at this time we can only offer our services to Montana residents and those who have met the 14 day quarantine requirements if traveling here from out of state or returning to Montana from out of state travels.

While we’re definitely happy to be back at it this new normal will definitely take some getting used to for all of us. We’re wearing masks in the shop and on the boat and we are encouraging our clients to do the same.We are frequently cleaning and disinfecting in the shop and if you’re fishing with us you can expect your guide’s boat and vehicle to be clean and disinfected prior to and following your trip. We are health screening all guides and employees daily and will not allow anyone to work if they are showing any symptoms of being sick. We’re also health screening clients and we ask that you please not come if you are showing any symptoms of being sick. This goes for lodging guests, fishing clients and everyone shopping with us.

We’re doing our best to adjust and to make the best of these bizarre times in which we’re living. We encourage you to do the same and remind you that there’s no better way to escape the madness, if only for a few hours, than being on moving water with a fly rod in hand.

Blessed with Social Distance

The Treasure State (AKA the Social Distance State)

Montana – The Treasure State (AKA The Social Distance State)

With our doors closed now at least through April 24th, it would be a gross understatement to say that life during a global pandemic has taken some getting used to.

Like most small business owners, I have been immersed in the seemingly ever-evolving provisions and procedures of seeking assistance through what will undoubtedly be the biggest financial and economic challenge of my lifetime.

Like all of those who have had their lives and livelihoods put on hold by Covid-19, I spend my days contemplating what the future might hold while ingesting a steady diet of webinars, zoom meetings and phone calls…what our life has become during the pandemic.

I’ve spent some time at the shop but there hasn’t been much to do there that can’t be done from home so why burn the gas to get there? There’s plenty of yard work to be done both at the shop and at home but spring snows have interrupted those endeavors and while it definitely feels and looks like spring today we will be under a winter storm warning starting tomorrow night and will likely see several inches of new snow and the return of single-digit temps on Saturday night.

I’ve spent plenty of time on the couch. Too much television, too much beer, too much junk food. And while I have done some hiking near my home, I’ve not been nearly active enough for my liking.

It was considering these circumstances that I decided Sunday night that I would spend as much time as possible on the water this week. Mind you drift boat fishing is out (unless you are with members of your household), so I decided it was a good time to go solo and visit a few of my favorite walk-wade spots, some close to home, some not so much.

My routine this week has been to spend the mornings answering emails and doing whatever business can be done followed by late morning drives to unspecified locations and afternoons spent standing in moving water doing what brought me here in the first place. It didn’t take long for me to conclude that there is no place in the world I would rather be during these times of social distancing than in the wide-open spaces and secret corners of Montana.

Spring streamer fishing is among my favorites and these last few days did not disappoint. Plenty of fish to hand, none of which were record breakers, but all of which were the perfect dose of euphoria, making even better these great escapes.

Empty roads, sprawling landscapes of mountains and valleys and forests and miles of magical water with nary a soul in sight. Four rivers over three days and I encountered no one which kind of surprised me seeing that everyone is trapped at home these days with nothing to do. But what a blessing. What a blessing to live in a place where we can always go out and do our thing and maintain social distance, sometimes to the extreme if we choose. I can not imagine what it’s like to live in a heavily populated area with nowhere to escape to and just to address the issue, I have heard plenty of people making the point that this isn’t a vacation, that you’re supposed to stay home but in Montana I would disagree.

Here we can cover miles of uninhabited space in a day, visiting the places we love, doing the things we want to do while not exposing ourselves or being exposed to anyone.

So, take that Coronavirus. You can disrupt our world. You can destroy our economy, but you cannot take this from me! Amid the scariest, most unprecedented thing I’ve seen in my lifetime I will continue to do what I love in the places that stir my soul.

That being said, as much as I love it, spending my days fishing does not pay the bills. So while I feel blessed beyond measure to live in this place and to be able to social distance in this way, like everyone else, I am ready to go back to work.

The Shape of Water 2020

It’s that time of year again when we take a closer look at current snowpack, long-term weather and precipitation forecasts, current flow conditions and current reservoir data at Canyon Ferry to come up with some kind of prediction of what you might expect to see for water conditions on the Missouri this spring and summer.

Five days into April we’re still looking at snow on the ground in Wolf Creek, left over from last week’s spring snow storm but heading into this week it looks like we’ll be seeing some more spring-like weather with temps in the 50’s through the middle of the week and possibly climbing into the mid 60’s on Thursday before another cold front moves through next weekend. I would bet we haven’t seen the last snowfall of the year but hopefully we’re on our way to those warm, sunny spring days on the MO.

The snow water equivalent is looking good with everything in the region in the 100 to 140 percent of normal range and the majority or locations at right around 120 percent of normal. This is right where we like to see things at this point in the season though snowpack fails to tell the whole story. It looks good now but a sudden warm up could rapidly deplete that snowpack and leave us well below average and similarly we could still see plenty of high country precipitation accumulating and setting us up for the possibility of higher flows depending on what we see in the way of spring rains.

Missouri River flows below Holter Dam are currently at 5180 CFS and have remained relatively steady all winter in the 4500 CFS – 5000 CFS range. I would expect to see that pattern remain over these next couple of weeks and then tick up in late April as the spring flows begin to take shape.

Canyon Ferry is currently 73% full with inflows at 3395 CFS and outflows of 5283 CFS. March weather resulted in near normal precipitation, while cooler temperatures occurred throughout the Missouri River Headwaters.
The one-month outlook forecast, dated March 31st, is an equal chance for normal, above, or below normal precipitation and a 50 percent chance that below normal temperatures will occur during April in the Missouri Headwaters.

Based on these factors the current model for April is predicting most probable flows holding right about where they’re currently at with the minimum probable at around 4500 CFS and the max probable at right around 6K. Not a lot of variation in April which will make for ideal fishing conditions.

The show starts in May as run-off begins and while we’re always hoping for at least a few days of flushing flows (over 15K) it looks like the most probable model has us bumping up to just 8000 CFS with the minimum being right around 4,000 and the maximum at just over 10,000 CFS which we would gladly take.

Looking beyond May this far out isn’t all that practical but at this point the best guess is for most probable flows holding at that same 8K before leveling out in the 5,000 cfs range while the max probable peaks around 14K and the minimum probable holds steady at around 4,000 CFS. At this point it’s really anyone’s guess so we try to steer clear of making any bold predictions about June this far out.

It’s all dependent on spring precipitation which we’re assuming at this point will be at or slightly below normal but again, it’s a bit like trying to predict what will happen with the Coronavirus, the models are only as good as the data that goes into them. The more data, the more accurate the model so we’re content to just sit and wait and see and hold off on any prime-time predictions until we have more data. (For both the Coronavirus and the water conditions).

All that being said, I will make the same bold prediction I make every year. There will be water (how much or how little we don’t know) and there will be fish (plenty) and we will be fishing.

Stay tuned for up to date reports and conditions from Wolf Creek Angler.