Winter on the Way

Well it had to happen sooner or later.

Following weeks of mild weather with well-above average temperatures winter is about to arrive in Western Montana.

The 40 degree days we’ve been enjoying are soon to be replaced with single digits so count yourself lucky if you were able to make it out fishing over these past several weeks and if you didn’t you’ve got a couple of days left before the arctic blast hits.

Today looks to be the last best day but temperatures will linger in the 30’s for the next couple of days before plummeting into the teens on Sunday and colder yet early next week. The coldest day looks to be Tuesday with a high of -8 and a low of -17. It starts to tick upward later in the week and looks to be back to around 20 by next Friday. We’ll see if that turns into a warming trend or not but I wouldn’t plan on doing any fishing next week.

We’ve been getting a lot of calls from folks wondering if there is any ice on Holter Lake (which there isn’t) but that’s likely to change next week. We’ll keep you posted.

For those looking to make it out before the cold hits you need to know that the past couple of days have been the best nymphing action we’ve had in weeks. We can’t promise you that this will continue to be the case over these next couple of days but I think there’s a good chance it could be.

Winter bugs, winter water….as easy as it gets.

We did our first guide trips of 2020 yesterday and the day did not disappoint. This same group fished with us on January 3rd of 2019 and had a similar day so they really know how to hit it right.

Wolf Creek to Craig, deep buckets, pink bugs, hungry trout, and rods bent. That is the report from yesterday and the previous several as well.
Days like these make winter nymphing the worst kept secret on the Missouri. The wind can be a nuisance but outside of that, when it’s on like this it doesn’t get much easier. The choice of bug is typically not critical. Pill Poppers, Pederson’s Sow, Amex, Bubble Yum, Cotton Candies, Tailwater sows, Caviar Scuds…all the same stuff we’ve been pushing for the past month or so. Again, when it’s ON the specific bugs don’t seem to matter all that much which makes it nice because you can roll with the same rig all day rather than feverishly swapping out bugs and racking your brain trying to figure out what they want.

Run deep in the buckets with a bb split or two and hot spot your way down.

We did see a few folks around yesterday but for all intents and purposes the river is VOID of traffic which is another reason winter fishing can be such a blast.

Again, we can’t promise you great fishing every day but at just $400 for a guide trip  you can’t beat the price and as is always the case with winter trips, if the weather turns or if you simply change your mind, no harm no foul…NO CANCELLATION FEE! You won’t find a better deal ANYWHERE so why not book a winter day on the MO with us now? You’ve got absolutely nothing to lose.

If you prefer the wait and see approach that’s ok too. We can generally accommodate your request with as little as a day’s notice. Keep in mind we can also provide quality lodging at an affordable price so you can spend your time on the water, not on the road. $99 (plus tax) for a cozy bungalow with full kitchen and private bath. Bungalows sleep three very comfortably.

Hunker down for the coming arctic blast and then make a plan to get out and fish the Missouri this winter when things warm up.

We have shifted into our winter schedule at the shop. We’re open from 8:00 AM – 3:00 PM Wednesday – Saturday and 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM on Sundays BUT there’s a very high probability that we will be closed on days when the temperature is at or below 20 degrees so please call ahead on those really cold days if you’re planning on us being open.

Accordingly, we will likely be closed most of next week or will just be here for limited hours.

That being said, we are open for lodging and guide trips EVERY day and calls are forwarded when the shop is closed so don’t hesitate to give us a call any day to book.

2020

The Holiday Haze is lifting and we’re excited 2020 is finally here.

While there was a fair amount of couch time I spent much of yesterday taking down Christmas decorations at home and am doing more of the same here at the shop today. With the holidays falling mid-week this year it feels like two weeks of the world on hold and as enjoyable as I’m sure that is for those fortunate enough to have all this time off, I for one am ready for a return to the normal routine.

As much as I enjoy the glow of the Christmas tree, the day the tree comes down always feels like a psychological weight lifted as we move on from the holiday haze and start engaging in the everyday again. We’re not quite there yet as these next several days will round out the break but with the decorations put away we’re that much closer to normalcy.

Obviously, for me normalcy is restored when traffic returns to the river so by the calendar we’ve got a long winter ahead before the 2020 season gets underway but judging by the mild extended forecast I’m optimistic we may see that traffic begin to trickle in sooner rather than later.

Whether this happens or not, the days are getting longer and with the holidays in the rear view people are already shifting their focus springward judging by the number of calls we’ve received the last couple of days for spring and summer lodging and guide trips. Have you booked your dates yet? There’s no time like the present.

2020 is starting much like 2019 did weather wise with very mild temps in the immediate forecast. High 30’s and low 40’s this week but breezy as you would expect and much of the same for next week. River flow is currently 4460 cfs with a water temperature of 34.5 degrees. Winter water conditions to be sure.

If you’re looking to get out you’ll want to target the slow winter water. It’s officially the season of pink if you’re planning on nymphing so check your stock on Pill Poppers, Bubble Yums, Pink Rays, Pederson’s Sow, Rainbow Czechs, Pink Lightning Bugs, Caviar Scuds, Cotton Candy, Pink Amex, Rainbow Warriors, Firebead Sows and more. We’re fully stocked on all of these and many more of your winter water essentials so stop in and replenish your winter nymph boxes before hitting the water.

As we’ve been reporting these last couple of weeks traffic has been MINIMAL. Many of the anglers I have seen out there have been swinging reportedly with varying degrees of success. Polar leeches, Kreelex, MoJo Minnows, buggers and leeches are all viable options. Swing those troughs and tailouts. If you’re unsure of where you should be fishing a quick drive up and down the river corridor on a moderately busy day can be extremely helpful (or you could just stop by the shop and ask us where you should be fishing). Take note of where you see people fishing and return to those spots when you can. It’s not that those are the ONLY place you can catch fish but there’s definitely a reason you see people in those same runs, day after day, season after season.

And don’t feel like you HAVE to swing. There are always fish to be caught stripping as well. I can’t think of any conditions in which I wouldn’t strip, save perhaps the weediest of summer days but even then I’ll at least give it a try. I’ve caught plenty of fish on the strip every month of the year, regardless of water temp. Obviously conventional wisdom dictates the colder the water, the slower the strip and that’s something you need to be mindful of but that being said you just might be surprised what happens with a moderately fast retrieve (with plenty of pauses) in 34 – 35 degree water. I’ll generally do a strip/swing/pause mashup during the cold water months but I’ve had plenty of trout smash a streamer in cold water with a moderately fast retrieve so don’t rule it out. Switch up your retrieve and your bugs until you find what works and keep your expectations reasonable. You aren’t likely to have any off-the-charts action days during the winter months but you never know. To me, a chase or two and maybe a nice fish to hand beats a bobber any day but that’s just me.

Along those lines of low-percentage winter techniques I’ve seen enough midge activity every time I’ve been out lately that it might warrant having a dry fly rod rigged up. Most of what I’ve seen for rises have been sporadic but I think if you were to put a lot of effort into finding feeding fish you would likely be able to avail yourself to numerous opportunities and maybe even fool one or two into eating.

Remember we’ve got great winter lodging and guide trip rates and with the mild weather ahead I expect we’ll start to see some people around again and while the holidays are over the great deals in the shop are still going strong. Do us and yourself a favor and take advantage of some amazing deals on great gear while you help us clear the way for spring arrivals coming soon.

Our normal winter schedule goes into effect next week. Shop hours will be 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM Wednesday – Saturday and 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM on Sundays. We will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays for the time being but that could change based on the weather and the traffic. We’ll keep you posted.

A Look Back

With tomorrow not only being the last day of 2019 but also the last day of the decade it’s time for our annual look back at the year that was as well as some reflections on the decade.

It’s hard to believe it’s already been this long but 2019 was the year we celebrated our fifth year in business at Wolf Creek Angler and while there were undoubtedly highlights to the season, I think the overarching theme was one of stability.

We never take ANYTHING for granted but as we wrap up another year it feels like we’ve done a decent job of establishing ourselves and at this point our focus has shifted more towards building and improving our brand rather than trying to make a splash as the new guys on the block.
And that’s not to say that we won’t be making splashes from time to time, some minor some more significant, but I feel like we’ve built a solid foundation over these six seasons and I’m hopeful for what the future holds.

We saw a big change in the shop in January of 2019 as we rolled out our Full Line Simms Dealership, something we’d been working towards since opening our doors in 2014. It was a milestone for this shop and we are so grateful for the growth in our business which has been instrumental in allowing us to offer our customers more of what they demand each season. Having Simms show the confidence in our shop and in our brand to open us as a full-line dealer was and is a HUGE affirmation and while there are still brands we’re chasing we feel like the stamp of approval from Simms moves us ever closer to where we want to be as a fly fishing retailer.SIMMS DEALER

Unfortunately our hopes for early season sales were dashed by Mother Nature as we experienced record-breaking low temperatures throughout the winter. The average daily high temperature for the month of February was less than one degree so suffice it to say, there wasn’t a whole lot of fishing happening on the MO last winter.

We kept ourselves busy through those long winter months working on lodging improvements completing the renovations in our motel rooms and replacing carpeting in several of our cabins.

As it always does, spring finally arrived in late March/early April and we were treated to our best spring season to date as those weary of winter flocked to the MO’ to get that spring fishing fix. Wet conditions around the region made for high muddy rivers driving business to the Missouri throughout much of the spring season.

In May I had the privilege of participating in the pilot program for Guiding for the Future, an advanced guide and outfitter certification program being developed by the Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana. This was an incredible experience and I hope to remain involved with the program going forward, perhaps on the teaching side.

The highlight in June was a personal one as our son John graduated from Helena High School. He has recently completed his first semester and made the Dean’s List at Helena College where he will attend one more semester before transferring to the University Of Montana next fall.

Cool, wet weather continued to delay the arrival of Prime Time dry fly fishing throughout much of June but when summer finally arrived we ended up with one of the best dry fly seasons we’ve had since opening the shop. Considering we essentially lost much of the dry fly season in 2018 due to high water, watching the dry fly bins empty out in 2019 was a welcome change!

Conditions remained favorable throughout the summer which kept the wild fires to a minimum and also gave us a second straight summer season of essentially ZERO Hoot Owl closures around the region.

Biding our time through the Dog Days of August we were anticipating a busy fall season but it wasn’t to be. Summer turned to winter in September as we were hit by an early winter storm followed by several more in October. The early cold snap robbed us of fall colors, killing the still-green leaves and also robbed us of a busy fall fishing season as the cold and snow persisted through October and into November.

Such is the nature of the business. There are no guarantees with the weather but we’re always hopeful.

Great Falls received a season’s worth of snow in the fall. We didn’t get quite that much but had snow on the ground more often than not since late September. It was looking like a brutal winter ahead (and it may still turn out that way) but we’ve had mild temps and no snow for the past several weeks and the long-term looks favorable for a somewhat busy winter season on the Missouri.

As I look back on 2019 and on the past seven years spent in Montana I can’t help but think about the early part of this decade which is about to come to a close.

My life couldn’t be much more different now from what it was at the start of this decade when my days were spent in the foundry, feeling the pull of the rivers and mountains of Montana and trying to find a way to heed the call.

And so the call was heeded. But it was not through any doing of my own that this happened but through the providential order which has played out in exactly the manner in which  it was supposed to.

I’ve traded my days spent in the chaos and dust and noise of the foundry with no hope for an exit for this new and amazing path which has much different challenges, opportunities and rewards, and for this I feel truly blessed.

I’m so thankful for where I’ve landed and for all of you who have become a part of my story and I can’t wait to see what this next decade holds.

Happy New Year!

Mid December on the MO

Sunshine and clear blue skies this morning in Wolf Creek. It’s a chilly 26 degrees warming to the mid 30’s later today with calm winds. It sure looks like the perfect day to fish the MO but entering this final week before Christmas you aren’t likely to find any crowds at the boat ramps.

I’d bet there may be a college student or two taking advantage of the time off and of the mild weather this week but if winter solitude is what you are seeking I’m confident there will be an abundance of that to be found here all week long.

We’ll see temperatures in the 40’s all week and near 50 on Saturday but expect gusty winds with the warmer temps. That white Christmas is looking unlikely with only a slight chance for snow on Thursday night and Friday morning and nothing after that but we shall see.

We’re open at 8 am every day with great deals on almost everything in the shop. We are running shuttles most days and even if we’re not, we’re always more than happy to help you get one scheduled with another shop.

We do have prime lodging available for just $99/night (plus tax) and guide trips are just $400 for a full day for one or two anglers, all winter long. We’re also offering a second night of lodging free with the purchase of a night’s lodging and a full day guide trip. It’s the best deal you’ll find on the Missouri this winter…hands down!

Dining has become a bit of an issue with Shotgun Annie’s closing for the winter and The Oasis only serving Friday through Monday but not to worry. All of our winter lodging units have a fully furnished kitchen with a full size fridge, an oven with cooktop and all the pots, pans, dishes and utensils included.

So as you prepare for the coming holidays we hope you keep us in mind whether it be for helping you complete your Christmas shopping or getting you set up for your day on the water.

We LOVE being your Full Service Missouri River Fly Shop and we can’t wait to see you again.

Full Moon Fishing Report

Full Moon over Wolf Creek Bridge

All is quiet on the Missouri as December continues to disappear.

We’re in the last full moon phase of the decade with the Winter Solstice knocking at the door.

The days continue to get shorter but only through next weekend when we turn the corner, celebrating the first day of winter on Saturday the 21st and then reversing course. A lot of winter ahead for sure but it’ll be good to be back on the road to spring.

Duck hunters outnumber anglers most days but there are a few folks getting out and enjoying winter’s solitude.

Winter nymphing is on and Swing Season is here. And while Trout Spey continues to grow in popularity, we’re here to tell you that you can actually fish streamers on a single hand rod on the MO in the winter as well. It’s all a matter of personal preference.

Obviously the first hurdle is to get acclimated to cold weather fishing. Its not for everyone but once you talk yourself into it and actually get out there you just might fall in love with the consistent abundance of solitude and the occasional banner day of fishing.

Warmer temps this time of the year are generally accompanied by gusty winds so I’ll usually fish the colder days if I can avoid the hurricane winds. Case in point, today we’ll see highs in the mid 40’s but we’ll also see 20 mph winds gusting to 40 mph….no thanks!
Tomorrow looks like a slight improvement and Saturday looks to be near perfect (by December standards) with highs in the mid 30’s and light winds.

And speaking of the weekend, we do have lodging available should you decide to treat yourself to a winter weekend on the Missouri.
Water temps have dropped considerably (currently right around 36 degrees) so the conditions are definitely right for tried and true winter techniques.

If nymphing is your game you’ll want to be targeting the slow, deep winter waters. Pink is always the go-to during the winter months and firebeads should also be a staple in your arsenal. Best bets are Rainbow Czechs, Pill Poppers, Amex, Bubble Yums, Tailwater Sows, Soft hackle sows, Caviar Scuds, Firebead or Pink Lucent Bead Rays, Pink Lighting Bugs, Pink Radiation Baetis, Rainbow Warriors, Pederson’s Sow, Cotton Candy, Firebead Sows…..you get the picture. Fish deep (7’ – 9’ overall) and make sure you completely cover the run, starting close and working your way out.

Streamer fishing is a go and while it may not generate the numbers you’ll likely catch larger fish swinging or stripping but not always.
Swing the tailouts with something in the leech realm and don’t be afraid to ply the depths either swinging or stripping. If you’re going to strip keep it slow with the occasional swing for good measure. We like Polar Leeches, Hot Head Kreelex, Buggers, Pine Squirrel Leeches etc on the swing or the strip and there’s no time I won’t fish a Sparkle Minnow or Mojo Minnow. A slow strip dredging the depths of the soft, lakey water could surprise you!

The walk/wade option often makes more sense this time of year with the seriously abbreviated daylight but a short float (Dam to Wolf Creek, Wolf Creek to Craig, Craig to Stickney etc) is very do-able and affords you vastly increased opportunities.

We hope to see you in Wolf Creek this weekend. We’ve got everything you need for you day on the water and almost all of it is on sale!
20 percent off bugs, lines, leaders, tippet and great deals on waders, boots and outerwear as well as layering and sportswear. And don’t forget our Holiday rod and reel sale – 25 % off ALL rods and reels and a FREE ARC fly line and backing when you buy a rod and reel combo. The BEST deals of the year just in time for Christmas.

Shop Hours 8:00 AM – 3:00 PM Monday – Saturday and 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM on Sundays through Christmas. We will be closed on Christmas Day and will play it by ear the week between Christmas and New Year’s.  Beginning the week of January 5th we will be closed on Mondays for the winter months.

The Countdown

As of today there are 16 days shopping days remaining until Christmas.

Have you finished your shopping?

Have you even started your shopping?

If you’re looking for some fly fisher appropriate gifts we’d love to help you out. We’ve got something to fit just about any budget and best of all, we’ve got some amazing deals happening now through the end of the year.

Deals include, but are not limited to, 20% off all fall and winter sportswear and outerwear as well as waders and boots; 25 % off all rods and reels and a free ARC fly line and backing with the purchase of any rod and reel combo (That’s an $80 value); 50 % off all remaining summer sportswear and 20 % off all lines, leaders, tippet and flies.

These are just a few of the deals happening now through December 31st at WCA.

We’ve definitely got something for everyone on your list and we’d love to help you find that perfect gift. Here are just a few ideas.

Simms G3 Stockingfoot Guide Waders
$549.95

These are undoubtedly the go-to wader for the majority of our guides and are the wader by which all others are measured.
Time on the stream is time well spent. And with the G3 Guide™ Waders – Stockingfoot, those precious hours can be comfortable and well-ventilated. Utilizing new GORE-TEX® Pro Shell, the G3 provides optimal balance of reliability, breathability and all-day comfort. The G3 has all the in-river essentials you need, with legendary Simms durability that can stand up to heavy use in rugged conditions. 3 chest pockets provide ample storage and hand-warming zones, while sore feet are a thing of the past with anatomically designed neoprene stockingfeet with a funk-fighting anti-microbial finish.
• Durable, breathable & comfortable GORE-TEX® Pro Shell 3-layer upper & 4-layer lower
• Top access zippered stretch pocket plus zippered, reach-through micro-fleece lined hand-warming pockets
• Attachment zipper for flip-out Tippet Tender™ pocket with retractor docking station & tippet spool sleeves
• Built-in low-profile belt loops with 2 in. stretch wading belt included
• Patented front & back leg seams deliver articulated fit, improved mobility & increased durability
• Patented abrasion-resistant built-in Gravel Guards with boot hooks
• Anatomically engineered neoprene stockingfeet with anti-microbial finish
• Custom options available
FABRIC TECH: 3-layer GORE-TEX® Pro Shell in upper; 4-layer GORE-TEX® Pro Shell in seat & legs
WEIGHT: 45 oz. (1275.8 g)

Korkers Darkhorse Wading Boot
$189.99


Korkers Darkhorse Wading Boot w/ Kling-On and Kling-On felt Soles is a fishing boot that is durable and functional. This boot comes with kling-on and felt kling-on soles.
• Traction: OmniTrax interchangeable sole system adapts traction on these boots to any fishing condition
• Closure System: BOA M2 lacing system for quick on/off and custom fit
• Fast Drying: Hydrophobic upper material with ultra abrasion resistance and tonal camo pattern
• Molded TPU toe cap for toe bump protection
• Protected stitching for longer thread life
• Internal Drainage: Water flows thru internal channels then out midsole ports, removing excess water and weight.
• 3PFS Achilles stabilization for the superlative fit and function.

Simms Coldweather Shirt
$119.95


Hands down – our favorite winter shirt.

A hardworking mainstay featuring the boosted warmth of waffle-lined micro-fleece internals. Quick-dry performance and chafe-free, off-shoulder seaming for added comfort. Stash gear in two cargo top load pockets to stay on the water until last light.
• Flannel, waffle fleece‐lined shirt to keep you warm during winter fishing
• Two fly box compatible chest pockets with hook and loop closure
• Off‐shoulder seams for comfort
• Slight drop tail
• Resized in 2018 for a better fit
FABRIC TECH: 100% Polyester flannel, 100% Polyester waffle fleece

Loop Evotec Cast Rods
$475.00


EVOTEC CAST FAST ACTION SIGLE-HAND RODS
Fast action progressive casting styles mean pushing for the limits of performance in modern day fly fishing. Finished in deep pearlised blue, Evotec CAST Fast fly rods are available in single-handed models for both fresh and saltwater fishing and double-handed models for the pursuit of anadromous fish. Evotec CAST Fast fly rods deliver flies quickly to the taking zone without compromising on the positive ‘feel’ response that anglers have come to expect from LOOP fly rods.

Redington Path Fly Fishing Outfit
$199.99


Ready to fish!
The new PATH rod is a smooth-casting, medium-fast action graphite fly rod, offering classic performance for all levels of anglers. Rods through 6 weight have a half-wells handle with a wood reel seat for a classic look and feel, and 7 weights and above feature a full-wells grip with anodized aluminum reel seat that is ready for salt or fresh water conditions.
• All water, moderate-fast action rod
• Wooden reel seats on rods weights through 6 weight models
• Durable anodized aluminum reel seat on rods 7 weight and above
• Alignment dots for easy rod setup
• Durable cordura rod tube with built in rod dividers
• Combo includes: PATH rod, CROSSWATER reel pre-spooled with RIO Mainstream WF fly line, and cordura rod tube
• Lifetime warranty *rod only

LAMSON LIQUID 3-PACK FLY FISHING REEL & SPOOLS
$169.99


All together now. The Liquid 3-Pack includes one Liquid reel and two spare spools in a nylon carrying case all for the price of one reel and one spool. Liquid offers everything you need in a fly reel at an absolute bang for your buck—and this new combo pack opens up easy interchangeability for the multifaceted angler at even more of an extreme value.

Fishpond Cross-Current Chest Pack
$149.95

THE CROSS-CURRENT CHEST PACK IS DESIGNED TO KEEP ALL YOUR ESSENTIALS AND BOXES ORGANIZED, KEEPING THEM HIGH ON YOUR BODY AT THE READY.
When the fishing is hot there is a lot going on and you have to be able to multitask to keep up with all the activity. The Cross-Current Chest pack is designed to keep all your essentials and boxes organized, keeping them high on your body at the ready. Slide your net out of the integrated net slot, scoop your fish, release it, grab your dry shake out of the magnetic drop down workstation, and get back those moments we all love to celebrate.
FEATURES
• Compatible with all Fishpond backpacks
• 210D Nylon Cyclepond Fishpond fabric
• Front magnetic closure pocket for small fly boxes, pucks, and other quick access items
• Front main zippered storage compartment for large fly box storage
• Two small stretch mesh pockets on the front for quick access items
• Exterior VELCRO® attachment for foam attachment (foam patch included)
• Exterior Hypalon® tabs for tool and accessory attachment on each side
• Integrated net slot on backpanel holds a long handle net
• D-ring on top center back for attaching a net release for short handle nets
• One large pocket on the backpanel with a zippered entry on each side
• Magnetic front pocket has velcro interior on one side, and 4 small stretch mesh pockets for organization
• Main front zippered pocket includes one interior zippered pocket

 

Rising Lunker Net
Starting at $159.99

With three handle lengths to choose from and available handle extensions these nets have become the go-to amongst our guides. The 10” and 24” handles make for great wading nets and the 38” net is the perfect boat net. The 14” handle extension converts any net to the next model up so no need to buy multiple nets.

Stocking Stuffers A Plenty
$$


We’ve got piles of unique stocking stuffers…From flasks to lanyards to fly boxes to tools and accessories and more, we’ve got something for all the fly fishers on your list.

Wolf Creek Angler Gift Cards
$-$$$

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Not sure what to get them? Wolf Creek Angler Gift Cards are the perfect option. They are available in any amount and good for anything we sell.

Can’t find the time to make the trip to Wolf Creek? No problem. We’re happy to ship anything anywhere. Just give us a call and tell us what you need and we’ll take care of the rest.

Happy Shopping!

 

 

 

 

Pre-Thanksgiving Fishing this weekend on the MO

There are all sorts of reasons you ought to include fishing the Missouri in your weekend plans, not the least of which is the fact that these next few days of 50 ish degree weather could in fact be the last of the nice weather for a while.

Add to that the certainty that we’re all about to be swept up into a busy holiday season starting next week and I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t try to get out for one last Missouri River hurrah before the holidays (and winter) are upon us.

Oh, and it just so happens we do have limited availability for lodging this weekend as well as a number of guides still hanging around who’d like nothing better than to log another day or two before calling it a season.

And while the Mending Waters Montana boats for veterans are in dry dock for the winter we do still have Adipose Flow drift boats available for rent all winter long.

So if you’re not interested in watching Saturday’s Brawl of the Wild and you’re not going to take advantage of the nice days to put up those Christmas lights before the snow flies again then I’d expect you might want to be on the water this weekend.

Angler traffic has been sparse to say the least which means you can have it all to yourself. I expect we’ll see some folks around this weekend but it’s doubtful you’ll be waiting in line at the boat ramp and you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a piece of water to call your own.

We’re still dedicating most of our time on the water to streamer fishing with mixed results but nymphing continues to be productive and you may still encounter some dry fly opportunities though that window is rapidly closing.

Water temps are continuing to drop (currently 40.5 degrees) which will get those fish moving into the slow winter water. I wouldn’t say they’re all there yet but they are likely moving in that direction so don’t overlook those spots.

What traffic there is seems to be favoring the Wolf Creek to Craig stretch but there’s no reason you shouldn’t fish the dam and we also really like the Craig to Mid (or even just to Stickney) float this time of year. Just keep in mind that our daylight is continuing to shrink so don’t over commit or you’ll be rowing out in the dark.

We’re here at 8 am daily, anxiously waiting to help you out with whatever you need. Whether that’s bugs, leaders, indicators, hand warmers, gloves, socks, hats, waders, boots, sunglasses, free coffee (the best in the canyon), advice, a room, a guide….whatever it is, we’re happy to help. And while our shuttle service can be hit or miss this time of year we’re always happy to help hook you up with a shuttle whether we’re the ones doing it or not.

How about Christmas shopping? We can help you out there as well.

Great deals on rods and reels and something for all of the fly anglers on your list including Wolf Creek Angler gift cards in any amount good for anything and everything we sell from merch to guide trips to lodging and so much more.

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.