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!

Bidding Farewell to October

The lure of the Yellowstone - photo by Wolf Creek Angler

The lure of the Yellowstone – photo by Wolf Creek Angler

Fall Brown on the Yellowstone - photo by Wolf Creek Angler

Fall Brown on the Yellowstone – photo by Wolf Creek Angler

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Finally seeing the fall weather we’ve been hoping for these last few days as we close out October and prepare for what could be a very productive November on the Missouri .

Plenty of cloud cover, cooler temps and some precipitation in the forecast. Definitely BWO weather and the Streamer crowd is mobilized and ready for things to heat up out there.

We ventured to the Yellowstone on Thursday with high hopes of epic streamer action and while we had near perfect weather conditions it was a less-than epic day of streamer fishing. We got a fair amount of chases and did manage to boat several nice browns but nothing in the hog class. Regardless, there’s nothing quite like a fall day on the Stone and it’s always a good time hanging around Livingston for a night.

Meanwhile back on the MO it sounds like we had a couple of solid days out there. The winds have returned today and it’s likely going to be breezy all weekend with WSW winds sustained around 20 and gusting over 30. A chance of rain all weekend and perhaps some snow rolling in on Monday.

If you just can’t resist the thought of some windy, rainy days on the river we’ve got a couple of vacancies tonight and tomorrow. Off-Season rates start on Sunday and we’ve got vacancies a plenty from here on out so when the weather settles and you’re ready to hit the water and have miles of river virtually to yourself give us a call and book a room for $99/night + tax. Hordes of unemployed guides wandering around aimlessly as well so come on out and put them to work. We’re expecting a good November…possibly everything October didn’t turn out to be.  There could be some great dry-fly and streamer days ahead and the nymphing will be just fine as we settle into winter fishing mode on the Missouri.

Look no further than Wolf Creek when making your plans for late fall/winter fishing on the Missouri River.  A first-rate, full-service fly shop with great lodging accommodations, two bar/restaurants, the only gas station/convenience store between Helena and Cascade and all within minutes of Holter Dam and Wolf Creek Bridge. There’s NOBODY closer! We hope you make Wolf Creek and WCA your off-season Missouri River Fly Fishing destination.

The shop will close at 4 today for the WCA Staff Appreciation Party.

See you bright and early at 7 AM tomorrow morning.

Farewell to October

 

HAPPY HALLOWEEN FROM WOLF CREEK ANGLER

HAPPY HALLOWEEN FROM WOLF CREEK ANGLER

Halloween 2015. The weather conditions remain the same, unseasonably warm and sunny, however we are under our first winter storm watch of the season beginning Saturday night with the potential for 5-10 inches of snow at the higher elevations and 1-4 here on the Missouri. Could see rain or snow or both but the hope is that whatever weather we see it is accompanied by the BWO’s which have yet to make a real appearance. Fingers are crossed.
Fred and I traveled to Livingston Wednesday night and spent yesterday ripping streamers on the Yellowstone. Having been MO bound for the most part since April it was a great opportunity to get out and see some of the other awesome waters of the state. While I’ve fished the Yellowstone a time or two, neither of us had ever floated it. We were not disappointed! We committed to the streamer all day long and moved a ton of fish and even managed to boat a few. We will definitely be back.

Shades of brown on the Yellowstone - photo by Wolf Creek Angler

Shades of brown on the Yellowstone – photo by Wolf Creek Angler

Floating the Yellowstone - photo by Wolf Creek Angler

Floating the Yellowstone – photo by Wolf Creek Angler

Fred with a solid Yellowstone River Brown - photo by Wolf Creek Angler

Fred with a solid Yellowstone River Brown – photo by Wolf Creek Angler

 

Best of the day - photo by Wolf Creek Angler

Best of the day – photo by Wolf Creek Angler

 

Thanks to Matt for holding down the fort yesterday on his last “official day” in the shop. Hard to believe that the season is already over, it seems like we just opened the doors. Our inaugural season can only be described as a “blur” in the best possible way. We certainly had our hands full trying to figure this thing out and while I don’t think we’ll ever have it completely figured out we did learn a lot this season and we can’t wait to do it again. A huge THANK YOU to each and every one of our customers for allowing us to pursue our dream and to the fly fishing community in general for welcoming us into the fold. We are thrilled to be a part of this family, as dysfunctional as it sometimes seems. Special thanks to The Trout Shop, Crosscurrents, Headhunters Fly Shop and Trout Montana for doing what you do and for helping us do what we do. Thank you also to The Canyon Store, The Frenchman, The Oasis, Izaaks and the other businesses in the area as well as to all the folks in Wolf Creek and Craig who have gone out of their way to make us feel like we belong.

As always there are exciting changes coming to Wolf Creek Angler, changes which are, in large part, a result of your requests and suggestions. We are confident you will be pleased with the changes you will continue to see in Wolf Creek as we evolve and grow and continue to convert our inspired visions into reality.
A big topic of conversation amongst Fred and Sheila and myself has been what to do this winter. We’ve been contemplating everything from being fully open to fully closed for the winter months and believe we’ve found a happy medium that may or may not change depending on what kind of winter we get. As it stands now we will have cabins and bungalows available at least through the end of November and we plan to offer limited lodging through the winter months. We will have a couple of units available and will see how it goes. The shop is currently open daily from 7:30 am – 5 pm. With Fred heading back to Michigan soon for the winter we will likely be adopting a winter schedule which will probably mean 4-5 days/week. We’re still trying to figure out which days would work best but as of now we are leaning Thursday-Monday. Any input on this would be greatly appreciated.

For now we will see you daily 7:30 AM – 5 PM. Lodging is booked solid for the weekend but we do have availability next week should you decide to make the trek to the Missouri in search of BWO’s and the fish that love to eat them. Winter rates are in effect with cabins and bungalows going for $99/night. Give us a call to book lodging or guide trips or stop by on your way to the river for bugs, shuttles, boats and a bunch of great cold weather gear which just arrived from Outdoor Research.

Don’t forget the big Halloween party tonight at 7 PM at Uncle Joe’s Oasis Bar and Grill, it should be a great time.

See you in the shop and on the water.

~Jason O.