After the beneficial high flows this Spring, super scorcher July days, and the shifting smokey weather patterns these last few weeks of August, we’ve been beaten and abused by the Missouri River this season. However, not only have we still managed to continually find fish, but there’s been lots of moments of pure awesomeness. No matter whether we are nymphing, chucking streamers, or drifting dries, there are several techniques that will and have worked. Earlier this season, we were fishing 12-14′ leaders targeting deep, slow pools. The flows dropped and gave both the fish and the anglers some relief allowing access for wade fishing and the ability to catch fish without having to chase a bobber. Fish started following streamers off the banks and eating swung flies. Hatching insects were able to emerge, mature, mate, and fall spent to the water where several stacked and feeding fish started looking up and began gorging themselves on caddis, PMDs, midges, and tricos.
Back to normal? What is normal on the Missouri River? Everyone has a different opinion about what normal is out here. Some have been around longer than others and have witnessed the changes with the flows, hatches, and “hot” flies over the years, while others are greener and are just now witnessing their first Missouri River hatches. One thing we usually always agree on is that the river is constantly changing from day to day. Sometimes the fishing is consistent. Others you’ll be left scratching your head wondering “What happened?!” Conditions change, and so does the fishing. Heavy hatches, fish slurping on top, and double hook-ups have all happened this season, but don’t expect this to be the “normal” day on the water during these last few days of August if you don’t know how to fish to very picky and spooky trout. After the huge trico hatches settle down and the day warms up, the fish become fly and drift specific. Picking the right fly and making a well-timed reach cast with a good, long leader (12′ 5x) to a rising fish may be followed with an eat if the drift is right. By “right” I mean “almost perfect” if not just straight up “perfect.” Anything short of that, will leave you frustrated and fish-less. So if you plan on targeting the fish on top right now, bring your “A” game or you might end up sitting on the banks with the “B” team trying to figure out how to drift a dry properly. Be patient. Be observant. It’s not impossible to catch fish now, but just like with NASA, you’ve gotta have “the right stuff.” If you don’t know what that is, stop by our shop, and we’ll help you dial that in.
For the gnarly trico hatches we have been having on the river this season, try throwing the Cluster Midge, Pearl Butt Trico, a CDC trico spinner, or a Hi-Vis trico spinner. Once the rising fish start to peter out closer to noon, start looking for a few remaining PMDs and caddis coming off the water. We’ve been throwing Hi-Vis rusty spinners, RS2 PMD, PMD CDC Thorax, CDC PMD dun, Sparkle dun, golden spinner, flambe caddis, cornfed caddis, double duck caddis, and the cdc caddis emerger. Don’t Forget your terrestrials. Hoppers and ants. Love the ant! …more so on warmer to hot days, but we still have a few of those left in the year. The evenings are providing us with some smaller PED hatches, so bring your smaller mayfly patterns for those.
For the nymph fisherman, try the brown Hogan’s S&M, black zebra midge, green machines, Hogan’s military may, Bloom’s weight fly, and the two-bit hooker. Keep trying the Zirdle as a nymph, as well. Essentially, keep at it with mayfly patterns. Keeping the length at around 6-7′ from dropper to bobber. Fish the banks, middle of the river… wherever you want but know that you will find the weeds. Just be prepared to be continually cleaning your flies. Find the pockets in the weeds. There are fish there.
The Zirdle can be fished as a streamer, too. Try that along with the kreelex, Coffey’s sparkle minnow, sculpzilla, and the good ole classic wooly bugger for streamer fishing. Again, weeds and grass are in the river everywhere, but still hit the banks both rocky and grassy, or swing it in the middle of the river, and try to find those pockets in between the weeds where the fish may be lying and waiting. Sink tips aren’t especially necessary right now with the lower flows, but if needed to get lighter flies down, do what ya gotta do.
Tight lines, ya’ll!
If you have any questions about the river, which sections are fishing better than others, need help with your fly selection or rigging up for the day, don’t hesitate to stop in our shop and pick our brains. We would love to help you reach your “A” game potential!