Well ladies and gentleman, the spring thing here is gearing up toward full swing. What is the spring thing, you ask? Peak spring on the MO here is that oh-so-sweet trifecta of a great nymph bite, active streamer fish, and happy trout sipping BWOs off of the surface. Alas, we’re not quite there yet. With water temps hovering right around 41 degrees most days, we’ve had to content ourselves with a solid nymph bite and spurts of streamer fishing. The river is noticeably low right now, but the trout are holding in predictable spring water. It’s a great time to enjoy the bounty of the MO without the crowds of mid summer.
Nymphing: Inside bends and slower, deeper waters are still the dominant play as of now. Some fish (but not the majority, just yet) are moving into slightly faster water at the heads of some of those runs. With the river below average flows, a simple 6’ from shot to indicator will suffice for most of your day. The fish are mainly chewing on the same scuds and sowbugs they’ve eaten all winter. I like to go bright bug/plain bug and fish an orange or pink beaded bug up front and try something simple in the back like an unadorned Tailwater Sowbug. The speed at which your indicator moves is a good clue if you’re fishing the right water. If it’s going down in slow-mo or a gentle amble, you’re in the neighborhood of a bunch of trout. If it’s sprinting down the river, you ain’t fishing where the fish are. Worms and midges are in the subsurface mix as well, in similar depths and water types. The only new wrinkle of late is the Baetis nymph. Throw ‘em on in the afternoon as your second bug. I like a Lightning Bug to fit that niche.
Dry flies: Mostly a semi-sporadic midge affair. If it’s not too windy (please knock on some wood) you can find a few in the afternoon, mores in the upper river. I keep my patterns super simple for this deal. A Cluster Midge, Griffiths Gnat or Buzzball in #18 is fine and dandy. Haven’t seen any real numbers of Baetis just yet, so keep checking back.
Streamers: Low and slow right now, mostly. With low flows, keep in mind that some of your go-to banks might not have as much water on them as the used to. I’m targeting ledges and rocky banks with smaller, heavier flies right now. A Sculpzilla is a good bet, as is a Sparkle Minnow. Heavier sinking tips are your friend this time of year. I use a lot of VersiLeaders from Rio with a short section of 0X or 1X fluorocarbon off of it. Whatever you’re throwing, try to fish it like it’s a dead minnow. Channel your inner bass fisherman and fish it like a suspending jerk bait.
Other bulletins: The shop here in Craig is back in action for the season. Guide trips, rental boats and lodging are still on the table, but we are filling up rapidly for June/July primetime. Our hours at press time are 8-5 every day of the week. The rainbows are in full spawn mode, so please for the love of pete don’t wade all over those shallow gravel-bottom runs with redds on ’em. It’s been pretty breezy out here in the afternoons, so getting on the water in the AM is a nice play some days. We’ll see you out here in person or on the phone at (406) 235-3433.