Independence day is upon us and the Mo’ is cranking (currently 11,200 CFS). With mostly sunny skies and a few mid-80s highs in the forecast, get ready to navigate a river that’s full of bugs, boat traffic, and swift current. Don’t worry, though. Despite blown-out tribs and the recreational pressure of the holiday, there’s still plenty of room to find fish and a little solitude. Deep-nymphing caddis and PMD imitations is still the way to go, but some big fish continue to hold in the flats and softer water, sipping spinners and cripples.

John admiring a brown that fell for a deep nymph

Things to keep in mind as we head into a beautiful, busy weekend: Be respectful of everyone’s space, giving wade-anglers the right-of-way and practicing patience at the ramp. Drive carefully on the recreation road and through access parking lots, especially when backing up. Standing up in a boat is exponentially more dangerous in higher flows. Stay seated, or if you must stand, keep your legs anchored firmly in the braces. Same goes for netting fish. Employ beefy tippet by tailwater standards: nothing smaller than 4X for dries and 3X for nymphs. Keep fish wet and handle them as little as possible.

Doubled up!

Dry flies– The PMD hatch is still going strong in the morning, followed by a fairly consistent caddis appearance later in the day. Stick with buggy-looking CDC patterns for caddis (size 14 or 16) and an assortment of cripples, spinners, and emergers (size 14-18) for PMD eaters. Sharpen your reach cast and make sure your fly line is in good shape for when it comes time to feed line quickly in these swift flows.
Nymphing Deep and heavy rigs are the norm, with a few folks getting it done in the shallows as well. 7.5-8.5 feet to your 2 BB shots will put you in front of a lot of trout. The fish are eating the same thing down low as they are up top: PMDs and caddis. For caddis, purple weight flies, Pederson’s Laser Pupas, and Tung Darts in 12-14 fit the bill nicely. PMD nymphs include the original Pheasant Tail, the Frenchie, Doc’s PMD, and the CVPD are all excellent starting points. Throw the same bugs shallow across flats and seams.
Streamers– If you’re willing to work for it, the streamer bite can be an exciting strategy when the clouds roll in or rain tamps down the dry-fly fishing. You need to swim those flies deep, though. Use a sink-tip line or, better yet, loop a RIO Spey Versileader on your standard streamer rig’s floating line and get to work. I like medium-weight streamers with a little articulation (like a Doc’s in smelt) or a dark Sparkle Minnow, or a Gold/Silver Kreelex.

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