Missouri River Fly Fishing Report: As temperatures begin to rise, so do the trout. Many fish are being caught all across the great state of Montana with dry flies. As usual the MO is the epicenter of dry fly action. This week has been the warmest of the year so far with daily temps reaching the high 80’s and even breaking into the 90’s category. This spike in temperature has sped up the hatching cycle of PMD’s, which can now be seen river wide during the morning hours. With the water temperature hovering between 56-59 degrees, conditions have become favorable for large PMD hatches in the morning and Caddis in the afternoon and evening. The fish have noticed the new food source and are now keying in on surface bugs. A mixture of PMD’s and Caddis in the early hours of the day have made for great fly fishing, especially in shallower areas of the river.
The flows over the past week have fluctuated between 4900 and 5200 cfs. Today marks the lowest the flow has been in awhile, coming in at 4860. (See the hydrographs below.) The side channels are now in excellent shape to wade fish, with much more manageable water to walk through. As far as which technique to use, here is the what, when, and how on the Missouri River currently:
Dry Fly Fishing: In the early hours of the day, up until noon, fish will be feeding on mostly PMD’s, and some Caddis here and there. Pay attention to how the fish are eating on the surface. If you are noticing fish breaking the surface and gently sipping flies then throw on a PMD spinner or dun pattern. Likewise, if you see a trout come up and crush the surface with a loud smack then try a caddis imitation for good measure. Fish that are swirling, or rolling just under the surface, are eating emergers. They could be eating Caddis or PMD emergers, so give both a try. In the afternoon fish will be anticipating a healthy portion of Caddis. Look for slow water near banks where pods of fish have gathered to feast on Caddis. Tie on a Caddis pattern, give a proper presentation and drift over the pod, and wait for the eat. Fish have not been shy in the afternoon, and the Caddis hatches have been very strong at times.
Nymphing:Sub surface action is still holding steady with plenty of fish eating sowbug, scud, and small profile nymphs(green machine, lightning bug, love bug, etc.). Fishing anywhere from 3 to 6 feet deep has been productive. Try fishing areas where the depth changes 2 feet or so quickly. Fish tend to sit in those areas of depth change and eat bugs comfortably. Also try a dry dropper in shallow riffles where fish are rising. A green machine or pheasant tail a foot and a half below your dry can have great results on the MO.
Streamers: Streamer fishing remains spotty over the past week due to the sunny, hot days. There are isolated thunderstorms in the upcoming forecast, which is good news for the avid streamer thrower. During the cloudy, rainy parts of the day try a sparkle minnow near the banks, especially down river of Craig, which is notorious for its big brown trout that love to chase streamers.
With the hot months of summer upon us, handling fish properly is more important than ever. Those who have fly fished before are well aware of the chaos that ensues after a trout is successfully hooked into. During all of this madness it is easy to forget that trout need to be dealt with carefully. Yes, trout are wild and powerful, but once you put one in the net every second becomes crucial to that fish’s survival. Try your best to get the hook out while keeping the fish in the water. If you insist on getting a photo of the fish do so quickly and then release the fish safely back to its home. Everyone is guilty from time to time of keeping a trout out of the water for too long, but next time you land one to the net be aware of how much time you are taking to handle the fish.
-Happy Fishing, Dorn