Greetings, Missouri River anglers near and far. Today’s post comes in two volumes, concluding with a feat of research compiled by our resident shop journalists, who have been combing the ranks for weeks, interviewing the brightest minds of the Craig and Helena shop, notebooks in hand. We’re calling it the Master List—a compendium of the 6 must-have flies for fishing ALL MONTANA WATERS, as told by CrossCurrents staff, along with a bonus list of each contributor’s piece of “essential” gear that isn’t exactly, well, essential. Word has it that the greater Craig populace has been awaiting its release for decades, spreading rumors about its existence in the alley behind Joe’s, on the quiet banks of side channels, and whispering their hopes in the ears of swallows under the Craig bridge. Once you get a glimpse, you’ll want to print this thing off and sprint to a lamination machine, mask and all. Seriously, though; it’s a useful and hard-thought resource for anyone who fishes a stream between Glendive and Lolo, in any season. But more on that later. First, the fishing report:
Dry flies– The MO has readily entered its highly technical dry fly fishing stage. With the river dropping below 5,000 CFS (currently 4880) the fish have become spooky in the low, clear water.  They’re eating a mix of Tricos and PMDs, with the Tricos set to dominate the hatches here soon. Caddis are around throughout the day as well, but steadily eating fish are likely keyed on mayfly spinners. Drop your anchor gently, well above rising fish. The fish must see the fly before they see tippet. They will not eat dragging flies. They will not eat a fly outside of their feeding lanes. Late summer represents the ultimate challenge in dry fly fishing, and glory awaits those who rise to that challenge. Be patient, be willing to spend time on each fish and the rewards are many. Keep your patterns simple, visible, and dependable. Can’t go wrong with the Hi Vis Trico Spinner or the Rusty Spinner in #18. Seriously, I’ve have the same Rusty Spinner on for 3 days and it’s been thoroughly chewed upon (of course I definitely just jinxed myself to break off on the next fish). I like to build my base dry fly rig around a 4X tapered leader for a little extra turnover and then add a few feet of 5X to that.
If you don’t feel like doing that, the hoppers are showing up. I like Morrish Hoppers and Chubby Chernobyls over fast, shallow flats. This time of year I tend to shy away from the truly massive hoppers until the bugs themselves get bigger. Sizes 10-14 are the go to right now.
Nymphing– And if you don’t feel like doing that, the nymphing is pretty decent.
Without further delay, the aforementioned list of flies and gear, with some bonus wisdom thrown in to boot. 
Chris Strainer’s Must-Have Montana Flies:
Olive Winetail Bugger, #6
Love Bug, #18
“Essential” Non-Essential Gear: Pruning Shears (For cutting small branches and limbs when clients are snagged. “It’s shocking how much I use them,” reports Chris.)
Jake’s Trigger Body, #12
Hare’s Ear, #16
Psycho May, #16
“Essential” Non-Essential Gear: YETI Rambler Half Gallon Jug (“Keeps you hydrated and reduces waste.”)
BH Hare’s Ear, #14
Pheasant Tail, #16
Elk Hair Caddis, #14
“Essential” Non-Essential Gear: A flask filled with Pendleton (“I don’t leave home without it.”)
Chris B.
BH Hare’s Ear, #16
Prince Nymph, #14
D&D Cripple, #16
“Essential” Non-Essential Gear: Umpqua Mitten Forceps
RS2, Black #20
Film Critic, PMD #18
Yellowstoner, Pink/Purple #10
“Essential” Non-Essential Gear: A six-pack of Coors Banquet (“I’m from Colorado, and so is this beer.”)
Frenchie, #16
Buzzball, #16
“Essential” Non-Essential Gear: Fishpond “piopod” Micro-Trash Container (“Nothing ruins a good fishing spot like seeing other people’s trash.”)
Rob
Sparkle Stacker, #16
Missing Link, #16
Red Flash Back Pheasant Tail, #16
“Essential” Non-Essential Gear: Black Sharpie (for altering flies to suit a hatch)
John
Frenchie, #18
“Essential” Non-Essential Gear: 4 IPS Sinktip (for getting streamers deep in high/fast water)
Paul
Royal Wulff, #16
Copper John, #16
Pheasant Tail, #16
Elk Hair Caddis, #14
Frenchie, #18
Zirdle, #12
“Essential” Non-Essential Gear: Clic Readers (for threading small tippet through small hook eyes)
Micah
Copper John, #16
RS2, Olive, #18
Thin Mint, #6
Frenchie, #18
“Essential” Non-Essential Gear: The Snively No Touch No Spook Hook Release (For releasing fish quickly and humanely, with no fumbling or transference of bacteria. Made in Montana. Bonus perk: it’s very delicate on the hackle and dubbing of tiny dries and nymphs.)
Stephanie
Elk Hair Caddis, #16
BH Hare’s Ear, #14
Thin Mint, #6
Prince Nymph, #14
“Essential” Non-Essential Gear: 45 SPF Lip Balm (“Applied multiple times daily, between sips of Moose Drool.”)
Quinton
Micro Chubby, Tan, #16
Chubby Chernobyl, Golden, #10
Emma’s Stone Yellow Sally, #16
Morrish Hopper, #10
Sex Dungeon, Yellow, #6
White Silk Kitty, #6
“Essential” Non-Essential Gear: A Net (Next time you’re in the shop, ask Quinton about his handcrafted wooden nets.)

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