11 Jul 2020
July 11, 2020
The big Missouri River headline on this sunny morning: the flows are dropping. We get below 6,000 CFS within the next week. Wade anglers, rejoice. Dry fly anglers, rejoice. No frowns out here in mid-July. The fishing has been very good and should ramp up another notch as the river drops into shape. The caddis are out in full force in the afternoon, evening, and night. The PMD spinner fall in the upper river is still bringing fish up to rise. And Tricos are just around the corner. It’s a great time to be a fly-fisherman in central Montana.
Nymphing: The nymph bite has been rock-steady. The abrupt drop in flows has moved fish around but not shut the bite down. Keep in mind that the water temperature has crept up into the lower 60s. That is going to drive fish into heavy current. Fish areas with some serious speed, whether they’re mid-river or off the banks. Hard-charging runs with a gravel bottom have been my personal favorite. PMDs and caddis both love rapid current, so use those nymphs in all of the classic summer water. My favorite PMD nymphs right now include the Psycho May and Split Case PMD in 14-18. Late-stage PMDs tend to be on the smaller side, so an #18 can turn on the bite if the bigger flies aren’t getting eaten regularly. Caddis nymphs are definitely a factor, especially in the river below Craig. Tung Darts and Weight Flies will get the job done in heavy riffles and flats. Go about 4-5 feet under the indicator with a BB.
As a total X-factor, the Zirdle has begun to enter the picture at long last. If you’re looking for an alternative to the standard nymph game, consider going super-shallow with a short leash rig. Target skinny flats and riffles with about 12-18 inches of tippet under a stick-on indicator. This pattern should only get better as the flows stabilize and the fish adjust to summer flows.
Dry Flies: The PMDs are still around, the caddis are prolific in the afternoon/evening, and the Tricos should pop any day. If you still need other options, ant fishing has been decent and the hopper bite should get rolling soon. Spinners rule the late-stage PMD hatch. Try Rusty spinners in 18-20 on a long leader. Your drift needs to be top-quality for a shot at a PMD fish in July. Reach cast, reach cast, reach cast. 12′ leaders are standard right now. Caddis give you a little more lee-way to fish blind (not targeted at risers). CDC patterns in dark and tan are the order of business right now, with the Corn-Fed Caddis a perennial favorite. Twitch ’em as you drift it down the flats and riffles.