The morning begins around 6am for fly fishers in Craig, MT as they have their morning cup of coffee and begin prepping to hit the river. Boat plugs, check. Lunches, check. Fresh beer and ice, check. Each fisherman is sure to Double check for the net as odds of hooking fish are very high. As the 7am, hit the river, deadline approaches the fly boxes are thoroughly inspected to ensure the correct bugs are present in a sufficient quantity.
Let’s start with dries. Tricos have been out in full force and the fish have been on the spinners for hours, sometimes until the late afternoon. Patterns that will match these include, most importantly, the cluster midge in sizes #16 and #18, high vis trico spinner in the same sizes, Griffith’s gnat, parachute Adams, and pearl butt trico spinner in #20. These patterns work well fished at 10-12 feet to 5x or 6x tippet to consistently feeding fish. Tapered leaders are the best option as any knots are excellent weed catchers. When the day drags on and the heat starts wearing on the trout they may not rise consistently and will require a big meal to induce a rise. This is when fishing a big ol’ #8 to #12 hopper is the move. 7-9 foot leaders are now a better choice down to 3x at the smallest. Fishing patterns like the flopper hopper, yeti hopper, Morrish, and Charlie boy hopper in a purple orange or pink in fast turbulent has consistently gotten eats. Chubbies can also produce success in these types of water.
Now that dry fly boxes have been checked anyone hitting the water will look into their nymph/dropper section to check for the hot flies. Mayfly and midge nymphs remain abundant so nymphs like zebra midges, psycho Mays, military mayflies, pheasant tails and of course little green machines all in #16 or #18 are getting many hits throughout the day. With some caddis still hanging around, weight flies, tungsten darts and birds nests can produce fish as well. With the fish looking up for hoppers on top, it makes sense to throw these nymphs 2-3 feet under a hopper to chance both surface and subsurface eats. Fishing double nymph rigs under an indicator can do the trick as well. 5-7 feet to the first bug with a BB split shot about 16″ above that fished in swirly holes and swift water is getting it done.
Streamer fishing has been nearly nonexistent. Hot water and sunshine reduces the energy fish have to chase smaller fish extensively. If this is the method one is after, best success will be discovered at dusk or into dark throwing something dark olive, brown, or black like an urchin bugger, thin mint, MRS bugger or sculpzilla in sizes #6 – #10. The cooler water found near the dam is where fish will be most likely to chase these bugs.
Hitting the water early and getting off around 4 or 5 seems to be the most successful day plan as by around 5 the water is real hot and fish activity is low.
With boxes checked, it’s time to load up a dry fly rod, nymph or hopper dropper rod, hop in the boat or head to a favorite wade spot to take advantage of the incredible fishing the Missouri river has to offer this early August.