In his 1953 poem, “End of Summer,” Stanley Kunitz portrays a scene that feels a lot like fishing a canyon stretch on the Missouri in October. In the final stanza, he writes:
Already the iron door of the north
Clangs open: birds, leaves, snows
Order their populations forth,
And a cruel wind blows.
Currently, instead of a cruel wind, we’re dealing with more of an obstinate, smoky haze. And while we’ve yet to hear the clank of Fall’s “iron door,” there’s a palpable transition brewing here in Craig. Water temps are cooling nicely (62F at present), meaning the fish are happier and the days for that pesky hook-snagging grass are numbered. We’re even seeing a few Baetis and October Caddis start to show themselves (a promising sign for the phenomenal Fall dry-fly fishing that we all know, love, and—let’s be honest—deserve.) Soon enough, we’ll be free of this smoke, chasing hatches with the 5-weight and toting the ol’ Montana Meat Stick (streamer rod) under clouds. Until then, enjoy opportunistic afternoons of hopper action, increasingly fruitful streamer days, and consistent nymphing throughout the river.
A quick, down-and-dirty spiel on what you can and should be throwing:
Dry flies: Terrestrials and the occasional attractor eat keep things interesting up top, especially in the afternoons. This tactic also keeps you out of the weeds. If the big bug isn’t getting much attention, though, and you’re not floating through a grass mat, try hanging a small dropper off the back (an #18 or #20 love bug, superflash pheasant tail, zebra midge, etc). Rolling a tandem dry rig (hopper/caddis, for instance) can also spice up the approach and help you narrow in on what’s turning heads.
Nymphing: Yep. U-huh. Affirmative. You know the dam deal. Slimmer-profile mayfly nymphs are getting it done at the wall. A little weight and long dead-drifts keep you in the zone.
Streamers: This can be the most exciting time of year to find some big fish and get your streamer-slangin’ arm in shape by experimenting with slightly subtler patterns than you’d use in the middle of Fall. If a #4 Jointed Urchin is the Ford F-350 of flies, let’s say, consider the lighter-duty rigs, the Toyota Tacomas and Chevy Colorados of the streamer kingdom: your thin mints, black buggers, #8 white sparkle minnows, and so on. Target quick water and banks and cast with confidence and precision.
Other bulletins: The shop is open from 7-5 everyday of the week with top notch customer service, guide availability, and general fly shop chatter. Masks are still required in Lewis and Clark County per governor’s orders. Our Sale Boat is fully stocked with some great deals on lines and gloves. See you out here or on the water!