If you are the kind of angler who tracks snowpack and streamflow reporting, then you know the scoop; it was a big snow year in Montana, with dumps of low elevation snow falling as recently as last ...More
If you are the kind of angler who tracks snowpack and streamflow reporting, then you know the scoop; it was a big snow year in Montana, with dumps of low elevation snow falling as recently as last week, and we've had plenty of spring rain along with a couple short periods of warmth and sun. What has that all added up to currently? Lots of blue-ribbon rivers in some state of run-off and most are unfishable.
By and large the freestone fisheries across the state are not worth your attention. If you look hard you might find some magic with a clean tributary or a slow, dirty back eddy, but trout-hound favorites like the Yellowstone, Blackfoot, Clark Fork, and Bitterroot are toast for awhile. The Upper Madison, Gallatin, Big Horn (running BIG!), and Paradise Valley Spring Creeks are all fishing fine with some variability and are viable options for you at this time.
Of course our home water the Mighty Missouri River is fishing pretty well even with some increased releases from Holter Dam and spiked flows in the tribs after a major gully-whumper last week. It is a busy river out there so please do you best to share the resource and accommodate all the visiting anglers we'll see for the next month or so.
If you are going to be fishing a tailwater like the Missouri and want to have some productivity then be prepared to fish a deep nymph rig and do it right - safety cast followed by a long drift with lots of easy mending, followed by an assertive hook set with good follow through and a nice re-cast when you realize it wasn't a trout at the other end. Hit it and quit it with all the shotgun casts, halfsie hooksets, limpwristed mends and ill-timed roll casts.
Good luck out there and we'll let you know when the June dryfly game has returned to Montana - it won't be too long now.
That's my driftboat anchor on the right. The one on the left belongs to some other deadbeat fishing guide who hasn't been around quite as long. His is pretty new and mine is certainly not. I've ...More
That's my driftboat anchor on the right. The one on the left belongs to some other deadbeat fishing guide who hasn't been around quite as long. His is pretty new and mine is certainly not. I've been dragging this particular anchor around Montana for at least a decade now and I've become fairly emotionally attached to it.
That's why I'm a bit distressed, because this anchor is currently residing on the bottom of the Missouri River, in a spot that will be difficult to retrieve it anytime soon and I may never see it again. I have a history of losing things like anchors in the river, but I also have a history of doing things like diving them up later, so there is hope for this chunk of lead.
I think anchors are one of the ways fishing guides distinguish themselves, and I like being a guide who's got anchor that's been around awhile. It's one way of saying, "this isn't my first rodeo", even if a day fishing with me is a total rodeo.
With a river on the rise I won't being seeing this anchor anytime soon, but come July you may see me in the river swimming hard to see if I can bring it up one more time.
I'll keep you posted.
We have some great news from the Montana FWP about our beloved Missouri River. According to a presentation given from biologist Jason Mullen earlier this week, our fishery below Holter Dam is in ...More
We have some great news from the Montana FWP about our beloved Missouri River. According to a presentation given from biologist Jason Mullen earlier this week, our fishery below Holter Dam is in great shape. The fish are in good health which not only bodes well for our current fishing season, but for the future of the river as well. Read below for some of the highlights from Jason's presentation, it is interesting to compare our notes and thoughts as anglers to the scientific research that is done by the biologist gurus from the state.
In the Craig section of the river, which is a sample taken from Wolf Creek Bridge to Craig, there are 4,816 rainbow trout per mile and 269 brown trout per mile. While the rainbow trout population is well over the running average, the brown trout have fallen slightly below their historical average of 563. Jason assured this is nothing to worry about as there is a large population of 7-9 inch fish that are not included in the survey. A trout must be at least 10 inches to count toward the population.
Perhaps the most interesting and exciting data about this section of river is the average size of the rainbows with many falling in the 16-19 inch range and many topping the 20+ mark, see the graph below.
This explains all of the large and acrobatic fish we know and love in the upper river!
In the Cascade section of the river, which is a sample taken from a few miles above and below Pelican Point FAS, there are 2,156 rainbow trout per mile and 433 brown trout per mile. Both species are at a level that is above their respective historical average. If you like big brown trout this is the place to be, there are over 20 fish per mile in the 20-24 inch class. And these big fish still regularly eat dry flies on The Mo, which is one of the reasons we love this river.
Although fish population and size is what most interests us as anglers, there was an additional horde of information that was shared in this great presentation from the FWP. Enjoy some of the highlights in the list below.
Random Missouri River Fun Facts
In 1973 hydro peaking was eliminated as a management plan for Holter Dam.
The average peak annual flow is 14,082 cfs.
The highest water year in the last 15 years is 2011.
The Missouri River is the most popular river for fishing in Montana.
In 2015 the ratio of resident anglers to non-resident anglers is almost even.
In 2015 anglers reported a catch rate of approx. .6 rainbow trout per hour.
In 1987 anglers reported a catch rate of .29 mountain whitefish per hour.
So what do we think of all this? We are pretty happy the river is in great shape as far as trout health is concerned. And even though everything is firing on all cylinders there are always improvements to be made and a resource to protect; we are grateful for groups like TU and UMOWA who work hard to advocate for our rivers and improve the fisheries.
For the time being, The Missouri River is shaping up for a great fishing season and has many large fish lurking in the waters from Holter Dam to Cascade. Many of these fish are a superb quarry that we can take a crack at with our top-notch angling skills. Bring your reach cast this summer if you want to see one of those 20+'ers sip your rusty spinner.