Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Reality of August Fishing on the Missouri

I just got off the phone with a gentleman who was referred to me by a prominent outfitter in Craig, MT. We've worked together for a number of years now because we both have similar ideals and philosophies to fly fishing; albeit, very different styles. He was heading out of town for a few days so he sent the potential client my way.
The gentleman on the phone suggested we start at the dam because what he was told by someone at an area shop, it was the only stretch of the Missouri River that's fishing right now. (I think the folks in the montage above would like to disagree.) My response was to explain to him that I'm out there every day, and that you can certainly catch fish in other places than at the dam and you won't be fishing around a bunch of other people. I told him he could trust me to put him on fish and to provide an experience he'd enjoy and to that he responded by saying that's why he hired a guide in the first place.
Now, I'm not bagging on guys for going up to the dam. I don't do it unless I'm asked to because I feel like I can make a good day in other places and there are enough people going up there as it is. I don't have to deal with wade fishing folks or people dropping their hook in the middle of a run or dodging boats all day but I also understand it's on some guys programs and you have to do what you have to do to make a living. What I will say however, is that putting information out there like this is a bit irresponsible and it does hurts the industry.
Let me just explain what my program has been for the month of August and what the results have been. I'm not doing it to brag but to shed some light on the reality of the fishing on the MO in August. What's considered Blue Ribbon Trout fishing on the Missouri River is a 35 mile stretch from the Holter Dam to the fishing access site below Cascade. In August, my clients have fished about 28 of those river miles and we have rarely see another guide boat. When we do, we wave and head to the other side of the river and we never get in each other's way.
As for the fishing; I'd be lying if I said every day was epic but there have been a good number of great days. If you'd like to compare numbers, I've heard the reports from the Upper River and I know my folks haven't been missing out on anything. Plus, we've been catching big old browns like this fatty from yesterday. (BTW, we brought almost 35 fish to the net between Dave and his grandpa yesterday. This was the last one Dave caught a hundred yards from the take-out.)
Weeds? Yes, there are weeds and although they started early this year, they are no worse than other years by this time. I'm not going to share all my secrets but there are ways to deal with them where clients, even never evers, aren't totally frustrated and they are still having a blast catching great fish. And if this brown isn't proof enough, here's my mom, who hasn't fly fished in 50 years, with one of about a half dozen she caught today in only three hours. That's after spending a good portion of the time teaching her how to cast, mend, set the hook and fight fish.

Honestly, I'm glad to have the river to myself so writing about this might be cutting my own throat but I'm doing it because we've hit a lull in the season and I believe people aren't coming out because they're getting bad information--information from people that are suppose to be trusted pros in the field and that's a little disconcerting. Is it always good? No but weather plays a part and I've had way tougher days than what I've seen recently, even in July. Are you going to see a lot of fish up on most days? Probably not but you can catch really good fish as you've see in recent blog posts and you can even get them to eat on top with a little bit of coaxing.
Ok, so how does that information hurt the industry? One, it keeps folks away from the river at a time when a lot of guys are looking for gigs. The fishing is good for those guides that have figured it out. Trust me. It also forces more people up to the dam and puts more pressure on fish that have already been beaten up for the past couple months.
I wish I had a picture of this but I don't. It was about a month ago when I fished the dam the last time. We were asked to go up there because one of the boats on the trip had a particularly tough day getting into fish. Since they wanted to keep the boats together, we went up-stream and the fishing wasn't good. We did hook a fair number but we had to go so small it was really tough to keep them pinned. The first fish we actually landed was all beat up; it had jacked up fins from being a hatchery fish and it was missing one eye.
The point here isn't to say one guide is better than another for fishing in one spot versus another. The point is, is that we do have options and a few have developed a niche and are very successful fishing other stretches where clients get to see how gorgeous the Missouri is and how quite it can be at this time of the year and how healthy of a fishery it is. If you want that kind of experience, seek those folks out like the gentleman on the phone did.
Keep 'em where they live...


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