Monday, April 24, 2017

Variables to Spring Fly Fishing on the Missouri River

I guided a few days last week and was pretty excited about it. It's good to get back on the water when it actually means something and my anglers were good folks and definitely pretty chill. The problem is, they came out to fish on April 18th through the 20th so although the weather cooperated, and the water temps were perfect for bugs like BWO's and March browns, the dam operator wasn't buying in so if you look at the chart above, the river came up 2,000 cfs right when they wanted to be fishing. What's the big deal? Well, fish don't like that. So what do you do?


I'm just kidding. Although fish get a little finicky and they might not want to come up to the bugs until things settle down a bit, there are fish to be had and my clients will attest to that. We actually did pretty well and here's why.

The first thing is giving them what they want. Although there are bugs in and on the water, they just don't seem to want to eat them because there are other things in the water that might just be tastier or pack a little more protein. The water is also off color because it's pulling debris and sediment in from the bank. With that comes worms. Yeah, I know. Worms aren't really flies and some folks don't like fishing with the San Juan or the wire worm but if you want to catch some good quality fish, you gotta feed 'em.

Color also matters so change it up. Sometimes the red works and sometimes it's the fire red or florescent orange. And sometimes you have to be observant and try to match the colors you're seeing. I found a big 'ole night crawler floating in the water that was all waterlogged and washed out that was a purplish-pink works.

Two of the three days, we fished low on the Missouri because the changes aren't as drastic when the water comes up. The river spreads out and the currents slow down quite a bit so fish seem to be happier. There are also more channels and islands where fish can take refuge so your option for finding fish are a little more obvious but you still do have to find them. The water has to be moving but you don't want to be in the main current. Depth matters as well and where there's one fish there is usually a bunch of his buddies stacked up. Take note of the type of water and the depth and fish those spots that are consistent with that.

Some folks figure; the higher the water, the longer the float because you're moving along with the current faster. I go the other way because I figure when you find fish, you don't leave them and most of the runs you're getting them in are in pretty soft water where it's easy to row back up. I'm a re-cycler. I'd rather work a little bit because I like to stay in the action versus fishing along, watching a bobber float downstream for a mile without it moving. I know, there's a balance to this and one of my pet peeves is a guide sitting in one spot for hours just pounding fish but there's nothing wrong with hooking a few before moving on to the next run. There are plenty of runs to re-cycle with the water we have as long as you're willing to pull on the oars a little.

The changing conditions in the springtime can cause problems for folks but like I always tell people, a little bit of knowledge goes a long way in fly fishing. You might be off by a foot in depth or you might not see something that some else sees but fish gotta eat. It's rare that trout will shut down for an entire day or across the entire river. But again, the conditions can make it tough unless you have some tools in your belt you've developed through fishing these conditions for years so some folks might see that spending a day with a guide is money well spent.

Keep 'em where they live...

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