Crowds. Your Choice.

I’m going to ride along with some of Mark’s recent posts and advice, like this recent article about July Do Not’s. July is the time of year that the fishing is great, but the masses descend on Craig as well. Some with less than stellar attitudes.

These images were all taken within an hour of each other in 3 different spots. Pretty crowded, huh? I’m not trying to discourage anyone from fishing the Missouri River. The fishing is great. But this is what you are going to find for the next few weeks.

It’s crowded. No doubt. You don’t need to call the shop and ask us. It’s primetime, and to add to the fire many of Montana’s rivers are on “Hoot Owl” restrictions (closed from 2pm – midnight). Anglers with plans to fish elsewhere are no doubt going to find there way to the Missouri River. If the weather remains warm and dry, it will only get worse.

There’s nothing we can do about it. Looking back accomplishes nothing, so you don’t need to share with us that you’ve been fishing the Missouri for 42 years and you remember when you were the only one here. My colleagues on the Madison, Bitterroot and elsewhere have the same stories. There are a lot more fisherman and a lot more drift boats than there used to be. Deal with it and keep your whining to yourself.

If you’re the greedy type that has to fish the best water at the best time for the biggest trout and MUST have the same hole everyday, quit reading right now. There’s no hope for you people. Unfortunately, there’s also a lot of you people.

But, if you enjoy fly fishing for the experience, regardless (or because) of where it happens, then here’s a few tips:

HIKE UP A CREEK

Fueled by the massive amount of fly fishing media out there, we have become a culture of more/bigger/better anglers who also like to be seen in the cools spots. Instead of worrying about your Instagram posts, jump off a bridge and hit a creek. You probably won’t catch any Facebook worthy fish, but you’ll be shocked to find out that there are not more angler on creeks than there used to be. There’s less.

We have some decent creeks in our area, and they all fish OK. Most fish about the same, but if you explore you might find a few that are better than others.

One bit of advice. Just because it’s a ‘creek” doesn’t mean that it’s cold. Small streams suffer from the same effects of drought and warm temperatures. I often bring a thermometer to check the water temperatures during low and hot conditions. If the temp is over 65 degrees, head elsewhere.

DAWN PATROL

This used to be the go-to method to avoid the crowds, and it’s still pretty effective. But early doesn’t mean 7am anymore. It means sun-up. Which means of you’re closing down Joe’s at 2am, you only have 3.5 hours until you need to be pushing off the boat ramp. Choices.

If you do hit it early, you’ll find great fishing, including excellent attractor dry fly fishing. There will be few others out there, and those you encounter will feel more like early morning brothers than competition.

I like to move fast early in the morning. Why not? You have the joint to yourself. I also might avoid Wolf Creek to Craig, as I know that I will run into the massive throngs of wade fishermen around Lone Pine, who are also early risers.

The best part of early morning fishing, however, is the scenery. The Missouri River truly is an incredible place at sunrise. You know what the man said, “It’s all downhill after the sun rises”.

SHEEP

Figure out where and when everyone is going, then do the opposite. This isn’t that hard to do if you’re familiar with the river. An hour at the bar in Izaaks will provide enough information. Which area did you not hear mentioned?

If you go this route, understand that you are often choosing a section that will have more moderate hatches, or is not fishing as well. That’s OK. Would you rather have a pod of 6 fish and no one in sight? Or a pod of 30 but feel like you’re back home at the subway station? Choices.

NOT TROUT

This isn’t my first choice. I’m more of a head for the mountains and dinky trout kind of guy. But more and more anglers are chasing Carp and other slimy species to get away from the crowd. An added bonus: Carp don’t care if the water is 75 degrees. In fact they like it!

You can find Carp above or below any of the Missouri River reservoirs (Toston, Canyon Ferry, Hauser and Holter), as well as below Great Falls. Below the Electric City you can also find Pike, Drum, Catfish, Smallmouth and the occasional very large trout.

Most of you won’t make this choice, but if you did you would have a blast. Popular with locals, but not with those who have planned their Montana Trout Fishing adventure for a year. Understood.

THE HIGH COUNTRY

We don’t have a ton of Mountain lakes along the Rocky MT Front, but there are a few worth the hike. If you’re in Southwest or Western MT, however, you can find hundreds of great high-elevation lakes worth fishing. If you really explore you might even find a high elevation creek worth exploring.

Get some exercise, enjoy some cooler air and water temperatures and relax. You might get addicted.

Obviously, this requires some level of physical fitness. It’s more of a young man’s game, but don’t sell yourself short as you age.

None of this is anything you haven’t heard or read before. I’m simply reiterating it. But it’s a solid reminder that a little exploration, homework and attitude adjustment can bring you back to your fly-fishing center. Seeing some new water, even if it’s unproductive, is worth the trip. Now you know.

Here endeth the lesson…

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3 Comments.

  • Well done guys. Headhunters has a voice and an impact. It is crowded out there and your message is spot on., Thank you………
    Ric Smith

  • Well said guys. Yes, it is crowded out there. Headhunters has an impact and a voice on the Mo, keep it up.

  • Very well said John. The summer crowds have been a crush down here in Bozeman lately and this is a good reminder for everyone.

    Just curious though… Was the guy who has been fishing the Mo for 42 years from California by chance? In his late 50s, early 60s, and thought he was better than everyone? A buddy and I recently had an interaction with a gentleman who used that same time frame – 42 years – to describe his fishing the Madison and to tell us he was right and we were wrong about fishing it.

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