Dick Magill Chronicles: Early Spring Outlook
The sun is almost rising before I wake up this time of year. Once it does, the sky here becomes a beautiful collage of colors that in many ways resembles cotton candy. It’s a fleeting sight reserved only for those who rise with the sun. Well worth skipping Joe’s every once in a while to make sure your up early enough to see it.
Rising with the sun has its perks. For one, and this is huge, there is plenty of time to make a solid breakfast and enjoy a few cups of coffee. Spending the whole day on the river can be physically taxing if you are not taking care of yourself. An early rise is also nice to give you time to get your rods dialed and your boat box organized. Two things that will definitely make your time on the water more efficient.
Post breakfast is time a short visit to Headhunters of Craig to get a shuttle and a few choice flies it’s time to hit the water. One of my favorite floats this time of year is Craig to Dearborn. This stretch is a bit shorter than others but does boast some of the best late winter/early spring water. An angler can take their pick and attack the river with just about any technique they fancy.
The swing bite can be phenomenal this time of year and it’s usually where I start my day. It still pays to get deep and slow when targeting these lethargic trout so using at least a 2.5’/7.5’ iMOW tip or even a full 10’ of T-8 to get down and dirty is a must. Leach patterns are hard to beat, but I wouldn’t shy away from throwing some kind of bait fish imitation as well.
Streamer fishing can be hit or miss but ya gotta throw to know. Early spring is a strange time of year for the streamer junkie as the water is still very cold and the fish aren’t really in the mood to break into full sprint mode. In some cases, you almost have to smack them in the face. In order to target these deep lethargic fish, you should implement your favorite full sinking line. The more aggressive the better. Streamer selection can be a controversial topic for some. I don’t think it should be. Grab a few of your favorite confidence patterns and let them rip. Big, small, flashy or dull as long as you have confidence in what you’re tossing, you’ll probably experience streamer success.
Nymphing is mad decent right now. That is to say, if you know where they live and what they like to eat this time of year then you will surely get into a few fish. If you don’t know the above information no worries. Just keep reading. Like we’ve been saying all winter, the fish are in deeper slower water. If you don’t present your flies to this type of water, you will probably struggle to find fish. A 9’ 3x tapered leader with roughly 5’-7’ between your split shot and indicator is a good start. From your split shot run about 18”-20” of 3x fluorocarbon to your top fly (#12 Ninch’s Bubble Yum Scud) then another 18”-20” of 4x fluorocarbon to your second fly (Tail Water Sowbug Rainbow #16). As the water keeps warming up, small BWO nymphs will start to become active throughout the water column for a few weeks before they finally emerge as adults. When this happens flies such as Wilcox’s Little Green Machine #18 and Olive Two Bit Hookers #18-#20 will start to produce a ton of trout.
If you’re a DFO kind of person I have good news. Fish are starting to rise a bit more consistently to midge. I’ve noticed that if you hit the water around 5:30-6:00 in the evening you can definitely find a few risers snacking on bugs. Still no mayflies hatching in any kind of volume so the mighty midge will have to do it. Either the Cluster Midge #18, or Quigley’s Cluster Peacock #20 should do the ticket. Again, if you’re not a fan of those patterns then throw any midge pattern you have confidence in. The tool of choice when I’m tossing dries is the Sage Sonic 905-4 paired with the Headhunter WF5F line. It’s become my favorite rod and for good reason. It’s super accurate and simply a blast to fish with.
(Not for the faint of heart) Trying to separate yourself from the rest of the pack? Come by the shop and grab a hand full of skwallas and go fish them blind in the canyon. You may not catch as many fish as your peers tossing double nymph rigs, but you definitely have a shot at a really nice spring brown. Not to mention top water eats on big flies are one of the most exhilarating experiences when fly fishing for trout.
Well, that’s the latest scoop on the Missouri River. If you have any questions or just want a real time fishing report feel free to call, email, or swing by the shop any time. We’re here seven days a week 8-5.
Ed Note: Thanks Richard. We love your blogs! Keep ’em coming!