How to Capitalize on Spring Time Fishing Flows

How to Capitalize on Spring Time Fishing Flows

Guide Eric Mondragon landing a trout with his dog TD in 2011 in the image above. Our last high water year. 2011 was big like 1997. Look at the Russian Olive trees and the water around them! Both huge water years. Coming from the dam at 23.5K. The Dearborn at 5K. Little Prickly Pear at 1K. Lots of water. Lots. We may not see that this year…or we may?

8K is not high water. 8K is high(er) water. High water to us here on the Missouri River is 20K plus. Actually we believe it is high at 16K. That is when we at Headhunters stop renting boats. We are out there guiding, with life jackets on, until Noah is called into action. It is a much different game at those quite high flows. 8K is not high water. It is high(er) than average.

The water has been/ is up. And not down. I expect we will see more up than down. The water will be coming off big time this week with temps toward the end of the week in the mid 70’s. Yes, it could happen this week with water in many freestone rivers rising all week long. Will this be the first part of our run-off in Montana? Could be. Lot of snow and water in the hills, mountains, plains. Lots.

Craig will be the meeting place for many who did not expect to come here. Welcome. Stop in and say hello on your first stop on the river. The information hotspot on the Missouri. Craiglandia city offices are located at 145 Bridge Street. Check in and see 7wt and the gang here daily at 8am. Get your free cup of coffee, check your phone with the only free WiFi in Craig beyond Izaak’s.

Most of the all below will be in regards to the bobber angler. Why? Because fish are not too hopped up on high(er) water. Some fish rising yes. Some fish caught on streamers. Yes. Heard a couple great streamer stories this last week. A couple of sharp-shooters that could get it done. That is where those stories were generated.

Dry fly guys. Crickets. Quiet.

Nymphers? Getting them some days’ and slower others.

The water is scheduled to rise again today. How much more? Check the gauge later today to see!

How to Find Fish or Where fish live in High(er) Flows

They are in the same spots they are when the water is not high. But harder to find. Get your fly deeper. The water is higher, so you gotta go longer. Tailouts are good too. Both sides of the island. Yes, the fish are closer to the shore, but that does not mean they are on the shore. Think about that one for a while.

For dry flies look in ponds. The fish will not battle the BS out there in faster water. They are smart. And many times smarter than us. Think like a fish, not a fly fishing angler. Think like a fish! Soft insides with hatching BWO’s. They are not on the midge, not so much. The BWO’s will come this week in numbers. Stock your fly box or race to the dry fly shop in Craig…Headhunters.

Streamer anglers can fish cool locations. Yes. Get the right line on there too. Headhunters has the largest selection of streamer fly lines on the river. By a long shot. You want something to get you deep? We got ’em. Also we have a full array of add on tips including all of the sink rates you would ever need here in the Spring. It is time for a new streamer line!

If you can put the fly into the exact right position over and over you do have a great opportunity to get some fish on the bugger chuckin’ stick. Those who can cast all day long and have the right rower are getting them to the net. Both parties have to be involved. I do pity the anglers that have someone in the rowers seat who is not as engaged as the angler. We do see that out there on the river. Both, all, the front, middle, and back have to be d on board for the boat to do well. If the guy in the middle is not interested…make sure you have a full cooler of beer and some binoculars. At least you can enjoy the drift.

Fish Inside, not Outside Lanes

If you like to fish those sexy hard lined banks, go right ahead. We won’t be hearing too many hero stories from you at Izaak’s. Sure, you could catch one. Go ahead, get after it.

Fish the softer water inside lanes. Put the boat on the bank and fish the nymph close to the boat. Many times not too far off the oar, or even inside the oar. IF you fish too far out there, you will not often be rewarded.

Some fish on drop offs. Some in medium speed water. Most of the fish have adopted high water locales. And you should too. Think about efficiency. Think about that model and change your game. If you are the type of angler that cannot change and believes that you are some sort of god-like angler you may have a dry net at the end of the day. You gotta learn and you gotta change your tune. High water style in in full effect. Ask. Ask again. Stop into HH of Craig and we will help. Honest. The high water education flyfishing center in downtown Craig Montana.

Most have been skipping the in-between water too. But you don’t have too.

Go long. The flows are up and the water is moving faster. Take that into consideration when designing your day.

Understand Depth & Current Speed

High(er) water means if nymphing you have to be deeper. Or longer. Or both. Add a second split shot. Make sure you are still touching the bottom once in a while. Meaning more than once an hour. Gotta to get in front of the fish for them to eat the fly.

If the current feels like it is too fast to row effectively, you are in water that is too fast for fish to hold in. Anything in nature finds the easier, most efficient place to be. That does not include fast, moving, riffle lines or bank lines that you fished last July.  Faster current=more split shot.

If you think your streamer is getting to the fish without some sort of fast sinking tips, you are wrong. Intermediate tips sink at a rate of 1.5-2 inches per second. It is certainly less at more rapid water conditions. You better have some heavier flies too. That does not mean flies like those double articulated patterns that they fish on the Madison are the ticket. Buy a bundle of them if you wish but think of the mass, the size. Larger flies sink slower. Thinner flies sink faster.

Spring Fly Selection

PINK and Heavy. Or any type of Sow Bug. Firebeads. Lead on the sink. Large Tungsten Beaded Patterns. Winter and Spring flies are all he rage during high(er) water periods. If the fly ani’t working change it!

Streamer flies like Clousers that are thin in nature sink quicker than the rest. Thin Mints? Bighorn colors have been really quite popular. Fish the big junk too. Accompany it with a heavy sink tip. 6-7 ips is not out of the question and as the water rises…your rig should move in the other direction! Downwards!

Dry flies? Cluster Midges. Adams.

Water Temps Rising too

Currently over 40F. That is good. More active fish means more net action. BWO’s like 42F and beyond. Releasing more water from the dam generally cools things off. So look for that when the ‘ol Mo heads upwards.

This is good. More bugs means more fish. The BWO’s have been sub-surface for the last month. They will really start to make an impression on the trout this week. Your spring fly selection should include some Frenchy Style nymphs.

Headhunters Fly Shop

Open daily. We are here at 8am. That will change sometime in the near future. Earlier. We are open late for your apres fishing needs. 30+ lodging options. Rental Boats. Shuttle services. Your fly source on Montana’s Missouri River. All the information for high water fishing…the education shop.



Higher Flows, Spring flows, water
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