July Missouri River Fly Fishing Forecast

July Missouri River Fly Fishing Forecast

Headhunters Fly Shop brings you July Missouri River Fly Fishing Forecast on this first day of July.

We love July and June too. July is one of the better dry fly months and we hope this one is no different.

Water Flows are lower than normal. Low 3100’s for the near future. We here at HH in Craig hope it does not fall too low. Federally mandated low of 2800 cfs. That is good. Will the water managers keep the flows in this range? We hope. Inflows are low at Toston and we will not see any more water at all.

Inflows at Toston currently at 2170cfs. That is too damn low. A piss poor winter snow and snowpack with warmer than normal daily air temps have led us down this road. No help on the way either. Water  temps at Toston Dam this morning are 74F. The high yesterday was near 80F.

Remember that low flows and higher than average water temps mean you should take care of the fish. No photos, or one quickie in the early morning. Beyond that let them be. Care for the trout and they will care for you.

Caddis Flies

Caddis flies are out. Fish are eating them. Anglers are buying them. Or tying them. Bottom line is that you must not head out on the Mo without a few of our favorite patterns.

  • Translucent Pupa/Emerger
  • Double Duck Caddis
  • Corn Fed Caddis
  • X Caddis
  • Stocking Wing
  • Buzzball
  • CDC and Elk
  • Bloom’s Caddis
  • Tape Wing Caddis
  • Henry’s Fork Caddis
  • Half Chicken

Film Flies are Key. Keep the fly wet. The best caddis app terns are ones you cannot always see. Get yourself behind one of your spent caddis patterns too. That will be important as the month progresses along with the possible fall of our our water.


Pale Morning Duns

Hatching July and July. Have we seen the better half of the PMD hatch? Probably. We will see some pretty epic spinner falls during the next several weeks. Look for the emergence any time of the day on any part fo the river.

Remember the PMD Conundrum. When those fish get on the emerger they can be difficult to get some, any, interest on your fly pattern. Try an unweighted PMD like a Split Back PMD or unweighted PT. Those can produce. How about a Captive Dun. A film fly or one that hangs below the surface will sometimes fool a fish or two.

For the dry fly anglers that cannot believe that the trout will not eat a dry fly when this behavior is occurring…The trout are not eating the fly on top bro’! They are eating it subsurface. They will not eat a dry fly my fishy friends. They are eating below the surface. If that sounds like I am yelling here, it is because I am.

A common conversation in the shop, daily. Many cannot get through the cloudiness of the dry fly brain that these fish are not eating the fly on the top! They are not eating the fly on the surface. Nope.

  • Classic Rusty Spinner
  • Limestone Cripple
  • Hangman PMD Cripple
  • Hi-Vis Rusty Spinner
  • Harrops Hi-Vis PMD Spinner
  • DOA PMD Cripple
  • Harrop’s Para Spinner
  • Captive Dun
  • Soft Hackle PMD, several in the shop that are awesome!
  • D & D Cripple
  • Buzzball
  • Spent Caddis. Sometimes the best PMD is a caddis pattern.


We all love our Missouri River Trico! Many come for this hatch event alone. We agree, we dig it too. Timing this year will be in a week or so. A few Trico’s have been spotted in the lower reaches. They will be making an appearance on your favorite dry fly flat soon.

Daily emergences on the entire river. From Cascade south towards Holter Dam. Get in your dry fly spot early in the day to watch the morning female emergence at daybreak. Then the males form a mating swarm, send out those feramons, and the females hop on board into the swarm and go for it. Meaning mate. Then, we wait for the spinner fall.

Can you get a few on the emerger? Sure. A CDC downwind pattern works well. A small black zebra, or a techy Black S & M will get the fish to react dangles below an Adams. I like a black soft hackle for this hanging below a LaFontaine’s Buzzball. It has been know to work wonders with our Missouri River finicky trout.

The spinner fall is the key to this dry fly equation. Have several patterns in your Trico arsenal. A spent caddis can be good here too. A PMD can be your best Trico pattern.

  • Double Wing Trico Spinner
  • Harrops CDC Hanging Midge
  • CDC Emerger
  • Black Soft Hackle
  • Hi-Vis Trico Spinner
  • Harrop’s CDC Para Spinner
  • Cluster Midge
  • Pearl Butt Trico Spinner
  • Buzzball
  • Snowshoe Midge
  • Rusty Spinner
  • Tape Wing Caddis

The July Headhunters Hot Tip: Just because there are 10 bajillion Trico Spinners on the water does not mean that the Trico Spinner is the best pattern for the job.

Imagine yourself at another lame wedding reception for somebody you hardly know and you are trapped at the reception with a sub-set of individuals you cannot bear to converse with. You approach the buffet line and you see a 27# Baron of Beef. Yay, overcooked dry beef again! Then you spot a small tasty cured Ham tucked in behind that chewy bovine mass. What, an aged Ham? This 2# beauty glistens with salt and your mouth puckers just a bit fantasizing about building a ham roll with a pat or two of butter, seasoned with table pepper, chased with a swallow of cheap red.

Now wouldn’t you go out of your say for a slice of that Ham?

The trout would, and will,  and do.

The upshot here if you cannot get behind my Baron of Beef analogy is this: Think like a pro. Just because the primary bait on the water is one thing, does not mean that the trout have forgot about ham, or caddis, or PMD’s or the always productive Parachute Adams. Getting overly techy is one thing. Getting the net wet is yet another.

Presentation is king yet again here on the world famous waters of the Missouri River. Get the fly onto the fish without spooking the daylights outs of him. You will have to endure several blogs the next two months of me reminding the angler that if you blast some questionable casts on top of fish and then expect to the trout to respond 4 minutes later with a perfect drift you are mistaken my friends.

If you do, you must be that guy that takes lots of practice shots near and around the deer or elk before sighting that will animal, like trout, in and then making the kill shot.

The kill shot in trout fishing is the first cast the trout sees the fly. If you want to blast away, go right ahead man. But don’t blame the fly, rifle, for your poor performance.

You are the feller holding the cork end. Look in the mirror. A poor craftsmen blames his tools!

Montana July Weather

Pretty hot. Windy too. Thunderstorms many afternoons. Bring eye protection, sun protection, rain gear, mosquito repellant, and your reach cast. The rest is simple. Headhunters has all of the good stuff in the shop too. We can help you with the best selection and stock in the Missouri River fly arena.

Headhunters Fly Shop Lodging and Guides

Check out CraigLodging.com along with CraigTroutCamp.com for all of your lodging needs. These two sites will have everything you need in the way of Lodging opportunities. A total of 36 options including inexpensive spots for two, to  luxurious riverside properties.

Headhunters Fly Shop built our business on Top Quality Fly Fishing Guides. We are now the largest guide service fishing the Missouri River. The reason? The best full time career fly fishing guides. The men and women that guide for Headhunters Fly Shop and Guide Service do not have other jobs. They are not hobby guides. High return rates along with the best lunches, boats, and knowledgeable fishing guides. You like to dry fly fish? We understand. You want to learn the reach cast and the dry fly flats of the Mo? Yes, we do that daily.

Couple the professional guide service with our crack booking staff along with the full time fly shop experts you have the full meal deal. Soup to nuts. Call Headhunters Fly Shop with any fly fishing questions, water projections, dry fly advice, lodging inquiries and more! 406-235-3447 or 877-DRY-FLYS

Headhunters Fly Shop open daily 6am til 10pm. Free coffee on the porch. The only Wi-Fi in Craig. Cell Phone Coverage as well. Your one stop shop on the banks of the Missouri River.



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July Missouri River Water Trends

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  • Hey Mark. Have they every put Hoot Owl restrictions on the Missouri. I don’t think so but this is unique year and it looks like the temps are rising signficantly.

    • Yes, hoot owl on the Mo August 23rd thru September 17th 2000. At that time water temps above 70F 5 days consecutive at Craig at noon.

      • Thanks Mark. Very helpful. Just trying to figure out if we’ll be near that situation late next week.

  • Cant wait!

  • Louis F Martin
    July 2, 2021 5:17 pm

    Mark, I’m curious about the black soft hackle you mention to drop from a buzzball. One guy at Headhunters suggested a starling feather for the hackle and a light grey body. Is that what you use?

  • Louis F Martin
    July 2, 2021 6:30 pm

    Thanks so much! I thought black body for the trico body made more sense, but was primarily not sure about the hackle. I will try both for sure, though, with your suggestion on the dropper first. It’s great to have tips like this when conditions get tough.

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