May State of the Missouri

May State of the Missouri River

May State of the Missouri River from Headhunters Fly Shop in downtown Craig Montana.

The river is fishing well. Nymphing great. Streamer fishing well. Dry fly fishing just OK.

The water levels are higher than normal with the current flows being in the 9K cfs.

So where are we at for the remainder of the month of May? How will it fish? What will the water do? How can I the angler plan my Missouri River May?

May State of the Missouri River

Not a common May for us. But what is a common May. The flows for May are up above the average flows of the previous 65 years. The average coming in around 6K. Check out these charts for daily updates. If you want to see more of what the USBR is up to then look at this PDF by Stephanie Micek and here recent update.


May State of the Missouri RiverSo this is the nuts and bolts of the entire Micek work. You can read the entire document by clicking the above link. SO this is where we get the info that we pass on to you folks. This and a few other indicators and some “feel” based on John and Mark’s longevity on this fabulous resource.

Do we think it will be great this summer? Yes, you bet. We think dry fly fishing should be off of the charts. Remember the late dry fly seasons of the high water years 08′-’11? We do. The Trio’s went a long way into September. Did the PMD’s show in a big way? Not as much. But the rest of the bugs were sure great, albeit later in the season than in the low water years. Remember ’01-’07? Low water years where the bugs all came early and left early. So we do not have any reason to believe that it will be an early year for insects.

The March Browns are here on time, the Caddis coming this week? We think so. Try tossing on a caddis pattern subsurface this coming week. You may be surprised. Remember that the bugs are active subsurface before they become our top water obsessions!

The midges are strong with midge clusters int he early and late evenings. The Baetis are here and better for feeding trout during overcast periods. The caddis? Yes, on the way.

Back to the predictions. We can predict anything but…what will really happen? We gotta believe that the chart above shows the probable outcomes.

If you follow the red bars the dry fly climate will be just right. The probable high flows for June if you look at the blue bar will be too high for the best dry fly fishing. But the red bar is just right. We gotta believe in Red!

The green bar is too low for perfection. So that is the information we have right now. The Lake, Canyon Ferry Lake is at the 70% full mark. It has been for a month now. In the future? It will move upwards as we get into June. Historically.

So, there you have it. The May State of the Missouri River. Look back often for more info and guessing. Educated guesses of some sort.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for fishing the Missouri River.

You information experts here @ Headhunters Fly Shop writing about Montana’s Missouri River.


For more about the weekly happenings here in the Missouri River Canyon read John’s Weekly email Newsletter here.


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