Missouri River March Streamer Patterns

Missouri River March Streamer Patterns w/ a side of Streamer Line discussion

March Streamer Fishing is?…which leads us to this article written by team members Dewey and Mark at Headhunters Fly Shop.

Missouri River March Streamer Patterns

With unseasonably warm weather this month the river is starting to get pressure. A popular lead in to the Missouri River fishing discussion sometimes starts with “Are they hitting streamers?” Yes is the answer. “Is the bite good?” Like Ninch says “Only as good as you are.”

That is sort of the truth according to Ninch. You can also go long periods with out any interest in your streamer pattern. Should you change? Only you can answer that question. It really is up to you.


Fishing streamers can be accomplished floating, wading, or a combination of the two. Let’s start with wading. With the popularity of the two-handed rod increasing here in central Montana this method is an effective way to cover large water without wearing yourself out. With that being said it does not mean the same water cannot be fished with a single handed rod. It’s just a matter of how much back casting room you will have. And your preference too.


The fish seem to still be in the winter mode meaning they are grouped up and hanging in slow water. The sexy riffles and runs look good this time of year but generally hold less fish. The slow water at the tail-out is usually where the fish will hang. The same water we send people to nymph fish is the same type of water you may want to seek when tossing the streamer fly. Inside bends have also been good and don’t forget about the water that looks like whitefish water…it can be prime winter habitat for trout.

What Gear?

I like to fish water 3 to 6 feet in depth. Some anglers like shallower water and a few are more comfortable with the deep stuff. So what kind of line do you need to access those streamer loving trout? Floating lines will work in the slow not so deep water. Generally you get to the fish with a weighted streamer pattern. Lead eyes, coneheads, flies weighted with lead on the shank…all good ways to sink that tasty morsel into the trout zone..

You can also use any number of weighted streamer lines. The RIO Outbound Short has been on of long time favorites but there are a couple others that are great too. The Outbound Short F/I has a 15′ clear intermediate tip. Maybe the best all round Missouri River streamer fly fishing line. Easy loading with almost endless power is why this remains the top selling streamer line at Headhunters.

The RIO Outbound Short comes in a full intermediate version. Clear Tipped backed with a Transparent Yellow back end of the line. Gaining a cult following here in the shop and now bleeding into the hands and reels of some our our streamer junkie clients. Super shoot-a-bility will let you believe you are conducting business with a sniper rod!

Screen shot 2015-03-15 at 11.33.02 PM
RIO Outbound Short Streamer Line


The RIO Streamer Tip F/I is equally as good. A 10′ clear intermediate tip for lower water fall conditions here on the Mo. Lots of power for wind coupled with precise cast-a-bility that many like all year long!

RIO StreamerTip WF6F/S6 is an option for those who like to get a bit deeper. The 10′ blck tip sink rapidly with a floating back end. 6-7ips for those who like it deeper than the intermediate head can achieve.

The RIO Sink Tip rounds out our RIO Sink Tip Series with the 150 grain up to a 300 grain tip. 4-5ips sink rate on this 24ft sink tip.

Having some streamer fans inquiring about the Airflo Kelly Galloup Streamer Max Long fly line. We got ’em in stock for your streamer dreams! A fly line built for those who like to get the flies deep! This heavily weighted Airflo streamer line is for tossing those over-sized articulated streamers that Galloup disciples thrive on. If you fall into this category then you must have this adorning your streamer stick.

Kelly Galloup Streamer Max Long Fly Line
Kelly Galloup Streamer Max Long Fly Line available at Headhunters

You can add any number of tips to the end of your dry fly line too. Do they work as well? No. No but they can gt you into a few fish in a pinch. VersiTips from RIO and weighted Polyleaders from Airflo are available at the shop. That is a topic for another blog. Later.

What Technique?

Dewey says: The fish are not too aggressive on the bite. Meaning that they may not be jumping on the fly, not the hard grabs often. I like to cast 3/4 down stream and let the fly swing to the hang down, directly below me. Most of my takes have been on the hang down. I have had success with a slight twitch at the hang down. Wade fishing is a great way to enjoy the day chucking streamer patterns to Missouri River Trout. You get into a rhythm that is calming. Until the jolt of electricity when the fish decides to whack it!

I have been throwing the two handed rod a bunch this winter. It is my preferred way to winter fish streamers. Why? It is newer to me and is certainly easier on my body. Plus it is so damn efficient replacing the incessant single handed casting with time in the water. Why not have your fly in the water more often. Seems to make logical trout sense!

Float fishing is a different game. The single handed rod still rules here. No application for the two handed rod unless you like to endanger those around you. Hooking the rower is still not a great path to take. The fish are holding in the same type of slow water. The slow water can be found in the traditional streamer water behind rocks, skinny water near islands and bends, or slow runs in the middle of the river.

Now is when the “only as good as you are” part comes in. It’s still early for the “get it in there and fast strip” type of streamer fishing. We find get it in there twitch and pause to be more effective. This is when matching fly weight to line type becomes important. If the outfit sinks to fast to avoid hanging up you will be stripping to fast. Keep the everything balanced for pause and twitch. If you can entice the strike by teasing the often suspect rainbow trout into that fateful aggressive open thy mouth reaction then you will catch more trout. If you can’t? Well, casting practice on the water is sometimes an excuse we use at the bar upon coming up blank!

I cast my single handed rod while floating down the river and switch to my double handed rod when wade fishing. Efficiency is important if you want to catch these sometimes bullish winter fish.

Missouri River March Streamer Patterns

Fly selection tends to be a little smaller than what we recommend a month from now. Size 6 or 8 is the norm with the occasional 4 or 10 thrown depending on pattern or water. Colors can very from day to day. I find if you have faith in your fly you oughtta/gotta fish it hard. Bring a cup full of winter or March streamer patterns to the water. The following patterns are a few we like to recommend for this time of year.

  • Hot Cone Wooly Bugger #6
  • Dali Lama Black/White #6
  • Bloom’s MRS Bugger #4
  • Bloom’s Bullhead Black/White #6
  • Olive Blossom #6
  • Sculpzilla Blackl/White #6
  • Kraft’s Kreelex Copper/Gold #6
  • Coffey’s Sparkle Jig Sculpin #1
  • Coffey’s Sparkle Minnow Brownie #6
  • Lil’ Kim Copper #4
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