Stripping in the Cold
Another piece from Richard “Dick” Magill from HH of Craig. Dick has been out fishing a ton and fished most of Christmas Day as well. He’s in the shop today and did our first installment of Instagram TV IGTV so check that out on our Instgram Page @headhuntersfly.
Holiday hours at the shop 8-5 daily. Shuttles, rooms, guide trips, and free coffee. Ohh, the Best Flies under the Big Sky as well!
The winter season on the Missouri River is a great time to be fishing. Air temps are cold often hovering at or below freezing. The water temp is a brisk 35 degrees and on any given day, you may have the entire river to yourself. If you know where the fish reside in the cold dark days of winter, you will surley catch fish.
When I go out this time of year I do a lot of wade fishing. A lot of my favorite swing runs are easily accessible from the road and I can call it at any point if I get cold. That being said, I do really enjoy floating during winter. The key is choosing shorter floats like the dam down to Wolf Creek or Craig to Stickney Creek. You want to be able to push off if the weather rolls in. It’s also crucial to have the appropriate clothing while fishing in the cold.
Hypothermia is no joke. An easy way to ensure you will stay warm on the water is to layer up with a good base layer, mid layer and some sort of weather proof shell. Synthetic materials make great base layers as they wick moisture away from your body. Your mid layer is going to be your main source of insulation and should also consist of some kind of synthetic material or wool. Your shell will consist of your waders and a quality winter jacket.
Avoid wearing cotton because it holds moisture close to your body decreasing your ability to maintain adequate warmth. If you are wearing cotton and start to sweat, you will inevitably get cold.
Floating this time of year can present some great streamer fishing from the boat. You will need to adjust your tactics to fishing colder water which means fishing deep and slow. It’s still important to impart action by either stripping or jerk stripping, but you don’t want your streamer to be too erratic or move too fast. Methodical strips followed by long pauses are the key.
The strike will often happen during the pause and you will feel the fish when you go to strip the fly again. In order to get down to the strike zone quickly, I use Scientific Anglers Sonar Titan INT/S3/S5. It’s a great line that will get your streamer down in no time. Pair that with your favorite 1x fluorocarbon. Mine is Rio’s Flouroflex 1x with a diameter of .254mm (.010in) and a breaking strength of 5.9kg (13lb). It’s super strong and abrasion resistant which is nice when your throwing into rocky environments.
Streamer selection can be daunting with so many options on the market. Not to mention all the black-market stuff being peddled by 7wt and his goons. To keep it simple, I’ll let you in on a hand full of my favorite winter patterns. If there is heavy cloud cover or if it’s late in the day, I tend to veer towards darker colors. The streamers I would throw are the #8 Li’l Kim Copper, #6 Ninch’s Faceplant in Fluorescent Pink (black-market streamer), and Coffey’s Sparkle Minnow JJ #8. When the sun is out I use lighter colors, mainly white or something flashy. A couple great ones are the Articulated Goldie #4, Barely Legal Olive/White #4, and the Delectable Screamer White #6. If all else fails throw a #6 Black Woolley Bugger and get ready, because you’re probably about to catch a huge trout.
You can have the most diverse streamer box on the water with the best line, but none of it matters without a good streamer rod. Like all other styles of fly fishing, you need the right tool for the task at hand. Case and point, you wouldn’t want to throw some bulky articulated monster into the wind with a 5wt. When I streamer fish, my 6wt is called to action most often. A 7wt can also be necessary at times depending on the wind or the size of your fly you intend to throw. My favorite rods for throwing streamers on the Mo are the Orvis Helios 3D 906-4 and the Sage Igniter 690-4. They are both tremendously powerful rods and handle just about any trout streamer you can imagine.
That’s is the latest from me, Dick, at the shop. A great week to fish as the bite is on. Best in some time. Stop in and see us at the shop for anything you may need this holiday week! See you swinging on the flats!