We are at the peak of trout spey season here on the Missouri River. A month ago, the water was too warm, weedy and buggy. A month from now, the water will likely be getting real cold. Right now it’s perfect, in fact it’s a little warmer than normal at 42° +/-. Warm enough that were still seeing a few BWO’s in the afternoon.
The swing bite always gets best when the bugs disappear, and I suspect we are a week away from that. Fish begin keying on leeches and other juicy meals as they prepare for winter. And most of our Brown Trout population is recovering from the spawn, and hungry. We’ve seen some excellent swinging in the last 10 days, and it will probably get better.
We would normally be fishing the long, slow, deep tanks, and a few shallow bars in late November. With the warmer than normal water temps, and very low flows, we are finding lots of fish in fast moving water. I’ve been concentrating in choppy riffles above tanks, and any quick moving water thigh to waist deep with a broken surface. The big slow tanks will produce, but not at the rate I’m used to. And the fast stuff is funner to fish. Of course every run is different, and you may find some fish stacked up the froggy stuff, especially on the upper river.
Because I’ve been fishing faster water, I’ve been using Skagit heads with light and medium sinking tips more than I typically do in November, especially when swinging a flashy streamer. The heavier sinking tips help keep that fly down in the ripping current. A iMOW 5×5 is as deep as you need to go. The iMOW 7’5I/2.5′ T8 or SA TC S1/S2 tips are perfect in most runs.
Scandi heads are good on the long faster flats by themselves, or with an intermediate Sonar/Versi/Poly leader. It’s possible to get into a small soft hackle BWO situation right now, though the days for that are numbered.
Flies have been typical for this time of year. The bigger Sparrow patterns, a wide variety of leeches (Fruit Roll-up, Pig Pen, Pine Squirrel), and the traditional buggers like the Thin-Mint, Ninch’s Red Delicious, Olive/Griz (Beth’s Britches), and STS Bugger. The Kure’s Micro Zonker is always effective, and flashy streamers like the Montana Intruder, Kreelex and Lil’ Kim are a good bet in faster/deeper flows. If you like throwing bigger stuff, pick your favorite, but fishing the right water is way more important! Go find it.
While we typically fish above the Dearborn River this late in the year, we’ve been finding excellent fishing above and below the confluence, no doubt due to the warmer than normal water temps. If you tackle a longer float in the canyon, get an early start and don’t spend too much time in an unproductive run. I generally don’t give it longer than 5 minutes without a bite, unless I’m super confident fish are in there.
A note on the very low flows: You may find yourself wading farther from the bank than you have in years, and through some rocky terrain. Especially true in the Canyon. I would suggest using your studded boots, or shooting some studs into your boots. And watch our for those occasional boulders you can walk right into and stumble. I took a sweet digger the other night while guiding Audrey and Olivia in the Canyon. I think I had just told Audrey to “be careful wading”. Classic.
If you’re interested in a guided 2HTrout trip, give us a shout. We’ve been doing quite a few this fall, and our guides are in-touch with what’s happening. Then shop staff has been out plenty as well, and can steer you in the right direction and show you the best patterns. As stated, the best fishing will probably be great for the next month, or until we get a real cold front. Your elk and deer are in the freezer, and the chairlift hasn’t started spinning yet. Now’s the time.