Darn good swing fishing for early March on the Missouri, and more than a few spey anglers out searching. At least when the weather is nice. The water is still chilly, and you’ll find fish in the deep slow tanks typical of late winter. But you’ll also find some fish hanging in big shallow flats – especially later in the day – and they are aggressive. The shallows can warm up in the afternoon, and some pretty good midge hatches aren also pulling the fish onto the flats. Many of them are nice Brown Trout (see Kelsi above!).
When you are in the big drop-offs and tanks, sticking with Leeches, buggers and small minnow patterns (Kure’s Micro-Zonker) are a safe bet. Anything “egg-sucking” has been very productive, and Ninch has some sweet smaller egg-sucking leeches in the Headhunters bins. Most of the black leech patterns are working as well. I like rabbit or marabou, but others prefer the Mohair style. Both seem to work equally well. And don’t forget the Fruit Roll-up. Sparrow’s and Carey Special will also catch some fish.
Make sure and use at least a 5×5 tip or equivalent. In the really big pools it pays to go right to the 10’ T8 or S6 deep tip. You’ll get some midway through the water column, but you’ll pick up a few more pushing that fly deeper.
On those shallow flats I’ve been using Int/S2 or S2/S4 tips (faster water) and larger flashier patterns, The Montana Intruder, Stinger Sculpin, etc. are all good bets for covering large shallow areas. Incorporate more active twitches than you would with smaller leach patterns in slower water.
Fishing is good from the Dam to Pelican. Still a little early and chilly for me to go for the Cascade two-handed marathon. You have to row through a lot of water to tackle that float right now, but it’s probably worth it. I usually do best in the upper and lower thirds of that float when swinging early in the spring. The Canyon is long enough for most, and has more water than. you could cover effectively this time of year.
Below, Audrey is hamming it up with a beautiful Rainbow she caught this last weekend. As you can see, the fish being caught right now are in excellent health. Other than some of those nasty hatchery lakers you’ll always find right below Holter Dam, all of the fish were catching are in exceptional shape for this time of year. The mild winter has been kind to them, unlike last winter when they were dodging icebergs. Looks like well be seeing some excellent fish size this summer.
OPST RODS I’ve had a chance to fish a bit with the new OPST Micro Skagit rods we have in stock. They are very light, lively and responsive sticks. Short and quick, they boom it out with some mono running line. OPST’s recommended grain weights for these rods don’t really line up with the rest of the industry, but we totally agree with them. We’ve been throwing 200+/- grains on the 10′ 4 weight, and 250+/- on the 5 weight (to put it in perspective, most anglers are throwing a 200 grain head on the new Sage HD 1 weight). Lighter heads also feel great, but when you push it above the OPST recommended window, it definitely feels too heavy. If you like light and quick rods, you will love these. We haven’t played with the ultra-light 3 weight yet, but I suspect it may be the ultimate soft hackle rod for both the Missouri and freestone rivers.
WADING BOOTS We’ve long been proponents of rubber soled boots instead of felt for the Missouri, and – except for a few runs through the lower Canyon – they provide secure footing on the fine crushed limestone bottom of the Mo’. But those few sections with larger, slick cobble are exactly where we find oursleves swinging wit our two-handers quite often. If you’re heading this way to swing, we recommend bringing boots with felt soles, studs or traction bars. If you’re going on a guided trip make sure and give your guide a heads up that you’re wearing cleats. Experienced anglers often bring on old doormat or carpet remnant to throw in the boat and prevent damage. Also – I’ve been trying out the new Orvis PRO wading boots with. Michelin rubber soles and they provide excellent traction – the best I’ve ever experienced with rubber soles. Mine are still relatively new, so we will see how “sharp” they stay. So far so good.
WATER TEMPS are still frigid – around 35 degees – so dress accordingly. A two layer sock system and maybe 3 layer bottoms (base layer/fleece/fleece)? Those who shell out the big bucks for “puffy” pants will be happy with that purchase right now. Also a good idea to throw a couple of hand warmers in your wader or jacket pockets.
Nice for the next few days, there getting really cold this weekend. Likely way too cold to fish with highs in the single digits on Saturday and Sunday and lows well below zero. Did you really think it was going to stay in the 50’s for the rest of then winter? By the middle of next week, however, we should be back in the comfort zone.