We started November with lots of snow and single digits and now we started December is much milder weather! It’s Montana mind you so the weather doesn’t really need to make any sense -you just need to be prepared for any and all of it, every month of the year.
The MO is shifting into it’s Winter mode as the water temps are now in the 30’s. That means our only bug hatching for the next few months will the Midges. With only one bug hatching, that also means your fly box can be much simpler when you see rising fish. Some Griffith’s Gnats, Cluster Midges, or CDC Midge patterns will get it done. (A favorite fly of mine to use for a Midge cluster and for a Trico cluster and of course a Caddis as it’s name implies, is the Corn Fed Caddis. Dip it in Jet Fuel Floatant and this fly stays up for a few fish before pretreatment is necessary.) Often a simple Parachute Adams in about an #18 is perfect for catching winter middling trout. When the wind doesn’t rip, you’ll see noses up, especially in seams and in eddies where the Midges tend to collect.
The days are shorter which means the chance for photosynthesis is not very good for aquatic vegetation and couple that with the cold water temps means the weeds are quickly diminishing. They really aren’t an issue now which is great news for us Swingers! -YEAH BABY!!! Of course I’m talking about Switch and Trout Spey action. We love taking our two-handers out and swinging up some beefy browns or feisty bows. Since I missed my BC Steelhead trip this year due to a crazy high water event in the Skeena, I’m relegated to getting my tug-on-the-swing fix with trout. Luckily, some of the bigger trout on the MO can look a bit like the small steelhead in the Morice. (Granted, not the same fight -but I also don’t have to spend $23/day to fish on the MO.) RIO’s Versi-Leaders are perfect between your line and tippet for both 2-handers and 1-hand rods. If you aren’t familiar with them, you should be if you like to streamer fish. We love them and sell lots of them every year. Click on this link to read more about them on RIO’s site: RIO Versileader
The nymph game gets pretty easy with the cooler weather. Again, the fly selection is a lot more limited. We mainly stick with Sowbug/Scuds, Lightning Bugs (especially Pink), and Midges. A great one-two nymph punch is a Rainbow Tailwater Sowbug followed by a Pink Lightning Bug or Zebra Midge. You will need a split shot on the leader and you should play around with depth. I’m usually fishing about 4′-6′ deep and setting my indicator accordingly. (I set my indicator about 1.5X – 2X the depth I’m fishing when wading and casting upstream and about 1X the depth when I’m floating and casting downstream as we drift.) We do sell this pretty sweet Thingamabobber Nymph Rig system that works exceptionally well when nymphing on foot or from a boat. You can order them online here: CCFS Nymph Rig
The other thing you’ll catch out on the MO at this time of year is some solitude! Although, with the milder temps and Christmas approaching, there may be a few folks out there on the weekend -trying to get away from shopping madness. However, we can help you with some of that gift giving madness in our Helena store or online.
(Feature photo: Lonely water in Winter -the Missouri River upstream from Craig via Cross Currents Fly Shop)