Richard writes the Headhunters Fly Shop Mid February Fishing Report today
The last several weeks showed us that Montana is no place for the faint of heart during winter months. Daily air temps have been struggling to reach -15F the only fishing I’ve been able to enjoy involved standing on the hard water. Other artic activities in Craiglandia include tying up sneaky new fly patterns, cleaning fly lines, organizing gear boxes, and sending broken gear away for repair. Luckily the weather is breaking and by the end of the week and we’ll see air temps back in the high 30s- low 40s.
Naturally we’ll be hitting the river with both our 3wt and 4wt two handed trout rods paired with Skagit heads and Rio’s light iMOW tips. The winter swing bite can be fairly awesome if you can endure standing in 34 degree dihydrogen monoxide. With these frigid temps the fish are going to be holding in the deepest, slowest water you can find. Painfully slow. This is probably the only time of year we utilize a full 10’ of T-8. Some even opt for the 12’6” rod paired with one of OPST’s Commando Groove shooting heads. This combination will not only get your fly down and deep, but also slow your swing down a fair amount. This can be nice in the cold winter months as fish are definitely a bit more lethargic. Leech and bait fish patterns reign supreme this time of year, but you can honestly throw whatever you want as long as you’re swinging it right into some fish.
If that’s not your cup of tea, you can always throw nymphs from a drift boat and pretty much catch as many fish as you like. (Author opinion) My rod of choice when I go this route is the Sage Pulse 690 paired with RIO’s Xtreme Indicator line. It’s a great set up and has no problem casting deep heavy nymph rigs. There isn’t too much sub surface insect activity this time of year with the exception of an occasional midge hatch. With that in mind the best flies are going to be something in the scud/sow bug department. Anything that is pink or has a fire bead will get bonus points with the trout. Again, you want to target super slow deep water. Depending on the daily flows, we’ll be rigging about 5′-7’ from the indicator to the split shot. A BB is a good start this time of year. From your weight you need about 18” of 3x fluorocarbon to your first fly and 18” of 4x fluorocarbon to your second.
Streamer fishing can be a bit hit or miss this time of year, but it’s always worth a shot as some of the best days I’ve had on this river involved throwing streamers to willing browns right after the weather breaks. It doesn’t take much either. This up-coming weekend will see air temps near the 40’s with the possibility for a bit of snow. If this sounds like something you’d be into then you should be prepared with either a 6wt or 7wt rod paired with an aggressive sinking line. The Scientific Anglers Sonar I/3/5 is a great line to help get your streamer down to the strike zone. You don’t want to get crazy with a really long leader. Too long and it will totally impede the action of your fly. About 36” of 1x fluorocarbon is just right. You can use larger streamers if you really want to and you may even get a bruiser of a fish to come check it out, but if you want that elusive “epic” streamer day you should stick with smaller to medium sized streamers. When choosing color I keep it pretty simple. If it’s bright and sunny then I throw white. If it’s dark and overcast, then I throw whatever color I want. Typically olive with a little copper. If the sun has set then I throw black.
Will there be any rising trout this weekend? I have know idea. It’s totally possible. Before the cold snap we were seeing solid midge hatches almost daily. If you have the room in your boat, you might as well just bring a dry fly rod, you never know? My rod of choice for tossing dries is the new Sage Sonic 590 paired with the legendary Headhunter Fly Line. It’s a blast to cast and delivers your fly with absolute accuracy. If you are lucky enough to find yourself breaking out the dry fly rod this weekend then you are going to want to imitate the mighty midge. Buzzballs are always a favorite here on the Mo. I also really enjoy throwing a #20 Q’s Cluster Peacock to weary trout.
The fishing should be solid this weekend and beyond as long as the weather continues to cooperate. If you find yourself coming up to Craiglandia for a little weekend getaway on the Mo, be sure to stop in. We’ve still got a few lodging options if you’re trying to fish all weekend. We also just got our brand new fleet of Adipose drift boats ready to float if you ever want to see the river from a new perspective or simply leave yours at home.