Spring on the Missouri is one of those events that we look forward to every year as the Montana winter drags on and on! We’ll be heading up to Craig in just a couple of months now so it’s time to start making plans. The 2013 schedule for our early season Missouri River trips is shaping out to start in late April and run up to May 24. As always, these trips are sure to be a great time for everyone so keep it in mind if you are looking for something new in 2013 or if this has become a staple of your annual fly fishing adventures.
The Missouri River, below Holter Lake, has long been recognized as one of the premier western fly-fishing destinations in the USA. We’ve been fishing this stretch of the river since the mid-90’s in a variety of conditions and seasons. Late spring has become our favorite time of year for a variety of reasons including a plethora of feeding fish everyday, stable water conditions during the annual spring runoff, little angling pressure, and a clean river bottom. Anytime of year on the river can be great when there are over 5000 trout per mile, but this is our favorite!
Rainbows spawn in the various tributaries like Little Prickly Pear and the Dearborn River starting as early as February. Although spawning trout can be found in the main river as well, the majority of Rainbows leave the main stem at some point during the spring and return to the river along with the initial “push” of melting snow sometime in late April or early May. These trout are hungry, aggressive, and have had a reprieve from the daily barrage of drift boats and thing-a-ma-bobbers so often characterized by life on the Missouri River. It’s the “perfect storm” if you’re looking to get a bunch of nice fish without the crowds and weeds of summer and fall on the Missouri.
Our guides head up to Craig in late April and focus on getting our guests on to good numbers of fish using nymphs, streamers, and even dries. March Browns and BWO hatches can be expected mid-day this time of year and provide some awesome opportunities to target steadily rising fish. When the fish aren’t looking up, the nymphing and streamer fish is as reliable an option here as we see anywhere, anytime of the year. It’s just a great time of year and place to be for those folks that are looking to get a bunch of quality fish in the 17-19” range to the net.
Water conditions generally stay in great shape throughout the spring runoff as this particular stretch of the river is below a dam and releases remain clear all year long. As the season progresses, flows typically increase quite a bit, but the river remains fishable even during the highest flows. 2013 is shaping out to be a “normal” water year at this point, so we are not expecting to see the huge flows like 2010 and 2011. It is more likely that flows will still allow some wade fishing throughout the river, but that the fishing from the boat will be ideal for most anglers.
We’ll be fishing a variety of water on the river during this time of year as we try to mix things up everyday depending on the weather and water conditions. There is roughly 40 miles of river around Craig that we fish this time of year with our preference being on the water between the towns of Craig and Cascade, Mt. The stretch of river just below Holter Dam is always one of our favorites as well, but it’s also one of the busiest so we strategically target that piece of the river around less crowded periods of the day.
Our guests typically will fly into either Helena or Great Falls, rent a car, and meet up with us at Cross Currents Fly Shop in Craig. Cross Currents has a couple of hotel rooms that serve most of our guest’s needs really well. These hotel rooms sleep 2 to a room and run $125 a night including tax. Lager groups often opt for one of several vacation rentals along the river and we’d be happy to help get that sorted out if that’s your preference. There are a couple of area restaurants for both dinners and breakfast; the guides will take care of lunches.
Our standard rate of $475 per day for 1-2 anglers includes everything you need for the day except a Montana Fishing License, which you can get online or at Cross Currents. These dates always fill in pretty quickly as this has long been one of the most popular trips of the year for many of our returning guests. We recommend making our reservations as soon as possible to ensure both guide and lodging availability during your preferred dates. You can give us a call at 877-790-5303 or email us with any questions or to make a reservation, we look forward to sharing this awesome time of year on the Missouri with you!