We’re up. The rivers are up, and the push is big enough now that it might be time to fill the thermos with coffee and head over the hills to the Missouri if you’re looking to find lots of fish this weekend. What happens over the hill in May? Big hatches, big fish looking up, and lots of happy anglers. Sure, its a bit of a drive but coming into Wolf Creek before the only store opens feels like a triumph when you’re used to the wide variety of options in the Missoula area. The Missouri might be a bit of a scene, but there are plenty of fish to go around.
With the bigger push of water we’ve seen this week, finding fish locally will be a challenge. You can find them if you know some good sloughs and backwaters to wade, or want to head to the tops of the drainages, but your techniques are going to be drastically different now than they have been in the low water spring we’ve been seeing. Nymphing will be the most successful way to play, and stoneflies are going to be a big part of what moves fish. Rubberlegs! Concentrate on the side waters, the little channels, and stick with big nymphs and the worms to find fish in off color stuff. Streamers are still an option, if you keep them loud and flashy. Try a flashy Kreelex, or black and yellow stuff to stand out in the dirty stuff.
If Mother’s Day isn’t a good enough excuse to skip the river this week, remember that if you’re planning on sticking around Missoula, runoff is a dangerous time even in a milder year like the one we’re having. New obstacles do exist in the floats you were cruising last fall, and the water is pushing harder than you think. If you’re rowing, better be ready for some sore arms if you haven’t been keeping in shape this winter, and more importantly move early from obstacles – logjams are nothing to mess with. Have fun out there, seek out the side channels, and find some fish.