Bussman’s

Today was a good day.

Snow, rain, some coffee, a bit of wind and enough sun to make one think that sunshine would be a  good thing for a few minutes of the day if only to warm one up and keep one from thinking that rowing is a good idea.  Manning the oars is something to be left to those who do it naturally, without thinking.  When I row the boat and I have an angler who slips the fly in the spot just as I am thinking how sweet that spot is, everything clicks and the line slides tight.  The fish is thrashing, running and jumping and ripping line.  It might jump, it might not, but it’s hooked up and the pull is right.

Today was a good day.

pondering water

River Flows

Missouri River at Holter: 6090 cfs at 6pm…….three days ago it was 11,200 cfs.

Madison River below Hebgen: 1200 cfs…….five days ago it was 1850 cfs.

Madison River at Kirby: 1880 cfs…….fishing’s not too bad at all with nymphs in the wade stretch.

Madison River at Varney: 2980 cfs…….muddy, but you can catch a few if you try hard enough.

A week ago, most of us on the Missouri and Madison were preparing for a high water year.  Then, things started to drop and flow managers, it seems, began to panic about filling the lakes and the flows were pared back to say the least.   Some folks are saying that runoff has peaked……this being said, it’s only June 4th and there’s still boat loads of snow in the high country.   I believe that round two of runoff is not far behind.  More warm weather is in the forecast and I plan on taking a hike up into the high country next week to check a few spots and look at snow pack.  With any luck, Hebgen will fill by the end of the month and we wont’ have a situation like last season with low flows and dried up spawning beds.  Canyon Ferry is filling as this is being written, but there is concern that it too won’t fill to full capacity.

This water management concept seems to be hard to figure out……..snow falls and then it melts, at some point a lake or two needs to be filled.  While there are lots of variables in the equation and after this many years of managing water, one would think that the water managers would have a easier time with filling the lakes.

If Hebgen isn’t filled by the end of month, it will be disappointing to say the least – this was a banner year for snow pack and filling the lakes should’ve have been an easy task.   There is a flow meeting in West Yellowstone on June 12th held by PPL, should be an interesting time.

The Missouri has been, for the most part, pretty good fishing for the past month.   From 1-3 fishing’s been a little weird.   Some days the fish are grabby in some spots and other days they have moved out of the runs.   We’re not getting em’ everywhere and are having to work a little bit.  We’ve been mostly nymphing with sow bugs, worms, caddis pupa and bwo nymphs.   As the river began to drop a few days ago, the dry fly fishing reared it’s head.  A fish here and there were up eating spinners and we found a couple smallish pods that were easily put down after a fish was hooked and blew up jumping it’s way off the hook.

While there is NOT full blown dry fly fishing on the Missouri, we are getting closer each day.   If these Missouri flows stabilize and stop jumping around, the caddis should begin and we can stop staring at the bobber all day long.  PMD’s? They’ll come soon enough….and when they do the river will come alive.

At this point, my guess is that we’ll be fishing salmonflies on the Madison by the end June……..don’t hold me to this as my crystal ball broke about 38 years ago.

Late May in Montana

Snow is melting at rapid pace up high in the mountains all across Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.  One glance at the flows online will show rivers on the rise, some of which are almost double for this time of the year.  The white stuff is still pretty deep in the high country, but the last week t o ten days worth of warm weather mixed with some rain has brought a big push water.   Wet wading has been standard protocol, but we aren’t wading much on the Missouri, just getting our feet wet from time to time.  Anglers should expect this to be the case for a while now, but it’s hard to say just how long run off will go this season.  It all depends on the weather. More sun and rain will push it out, cooler temps and no rain will slow it down.  Pay attention to the weather and you too can guess when the Salmon flies will hatch on the Madison.  I’m still not throwing a date out for this…….too hard to figure this early into run off.

I’ve been living on the Missouri for the past month, but have managed a handful of days back in West Yellowstone.  TAKF was held on May 20th and I got a couple days of fishing in around West Yellowstone and Idaho as well.   It’s been a very busy May for us and June is right around the corner.   The next few weeks will find us hanging out on the Missouri guiding anglers with a another visit home and then back to the Missouri for mid and late June.  With any luck, we’ll be fishing the Madison River a month from now.

Missouri River Fishing Report 05.07.2014

Flows on the Missouri below Holter Dam are holding at 8790 cfs and down below the Dearborn it hanging around 10,000 cfs.  This is quite a bit larger than a year ago right now, but it’s a welcome change of flows and this fine river will fish well into August in 2014.  It’s been cooler more often than not, with a prevailing north wind which has brought some moisture up high and down in the low country as well.  This afternoon, the sun poked out and life began to warm up a little bit – the goslings are appreciating every ray of sunshine they can get.

The BWO hatch that rolled down the river yesterday could have been considered, in some circles, a blanket hatch.  A few fish were up in a couple places, but most of these mayflies drifted down without a fear in the world.  I saw some March Browns in the canyon stretch today, but not much up on them at all, except for a few random blow up rises that may have been a skwala eat.

We fished streamers throughout the day, but only the morning bite produced interest for us.  For the most part, nymphing was king.

One of the best……

The guy in the blue shirt holding that 2 X 4 brown trout is Greg Falls.  The other guy, the one who caught that brown on his first cast with a size 20 trico, is one of most genuine clients we have ever guided.  Many of you know Greg from trips that we guide together on the Missouri River.  You’ve seen him grace the pages of this blog for the past nine years.  Some of you know Greg from the Yellowstone or Lower Madison.  I have known Greg since 1996 when I first showed up to Montana and worked on the Missouri River out of Wolf Creek, where we ran a fly shop together for a few summers.


This past winter I was talking with a soon to be fly shop owner from Cascade and we got to chatting about guides on the Missouri River.  The conversation lead to who the best guides were/are on the Missouri River.  My friend began the conversation with this gem,

“when the long time guides sit around and talk about who the best all around guides are on the river, Greg is in the top 5 for sure, maybe even the top 3.”

I have fished along side of Greg for nineteen years and I must say his skills with a fly and rod are hard to beat.  It’s not just the sheer fishyness that he has acquired after countless hours on the water, but it’s the way he handles every situation on a guide trip – from meeting clients at the shop in the morning to dropping them off at the end of the day.   Greg’s name alone is synonymous with the Missouri River below Holter Dam.  Another guide once said this about Greg, “Falls doesn’t even row, he just goes down the river netting trout”.

It’s not all about catching trout.

Greg has the patience to teach you everything you want to know about fly fishing.   He will turn over rocks and show the new angler what the trout are eating.  Greg will row you around, put a few in the net with the nymph rig to boost confidence and then find some risers to show the angler what fly fishing can become with the right skills.  You wanna learn the reach cast?  Done.  You wanna learn to stack mend? Done.  You wanna learn to wade fish a nymphing rig?  No problem.  You wanna catch 50 on the nymph and get that out of your system?  Done.

Greg Falls lives on the Missouri River from March till December.  Throughout the year, when I’m not on the Missouri River, Greg gives BSA weekly, sometimes daily, fishing reports from Craig, Montana.  If you are looking for one of the finest days of angling on the Missouri River, give us a call and book Greg Falls.  Greg’s schedule is booked far in advance as many of his loyal anglers book him for the next year before their trip is even over.   However, it’s always a good idea to call us cause you never know when his schedule might change.

Springtime on the Missouri is a great season to hire Greg and the angling can be some of the best for the entire year.

Bob Lay – RIP Old Friend

Today finds me a little bummed out to say the least.

The unfortunate news of the death of fly tying legend and Helena resident Bob Lay was passed around yesterday by friends and anglers alike who frequent the Missouri River.  While I live in West Yellowstone, I split my time between the Madison and Missouri Rivers and got to know Bob quite well over the past 15 years.  Bob was a kind man with a huge heart who never forgot your name and was so damn happy to sit down and visit about life in general.  Most conversations centered around trout fishing, but we always managed to chat about this or that and one could tell that Bob truly cared about how you were doing.  Many a night was spent eating dinner at the bar in Izaaks, sitting next to Bob and bullshiting – I will miss those times for sure.  His voice was as distinguishable as spots on a brown trout, most specifically on the river when one could not tell who was anchored up on that pod of rising trout from a distance.  He would sit in the rower’s cockpit and fish, casting a tight loop and reaching upstream with ease.  There were times on the river, when I would ask my angler in the boat to sit down and watch Bob fish.  His skills with a fly rod were keen, as thousands of trout fell prey to Bob’s drift and flies.   Bob’s presence at the Federation of Fly Fishers Conclave year in and year out showed his dedication to teaching others the art of fly tying.  He was one of the FFF’s old cronies and the stories I’ve heard from Maggie Merriman about the good ole’ days are endless.  We are all blessed to have known Bob Lay.

Thanks for the memories Bob….