Our next spot for the 2017 fly fishing road trip was in Craig, MT for a little Missouri River fly fishing.

Missouri River Canyon | www.johnkreft.com

There isn’t a lot in Craig, MT, but…The Trout Shop, Headhunters, and Crosscurrents fly shops and Issac’s, the local food establishment where we had a great burger and cold beer after a day on the river.

The Trout Shop - Craig, MT | www.johnkreft.com
Crosscurrent Fly Shop in Craig | www.johnkreft.com

We rented a driftboat from The Trout Shop for a couple of days and floated from Holter Dam to the take-out at Craig. 

Missouri River Driftboat | www.johnkreft.com
Missouri River and Craig Bridge | www.johnkreft.com

This is a big river, not quite as big as the Upper Columbia, but still bigger than I’m used to.

Missouri River below Dam | www.johnkreft.com

This picture was taken below the dam and had a ton of gulpers in the morning as we began to fish. It’s where we caught most of our fish. Here is a short video of the gulpers…

There was a tremendous Trico hatch when we arrived at the put-in. We could see clouds of insects as we drove upstream.

Have you ever seen Trico’s? They were in the size 22 to 26 range. That’s small!

Trico Dun | www.johnkreft.com

I don’t fish Trico’s in the rivers I normally fish so tying and having a supply of size 20 to 24 flies isn’t something I concentrate on. 

Here is one spot we fished to rising fish.

Missouri River Fishing | www.johnkreft.com

Trico’s are like any other mayfly that molts and has a spinner phase as well.

Trico Spinner from Missouri River | www.johnkreft.com

They fall to the water after mating and the females lay their eggs and float in the water currents. This is what they look like…remember sizes 22 – 26.

Trico Spinners | www.johnkreft.com

That was a close-up…here is what you usually see…

Missouri River Trico Spinner Mat | www.johnkreft.com

No, that isn’t a mat of debris…those are thousands and thousands of spent mayflies. So why would a fish choose to eat an imitation when there are so many naturals to choose from? I have no idea.

Here is one of the flies that fooled them. My friend Bryan tied some Old Guy Flies (OGF) for me a while back and I pulled them out. This one happens to be munched from a couple of fish.

Munched OGF Fly | www.johnkreft.com

You can see the fly in the corner of this 17″ Missouri River rainbow.

Missouri River Rainbow with OGF Fly | www.johnkreft.com

My wife had a great first day, casting her dry fly into that mess and catching a few fish.

Missouri River Rainbow | www.johnkreft.com
Missouri River Rainbow Trout | www.johnkreft.com

In addition to the Trico’s, we found a few tan caddis the fish came up for.

Missouri Caddis | www.johnkreft.com

As we drifted downstream, the fishing got much more difficult. We were only able to scare up a couple of fish…on Beetle Bailey.

Missouri River Rainbow | www.johnkreft.com

We probably could have had a chance at more fish if we had used nymphs, but we concentrated of dry fly fishing. All the guides had their clients using strike indicators and a few of them caught fish. I think it was a little slow because we didn’t see a lot of fish caught. Returning to The Trout Shop reinforced our observations…few fish were being caught. We considered ourselves lucky to land the fish we did.

Missouri River Rainbow in Net | www.johnkreft.com
Missouri River Rainbow | www.johnkreft.com
Missouri River Rainbow in Water | www.johnkreft.com

The fish we landed were generally in the 17 to 23 inch range…really nice fish.

After two days drifting from the dam to Craig, we decided to explore the canyon starting about nine miles below Craig by driving and fishing a few spots. 

Missouri River in Canyon | www.johnkreft.com

We were able to find some fish, but boy, were they spooky. Here are a couple of fish in an eddy. I slowly moved to position and made a cast. one drift is all I was able to get. Most times the fish saw my line right away and made their way back to safety of the deep. I did move a couple fish to my fly but again they saw the leader and off they went. And that was 4x leader. I didn’t want to go lighter with tippet but knew I wouldn’t be able to hold these fish.

Missouri River Rainbow | www.johnkreft.com
Missouri River Dark Rainbow | www.johnkreft.com

Be warned. .. there was a lot of weeds, grass, and moss floating down the river that were constantly affecting the drift. It happened fishing to gulpers and trying to get drag – free drifts. If you look closely, you’ll see a Beetle Bailey in the middle of that green mess! In some spots I fished, every cast ended up like this.

Matted Mess Fishing on Missouri River | www.johnkreft.com

There are a lot of big fish in the Missouri River. They were in the stretch we floated and also in the canyon area.

Yes, we were able to catch some nice fish during our trip, but I have high expectations and hoped to get into a few more. The hoppers weren’t out yet. Actually, I think we were between hatches.

Maybe I’ll have to return some day for another chance at Missouri River fly fishing.

Enjoy…go fish!

Read about the other rivers on our 2017 fly fishing road trip:

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