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Missouri River Fly Fishing During Winter

Flyfishing Montana on the Missouri River During Winter

The Missouri River is an excellent angling destination for winter fly fishing in Montana. The river is prone to freezing and ice jams in the canyon stretches between the mouth of the Dearborn River and Pelican Point FAS. The upper river, however, remains open and fishes well between Holter Dam and Craig, Montana throughout the winter months.

Anglers fishing this time of the year should watch the weather closely and target mild, overcast days during periods of stable weather patterns. River flow is typically well below 4000 CFS during the winter, making wade-fishing a safe and effective means of angling this world-class Montana trout fishery.

Although floating is always a possibility, the boat ramps can freeze over and present challenges for launching and take-outs so anglers should consult with local fly shops before launching in the wintertime.

Craig Montana lodging options are limited during the wintertime, so make reservations in advance or opt for accommodations in Helena or Great Falls.

Missouri River Fly Fishing Hatches During Winter

Midges are present year-round on the Missouri River stretches below Holter Dam. They hatch in good numbers during mild, winter days from January through March and provide stellar dry fly fishing opportunities when conditions are ideal.

Bozeman Fly Fishing Guide Pro Tip:

February and early March are prime times for winter dry fly fishing on the Missouri River. Anglers fishing near the bridge in Craig Montana can typically find rising fish both up and downstream along the east side of the river. A CDC Transitional Midge is a must-have pattern for slow, steady risers both along the bank and on the flats around the Craig Bridge.

Techniques for Missouri River Fly Fishing in Montana During Winter

Trout are lethargic during the winter when water temperatures are at their coldest. Anglers fishing indicator rigs with tandem flies through slow-moving water will find deep trout actively feeding near the river’s bottom.

Typical fly combinations involve a scud or sowbug as the first fly with a small midge pupa or mayfly nymph as the dropper fly. Fluorocarbon tippets in 4X or 5X increase angling success in the clear, gentle currents where the trout tend to congregate through the winter months.

Rising fish can be found throughout the rivers when conditions are favorable. The dry fly fishing improves through the winter with the best days being found in March and early April. Long leaders, stealthy approaches, and delicate presentations are required when sight-casting to slowly rising singles.

Swinging small, weighted streamers through deep runs or holes using Trout Spey techniques is a Montana angler favorite during the wintertime on the Missouri River. Anglers fishing with 3 or 4-weight setups should have a variety of sink tips in mixed densities to effectively cover the water column.

Missouri River Fly Box for Winter Time Near Craig Montana

Missouri River Fly Fishing Trips During the Winter

Fins and Feathers Guide Service has been outfitting Montana fly fishing trips for over two decades on the Missouri River. In general, our staff of Montana fishing guides focus their efforts on the river stretches near Craig, Montana from April through June.

Inquire using our contact form for Missouri River fly fishing trips during the winter months. If conditions are favorable, day trips can be arranged on short notice.

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