Tips for Dry Fly Fishing the Missouri River – Fins and Feathers Bozeman
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Tips for Dry Fly Fishing the Missouri River

Dry fly fishing the Missouri river can be both incredible and incredibly frustrating. The hatches can be exceptional or non-existent. You can cover a consistently rising fish with a perfect drift with 20 different flies and get refused every time or you can see a fish rise once, throw out a sub par cast and get the eat. Either way, the mighty Mo is undoubtedly one of the best rivers on earth for technical dry fly fishing and absolutely addicting. Here are a few tips to improve your success when testing your luck with this “cruel mistress”.

1. A perfect drift is imperative.

Fish in the Missouri tend to be spooky and skittish, if your fly has any drag on the water it can be nearly impossible to trick a fish into gulping your fly.

2. Know your entomology!

Match the hatch! Unlike many rivers and streams the Missouri is not a great place to use attractor patterns especially when fish are targeting a certain insect. Along with this, the trout can be on insects in a specific stage of the hatch, whether it be emergers, duns, or spinners.

3. Use long leaders and small tippet.

Missouri River trout are very easily spooked; if they sense something is up they will bail faster than Tommy Boy when he realizes he’s late for his last final. Twelve to eighteen foot leaders down to 5 or 6x will usually get the job done. 5 and 6x tippets are also supple enough to allow the fly to drift naturally even when sucked into micro currents.

4. Present your fly first.

Casting down river at a 45-degree angle and throwing a reach cast in there will ensure the fish sees your fly first and you can get a long drag free drift. Your cast must be right over the fish as these trout will move very little to eat a fly when food is so abundant.

5. Increase your odds.

If you have spent some time on a fish, covered it well, and tried different flies and sizes, just move on. Maybe locate a very actively feeding pod and throw in a few casts. Your odds are much better when many fish are up and happy. The more often a fish raises the better luck you will have.

Get out there and get after it. The fishing only gets more difficult as fish see more and water on the Mo heats up. With that being said, trico and caddis hatches have been superb. Here are a few bonus tips.