George Says: It’s a Bobber!

And crafty anglers are taking advantage of the technological advances from the still water industry. Yes, I said that.

A young lady (Hell, everyone’s young to me at this point) came in with a conundrum. She had found a great indicator from Rainy’s but was appalled by the price. She could make these! So much CHEAPER! So she did what every DIY’er does and was in the process of spending 5 hours and spending money on something that may or may not work as well as the purchased product. But dammit, she was saving money.

It’s why I tie flies.

You should be laughing hysterically.

The magic of this indicator was a tall fluorescent braided mono post. I immediately flashed to the classic Stillwater bobber. A cork with a toothpick to hold the line. The savvy Stillwater angler didn’t watch the cork- they watched the toothpick. Any oscillation in the toothpick- Hot Damn, you had a nibble! A really savvy Stillwater angler could read the oscillations, and know exactly when to set the hook. Though sometimes you lost your worm, which in the direst circumstances, required digging new worms.

Oh hey, I just read it in a magazine…… that’s not me, age 4-12.

Mom stopped digging worms when I hit 4.

So this indicator, Rainy’s Telstrike Indicator has a floating collar and a post. When your nymph sinks to its nadir, the post stands straight up. Watch the post- when it oscillates, set the hook. It’s ingenious. Them crafty Stillwater bobber guys.

No, as far as I can see, it’s not possible to make them cheaper than Rainy’s, unless you’re making like 50 of them.

Even the most basic bobbers, you know, the clip on ones that are red and white- They’re BI- COLORED. I own a book, The Incomplete Book Of Failures. To truncate, a man won the most boring lecturer contest by speaking of the differences between left and right, spinning a cue ball.

Think about that for a moment.

How do you know when the cue ball is moved, it’s the same color!

Like most fly fishing indicators today. How, at 15 feet (I wear glasses) can you see subtle movement in the indicator. It’s a solid color, like a cue ball.

The Oros indicators are going to be magic. Buy two (I know, it sounds like sales pitch- bear with me) in different colors. And screw the top of one into the bottom of the other, and vice versa. Voila, bi-colored “indicator”. Like any decent bobber.

Need a lighter delivery? Purchase two contrasting colors of Palsa indicators, tear them in half and stick the two colors together instead of folding one color over. Foam lands more lightly, Making it a good choice in hard fished waters. So do the New Zealand wool indicators, my favorite- if I nymph. Which I rarely do. That’s another discussion.

USE TWO COLORS in your New Zealand indicator. Or try a Thill indicator. TRI-colored, with an oscillating post. They’ve been used for years by Stillwater fishermen- some of the best guides in Missoula carry a few of these when stealth and delicacy are needed. Or just good floatation, they are made of balsa and biodegradable. For those who care about that type of thing. (Editor’s note: The post is plastic and not biodegradable)

Are you getting the picture? It’s a bobber. Fly fishermen are snobby enough to think they invented the %$@?& thing in 1990 with the thing-a-ma-bobber. We didn’t. We’re using pre-dated technology, and our bobbers are suffering for it. Rise up, and throw off your single color shackles! Bi-color is the way to go, or get a post to watch, you’re catch rates will benefit.

George Kesel

Other Activities In Missoula Montana

We loved writing this blog. Home town proud! The hardest part was what to leave out. Let’s start with the basics. You’re in Montana. If you want to hike, mountain bike or simply take in the scenery, we got that. There are so many trails near Missoula you couldn’t walk them all in a month. Many shops in town rent mountain bikes daily or by the week. And we’re only going to say this once, but it applies throughout. If you have any questions, email ([email protected]) or call (406-728-7766) the shop and we will be happy to help with  any details or recommendations.

The Bitterroot River, Clark Fork River and the Blackfoot River are all close by, and offer many opportunities other than fishing. You can go on a whitewater adventure, or rent kayaks and zip up and down the river. If you’re looking for a little less strenuous activity on the water, rent an inner tube and join the other friends floating down the lower Blackfoot River into town. Remember, no glass on the river. So buy your local brews or wine in cans, and ease on down the river, enjoying a lazy day looking at clouds and soaking up sunshine. Don’t worry if you run a bit short on the river, the floating raft bar will be able to top you off if supplies get low. The bus will take you to the put in, and a taxi or Uber can get you home! Unless you’re staying in town, and then you just drop the inner tube off and walk.

And speaking of breweries, Missoula has a few good ones! From the classic Slow Elk to Draughtworks and Kettlehouses excellent fare, if you want to go on a taste test to find your favorite, we can only say this. It’s going to take some time and effort to cover all those bases, and we have Uber! The same can be said for the distilleries located in Missoula as well. Craft gin, vodka and whiskey can be found within an easy walk in downtown, and again, finding that favorite is always an enjoyable pastime!

When you find yourself downtown, take a look around. Missoula is a marvelous combination of old architecture and modern purposing. It combines quaint with modern in a unique way, and has a feel all it’s own. Art galleries, boutiques and second hand shops are all on the same block, peppered with locally owned restaurants and. You can still get a burger and a beer for a buck in Missoula, MT, and find 200 different types of bourbon on the wall if you know where to look! But in our minds, the best part of downtown is it’s all locally owned. 95% of the businesses in the 14 block downtown area are unique and local. Sure, we have Best Buy if you need the Geek Squad, or Costco for mega-groceries, but downtown is a walkable cornucopia of local flavor and one-of-a-kind experiences. On a hot summer night, it’s a tiny bit like Mardi Gras, as revelers go from one place to next, taking some of the party with them to go find another!

There are 5 local golf courses in town , including a par 3. If you want to find out just how big Montana is, head to Anaconda (1.75 hours east) and play the Jack Nicklaus design Old Works, with its black sand and 611 yard uphill par 5. Or head 3.5 hours north to Eureka and play the only Montana course in Golf Digest’s top 100 in the country, The Wilderness Club. If you decide to head to Eureka, Glacier Park is close by, but that’s not a day trip. There’s an amazing Folf Course in Lincoln that runs through a giant sculpture garden, and numerous Folf courses closer to home.

If the kids are bored, take them down to Caras Park to ride the Merry-Go-Round, with its locally painted horses, lions and other designs to delight any rider. It’s down by the Clark Fork River at Brennan’s Wave, where the local river surfers and trick kayakers go to ride. Rent a board or a kayak and you can to. If floating the river is something for the family, there are numerous SUP and raft companies in town that can get you floating in no time flat. There are multiple museums in town, many kid oriented, as well as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Boone and Crockett Club. The Bison Range is an hour out of town to the northwest, where you can drive through and see the regal Bison in its natural habitat. Yellowstone is a bit of a poke from Missoula, but if you’re on your way to somewhere else from here, well, it’s not the grandest park in the USA for nothing!

You can eat like a king in Missoula, if you want to, or like anywhere else, you can make do with fast food and C-Store roller dogs after a long day on the water. Hey, it’s your vacation- we don’t judge! Missoula restaurants have some pretty lenient hours, because as a town, we play hard late into the day and then need sustenance. The pizza in this town is so good- we can’t even name all the amazing pie spots in a 5 mile radius! (special shout out to the Pie Hole- open till 3:00 AM!) Lots of different ethnic foods as well, with some amazing Mexican and Vietnamese options. We’re going to say this. You don’t go to Boston and order a steak- don’t come to Montana and order the cod! You’re in cattle country, take advantage. A word of warning- if you order the king cut, be ready to spend a little time at the table, because we take king size seriously in these here parts!

On a logistical side, we have lots of local and chain grocery stores, with wine and beer available there for purchase. If you’re looking for something with a bit more pop, state stores and casinos can provide the higher caliber ammo. Gambling is legal in Montana, but most of it is machine gaming. There are a few live poker tables throughout town, if you’re looking to test your skill set at 7 card stud. We might not be Vegas, but you can certainly try your luck in Missoula.

There are 3 different large concert venues, and multiple bars where you can find a wide selection of live music. Missoula is big enough to have hosted the Rolling Stones, Sir Paul McCartney and Elton John. (Editors note- the blog writer is old. We do get new music!) The local music scene is vibrant and exciting, so make sure to check and see if there’s some music in town of interest while you’re visiting. Note: in 2020, with the pandemic, this is much less of an option, but it won’t be this way forever, and soon the live music will be back and bigger than ever.

What did we leave out? We have a decent mall, if you want to shop a lot and drive less. You can hike the M, though truthfully, you can read it from the bottom of the hill. Stop at the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center, and find out about the United States first female congressperson, who was the only dissenting vote as we entered WWI and WWII. You can go see the First Presbyterian Church where Norman McClean’s father preached so eloquently. Take a zipline trip at Snowbowl, and see the sights as you zoom down the mountain. Drive down 93 along the Bitterroot range, arguably the most beautiful mountains in Montana. Or head north on 93 to the Mission Mountains, and see if we’re accurate about the Bitterroots. Both have their supporters! Check out the Smoke Jumpers Museum at the airport, or run up Rte 200 to Garnet, the local ghost town. And last but not least, the best chocolate in Montana is found in Philipsburg at the Sweet Shop. Penny candy and fudge to die for, all in a quaint mining town at the top of Rock Creek.

 Or, do what a lot of travelers do and just go fishing one more day!

Unfocused Fly Fishing

. . . it takes several years of serious fishing before a man learns enough to go through a whole season with an unblemished record of physical and spiritual anguish.

Ed Zern, Are Fishermen People? (1951) Quote taken from Nick Lyons, The Quotable Fisherman

No truer words have ever been spoken! Ask any unsuccessful angler what happened and you’ll get a double earful. Too sunny! Too cloudy! Too hot! Too cold! Rising barometer! Leaky waders. The list goes on and on. Why, to hear them talk, the day was doomed from the moment they started, and tomorrow . . . . . . . well, tomorrow is even worse.

We’re not going to catch fish every time we hit the water. That’s a given. Some days, for whatever reason, you just suck! The first cast you make spooks 5 trout you didn’t see. Your dry fly lands 4 feet wide left, and leaves rings because your presentation was so “light”. Your jig nymph, even inverted as it rides, seems to find every submerged branch in the river. You pop flies off on your back cast, or snap so hard the indicator flies off. You drop fly boxes in the river, and lose your forceps. Again. Every mosquito seems to be telling you, maybe I should be on the golf course, or cutting the grass.

And you can’t fall back on your standard reason any more. You’ve been at this for a while. You’ve done your research, reading books and online with the Mangler’s Resource Pages. You fish 50 days a year, and know things now. You’ve tasted the heady champagne of success, and it was good! What happened?

You’re not a novice anymore! You can’t say I’m just learning. You’ve climbed that hill. Of course, you never do stop learning, that’s the joy of this sport. But the days of everything being new are gone. You no longer rejoice at tying a Surgeon’s Knot on the first try .You know it’s PMD’s on the water, the Goldens will be there later, and if you make it, the Pale Evening Duns fly at dusk. You have the knowledge to succeed. What a double edged sword!

We all know mid summer clouds are magic. (Cloud Day)We plan our days to be on the water when conditions are perfect. Yet the sum of our day is measured in single digits, in both fish length and count. We pounded the water to a frothy lather, we delved deep in the vest for last years magic, changed tippet, leader and tactics. We got squat.

And then the knowledge starts to come out, slowly and painfully! It’s a full moon- the fish were feeding all night and now they’re sated and not moving in the day. I knew that! Why wasn’t I out last night!! A new weather front came in, and trout hate barometric change. I know this! I had oatmeal for breakfast. I never catch fish when I have oatmeal for breakfast! How could I have been so stupid!

The list grows. Every minute on the water seems to reinforce another reason for tiddlers, one dink every three hours. You’re sunburned, because you took the sunscreen out of the bag to make room for that new box of killer flies. You forgot to hydrate, and there’s nothing more annoying than to be thirsty surrounded by water! How can I fish with all these problems! This never happened before. I know what I’m doing. Why, just 4 years ago, I took 18 fish out of this stretch in just under two hours.

Woe is me!

And visions of 7 irons dance in your head. You haven’t had the mountain bike out for a spin in quite some time. And yes, if asked, maybe, just maybe, the garden could use a little weeding, and the garage could be tidied up. You haven’t been able to park in it for two months, so it might be time to clear a little space.

Your feet don’t listen. It’s like they have a mind of their own. They shuffle a little further up the river, taking care not to disturb the water. Your mind goes into overdrive. If the weeds are growing, so’s everything else. Last time I golfed, my idiot cousin almost beaned me with his crappy slice. And it’s summer. The car is fine in the driveway.

You twist another fly on. It comes from the box that replaced the sunscreen. You take two baby steps, and then tiny third. Flick, and the fly is air born, cutting through the air with the grace and skill you’ve worked long and hard to attain. You can see the spot 35 feet above you, where the bright silver water drops off to dark green, just below a dancing riffle. At the last moment, just as the fly is about to hit the water, you twist your wrist and make a left reach cast. The fly lands, two feet above the prime spot, with just enough slack to float exactly as you’d planned, using all the skill you’ve gained on the water, all the guile you’ve worked so hard to learn, and starts it’s float to the zone. . . . . . .

You know every reason why it’s not going to work. Too hot! Wrong tippet! Should have mended right! Full moon! Oatmeal!

Your brain, locked in the cranium and covered by a hat so ugly a guy at the put-in offered to loan you a different one, is babbling excuses like a drunk husband coming home at 3:00 AM.  But just like his wife, you’re not listening to that BS! You’re listening to your feet, you’re listening to the feel of the rod, you’re listening to that little voice, located way under the drone of non-stop negativity, saying, just one more cast. Just one more, and then I weed.

Just one more, and then I maybe I’ll get the mountain bike out.

Just one more cast. . . . . . .

Because you know every reason why you shouldn’t be on the water. All those lessons learned- some the hard way, some the easy way. All molding an angler who has savored great success, and choked down bitter failure. An angler who’s put in his time, and found out that there’s only one lesson that really counts. It’s the tenet they learned first,  the most important knowledge any angler ever gains. No matter what else is lodged in the fishing brain, screaming out one more rationalization for another fishless cast, another fishless day, fishless week, month. . . . . .


Yeah, it’s too cold. Too this, too that. But we go anyway. Because it’s what we do. Because we honor the first lesson. Because the essence of all angling, the spark that drives the first lesson home is hope. We know all the reasons not to go, but then the most powerful force in the fly fisherman’s arsenal takes over. We remember a 100 degree August day 7 years ago when we crushed with ants. A March day in a white out, with every trout in the river eating Skwalas. Shouldn’t have been out then either.

But we were

The River Rant

Brought To You By The Beef Stick Eating Brown Trout

Well it’s official, the first Skwala sighting appears and we can’t stay off the water now. To early? Yes. Good Fishing? No. Good beer and Company? You Know it.

Every year it happens to our crew, we start fishing hard in February with streamers and nymphs and by the time we see the first Skwala in March, we prematurely throw a single dry on. There’s always a few of us that go dry or die way to early. If you put a dry on your nymph rig, it might make you feel better but we all know that dropper is going to catch the majority of the fish and the dry will lull you to sleep just to be woken up by one big rainbow smashing the dry which you miss. Yes, a few fish will come up and smash the big bug but this is our way of pretending not to nymph.

What ever floats your boat right? Or in this scenario, what ever floats your nymph.

Many of you have been pretty excited coming into our Missoula fly shop after hearing that Skwala’s started too hatch. We’re excited too but I hate to tell you that the weather forecast doesn’t look pretty for Skwala adults. This upcoming weekend weather is looking a little chilly for the big bugs and even a few nights of single digits. So turn that energy into streamers, nymphs and your tying bench for the time being.

This time of year is when Missoula fly fishing guides start scouting the river for new changes in the streams from last fall, make sure their boat and gear is in working order, and buy a new cooler because the lunch from the last trip hasn’t been cleaned out since October.

Missoula Fly Shops are constantly getting shipments of flies in and stocking up for the anticipation for a good Skwala hatch. But after a lousy spring fishing season in Misssoula last year, there’s a lot less stocking to do this year.

For us at the Missoulian Angler Fly Shop, we’ve been dedicating a lot of our time in preparing for our first annual Skwala Fest. We’ve been constantly getting shipments in of donations from our vendors in the form of product to raffle off. At this point we are pretty sure we’ve annoyed just about everyone of our facebook followers with constant shout outs for the Skwala Fest. Don’t worry though, we are less then a month away from the event and then we’ll give you a rest until the second annual event.

March fly fishing in Missoula can be hit and miss with the weather and often fluctuating water but it is one of our favorite times of year on the river and in the shop. On the river big fish chase streamers and more often then not you will find yourself on a stretch of water all to yourself with some of your best friends. Being the largest fly selection and fly tying selection in Western Montana, most Missoula fly fishing guides shop at our fly shop and they are some of our favorite people. They’re patient demeanor means they can deal with Georges rants and bubbly attitude, they are excited for the upcoming season and they get just as excited about our new patterns for the season as us. Missoula fly shops get a little lonely in the winter and seeing familiar faces like the guides who often stop in the shop every day from June until October brings the life back into our shop.

Spring Fly Fishing Pre Game Tips

Spring is almost here. We see it in the longer days and slightly warmer temps. We start dreaming about the fishing…. will it be awesome? How’s the snowpack, and when’s run-off coming? Will spring be warm or cold? Will 2018’s high water translate into more fish recruitment? How has the Bitterroot river changed over the winter? We can spend hours pondering these questions.

Questions we can’t answer and won’t know the answers to till April 30. 

Here’s a suggestion. While wondering about the weather, the hatches and the river, take care of business where you can. Pull out your tackle bag, vest, etc, and take a look. Take some time to do some preseason chores so that your first spring fly fishing trip of the year is enjoyable.

Remember that submerged fence post on the Clark Fork river you wrapped your line around late last fall? It might be time to check the first 30 feet of your fly line for chips, abrasion and just plain wear. While you’re at it, check the welded loop. If the loop is fraying, you might want to replace it. If you don’t want to tie the nail knot, bring it to the Missoulian Angler Fly Shop and we’ll put a leader butt on your line. At a bare minimum, wash the last 30 feet of fly line in soapy water. It will float, mend and shoot so much better.

Take a look at your leaders and tippet. Don’t just check to make sure you still have 3-4-5X, but pull the little elastic aside, and make sure you’re not down to three wraps. If the tippet spools you’re using have different packaging than what’s on display now, it might be time to replace that nylon. Manufacturers change packaging every 5-6 years. That will help you date your tippet! If you’re using fluorocarbon, that doesn’t apply, as it doesn’t degrade. You still have to check under the elastic with fluorocarbon!

Check the laces on your boots. Try and remember if you had a leak in your waders last time you wore them. If you think you did, then check. The easiest way to check for a leak is with a hair dryer and some soapy water. Fill the waders with air using the hair dryer, and then paint the suspect areas with soapy water. If bubbles form in the soapy water, you have a leak. Better to patch now than leak in March.

Open up your reel. If you dunked it last year, it has dirt and scree in it. Get some Q-Tips, and swipe around inside the spindle receiver of the spool. Try to stay away from WD-40, as it gums up in reels. Once you’ve got it cleaned, check manufacturers instructions for lubrication, and do it. A clean reel is a smooth, functional reel, and that pays dividends for the rest of the season. Rattle the handle. If it’s loose, get some Loc-Tite and screw it back on. Make sure the handle rotates before the Loc-Tite sets!

Clean your cooler!! If you have a raft and trailer, do the maintenance there as well.

Take a look at your flies. Take out the shredded streamers and the hackleless dries! If you store your standard dries in foam, pull them out and steam the hackle straight. Use a teakettle and a pair of forceps to accomplish this. Then let the flies dry and put them in a compartment box. Foam and standard hackle don’t mix.

Go through your vest and determine if you really need a third flashlight, or 4 almost empty bottles of Gink. If you want to transfer Gink from one bottle to another, run it under hot water for a minute, it pours better. Look at your net. Check the bag for cracks or torn attachment points. If it’s a Rising Net, drink what’s left in the handle. We have a feeling the rubber stopper doesn’t add to the flavor. Start the year fresh with a new fill, and let the old stuff motivate you through spring maintenance!

Or if your a dedicated angler like shop staff Bryce Hasquet, you fish all winter long!

When rods were made of cane and lines made of silk, this off-season maintenance was critical. But with the ease of care and durability of modern equipment, it’s easy to skip this step. We can’t tell you how many reels come into our Missoula fly shop that squeak when you wind them. Or how often we have to tell people their waders need to be completely dry, and then the Aquaseal takes 24 hours to cure. An ounce of prevention will make your first days on the water enjoyable, dry and effective, instead of damp, annoying and frustrating. It won’t take anywhere near as long as you think it will, and hey, while you’re playing with your tackle, you’ll REALLY be focused on your Spring fly fishing!

Mousing Montana Fly Fishing

Missoula Night Fly Fishing – Mice and Big Streamers

It’s 8:30 pm on a late July evening in Western Montana. You just got done with a short after work trip to the river, throwing a dry and putting a few smaller fish to hand, then switching it up to a streamer, but no slam pig brown like you’ve always dreamed of. The sun is just starting to tuck behind the mountains, so you figure you’d better head back towards the car. . . or should you? Is the best trophy trout fishing of the day about to begin? Is that monster of a brown trout just starting to slide out from a deep hole to feed? Well, there’s only one way to find out.

Morrish Mouse

One of the most overlooked methods of fly fishing for big trout around Missoula starts when the sun goes down. It may seem foolish and difficult to fumble around attempting to cast in the dark, but the payout can be extravagant. First, let’s establish why this works, and why it’s worth giving a shot. Big trout, and I mean BIG trout (23-32 inches) didn’t get big by being stupid. After living in a system for anywhere from 7 to 20 years, they know where and when they are in danger from predators, they know what actions put them in a vulnerable position, and they know one simple solution to eliminate these life-threatening factors. Eat. At. Night. Simple as that, feeding after sundown allows big trout to roam nearly any part of the river as they wish without a care in the world about the eagle that lives a quarter mile upstream. However, protection is not the only reason that huge trout choose to feed almost exclusively at night, there is another factor that is more seasonal. As you may have noticed the last time you fished the river in 100 degree weather, trout aren’t too fond of hot water temps. The biggest and smartest fish in the river are no exception. These fish live with 4 things in mind: get big, stay big, make babies, don’t die. The ‘stay big’ portion of this lifestyle is not particularly complimented by exhausting vast amounts of calories trying to chase baitfish through the shallows under the scorching hot sun. The air becomes cool at night in the Missoula area, and so does the water. Yet another reason why the 10+ pound trout of your dreams isn’t sipping BWOs at 2:00pm.

Now that we’ve discussed why this works, lets address how. There are two commonly used methods when it comes to fly fishing at night; mousing/topwater and streamer fishing. In most freestone rivers like the Bitterroot River, Blackfoot River and Clark Fork River, when trout reach a certain size, mayfly nymphs and caddis flies aren’t going to sustain the calorie intake that these pigs require. When the fish reach this point in their life, some will start to shift from a BMI (Benthic Macro Invertebrate) diet, to a baitfish and juvenile fish diet. Not only this, but these trout will also predate on mice, rats, small water mammals, frogs, crawdads, snakes, birds, the list goes on. Anything that offers a significant number of calories, a large predacious trout will eat if it can get its jaws on it. That being said, larger 4-7 inch articulated streamers have become a standard imitation for these large piscivorous trout, and anything from a single hook Moorish Mouse to a triple articulated rat pattern stripped across the surface will go as a rodent imitation. Oh, and ideally bring at least a 6 or 7 weight rod or you’re ‘gonna have a bad time’. Now, it’s not necessarily true that one of these fly selections will work better than the other, because when a trophy trout is the target, it’s more-so about being in the right place at the right time. However, as exciting as it is to hear a 6 pound brown Trout break the silence of the night with a belly flop on a mouse pattern, the number of hookups are less than ideal. If comparing the hookup ratio of a mouse pattern to a streamer, it’s probably 1:5. . . Regardless of which fly option you choose, the strategies that follow both are relatively similar. First off, it all starts with finding the right body of water. You need to find a system that has big fish potential. This can mean a few things. . . the system has at one point or another produced a giant fish or two, the system regularly produces larger fish (say 18-22 inch trout in this case) and you’re looking to uncover something greater, or maybe something as simple as a big fish story. Two crucially important factors that arise while night fishing rivers, is familiarity with the water, and finding safely wadable water. Don’t go trotting out onto a river you’ve never laid eyes on before in the pitch black. Not only can this be incredibly unsafe, but you also will have little clue what you’re casting to, tremendously lowering your efficiency. Keep in mind, it’s important to keep your headlamp off as much as possible, so casting into complete darkness is much easier if you’ve walked the water a time or two in the daylight. Additionally, try and choose a stretch of water where you can either easily navigate the bank, or walk through shallow and calm water that won’t sweep you off your feet and take you for a midnight swim. Now, with disclaimers out of the way, lets say you find a familiar stretch of river that you are convinced will produce a 28” brown trout. Focus on fishing moderate/slower pace water, anywhere near obvious structure or cover such as undercut banks, overhanging trees, downed logs, and rip-rap banks. Another major river feature that should be noted while night fishing, is big shelfs and drop offs. Often, large predatory fish will sit down on the deep end of a drop off during the day to rest. When nightfall hits and they’re ready to feed, they will move up onto the shelf and scan the flat water for minnows and juvenile fish . . . so, don’t be hesitant to pull a streamer or mouse through a stretch of knee deep water. Additionally, big fish will also move into side channels and sloughs where their prey has less room to escape.

Mousy Mcmouse Face. One of our favorite mouse patterns.

From here, there’s only a couple things left to consider; commitment and persistence. Night fishing is different, and not particularly convenient or appealing to the average angler. However, it is by far the most effective manner of targeting big fish exclusively and not worrying about numbers. Furthermore, the determination to pursue a big fish comes with some downfalls. Other than the few giants, most fish usually stop feeding around sunset. This means you’re going to get skunked more times than anyone likes to admit along the journey of chasing a trophy. Those willing to bite the bullet and put fishless (and sleepless) hours on the clock are the ones who will be rewarded. So . . . next time you hit the river for evening outing of fly fishing, bring a few streamers, a couple mice, and a headlamp. Stay a few extra hours and you may be surprised what kind of magic happens after the sun goes down.

We do offer guided fly fishing trips in Montana for Mousing. Due to safety of issues of fishing at night we typically start at first light in the morning which can be one of the best times to mouse. If this is something you would like to do then please give us a call at 1 (406) 728-7766.

Additional Night Fishing Resources