Fast Paced May Fishing on the Missouri River

As I write this fishing report, I’m watching Wicked Tuna and can’t help but notice all the similarities between the Blue Fin Tuna and the Missouri River Rainbow Trout. Both are full figured and pull ALOT of line out. I have had the great fortune to spend some time on the Mighty ‘Mo this May, and experience some of the best spring trout fishing I’ve ever seen. Spring is always exceptional, especially on area tailwaters like the Big Horn, Madison and Missouri Rivers. However, this spring seems to be exceptional.

May Missouri River Rainbow
A HUGE Missouri River Rainbow. This fish jumped a counted 8 times.

In terms of the fishing, I am astounded. I temped the water on the ‘Mo between 42 and 46 degrees. We found cooler water at the dam and warmer water in the canyon. Fish were on the shelves, in the buckets, and in the tail-outs, doing exactly what they should be doing, eating! I have found blanket hatches of both midges and blue wings, especially on overcast days. The afternoon dry fly fishing has been a mix of smaller fish crushing everything while we hunt for the bigger singles. As the hatch cycle matures, these bigger fish will begin to take notice and start to eat more consistently off the top. Exciting news for the dry fly angler! We have primary caught fish on blue winged dun imitations, with a CDC comapardun holding the lion’s share of the trout caught dry fly fishing. I have also taken some fish on an orange posted, thread body Adams and a LaFontaine Buzz Ball. With fresh fish we have been able to shorten up our leader length and upsize tippet, helpful when you poke a big one.

Wade fishing the Missouri River in May
Another big fish taken while wading a productive ledge.

Being a millennial means I live for instant gratification and ease of use, right? Well, maybe not. But the nymphing has been just that, instant and gratifying. Everyday around 10 am we see a bump in water temperature and every fish in the river is exactly where they are supposed to be; crunching sow bugs, midges, and baetis in no particular order in 2 to 6 feet of water. Hooking some of these bigger fish in deeper water has resulted in a few backing sightings as these fish steam down river for Louisiana. Then when you’re all stretched out, they take flight. Four, five or six times! Heart pounding for some. The fish have been keying on blue winged emerges in the afternoon; RS2’s, floating nymphs, green machines all producing. As a lifelong tailwater junkie, I have been enjoying the morning sowbug bite. I have 3 boxes stuffed with sowbugs from side 6 (Jumbo Prawn) and 22 (Pop Corn Shrimp). Cooler mornings have dictated smaller bugs and wading. As those water temps warm the boat fishing has been the crown jewel.

Shore Lunch on a Missouri River fishing trip
When the fishing is "that good" sometimes you need to get out of the boat and take it all in.

I would also like to address the elephant in the room. Snowpack. Currently all the drainages we fish are in the mid to high 90’s, which should mean good August fishing and robust hatches. Pretty exciting news.

The month ahead should only see an improvement in what we have already experienced. The fish and insect activity will intensify as we see warmer and warmer days. Fish will be on the move toward faster riffles where they will eat even more.

If you have a spare couple of days in May or the first two weeks of June, the Missouri is certainly worth the trip to Montana.

45 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All