Fly Fishing and Floating the Lower Missouri River





After several weeks of accessing the Missouri River via different yet equally questionable ways I set my mind on a float trip on the Missouri of about 5-7 miles.  One evening on my way back from the river at around 2:30am  I notice some cruisers around my car.  Not being interested in confronting any possible issues, I held back in the darkness…When the helicopter showed up things got more serious.  It couldn’t seem to locate me and eventually left.  after several minutes of this cat and mouse I decided to hell with it and I was going to the car regardless!  I made my way across the field about half way seeing no sign of the Dunkin boys.  Then behind me I heard the helo coming back!  I thought I was cooked…running across the field it was just about on top of me when I hit the key fob turning on all my lights,  threw my rod into t he back, jumped in and headed off with my lights on, kayak in tow.  I drove out of the lot seeing no one to my surprise….drove the .5 mile to the stop sign, turned and looked back to see the helo with spotlight searching franticly with both gumshoes parked in the lot.  I got on the freeway and drove right past them on my way home, expecting to be pulled over at any and every moment.  Nothing happened! WTF was going on with those guys?  My luck was running at an all time high that night….But as with most things luck runs out and I need a good way to get to the water around here.  I came up with a solution!  There’s and access at Howell Island. It requires a kayak and a  300-400 yard portage if you want to reach the river, though you could conceivably walk out to the river with the way the water levels are, but the choice water is on the far side of the Missouri River just northwest of the Boone Bridge.  I planned on taking two nights on the river but many factors would converge to turn my trip into a much shorter pleasant dream turned nightmare.

I made it to the main river just at sundown.  Overloaded with gear the yak had just inches of water clearance,  I made sure my life preserver was secured and headed out into the deep boiling current set on reaching the sandbar on the far side.  Once I arrived I secured my things and headed out on foot probing the shallow waters with a Black Ops.  I landed one grass carp at around 10:00pm…you can see the fish’s cruising wake sometimes and occasionally see them feed or swirl…casts toward such fish can sometimes be productive.  I finally hit the sack around 2:30-3:00am and was up at 5:00.  The Bridge and air traffic was really loud and there were some really strange sounds between the cars and other vehicles in the area which, along with the mosquitoes did a good job keeping me from getting much sleep.  It was 5:00am and this is why I was here so I got to fishing.  First up was a nice little White Bass on a heavy squirrel tail clouser/backstabber.  I quickly changed over to one of 3 Black Ops I tied specifically for Grass Carp.  The fishing was good, with lots of big fish, eager to eat and very  strong in the shallow superheated waters of the Missouri River.  I left my camera at the Kayak for this early am fishing…All in all I would say I ended the day with about 6 Grass Carp, 1 Common, 1 Drum, and 1 White Bass.  Every fish came on a Black Ops except the White Bass.   I can’t seem to locate and catch many catfish this year….I’d love to speak to anyone who knows whats going on on the lower Missouri  river.  Its hard to figure out weather you can figure the catfish out or not with a fly rod.  I think a boat and an partner would help immensely, so if anyone in the area is interested in this type of fishing and has a boat…I’d be happy to team up with you.

Oh yeah, so apparently 95 only looks cool after weeks of 100-108.  By 5pm I was realizing I was getting cooked good and I needed to get out of the sun bad.  Looking around I found one small spot of shade across the way….the wind, combined with my load, and reverse currents made paddling quite difficult but I made it to the shade…sick from the sun.  After about 20 min I decided I would try and make it the next 2-3 miles to my car. I pushed off and promptly puked my guts out.  On my way I went.  I made it to my creek and tried to go up but it was so low I could not get past the little “mud falls” 1 ft waterfall created near the river surrounded by knee deep mud…just what a weary heat sick traveler needs.  I ditched the yak, paked up what I could carry the next mile and headed for the car.  Half hour later I was on my way home….pleased I didn’t have to make camp and sleep out with the heat and mosquitoes while battling heat sickness.

In the end I made it, and that’s all I wanted to do! Heading out into the wilderness takes some getting used to and now I know my abilities and limits that much better.  The next time I will be more prepared as I think the River will be fly fishable through to next spring.  The river is currently at winter levels and is quite clear in the shallows.  With a boat, a partner, and these low water levels the Lower Missouri shows some real possibilities as a Grass Carp hot spot.

The Black Ops:

The Black Ops is one of my top 3 most productive flies all around and is #1 for Grass Carp in the Big Rivers.  Sizes 4-8 flies with the smaller flies typically the norm.   I’ve added a little silver crystal flash in memory of the fly that took my largest ever completely blind (on my part) Grass Carp coming in close to 4 ft….too big to handle, as are most of my fish.  Fish are repeatedly glided to the boat until I can reach the fly and pop it out before the fish bolts again.  I hate barbs because a fish hooked with a barb becomes a danger to me (line cuts too fingers) and my rod so its all barbless around here.

Carp fly for grass and common carp

Size 4 Black ops with silver crystal flash





11 Responses to 'Fly Fishing and Floating the Lower Missouri River'

  1. Gregg Martin says:


    #1, you need to write a book. #2, a helicopter here would be looking for a body, lots of public access in Idaho, #3, you stuff is always worth it’s weight in gold! 108 here today, but like i hear all too often “yea, but you have a dry heat.” 8%, fair enough, wild fires cover us in smoke, what I’m used to actually.


  2. FishnDave says:

    I can relate. I got heat sick last summer while fly fishing one day for carp from my kayak. Didn’t puke…but felt awful. I went home and rested a few hours…then went wading a river for smallmouth bass!
    That looks like a small Flathead Catfish in your pictures…how did you catch that?

    • I forgot to tie those pictures in…the night of the Helocopter i got two little flatheads one on a big Hammerhead white rabbit strip and one on a smaller black fly. I think i was just botttom bouncing stuff off the wingdikes around current and shutes or breaks in the dykes. I got the nice Drum right under one of those breaks i the dyke with the big hh white rabbit strip.. then I caught my first ever flathead on it bouncing bottom comming up the dyke wall from about 15 ft down maybe hooked around 12-8ft deep and I got two…makes you wonder…I would so love a boat with some sonar…the good fish may be in the deepest holes and I’m definitely not comfortable around those in my kayak. you would think with this low water they would all be stacked up somewhere or migrated north or south. I need to get on some catfish boards tomorrow and see what the word is.

  3. John Madert says:

    Chris, please be careful out on the big water in this heat.

    The flathead was a noteworthy catch !! Try a saltwater Dorsy’s Kwan or
    Merkwan on 1/0 Owner Aki. A crab/shrimp/critter fly that has no business being in the Missouri River … but flatheads don’t know that.
    Their wide mouth means they will take a “big” offering.

  4. Brian says:

    Chris, I would be willing to fish the Missouri with you. I have a canoe and live about 15 minutes from the Boone bridge.

    Also I was wondering if you have tried the Missouri research park access point to the Katy trail? It seems to put you within a mile or so of where you want to fish? I haven’t tried it myself but I plan to.

  5. John says:

    Chris – you seeing or catching any bighead carp in your local water? I know they are in the Missouri River but was curious if you see them among the grass carp you catch?

  6. Warren from Confluence Riverkeepers says:

    Missourifisher, pls give me a call at 314-412-5393. Our non-profit has a really nice pontoon boat at Alton and access to other boats on the Missouri. We would really to go out fishing with you. We have a lot of members that are hard-core flyfishers who would like to learn how to tangle with Grass Carp and any other reel-smokers. Thanks, Warren Grace

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