We're headed for Montana for a while, plus it looks like cold weather is returning to Missouri, so I wanted to get in one more day of fishing. Today was my only chance. I texted cwc on the way to the river to see if he could join me, and he said he could but only for the morning.
We put in and headed for the nearest wintering pool. Stopped in the pool above it, which occasionally holds a few winter fish, and caught a couple. Then into the pool itself. There are eddies in the upper portion that always hold winter fish, but action was slow. We only caught a couple. So we fished down the pool and began to catch fish in the lower portion. The farther downstream we went, the more fish we caught. Cwc ended up catching one good one, 18.5 inches.
We fished the next good pool, and again caught all our fish at the lower end, where it begins to shallow. One more marginal pool, and several more at the lower end. Obviously a pattern. But it was time for cwc to call it quits, so I ran him back up to his truck and then headed for another really good wintering pool.
This one is always full of fish in the winter, and you can spend a good part of a day fishing all around it. But I went to the lower portion first. Caught a few fish on jerkbaits, and then a few on hair jigs, but not really as many as I expected. Fished rather quickly the rest of the way up the pool, catching a few, mainly in the upper end is slightly stronger current. But I ended up catching only about 12-15 altogether, none larger than 15 inches. Certainly not what I'd hoped for. But...
At the lower end of this pool it shallows out but doesn't really go into a riffle, just a shallow flat and then below, a little run about 50 yards long with various logs and rocks, only 5-6 feet deep and with some current, not a classic wintering spot. Well, I think the vast majority of the fish in the wintering pool above had headed down to this spot. In about an hour and a half before I had to leave, I'm pretty sure I at least got a bite on more than 90% of the casts I made, mostly with the hair jig, though I also caught some on the jerkbait. I didn't count the fish I caught, but it had to be at least 60. Most were 11-14 inches long with a few over 15, the largest 17.5. Hooked a couple others that were that big or a little bigger. I guess those fish considered that run the lower end of the big pool above, so the pattern of the fish in the lower end definitely held.
Interestingly, it's only been a few days since the river had ice along the edges...but the water temp was 48-50 degrees! Pretty sure it will drop again with the forecast, and those fish will move back to their typical wintering area.