If you’re as obsessed with bugs as most anglers become, wouldn’t it be nice to have a real scientific look at exactly what bugs, and how many, are in your river? Lucky for those who fish the Missouri, we have just that. Like a Christmas present for bug nerds, the Upper Missouri River Watershed Association released their Baseline Macroinvertebrate Monitoring Report for 2015 on December 22. Based on extensive stream samples at ten different sites on the Missouri river, the report gives you all you’d like to know and more on what bugs are out there, how many there are, and just how important to the fishing you do they are. For an excellent summary of the report, you owe it to yourself to hit up the Headhunters Fly Shop site where Braden Lewis has done some awesome college-credit worthy work in his post.
Braden helped with the project, and it really is something cool to see, if you’re as into bugs as some of us are. For the average angler, it might be a little too much information but what it does offer to everyone who reads it is a look at the health of the river- lots of bugs mean good things. Also, the sheer diversity within species should give the angler hope: do you need an exact matching fly for each hatch? No. Hells no. But it speaks more to the appeal of the fly that covers lots of the bases- a well-tied caddis no matter the color will cover those nineteen species found on the Mo. Another interesting finding that might effect the way you think about fishing the Missouri river, and other tailwaters for that matter, is the trend toward decreasing caddis numbers and increasing populations of midges and sowbugs- bugs that are more traditionally found in slower, “siltier” water than the freestones where caddis really thrive. Is this due to sediment buildup and vegetation? That’s for the scientists to say. But for the angler, it coincides with the increased popularity of scud flies on the Mo, without a doubt.
What does this study mean for “Non-Mo” anglers? Well, for me it points toward some conservation efforts I’d like to see closer too home on our local rivers. The Clark Fork, with it’s Milltown dam removal and river reconstruction, would be a prime target for similar long-term macro-invertebrate study. As guides and anglers know, the Clark Fork has seemed to bounce back surprisingly fast from that long-term damage, and more study of the actual bug numbers of the river would be a great thing to see. For now, point your clicker thing over to the Headhunters site and give Braden’s excellent work a look see.