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Dry Fly Fishing with Pete Cardinal, Missouri River's Senior Expert

Dry Fly Fishing with Pete Cardinal, Missouri River's Senior Expert

Pete Cardinal Outfitters (formerly Missouri River Angler) is the longest running full-time outfitting service on the Missouri River below Holter Dam. For 34 years Pete Cardinal has guided exclusively on this famous blue-ribbon trout river, and his specialty is dry fly fishing.

Although much has changed with the fishery over the years, what is constant is Pete Cardinal’s dedication to providing the finest angling experience to his clients. Catching fish is one thing but what’s equally important to Pete is that his clients leave the Missouri more experienced and more technically proficient in the skills of fly fishing.

A day of angling instruction from this expert will change your ideas and attitudes and enhance your knowledge of more than just the river. The lessons learned in a day with Pete are applicable worldwide wherever trout swim as many of Pete’s long-term clients will attest. 

Dream Sporting Trips

It's an honor to speak with you today. Tell us, how did you get into this business? What made you decide to become a fishing guide/outfitter?

Pete Cardinal 

As a teenager I wanted to be a fisheries biologist. So I proceeded to get a Bachelor's degree in Fisheries Management from Michigan State University, followed by a Master's Degree from Montana State University. My first job after grad school was a one year contract as a fisheries biologist on the Missouri River below Holter Dam. Wow, what amazing trout fisheries I discovered, and there was no one there!

Shortly thereafter, I separated from the State agency that had hired me; I just could not do the politics of the job. So in 1983, driven by my love of fly fishing, I started a small fly shop in Craig, Montana, and began guiding fly fishermen on the Missouri River. The rest is history, and this will be my 34th year guiding.

Dream Sporting Trips

That's fantastic! Where do you take your clients to fish?

Pete Cardinal

We fish the 36-mile stretch of the Missouri River from Holter Dam to Cascade, Montana.

Dream Sporting Trips

What is your personal favorite fish to catch? What fish do your clients primarily request to fish?

Pete Cardinal

Rainbow trout and brown trout are the fish we catch on the Missouri. It is all done by fly fishing. What has attracted anglers to the Missouri and to my guide service is the great dry fly fishing. My clients really want as much dry fly fishing as I can find them, and the favorite is stalking large browns in very shallow water.

Dream Sporting Trips

Is there one particularly exciting fishing adventure that stands out from the rest?

Pete Cardinal 

There are just so many after 34 years it is hard to decide! However, one late August, a client misbooked his dates on his calendar and could not make the last date of the trip. Yikes, the writing was on the wall, so instead I guided my wife and a mutual friend. It was to be a day not to be missed!

We started at noon and fished hoppers for the next five hours. It was beyond spectacular. Nonstop, and the final score was 21 fish between 20 and 23 inches boated along with just as many “smaller” ones 18-20 inches. The moral of the story is... make sure you get your guide dates correct on your calendar!

Dream Sporting Trips

What is the most commonly asked question you get from anglers?

Pete Cardinal 

There are many. Most of the questions concern gear, equipment, lodging, start time, and meeting place. Most of these can be easily answered by visiting my web site. Most anglers are curious about whether they will be fishing from a boat or wading and what flies they will be using. As with most quality guide services in the West, flies and lunches are provided on our excursions.

Dream Sporting Trips

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Pete Cardinal

Taking a guided trip may be seen as expensive to many anglers; however, the experience it provides is really worth the cost. Our trips are not just about catching lots of fish. What is more important to us is that every client walks away having learned how to read water better, cast better, identify insects, tie knots, build leaders, etc., etc. The Missouri provides the greatest laboratory for anglers, novice to expert, to improve and polish their skills as fly fishermen. Our guide service has the quality of guides to complete that connection!

 

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So who's ready for a fishing trip?

For more information on the fly fishing trips offered by Pete Cardinal Outfitters and how to contact them, visit this link:

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Related:

Pete Cardinal was one of 13 Western guides featured in the book Castwork: Reflections On Fly Fishing Guides and the American West by Kirk D. Deeter, Andrew W. Steketee.

Great Falls Tribune, Amy Grisak, February 19, 2014. "Cold fish: Even in the winter, local anglers enjoy success on the open water"

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