This is the post we’ve all been waiting for folks. We are thrilled to OFFICIALLY announce the launch of the all new Big Sky Anglers.
WEST YELLOWSTONE, Montana (April, 2017) – Longtime local guides/outfitters Joe Moore (Big Sky Anglers), Justin Spence (The West Yellowstone Fly Shop), and Jonathan Heames (Jonathan Heames Fly Fishing & Trouthunter) have merged and acquired Bud Lilly’s Trout Shop.
The entire operation, including outfitting and the fly shop, will move forward as BIG SKY ANGLERS, based here in West Yellowstone, MT. The merger expands Big Sky Anglers’ prior outfitting territory to include the waters of Gallatin National Forest and the legendary Henry’s Fork of the Snake River in Idaho, and adds an awesome retail fly fishing space to the business.
With over 55 years of combined guiding and fly shop experience in West Yellowstone, Joe, Justin, and Jonathan are excited to continue the tradition started by Bud Lilly over 65 years ago, while adding our own unique voice and vision to the business. We have some great ideas planned for the shop and will incorporate all the wonderful things that have made each of us successful in our own businesses. As always, customer service is our top priority.
We are on the web at www.bigskyanglers.com and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and by phone at 406-646-7801. We can also be found and reached on Facebook at facebook.com/bigskyanglers/ and on Instagram @bigskyanglers.
The fly shop doors will be open full time starting in the Spring of 2017, following completion of renovations. We are currently available via phone if you’d like to talk fishing or book trips. We also have plenty of gear available so don’t hesitate to contact us if you need anything. Our multi-day grand opening event is scheduled for June 30 through July 2, 2017. We’ll have lots of surprises in store, along with great guests, discounts, giveaways, and more. We look forward to seeing everyone then!
With any change brings uncertainty to the customers of any established business, but there are a few important things we’d like everyone to know at this time:
We will maintain our commitment to providing the best guided fishing experience available. Our staff will include Justin Spence, Joe Moore, and Jonathan Heames as senior guides and owners, along with veteran guides Travis Rydberg and Steve Hoovler, plus your favorite guides who formerly worked for Big Sky Anglers, the West Yellowstone Fly Shop, and Bud Lilly’s Trout Shop. So, if you love fishing with Greg Falls, Jared Cady, Chris Herpin, Earl James, Donovan Best, Miles Marquez, or Mike Swanson, just give us a call!
Our home base will be in the classic location made famous by Bud Lilly’s Trout Shop at the corner of Canyon and Madison in West Yellowstone. Stop in and see us this coming season. We are excited to get to know so many more great folks who share our love for Yellowstone Country! Our inventory will include: rods from Echo, Sage, Scott, and Winston; reels from Abel, Galvan, Hatch, Waterworks-Lamson, and Ross; flylines and leaders from Airflo, Maxima, Rio, Scientific Anglers, and Trouthunter; flies from Fulling Mill, Solitude, Umpqua, and local custom tiers; waders and boots from Simms and Korkers, apparel from Simms and Columbia; nets and packs from Fishpond; and sunglasses from Costa del Mar and Smith.
We were able to meet with Bud Lilly in December of 2016 at his home in Three Forks, before he passed away. We were honored when he asked us to share our stories with him, and explain our plans for moving forward. He shared a few stories of his own, and graciously offered us his support and well wishes moving forward.
The legacy of Bud Lilly will live on here at Big Sky Anglers. Bud is a legendary angler and advocate for conservation and protection of wild trout and their habitat in southwest Montana, Yellowstone Park and beyond. His messages to fellow anglers rings as true today as they did when he started all of this over 65 years ago. We believe that the most profound of Bud’s ideals is that of being a well-rounded angler and participating in fishing for what he calls “The Total Experience”. It’s not only catching fish that draws us to angling. It’s the love of the fish and the rivers. Enjoying our natural surroundings and unique geology, experiencing the local birds and wildlife, participating in our western culture, and doing it all in chosen solitude or in the company of friends and loved ones, is what completes the angling experience and keeps our passion strong.
Joe Moore, Justin Spence, and Jonathan Heames – Owners, Big Sky Anglers
Big Sky Anglers, 39 Madison Ave, West Yellowstone, Montana 59758
Statewide, there are fishing regulation changes that are coming down the pipe and frankly, I don’t really care for all of them. I will not go into any other regulation changes other than those here on the Madison River. First off, I am not a fisheries biologist, however, the amount of time I have spent on river over the past 23 years of my life as an angler, guide and outfitter gives me some insight on the topic.
Throughout the Rocky Mountain West, fishery managers are on a path to “simplify” regulations. Folks, if you can read, then you can follow the regulations as they stand right now. Ever try to draw an hunting tag in the West? Wading through those regulations takes time, energy and a complete understanding of entire mountain ranges that are broken apart into zones – it gets confusing to say the least. These “proposed” fishing regulation changes are a huge swing in the other direction from what we’ve had for a VERY long time.
Why is this? There are many rivers in the State of Montana that are open year round (the Missouri and the Big Horn to name two notable ones) and fishing these rivers in the spring has not lead to a downfall in fish populations. However, these rivers are busy places and getting busier all the time – especially the Missouri. The Madison is the busiest river in the State, period. Opening it up year round will put more pressure on the fish at a time period when they are vulnerable. I can tell you that as soon as the river is open, more anglers will come here to fish. Will it hurt the fishery? That remains to be seen and fisheries biologists will tell you that no, it does not hurt the fishery to fish over spawning fish. This is where ethics comes in to play a part. Personally, I don’t fish directly over redds (spawning nests) as I have an overwhelming feeling to leave them alone. However, I do fish and guide rivers in the springtime and it can be difficult to avoid the redds – in some rivers redds are almost everywhere. Avoiding the shallow gravel bars and the shallow channels is a solid choice in the months of April, May and early June. The Madison is a shallow river and a majority of the trout spawn in the river itself. Do we need more anglers walking on redds and hooking spawning trout? Will that have a negative impact for the years to come? I want to say yes, but I can’t say that it will either. In my opinion, the Madison River needs a break during the springtime.
Below, in black ink, is what’s in store for the Madison River. I would suggest that most of these changes will happen. In my experience, once FWP gets this far, it’s imminent. Your comments matter though, so speak up. What’s alarming, is that hardly anyone knows about it and not many of us have heard a word about this from FWP. Just this morning, the outfitters on the river received a note about the proposed changes and now that the public meetings have come and gone, all we can do it write in our comments or make a phone call. There was not a public meeting in West Yellowstone or Ennis.
Yellowstone National Park boundary to Hebgen Reservoir
• Catch-and-Release for rainbow trout, except anglers 14 years of age and younger may take 1 rainbow trout daily and in possession, any size.
• Combined Trout: 5 brown trout daily and in possession, only 1 over 18 inches.
Hebgen Dam to Ennis Reservoir
• Artificial lures only.
• Combined Trout: 1 Daily and in possession, any size. .
Quake Lake outlet to Lyons Bridge
• Closed to fishing from boats/vessels
Ennis Bridge to Ennis Lake
• Closed to fishing from boats/vessels
Ennis Dam to the mouth
• Northern Pike: No limit.
RATIONALE: These regulation changes greatly simplify the Madison River fishing regulations.
What’s changed you ask? Well, quite a bit.
For as along as I can remember the Madison from Quake’s out flow to Mac has been open from the 3rd Saturday in May till the end of February. That was to protect spawning trout. If these reg changes happen, then the entire river from Hebgen Dam to Ennis Lake will be open year round.
As it stands right now, anglers can fish bait from Hebgen Dam through Quake Lake. This is a change I can get behind. I have no problems with anglers who like to fish bait, by all means, go right ahead. But this is a gem of a river and fishing bait normally means you’re gonna keep the fish. This leads to the next proposed change. Anglers inbetween the lakes will no longer be able to keep 5 trout per day, per person. I hardly ever notice anglers keeping fish except for the spring time inbetween the lakes. This stretch of river is plum full of spawning trout in the spring time and I have seen, on more than one occasion, stringers full of big rainbows which are full of eggs. Hopefully they do get eaten and not freezer burned. In the past ten years, I have hardly wet a line in between the lakes during the spawn….for me, it’s a choice to leave the rainbows alone.
The final proposed change is anglers will now be able to keep 1 fish per day per person on the entire river. For what seems like an eternity, the Madison River has largely been a catch and release fishery. My personal beliefs are that a trout is worth catching more than just one time. Catch and release angling does in fact kill fish. Like it or not, those of us who put em’ back actually kill a percentage of the fish. A barbless hook regulation would help with this as barbed hook extraction take much longer than a barbless hook. If a fish is out of the water for a couple minutes while an angler extracts a barbed hook, the fish may swim off, but will probably die a short time later. Fish barbless folks!
So….make those comments to: email@example.com The comment period is open till September 12th, 2015.
Click here for an article on the reg changes and to read a little more about it. I called and talked with Joel Tohtz this morning for over an hour to express my thoughts. You can too: 406 444 1230. Joel is the Fisheries Management Bureau Chief for Montana.
Something else for you to ponder…..
Since 2008 Hebgen Dam has not been functioning. Hot water has been running right off the top of the lake and into the river all summer long. Water temps have been way too high during the summer months which was not the case prior to the debacle at Hebgen Dam. There have been quite a few years where we have seen fish die in the river due to warm water temperatures. Are rainbows more susceptible to warm water than brown trout? Yep, they are. Most of us thought we would see a Hoot Owl closure on the upper Madison River this summer (and past summers) – that did not happen. Most of us altered our fishing hours accordingly to not stress out fish even more. If you read this site very often, I have been outspoken about Hebgen Dam. I believe the river needs a couple years, if not more, to see how things (insects and trout) react to a properly functioning, bottom draw dam before we get a sweeping regulation change like the proposal facing us right now. The Madison will not change overnight with respect to insect hatches and trout behavior. At this point, the water is coming from around 17 feet below the surface…better late than never. By November, hopefully, the river be drawing from 37 feet (or around there) below the surface. Will the hatches go back to the way they were? Will the consistent fishing on the Madison return? I say yes…but all in due time. Why not wait for a couple years to see what happens with the river before we change the regulations?
Flows and the damn Dam
River flows in the Madison Valley, from Hebgen Dam to Ennis lake, are sitting pretty good right now as we shift from summer to fall. At the Kirby Gage, she’s registering at 994 cfs. Over the past few weeks, the heat and high sun have been minimal and river temps are hanging in there on most days. However, there have been some super hot days once in while and the river temps can still hit the high 60’s and low 70’s. Once 68 degrees hits the river, you might as well reel up, sit back and take a boat ride. Recently, we have been experiencing some very cold over night air temperatures and several mornings here on Horse Butte the thermometer has read 28-30 degrees. That folks, has been the saving grace for the Madison River, well, that and decent flows from Hebgen. This past week, Hebgen Dam began to pull from roughly seventeen feet below the surface. This is NOT the point where we celebrate just yet. Apparently, this will only drop the river temp a couple degrees, but that’s better than top releases any day of the week. Sometime in November (cross your fingers), Hebgen will hopefully be completed and the river will pull from 37 feet below the surface. Right now, I am holding my breath and really won’t believe its fixed until it actually is. This project has stretched out for way too long and we are all completely over it.
Madison River Fishing Report 08.25.2015
Inconsistent…to say the least. Really though, I’ve had a bunch of great days on the Madison River this summer. However, if you are gonna roll the dice and fish the river only one day while you’re in the neighborhood, you had better be on the good side of the trout gods…..or be a little lucky. It also helps to bring your A-game and let the fish eat your fly. Your day could be a dink fest, but please remember to pay attention as there are some really nice fish eating the fly and just when you think it’s a dink and you don’t set the hook, you’re hating life and wondering out loud where that big brown trout came from. My only answer to that question is, “they live here too”. The nymphing crowd is pounding rocks and mid river runs with various flies like: shelia sculpin, trevor’s sculpin, rubber legs, zonkers, midge larva, $3 Dips, olive dips, crystal dips, shop vacs and the traditional no bead pheasant tail. The rest of us are fishing dry flies whenever possible with hoppers, ants, wulffs, beetles, trudes, small royal stimis and pretty much any reddish attractor pattern. I like fishing a single fly this time of the year as most of us, myself included, tend to get a better drift with just one fly on the end of the line. It’s late August and the trout are not dumb, so tighten up that skill set and pay attention.
Hebgen Lake Fishing Report
I will never claim to know everything about Hebgen Lake, it’s almost impossible. However, I’ve been playing around the lake this August and Hebgen has shown us some really good days with calibaetis spinners, duns and ants. Slow stripping mayfly nymphs is a great way to spend any early morning in an unnamed bay on the south shore of Hebgen Lake. I absolutely love watching the lake come alive from 8 am till noon. Some days, like today, there was glass all over the lake till almost 3pm, but making the fish eat was a little difficult. My best bug here lately has been a #14 Missing Link fished on 5X.
Writing and this blog
I would like to reach out and thank those folks who have asked me to keep writing and posting my random thoughts here on the site. Running the business…aka…. full time guiding/outfitting, tying flies for what may be your trip tomorrow, answering emails and phone calls along with mowing the yard and running the bird dog has gotten in the way of writing. Writing is hard, and while I don’t claim to be very good at it, writing is time consuming and after some 600 posts on the blog, I got tired. With any luck, I’ll continue to find some time as I really do enjoy writing, but sometime it’s just hard to find the energy. Thanks for reading! If you enjoy social media, please check us out on Instagram, that folks, is the easiest way to get your fix without sitting in the boat with us on a river here in the great state of Montana.
Headed for the beach….
In just a few hours I will be hoping in the truck with Jonathan Heames and heading north to Bozeman. Tomorrow morning, the two of us depart for Miami, where, once we land, we’ll rent a car and drive south to the Keys and Captain Greco’s house. Hanging out in the Keys is a precursor to our four day run on South Andros at Bair’s Lodge, a trip that our buddy Steve Hoovler is coming on as well.
I’ve been tying bonefish, tarpon and permit flies since February and reading up on what to expect. To a dozen or more guides and anglers, who I know have fished all over the saltwater world, I asked for their favorite fly patterns and their best piece of advise.
Tony V, from L-Town, told me to, and I quote, “set with the strip and not the tip, but since you’re a trout guide, you are screwed on that front….good luck with the trip, you will be addicted for sure and your wife will want to kill you since you’ll be trying to spend every last dime on the next saltwater trip.”
It’s been almost ten years since I was in Florida and I fully expect to blow many a shot while standing in the bow of Brett’s skiff. I’ve never been down to the Bahamas and my brain is ripe with excitement. Expect a full report upon my return and if you’re on Instagram, check us out as I will be posting from Florida and South Andros.
Montana’s General Season Opener
For the past sixteen years, I have not missed one opening day on the Madison River. The upper Madison, from the outlet of Quake Lake down to MacAtee Bridge will open on Saturday, May 16. Both Cabin and Beaver Creeks are tossing in mud, but Quake is filtering some that making for a bitch creek green Madison River. If you are venturing out this weekend, expect to see a few folks on the river. The current flow out of Hebgen is 552 cfs with a flow of 799 at Kirby. Yep, that’s pretty low for this time of the year. Hebgen Lake is filling up and with any luck, we’ll start seeing a rise in flows sometime in early June….don’t count it, but keep up the rain dances as we need every drop we can get. Last night it rained on and off and today we had showers as well. The river above Ennis has been fishing quite well this spring, but it’s boney down there as well.
Good luck and enjoy the coming weekend!
Spring in Montana has been more like summer during the last week on the Missouri River. When I arrived, we had some snow showers and cooler weather, but lately, I’ve been donning sandals and getting my feet wet. The early morning river temps have been a little chilly and there were two days that the river was cold enough to make one’s teeth hurt. It was similar to an ice cream headache that started with your toes and moved quickly up my six foot frame. I am nine days into 2015 guide season and it feels great to be back on the oars. Not much has changed on the Missouri River, but for someone who has guided and fished this great river during April and May for the past 15 years, it’s busier than years past – that’s for sure. Is it crowded, you ask? No, not really, but if the weather is too nice and that ends up on a weekend, then it can feel crowded. Some of this is due to a very low river enabling wade fisherfolks to access more of the river and some of this is due to popularity of the Missouri River in recent years.
Last season I spent the month of October on the Missouri River and we never saw a true Blue Winged Olive – a species of Baetis. In fact, they never saw more than a couple BWOs in November either. A year ago this month I was here as well and we might have seen a few of the smallish mayflies, but they never really matieralized. October of 2013, was the last time I opened up the BWO box with regularity. The BWO that hatches in the springtime up here is more gray than the BWO of Fall, which is a true olive color. We should be calling them Beatis all the time as there are many, many species of this mayfly. For more reading, check this out – Trout Nut. We’ve also witnessed a couple days of solid March Brown mayflies thus far in late April and Early May. When these hatch is prolific numbers, you will not have better dry fly fishing here on the Missouri River.
Once again, BSA will be guiding the Missouri River all season long. Our resident guide, Greg Falls, can be found rowing his boat most everyday of the year from late March through November. I will be around for several more days of guiding and getting out on the water myself for a hopeful late morning/early afternoon hatch.