Get Involved

Get Involved

This post includes no fishing tips, fantastic stories, or casting secrets, but the topic, should you choose to participate, may greatly influence your angling and the angling of many others for the better.  This post is a call to encourage everyone out there to get involved and participate in the regulatory or political element of your local fisheries management.  Consider making “GET INVOLVED” one of your new angling mantras.

In Montana, and other states in the US, our fish and wildlife management agencies are continually adjusting regulations in order to, ideally, best protect fish and wildlife populations while also providing opportunities for the public to fish and hunt.  We have access to so much public land and water here in the western US.  It’s fantastic, and hopefully we can keep it that way.  We all care about our fisheries, but are we all doing enough to consider ourselves stewards of the resource?  As members of the public, we are all co-owners of our public lands and waters.  We have the right, and perhaps the duty, to be involved in the process and decisions which influence management of public land and water and the creatures which call those places home.  Our level of involvement, and our choices we make in both election and non-election years, can have a huge impact on fishing, hunting, and other outdoor recreation in the future.

Voting for representatives who reflect your own values is, of course, the first step, and should be relatively easy to accomplish for everyone here in the US.  Getting involved in other management processes occurring in non-election times here in Montana is relatively easy as well, and I assume it is similar in other places.  Our agencies all have protocols and processes in place which allow for public input and commentary on issues both simple and complex.  As such, it is surprising to me how few sportsman are informed and actually get involved.  Being involved starts with being aware.  Keep an eye out for news of proposed regulation changes and public hearings.  Watch the newspaper, social media, or other information sources.  Get on agency email lists.  Pay attention.

The next part requires more effort.  Do your homework.  Research the issues.  Formulate questions and opinions.   Discuss the issues with your friends and angling companions.  Then, you need to SHOW UP and participate.  That may mean writing emails or letters to fish and game agencies or your government representatives at the local, state, or federal level.  It may mean missing that big football game (round or oblong ball version) on TV so you can attend a public hearing.  It may mean missing out on a day afield or on the water.  It may mean making your friends and fishing buddies aware of the issues and encouraging them to get involved as well.  Setting an example takes time and energy, but ultimately I believe it is worthwhile.

Through involvement, you will meet plenty of good and interesting people with both similar and differing opinions to your own.  It’s important to listen and try to understand all the views involved and all the user groups concerned with the issues.  I think that through this involvement you will learn a lot about people as well as the process of local rule making.  You might also make some great friends and contacts who invite you to enjoy some great angling that you never knew about.  Most importantly, by getting involved, you will have your voice and opinions heard and included in the overall decision making process – something that is important, relevant, and ultimately very satisfying.

Take Care and Fish On,


Fly Tying Night with Matt Ebbers (aka @ebbsforce1)

Fly Tying Night with Matt Ebbers (aka @ebbsforce1)

Saturday, October 13, 2018 from 8 – 10 pm

Join us at the fly shop for an evening of fly tying, fish stories, and fun with custom fly tier and all around great guy, Matt Ebbers.

You might not recognize the name, but if you spend much time on Instagram, you probably recognize his flies, tying and photography style, and @ebbsforce1 handle.  Matt Ebbers is, among other things, a skillful custom fly tyer and fishy dude.  We struck up a relationship with him a while back and are excited to have him at the shop for a fun evening of fly tying, hanging out, and more.  Living outside of St. Paul, Minnesota, Matt considers the waters of the Driftless Region of Wisconsin and Minnesota his “Home Waters”.  He also fishes out west a few times a year.

Matt has been tying flies for 27 years, starting when he was 14. If you have some basic math skills, you also now know his age and can make guesses about whether he has much gray hair or not.  Interestingly, he started tying flies before he started fly fishing.  Matt is deservedly a Loon Outdoors ambassador, and a member of the pro staffs for Fly Fish Food and Firehole Outdoors. Several of his patterns are also being commercially tied and sold through Fulling Mill.

In his words, “I like the creative parts of fly tying. I enjoy tying flies that not only catch fish but also look good. I am always thinking about flies! My background in photography helps with photographing flies for social media.  I have a wife and 2 young boys keeping me busy when not tying flies or fishing.”

This is a great chance to pick his brain about some of the subtleties of fly tying like keeping a clean look while achieving great buggieness, using modern materials from the likes of Firehole Outdoors and Loon Outdoors in conjunction with classic materials from Whiting Farms and more.  I know that we are interested in getting a few tips on fly photography as well.

We are planning to run some or all of the event as a live stream on @bigskyanglers, so stay tuned for more on that, and give us and @ebbsforce1 a follow if you don’t already.




Big Sky Anglers Featured Fly – Miller’s Dirty Dumpster

Big Sky Anglers Featured Fly – Miller’s Dirty Dumpster

  • Originator:  Ivan Miller
  • Hook(s): TMC 5262 or equivalent, #4 (2 of them)
  • Thread: Danville Flymaster Plus Size A, black
  • Eyes: Medium Dumbell Eyes, Red, Lead or Non-lead
  • Articulation: 25 pound monofilament, and 2 to 3 plastic beads
  • Tail 1: Marabou, black barred olive; Saddle hackle tips, black; Flashabou, rainbow
  • Body 1: Lite-Brite, rainbow
  • Wing 1: Marabou, black barred olive
  • Tail, Body, and Wing 2:  Same as 1
  • Hackle Collar: Schlappen or webby saddle hackle, black

If you have spent time in West Yellowstone over the past 20 years, there is a chance you have either run into or at least heard of Ivan Miller.  Among other things, Miller is one of the fishiest streamer anglers that any of us have known.  He puts in the time, and also has a knack for fly design and presentation that just triggers the big grab from over sized brown trout.  This pattern is one of Ivan’s (and our entire shop staff’s) go-to streamers in both spring and fall.  It fishes best with an aggressive presentation that includes manipulation of the fly using both the rod and stripping the line.  Incorporating abrupt, but pronounced pauses brings out the extra wiggle from this articulated beast, and seems to also trigger the hardest strikes.  We are lucky to have these in our bins for visiting anglers, and we also stock all the tying materials for those interested in spinning up their own Dirty Dumpsters in this and other color combos!

Casting in the Stream of Consciousness:  Small Stream Single Hand Spey

Casting in the Stream of Consciousness: Small Stream Single Hand Spey

My good friend Brian Chou visited Montana recently, and we were able to find time to get out on a small stream for a bit of fishing and goofing around.  We took turns working our way up the small stream, one person fishing, the other taking photos, shooting short videos, and heckling (not necessarily in that order).

The video clip below, which now lives on the BSA Vimeo Page, struck me as something that could really show folks the versatility of Spey principles when applied to fishing with single hand rods.

First of all, the situation is far from what most would consider normal Spey fishing.  Clearly absent are the big river, 2-handed rod, salmon or steelhead flies, and down-and-across approach.  Instead, we have a small creek, a 7’10’ single handed rod, two dry flies, and an upstream approach.  Yet, this cast and presentation met the situation perfectly due to the tight quarters and little-to-no backcast space.

If I had to name or describe this presentation, it would be as follows: Upstream directed, cross-body Poke, with a slight aerial mend.

As far as what that means and how this cast actually works, let me try and walk you through it in words.  Next time you are out on the water, fool around a bit with these concepts and see how they might work into your own angling.

At the start of the clip, the flies are drifting downstream in the bubble line towards the bush on the left side of the screen, which is essentially straight across the creek from my position.  I had to get the flies out of there before they snagged in the branches, but if I had simply picked them up into an overhead cast, they would have ended up high in the willows behind me, on the right side of the screen.  I needed a way to make a significant change of direction, from across stream, to back upstream.

So, I basically just dragged them out into the middle of the creek along the surface of the water (0:06 – 0:15).  That move felt analogous to the initial drag and anchor placement move in a Spey cast called the Perry Poke, or just Poke for short. Follow this link for a demonstration of the Poke with a 2-handed rod by Trevor Covich.

I recognized that the Poke would work in this situation, so I just kept it going, and dumped the line forward, in the direction I wanted to make the next cast (0:15 – 0:20).  That simple move achieved the change of direction I needed.  From that point, executing the remainder of the Spey cast required sweeping the line back into a D-loop (0:20 – 0:26), allowing the leader to align in the direction I wanted to cast, and making the forward delivery (0:26 – 0:34).

Subconsciously, perhaps, as the loop was unrolling, I added a very slight aerialized reach mend to the right, to adjust for a current anomaly that I probably noticed during the prior drift.

After all of that, no fish ate my fly in that pool.  So it goes!

Take Care and Fish On,


PS – This fishing was done using a T&T Lotic 7’10” 5wt rod and matching WF-5-F Airflo Streamer Float flyline.  Neither of these pieces of gear are made specifically for Spey Casting, but together they work beautifully to deliver the flies.

Stillwater Presentation Q&A – Ascending/Emerging Nymphs

Stillwater Presentation Q&A – Ascending/Emerging Nymphs

I recently received this question via email from one of our readers and thought it would make a nice followup blog post.

Hi Matt,

 I just read this article on Callibaetis nymphs, and I have a question.  Don’t nymphs in stillwaters usually rise fairly straight up from the bottom?  How can I simulate that with nymph flies?  No worries on moving water, but I’m confused with this one.

Thanks so much.



Thanks for reading and reaching out!  Great question. I’d say that when they are emerging, Callibaetis nymphs will rise up at a semi-steep angle, but not completely vertically.  That said, the rising motion can definitely be a trigger to get the fish to eat.  Let me offer you 3 or 4 ways that you might accomplish this…

 1:  Floating fly line, long leader, and a weighted nymph.  Cast out and let the nymph sink down as deep as you think it needs to.  Maybe the top of the weeds if the area is shallow enough.  When you start your retrieve, the fly will naturally rise up at an angle following the leader up to the surface where the line floats.  When you’ve retrieved an amount of line about the equivalent to your leader length, stop, and let the fly sink back down again.  Repeat.  To detect takes, you need to watch the end of the floating fly line.  If it twitches, dives etc, set the hook.  You may not feel the take because the line isn’t drawing a straight line from you to the fly.  Pay attention while the fly is sinking back down too.  Sometimes that is the trigger!  It’s important that your leader not have coils in it so it is as straight a connection tot he fly as possible.  I’ve also incorporated a tiny strike indicator into this method at times, especially if there is a chop on the water that obscures my view of the tip of the flyline.  Foam pinch-ons work great for this.  Last tip, flourocarbon leaders sink faster than nylon mono leaders.

 2:  Intermediate sinking tip line (or intermediate sinking poly leader) and weighted or unweighted fly.  Basically this is the same approach as above, but with a sink tip to get the fly deeper initially.  If you are in say 10 to 15+ feet of water, the leader and weighted fly alone will be annoying or impossible to get that deep, especially if there is any wind.  Let it sink and then retrieve it up as before.  Then repeat.  Watch the color change of the line or where it enters the water for the take.  Also feel fro the grab.

 3:  Full sinking intermediate line and unweighted nymph. This line system draws the fly through the water horizontally for the most part and is my #1 way of searching for fish before, during, and after a Callibaetis hatch if I don’t see them rising in a way that allows me to effectively target them on the surface.  But, at the very end of the retrieve, when the fly is deep, and you begin stripping the last few yards of line up toward the surface, the fly does rise at an angle.  A lot of folks just pick up and cast again.  This is a mistake.  UK stillwater experts preach about “fishing the hang” at the end of a retrieve.  Focus on the last part of that rising retrieve.  Pause it, sink it, and raise it again.  Don’t strip the fly right to the rod tip, but leave a bit of line out and slowly raise the rod tip itself to make the fly ascend.  If you start getting fish only when the fly is rising, maybe you need to switch to one of the first 2 methods!

Take Care and Fish On,