We are fortunate today to have access to perhaps hundreds of fly fishing shows via the internet. Awesome new films are coming out every week. There are many young and talented filmmakers out there taking advantage of amazing improvements in camera technology. I’ve been fortunate to befriend a couple of these young guys, and one thing they have all marveled at to me is how the modern camera and editing technology has made it possible to create Hollywood quality films at a budget attainable to those not fortunate enough to have access to Hollywood quality budgets. But that wasn’t always the case. During my formative years, when I was really getting into fly fishing, you had to turn on cable TV to catch one of a handful of fishing shows. As a fan of fly and light tackle angling, the show that really got me fired up the most was the Walker’s Cay Chronicles.
Each episode started out with the intro… “Come with me on a trip into angling adventure. We’ll ride the ragged edge where the fish are big, and wild.” I mean, how awesome is that? It’s what we all dream about! Certainly it was the destinations and the exotic (to me) species that they pursued that made those episodes so worth tuning into on Saturday mornings, but that show also had something intangible and hard to explain that made it so great.
The Walker’s Cay Chronicles had more soul than any other fishing show I’ve ever watched. Host, Flip Pallot, for one, always seems to have had an approach to angling that I appreciated. He was always noticing the little things, like birds to lizards, and made sure to point them out when they were able to capture that on film. The narration went back and forth between poetic reverie and candid conversation, with plenty of teaching and learning in between. Each episode also featured an incredible camaraderie between Flip and one of his angling friends. Those friends were always interesting people, ranging from legends like Dave Whitlock, and Lefty Kreh, to up-and-coming angling personalities of the era like Jose Wejebe (who’s show the Spanish Fly rivaled Flip’s as my favorite), and even Flip’s wife Diane. They never worried about catching a bunch of fish, and they never made a big deal about it or gloated about it when they did. Always appreciative of the experience, whatever it was, Flip helped sculpt my own angling approach and ethic from behind the TV screen.
What always surprises me is that there are a lot of anglers that grew up with fishing just a few years after me that either don’t know who Flip is, or have never seen an episode of the Walker’s Cay Chronicles! But, thanks to the internet, and Hell’s Bay Boatworks, all of those episodes can be found online, for free. It’s a treasure. I watched a couple of episodes while I wrote this yesterday. So, for those who haven’t seen this great show, or for those who want to re-watch a few classics for fun, here is the link.
Watch a few episodes, and if you get hooked like me, you might find yourself wanting to know more about the history of this great show. The place to find that is in an awesome interview with Flip Pallot himself that was part of the Itinerant Angler podcast series. Aptly named “Premium-Grade Television”, you can find that episode right here.
With that, I will leave you to explore as you like. I hope that there will soon be a few more folks out there who have enjoyed the Walker’s Cay Chronicles.
Stillwater fishing is just one part of fly fishing that truly fascinates me, and every year I seem to devote more and more of my water time to the lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. And, like most things that I become interested in, I collect literature on the subject. I love to read and study different theories and approaches to things like fly fishing. By reading well written works by other experienced anglers, I feel that I am able to gain experiences that I might not otherwise have the opportunity to have myself. I guess the hope is that one day, should I be confronted with a unique situation in my own angling, that I might be able to recall an obscure passage in an angling text and apply it with glorious, fishy results. But I also think that I enjoy just reading different perspectives, opinions, and approaches to similar situations, and trying to sort out the biases, while throwing it all into my own melting pot for forming my own (admittedly biased) perspectives, opinions, and approaches.
But I digress.
For a long time, “literature” essentially meant books, magazine articles, and maybe some VHS tapes. Now, as more and more information becomes available through electronic means, it also includes things like DVDs, blog posts, podcasts, e-books, You-tube channels, and now, smartphone apps. I’m able to find new material to study everywhere I turn, making the long Montana winter a bit easier to pass.
I’m a little old school, and I still like books the best, but it is difficult to argue with the power of a well-organized and presented video as a teaching an learning tool. Not long ago I came across Phil Rowley and Brian Chan’s Stillwater Fly Fishing App. As I understand it, this App is the first of its kind in many ways. What makes this information source fairly unique is that it is video based, but organized similar to a cookbook of recipes or fishing tidbits that are hopefully easy to find at a moment’s notice.
From Phil and Brian:
“Phil and Brian have combined their 75 years of experience fly fishing for trout and char in lakes to develop this valuable educational tool. This App will become an essential tool in the toolbox for anglers of all skill levels.
The app is broken down into chapters covering such topics as entomology, leaders and knots, techniques and tactics, equipment and favourite stillwater flies. Each topic is presented in video format that can be easily downloaded and saved to your mobile device.
Once downloaded, the video tips can be watched anywhere. No Wi-Fi connection is required to view the tips once they have been downloaded.”
I personally have found the Stillwater Fly Fishing App to be a welcome addition to my collection of stillwater angling “literature”. I’ve learned plenty of new things, particularly about entomology and rigging for stillwaters. I’ll go into the 2019 open water season with plenty of new ideas to try out. But what makes the App better, or at least different than a book written by Phil or Brian? The App format allows for continuous additions, updates, and modifications as the authors develop and test new theories and methods. In theory, this can reduce the built in obsolescence found in some printed media.
When I downloaded and subscribed to the App in early October 2018, I think there were about 105 +/- videos available among these 5 chapters.
Leaders & Knots
Techniques & Tactics
Now, just before the start of the New Year, there are 126 videos. At this point, I’ve probably watched 90% of them. Of course, I watched the Entomology and Tactics videos first! I’ve been messing around with the App enough that I feel like I can offer up a list of what I’d call PROs and CONs, for lack of a better terminology. Remember, you can download the App for free and check out all the free content, along with listings of all the content that comes with a paid subscription. So, what have you got to lose?
Content, Content, Content! I feel very confident saying that, regardless of your experience level with stillwater fly fishing, you will learn some really interesting new things from the App. There are some videos about really clever and sneaky stuff on there!!!
For the newcomer to stillwater fly fishing, dive into videos like “Essential Tackle”, “Choosing a Fly Rod”, “Choosing Leech Patterns”, “Retrieve Essentials”, and “Simple Chironomid Techniques” (all available free without subscription). The basics are all there for you to build on. Get yourself an intermediate sinking line to go with the floating line you already have, and go strip some leeches or hang some chironomids!
If you end up hooked on stillwater fly fishing like me, you’ll find that every outing will generate more questions in your mind. When that feeding binge happens that you can’t seem to figure out, you can dive deeper into the App and watch videos like entomology presentations on “Zooplankton”, “Dragonflies (Crawlers)”, “Dragonflies (Darners)”, or “Scuds”. When you are ready to experiment with new ways to move your fly, check out clips like “Strip Retrieve”, “Hand Twist Retrieve”, “Pinch Strip Retrieve”, “Rolly Polly Retrieve”, and “Indicator Retrieves”. When you finally buy that new boat, check out the two videos on boat setup with stillwater angling in mind.
Fishing tricks. I mean simple tricks that solve annoying everyday problems in the fishing life that you wish you’d thought of yourself. Phil and Brian offer up more than a few of these that they have figured out over their years of fishing. Some are explicit, with their own videos, and others are nested within other topics. It pays to watch with an open mind. Using electrical tape to fix a worn out slip float, and incorporating barrel swivels into rigging are two of my favorites.
Fly Tying Tutorials. Step-by-step video instruction for piles of proven stillwater patterns. At least two dozen are available for free without a subscription to the App! It’s winter in Montana. Get in there and tie some new stillwater flies!
Regular Updates. When I spoke with Phil about his plans for the App, he mentioned that their goal was to add 4 or 5 new videos to the App each month. And, last month they did just that! Compare that to your average print mag subscription, factor in how rarely print mags cover detailed stillwater topics, and the $3.99/month (or less if you sign up for a season or a full year) subscription suddenly seems like a bargain.
Offline Capability. Once you have downloaded video content to your smartphone, the App no longer needs any Wi-Fi or other wireless cell coverage for you to watch the videos. So, you can download all the videos you’d like at your house on a fast Wi-Fi signal and then get on the bus to work, or on the airplane to West Yellowstone or Jurassic Lake, and you’ll be ready with something to do. You can even download all the videos about fishing Callibaetis and then watch them in the boat while you wait for the hatch to start out on Hebgen Lake without dealing with spotty 3G coverage that will gobble up your data allowance.
Broad Topic Organization With No Search Function. You have to organize things somehow. The format of the App, while very clean and based on relatively short, individual video tips sorted into the categories/chapters listed above, may not be the ideal format for covering a complex, detailed topic in an orderly, step-by-step manner. Of course, this is an opinion based on how my own brain organizes things. For example, if you are interested specifically in learning about the ins and outs of, say, Chironomid fishing, you will need to skip around within the App chapters and watch three Entomology videos, multiple Leader & Knot rigging videos, and two or three Technique & Tactics videos, before diving down the rabbit hole of fly pattern selection and tying tutorials. Perhaps in the future, the App could be updated to include a search function so that a user could search for, say, “chironomids”, and then be presented with a list of all the relevant videos from among the five organizational chapters.
Quirky Updating. I’m running a Samsung Galaxy S9 and the Android version of the App. That said, last time Phil and Brian announced a new set of video uploads, I had a hard time finding them on the App. I ended up uninstalling the App and reinstalling it, and the problem was solved. No biggie, but I’m glad that I follow the guys on social media for the announcements for new updates.
I actually reached out to Phil and Brian about these CONs after writing this. They were very receptive and responsive to a little bit of constructive criticism and it sounds like they will be looking into some improvements that will enhance searching and trouble shooting in the very near future. In the end, I think that’s a very good sign to see that they are interested in and committed to not only adding new content but improving the functionality of the App over time. As far as I’m concerned, I think I’ll be renewing my subscription when it comes up later in January. There’s still a lot more winter left!
Holiday season is stressful for a lot of us. Giving a gift shouldn’t be part of that stress. If you’re looking for something for that fishing friend or family member, here are a few ideas.
Stop by the shop to say hi and check out the full lineup of goodies if you are able. Of course, anyone out there can order just by calling the fly shop at 406-646-7801. Free shipping on orders over $50! Last day to order to ensure shipping arrival by December 24 is probably December 18th or 18th given our location at the end of the road and the possibility of inclement weather.
Fly Selections – 15 local favorite bugs in a BSA box, plus we throw in a sticker for your Lambo. – Price varies by selection. Give us a call and we can dial you in.
BSA Gift Cards – Always the right size, color, etc! Fill em up with whatever dollar value you’d like.
BSA Lucky Fishing Hats – We have a ton of styles and colors to chose from. You can find pictures to look through on our new HATS PAGE! – $24.95 each
BSA Logo Buffs– The classic trout and Madison Valley skyline. These are great for sun, wind, heat, and cold. – $27.99
Mimi Matsuda Art Cards and Magnets – You know we love Mimi, and these are at least 673% cooler than your standard holiday card. Becomes a frame-able piece of art once the message has been delivered. Magnets too! – $4.95 each
Bud Lilly’s Trout Shop Throwbacks: C&R Pins and Fly Pucks – Original stock from when we took the reigns from Dick and Barb. Pins & Puck Combos are $20.
BSA Sili Pint Glasses and Micro Fiber Glasses Cleaning Cloths – Keep those shades clean with a microfiber cloth ($8.95) so you can spot the big fish, and then make sure to have an indestructible sili-pint glass ($13.99) on hand for drinking your favorite beverage out of to celebrate catching that fish you spotted.
Stocking Stuffer Selection – Some fun and useful items that we make use of in our regular routines.
YNP Trail Map – $11.95
Pocket Guide to Fly Fishing by Ron Cordes and Gary LaFontaine – $12.95
Fly Vines Lanyard – $14
Abel Rainbow Trout Anodized Nipper – $165
Simms Bottle Opener Fish – $6.95
Johnny Cash Abel Super 7/8 – If that special person on your list has been extra, extra nice this year. #190 of 250 limited edition. $1495.
It has been scientifically proven that anglers who wear Big Sky Anglers hats not only catch more and bigger fish, but they also have more fun. So, at long last, we’ve created an online archive of the hat styles we have available in the shop. If you see something you like, just call us at 406-646-7801 and we will set you up. Make sure you note the hat’s code name or number so we can be sure to pull the right ones for you.
All hats are $24.95 each
001 – The Classic – 6 panel – Ouray
002 – The Bobcat – MT license plate with MSU Bozeman colors – Ouray
As November comes to a close this year in Yellowstone Country we appreciate every single one of those beautiful, windless, crystal clear, and sunny fall days a little more than we did the week before. Years of living here reminds us that a true and deep cold will be here soon enough. This “shoulder season” of sorts also gives us a moment to pause and reflect on this past season and those that come from near and far to visit us. The three of us (Jonathan, Justin and Joe) sat down, and with the help of Hoovie and Klara, tried our best to chronicle the past year at Big Sky Anglers. Turns out we had a lot on our minds, so please sit back, relax, and join us on a journey through the past year in words and pictures.
Our second year with the fly shop open is in the books and we couldn’t be happier about how it went! Operating a fly shop and guide service is no small task and we couldn’t have found a better staff to help us out. Without their hard work and dedication, we would not be where we are today. A huge shout out goes to all of our shop staff and guides – thank you so much! And of course, without you, the fine folks who support Big Sky Anglers, we would be flat on our butts. Thank you for your business, your friendship, and your amazing word of mouth advertising! Your feedback is invaluable to us as we move forward and grow, so please don’t hesitate to tell how us how we can better serve your needs, or what we are doing right. Our commitment to you is to be the friendliest, most knowledgeable, hardest working fly shop that we can be, both on and off the river, every single day.
Somewhere along the way someone took the time to share their knowledge with us and now we are better anglers for it. Of course, by “better” we mean that we are out there having more fun! We love teaching and learning here at Big Sky Anglers, and have chosen to make that a core value of the shop and shop staff. We fully enjoy discovering new methods and ways to approach our fisheries, as well as breaking down all aspects of fly fishing so we can pass that knowledge along to you. Stay tuned in 2019 for more angling, fly tying, and casting clinics as well as technical writing and essays from guys like Robert Van Rensburg, Steve Hoovler, and Matt Klara.
We often ask ourselves, “Where does all the time go?”. It seems like just yesterday that Miles and Joe were shoveling the snow off the front side walk for the umpteenth time during the “endless” winter of 2017-18. Not that we don’t like winter, but last winter was one to remember for sure! January 2018 saw very little snow until the third weekend, and then winter hit us like the Oregon Shortline steaming down Reas Pass back in the 1920’s. Once it began, the snow never stopped and each week another storm would roll in and blanket town. We posted several videos to Instagram documenting the storms, and we hope to continue that along with our snowpack reports this winter as Old Man Winter delivers the goods.
Late January and February were a blur of white and we didn’t get out to fish much due to the harsh climate. Justin and Jonathan would send us photos from Patagonia, often resulting in Joe looking at Miles and rolling his eyes…another big brown trout! Good for them, we boasted! Miles kept his head down and implemented a brand new Point of Sales system for the shop, and we traded off answering the phones to book trips for the coming season and fill orders as they came in. Nancy, our Office Manager and all things Accounting, kept us sane through it all. She is now more like a big sister to us than an employee, and we don’t know where we’d be without her.
Joe’s main job last winter was planning the construction of our new lodging project here in town – The Golden Stone Inn. Stay tuned for more on this exciting project through the winter! The sheer amount of forward thinking that goes into planning something like this felt almost insurmountable at times, but Joe managed to get through with the help of Nancy, Eddie, and Earl. Jonathan checked in regularly from his remote locale on Isla Monita in Patagonia, Chile, as he had a much better idea of the big picture of construction going into this. Saying that we have learned a lot from this process would be an understatement! But, we broke ground this spring, built through the summer, got her buttoned up before the snow started flying, and are thrilled with the progress so far. It looks as though we’re on track to have the doors open this coming May at the Golden Stone Inn!
March brought on more snow, building glorious snowpack across the region. March also brought some time away from the Great White North (aka West Yellowstone) for Molly and Joe. They headed to Placencia, Belize for a week of fishing with Eworth Garbutt, along with some incredible snorkeling, and plenty of time on the beach with a cocktail and book in hand. Fishing was pretty darn good down there – lots of jumping tarpon, a few bonefish, and the first permit on the fly for Joe.
Also in March, Jonathan returned from the Chilean Patagonia with a better tan than everybody in the shop had combined. Ten days after Jonathan returned, Joe was on a plane to Argentina to host a fine group of anglers at El Encuentro, Estancia Tecka, and the Golden Dorado River Cruiser. What a trip that was! When Joe hit the ground in Patagonia he was greeted at the El Encuentro Fly Fishing lodge by our very own Steve Hoovler who had been there with Benjamin Beale for a couple weeks. Steve was there consulting on their up-and-coming bird hunting operation, and also assisting Benjamin with their top-notch fishing programs. El Encuentro is an amazing place and for those of you who dream of fishing Argentina with us, put this spot on the list! And don’t forget to stick around for the dorado fishing on the return trip to Buenos Aires.
At some point during the winter and spring, we found time to remodel the old downstairs art gallery and transformed it into the new BSA Travel Lounge. The lounge is a great place to hang out, talk shop and plan your next travel adventure. It is also our in-shop classroom. We hosted several Spey and Euro Nymphing presentations down there this past summer and the space also doubled as our Orvis 101 classroom. We plan to bring in a library of fishing books this winter so folks can slip away and get lost in all things fishing – print is not dead!
Justin arrived home from his Argentina guide season in mid-April, about the same time that new products for the 2018 season started rolling into the fly shop. This year we really upped the game on the retail side of things and added Arc’teryx, Orvis, and Thomas & Thomas, tripled the size of our fly tying department, developed a true camping section with all the essentials, added a huge fleet of demo rods, and almost doubled the inventory in our fly bins. Our wives stepped up to the plate in a big way and helped us dial in our women’s section, which includes both wading gear and cool technical and great looking apparel. Women’s specific BSA logo wear, as well as quality gear and clothing from Simms, Arc’teryx, Orvis, Fishe Wear, and Kavu now fill the entire southeast “Ladies’ Corner” of the fly shop.
Even though winter can be long and harsh, our fishing season really never ends here. We have fishing opportunities all year long on the Madison, Henry’s Fork, and Missouri rivers. Sure, there are always those sub-zero stretches that one should spend tying flies instead of fishing, but the truth of the matter is, we fish year around. Matt usually phones us from the Missouri sometime in mid-January or early February with news of his first Trout Spey fish of the new year. It happens earlier or later each year depending on how good the skiing is!
The main season for us begins when Yellowstone National Park opens on the third Friday in April. Fishing season doesn’t open in the Park until the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend but that doesn’t stop the folks who are dying to get a glimpse of what winter in the Park was like from heading in with binoculars and cameras instead of waders and fishing rods. We began the 2018 season here with a very good snowpack locally and a larger than normal snowpack in the rest of the state of Montana. The resulting reliable flows were a welcome relief from the low water years of the past, we are now 2 years into solid winter and summer flows in the area, with another good winter in the forecast.
West Yellowstone sits at 6666 ft above sea level, but once you get off the volcanic plateau and head down towards Ashton, ID or into the Madison Valley, things warm up and the fishing is pretty darn good in April. So it was in 2018! Donovan Best, one of our up-and-coming guides, finished up his season on Big Sky Resort’s Ski Patrol and jumped right into the guide season fishing the Gallatin, Henry’s Fork, and Madison throughout April. April is actually a great month to combine some great skiing with some fun fishing if you are like us and love both of those activities!
Joe was on the Mo for late April and most of May, teaming up with Greg Falls and our guide crew up there for a few weeks of guided trips. They had excellent early season fishing and even managed to find a few morel mushrooms and asparagus which pop at that time of the year. Don’t ask them where they find ‘em though… if you’re lucky they’ll give you a few to snack on! Overall, May found us dealing with higher flows than normal. When the snow finally stopped, it started to rain in the valleys. The rivers around Montana and Idaho swelled, and when Joe left the Missouri in late May she was flowing at 17,000 cfs, and still climbing. We actually like high water. It is typically good for the rivers, and high flows really help the trout out through the middle of summer. But anglers (us included) don’t always like the big water when it gets in the way of their fishing plans. It helps if you enjoy stillwater angling as well as the river game, or don’t mind the necessary adjustment to working slow and deep along the margins with big nasty stuff. The one thing we can’t control is Mother Nature. She rules the roost when it comes to the pursuit of outdoor endeavors. We choose to adjust our own approach to the outdoors, and enjoy whatever conditions come our way in the spring.
While Joe was up on the Mo, our guides here in West Yellowstone were floating the Madison when the weather was cool enough to keep it clear and fishing the Henry’s Fork chasing march browns, spring Baetis, and a pretty solid Mother’s Day Caddis hatch. These early hatches provide a little dry fly fun in the middle of a day of good nymph fishing and are short but sometimes very intense. The Henry’s Fork always maintains some clear fishable water at this time of year, regardless of what the flows are doing elsewhere during runoff.
When Yellowstone’s fishing season opened on Memorial Day weekend, the water was high but fishing was pretty good. The rain had melted off most of the low elevation snow and the Firehole produced some quality days, as swinging softies and fishing streamers fooled plenty of fish. This was the first year that Yellowstone Perk banned felt-soled wading boots, and we heard from lots of anglers about the trials and tribulations of wading without felt for the first time. Without question, felt works…rubber soles can be slick… and one must be careful. But, as we do with barbless hooks, we choose to accept the challenges that come with rubber soles because it helps protect our resources. Hands down, the bestselling boot/sole for us this season was the Korker’s Alumatrax sole. These soles flat out grip the bottom of the river like Spiderman sticks to the walls in Stan Lee’s (RIP Stan) comic books.
Our strong snowpack manifested into very good stonefly hatches on most of our region’s waters, starting with the first of them to fire off – the Henry’s Fork, around the third week in May. Just about the same time, Hebgen Lake was producing heavy midge hatches and the big rainbows and browns went on their usual post-winter feeding binge. Good nymph fishing prevailed throughout the early portion of the month on both the Madison and the Henry’s Fork. Much of our guided fishing concentrated on the Henry’s Fork later in May as the Madison went through a much-needed flushing phase. From the middle of the month on, Salmonflies were the main fare, and nymphing and dries both produced some great days on the Fork.
Summer seemed to arrive during the first week of June here in the mountains, and our first really dependable dry fly fishing of the year, outside of the big stoneflies, began in earnest about the middle of June on both the waters of western Yellowstone National Park and the Henry’s Fork. PMDs, caddis, green drakes, grey drakes, flavs, yellow sallies and western olive stones all began to hatch in overlaying sequences as is the norm. Salmonflies began to show themselves on the Madison near Ennis around the 21st of June, and then provided us with three weeks of entertaining big bug fishing as the rest of the waters in the area began to drop and clear, by the middle of July we were enjoying great fishing all around Yellowstone National Park, on the Madison, and on much of the Henry’s Fork.
June might be one of the most anticipated months of the year on the Henry’s Fork in Idaho. This year the higher than average flows pushed into the later part of the month, which made some of the early hatch dry fly fishing more challenging than usual, but by mid-month it had hit its stride. On the Fork, this pattern has the effect of keeping the lower river fishing well longer through the end of June and into the beginning of July. Flows never spiked very high through the system as the irrigation demands of farmers downstream were met by good snowpack elsewhere. Consistency in flows was a treat that lasted through much of the season. High water years like this produce great stonefly hatches and fishing, and this year we were throwing golden stones on the Henry’s Fork from the third week in May on the lower river well into July on the upper.
The last weekend of June marked our “Second Annual Grand Opening Celebration”, with lots of sales, kids art with our great friend Mimi Matsuda, dealer reps, fly casting in the Park, rod giveaways, an awesome hosted BBQ at the shop, and more. It’s so much fun to see everyone out having a good time! Not to get ahead of ourselves, but please save the date for our THIRD ANNUAL GRAND OPENING CELEBRATION this summer – Saturday, June 29th 2019!
July and August provided us with the longest stretch of stable and sunny weather that the summer had yet seen. Fishing stayed consistently good throughout the area, with favorable flows in much of the region. The Henry’s Fork once again solidified its role as an all-season fishery in its own rite, the Madison reclaimed its throne as the king of summertime fisheries with some stellar fishing, and the freestone rivers and creeks of Yellowstone National Park remained at historically comfortable flows throughout the heat of summer. Hebgen lake began to produce serious Callibaetis around the middle of June and the production didn’t stop until almost the middle of September. Jonathan took a pack trip with llamas (this was a first!) and a small group of anglers into the backcountry of Yellowstone. They had a great time float tubing some remote stillwaters and fishing around some of the small high country streams. Next year they’re heading back into another quadrant of the park, outfitted with float tubes and a string of llamas again. What a fun way to get into the backcountry! Please get in touch with us if a Yellowstone Park pack trip sounds like it might be up your alley! We currently work with both a mule pack outfitter for a more extensive trip, and a llama outfitter that provides a more flexible and lighter weight option for those willing to hike in while having their gear sherpa’d and their camp fully staffed.
The Madison fished well through the summer, with good hatches lasting throughout the month of July. We entered this season knowing that, after 9 long years, we finally had a repaired Hebgen Dam. Having cold water throughout the summer resulted in not only prolonged hatches during July, but also some of the best hopper fishing we have seen in YEARS. It was fun to see the incredible summertime fishing of the Madison return so quickly!
September rolled in and summertime continued until the last week of the month. This was the warmest and driest September we can remember with relatively little moisture recorded during the month. There were a few days of snowcapped mountains down in the Madison Valley which paired nicely with the fall foliage and on those sunny days, this was an amazing sight to behold. The hopper bite continued into the middle of September and dropping a tungsten bead pheasant tail was key on some days. Not exactly breaking news, but nymphing with black rubber legged stone fly nymphs and small serendipities also worked quite nicely towards the end of September. Henry’s Lake came into it’s own in September with multiple weeks of exceptional angling for truly jumbo trout. While numbers remain lower than some locals remember, the size of the fish we saw this year more than made up for the longer time in between grabs. What is jumbo, you ask? Well, if the locals are talking in pounds rather than inches, you know that’s probably a good indication!
On September 21 and 22 we held our second annual West Yellowstone Trout Spey Days. Weather was perfect, and those who came out were able to learn more about Spey casting and Trout Spey fishing from a great group of presenters that included our own Matt Klara as well as Kurt Kruger (Far Bank), Alice Owsley (local guide and owner of Riverside Anglers), and Jake Zirkle (G. Loomis). We also had a ton of gear and sales reps on hand from companies including Sage, Rio, Redington, Thomas & Thomas, Echo, Airflo, Winston, Scientific Anglers, Orvis, C.F. Burkheimer, and G. Loomis. Attendees were able to try out just about every trout Spey kit on the market. The event finished off with a fun cookout back at the shop and planning for how to make the event even better next year. Speaking of next year, stay tuned for dates for the 3rd annual Trout Spey Days!
Late September through the month of October found our guide staff splitting their time between Yellowstone Country and the Missouri River. For almost 25 years, Jonathan, Joe and Steve have been spending their Fall in and around Cascade, Montana. They show up and hang out with fellow BSA guide Greg Falls who lives on the river every single day of the season. Greg loves to fish the upper river with different nymphing techniques and knows where all the large, rising brown trout live as well. While there are always great days of nymphing to be had on the Missouri, we really try and concentrate our efforts on the dry fly and streamer games, just because we think it’s more fun. Rods are rigged with floating and sinking lines for streamer fishing and there are always a smattering of dry fly rods rigged up with caddis, BWO and pseudo imitations. If a fish rises, we drop the anchor and prepare to catch it with a properly placed dry, a reach cast, and some stack mends.
Back home in West Yellowstone, late September and October found our shop staff and guides swinging flies in the Park on the Madison, poking around the Henry’s Fork on those perfect days looking for heads, and of course spending plenty of time down in the Madison Valley. This Fall, in the Park specifically, the run of lake fish was off just a little bit. Most of that, we think, was due to the lack of rainfall in September and the sunny days that made for an everlasting Indian Summer. Towards the end of October we were treated to some scuzzy days and the brown trout came out in full force.
In late October and through November, several members of our crew took the opportunity to travel and explore some different land and water. Joe ventured to the east to chase birds with Stella. Justin headed to British Columbia for his annual steelhead trip and found some real beauties on the swing. Donovan visited our friend Capt. Greg Moon in Louisiana to try his hand at wrangling the giant redfish down in the Marsh. Miles was back in New York chasing Stripers for a few days, and Said ventured south to Mexico on his first bonefish adventure. Matt was in So Cal for Thanksgiving and had a great turnout for his presentation at the Pasadena Casting Club, which he followed up with some great fishing off the coast with Capt. Vaughn Podmore for bonito, calico bass, barracuda, and more.
And so, we have come full circle on 2018. We wish everyone a happy, healthy, and save winter season, filled with joy and fishing. Remember, we are open all winter, so don’t hesitate to get in touch if you are looking for tying materials, or anything for an upcoming trip. We are also here and happy to talk fishing if you have questions about our area or any of the fisheries we visit, or technical aspects of the game like Euro Nymphing, Spey, or local hatch matching. Stay tuned for more news, technical content, and updates from our fishing in Patagonia!
Joe Moore, Jonathan Heames, Justin Spence, and the BSA Crew