Big Sky Anglers 2020 Holiday Gift Guide

Big Sky Anglers 2020 Holiday Gift Guide

Hello there and Happy Holidays from all of us here in Big Sky Anglers. We walked around the shop and picked out some of the best gifts we could find hoping to help you take away the guess work for that angler in your life. If you don’t see something here, please give us a shout and we will do our best to find what you’re looking for.


Cody Richardson License Plate Trout

We love these pieces! They celebrate one of the great rites of passage among trout anglers – road tripping across Montana or the entire western United States and fishing every chance we get! Every license plate art piece is handmade and is unique. Yours will look very similar to those in the images but will not be exactly the same as the photo example. If you’d like to give us a call we can share more detail about each piece. Options include a trout featuring either Vintage Montana Tags or Plates from States across the Mountain West.

All trout are 35″ x 21″

<< Click Here To Shop Online >>

Toti Palmer Handmade/Hand Painted Leather Fly Wallet

Made by our good friend and artist Toti Palmer in San Martin De Los Andes, Patagonia, Argentina. Toti makes these beautiful wallets from a single piece of leather and hand paints each brown trout making it a one of a kind piece. Each wallet has been treated with a leather finish that protects it from fading or damage. Don’t miss a chance to own this truly unique item. Quantities are limited.

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Stickable Art from Mimi Matsuda, Nate Karnes, Casey Underwood, and Drew Wilson

Stickers, not just for kids these days! Perfect little gifts for darn near everyone in your family. Check out all of our stickers online for a wide variety of options.

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Abby Pafrath Art 4 All Hats

Wearable art from phenomenally talented artist Abby Pafrath out of Jackson, Wyoming. Her designs include Unisex as well as Women’s and Kids hats!

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BSA Custom Rod, Reel, & Line Packages

Over the past year we have been working hard here at the shop to pull together a few of our very favorite Rod, Reel, and Line combinations that we believe match not only our personal fishing styles and aesthetic preferences, but also those of many of our customers as well. From small streams to big rivers, ponds and lakes, single hand, Spey, and more, we love sharing our favorite gear with folks. For this holiday season we’ve put together two very special kits featuring incredible rods made right here in the west (Montana and Colorado) and custom colored and engraved Nautilus X-series reels that will make any trout angler blush. We also are doing a special discount on our own Ultimate Rocky Mountain Starter Kit, as well as the regular amazing prices on the Echo Gecko Kit for the kiddos and Echo Base Kits for those looking to just get going in the sport at a great price.

Winston Pure / Custom Nautilus X-Series with Big Sky Anglers Logo

When the Winston Pure series came out we couldn’t wait to fish it here in Yellowstone Country. From the 8ft 4wt to the 9ft 5wt, this rod is sweet perfection complete with the Winston feel. We have fished it on the big rivers in Montana and Idaho as well as the small streams throughout YNP, Idaho and Montana; the Pure Series has quickly become one of those green sticks we will reference for years to come. The Pure series is very accurate at distances out to 45 feet and beyond, mends with ease and plays those larger trout all the way to the net. We paired the Pure with a Nautilus X series reel in the size to balance the selected rod, with custom colors and BSA engraving.

As our Holiday Special, we are throwing in an SA Amplitude Smooth Trout fly line, 20lb Rio Dacron backing, BSA Trucker Hat, BSA pin and a BSA sticker for free.

If you have questions about which rod is best for you, give the shop a call and ask for Joe, Jonathan or Justin.

<< Click Here To Shop Online >>

Scott Centric / Custom Nautilus X-Series with Big Sky Anglers Logo

At long last, Scott has released the much anticipated followup to their incredible Radian series.  The Centric! Scott put the feel in fast action rods. Now they have taken it to the next level. The Centric is a snappy rod; it recovers well and is very accurate with small dries at a distance. This will be a fantastic tool for chasing Hebgen gulpers, jamming dry droppers to the banks on the Madison or picking up long line on the Ranch to relocate your fly in a better lane. This is a faster action rod with plenty of soul.

We’ve paired the 5 and 6wt Centrics with custom colored and engraved Nautilus X-series reels, in matching sizes.

As a Holiday Special, we are throwing in an SA Amplitude Smooth Infinity fly line, 20lb Rio Dacron backing, BSA Trucker Hat, BSA pin and a BSA sticker for free.

If you have questions about which rod is best for you, give the shop a call and ask for Joe, Jonathan or Justin.

<< Click Here To Shop Online >>

Big Sky Anglers Ultimate Rocky Mountain Starter Kit

The Ultimate Rocky Mountain Starter Kit is the culmination of many years of us here at Big Sky Anglers helping people get out on the water and making sure they have everything they need to fish all the main water types and techniques typically used in our region.  One of the main things that sets this outfit apart from other combos is that it includes two extra spools and variety of fly lines, not just a simple floating line. Having three different fly lines (floating, sink tip, and full sinking) is a game changer when it comes to catching fish in all water types/depths with a fun variety of techniques. In the kit, we have also included many other essentials items like a leader and tippet, dry fly floatant, forceps, nippers, some of our favorite flies including dries, nymphs, and streamers. We even throw in a great all around pocket guide to fly fishing written by MT legend Gary Lafontaine. For those looking for a trout specific outfit we recommend the 9ft 5wt and for those who looking for a kit that can handle both trout and bass we recommend the 9ft 6wt. If you plan to mainly fish for bass or panfish, please contact us at the shop and we can customize the fly selection and tippet/leader to match the fishing you will be doing. Everything will be set up at the shop prior to shipping making it easy for you to get out on the water!

The total value of this kit is $461 but we are offering it as a Holiday Special for only $399!

Included in the Kit:

Echo Base Rod (9ft 5 or 6 wt 4 pc rod with rod sock, tube, and lifetime warrantly) $90; Lamson Liquid 3 Pack (Reeland 2 extra Spools) $180; Weight Forward Floating Fly Line (to match rod) $30, Scientific Anglers Wet Cel sink tip line $35, Scientific Anglers Wet Cel full sinking line $35; 300 yards 20lb Rio Dacron backing (100 yards per spool) $15; 12 assorted flies $30: 1 Fly floatant $6; 1 spool 4x Rio tippet $5; 1 leader $5; 1 Airlock strike Indicator $3; 1 Nipper $7; 1 Forcep $7; Gary Lafontaine Beginner Fly Fishing Book  $13

<< Click Here To Shop Online >>

Echo Gecko Kit

The absolute best rod on the market for your little ones is the Echo Gecko. The kit comes with a case, rod, reel and fly line. Don’t be alarmed when you feel the urge to take this out of your child’s hand because you like it too!

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Orvis Clearwater 9ft 5wt Kit

The Clearwater 5-Weight 9′ Fly Rod is a standard for western rivers and bigger eastern water. Not only does it have the length to reach out and control drifts and the power to reach far banks, but the line weight to handle big trout and light bass. Firing a big streamer up and across a big river and reaching out to mend the line and control the drift is right in this rod’s wheelhouse. Throwing big attractors with droppers, or big hoppers in the early fall is the perfect task for this rod. If big water and big flies are called for, then the Clearwater 905-4 is the weapon of choice at a price that will keep a lot of travel money in your pocket.

Rod outfit includes:

  • Clearwater 905-4 fly rod
  • Clearwater II reel
  • Clearwater 5-Weight fly line
  • 100 yds. 20-lb. Dacron® backing
  • Rod tube

<< Click Here To Shop Online >>

Simms Goods

Long known as the makers of the best waders around, Simms also produces some of the best, and handiest other products that we carry at Big Sky Anglers. Among our favorites are the Dry Creek Simple Pack (Justin’s personal go-to pack for all day trips, both fishing and otherwise), their folding Wading Staff (always handy on the rugged Madison, or out in steelhead country), and the Everyday Beanie (which keeps the noggin warm and doubles as a backup reel bag in a pinch).

Big Sky Anglers Apparel and Logo Gear

Beanies from Simms, Orvis, and Ouray

Want to keep your noggin warmer this winter? Well here ya go! Our very own black BSA stocking hat, the Orvis camo beanie and the Simms CBP Merino Beanie in hunter orange. Both the BSA Stocking hat and Simms orange beanie stretch over ball caps with ease.

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BSA Classic Stack Logo Hoody

This is the perfect layer to knock down the chill during those “cold” Texas winters. We absolutely love hooded sweatshirts here in Yellowstone Country and find them to be the perfect layer anytime of the year.

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Fishing Hats

Everyone loves a good fishing hat, some even believe that their hat has special powers bringing them luck on the river. Good fish karma starts with you, but a sexy hat never hurts either! Joe made the Dope Rope hat famous in the shop this summer, but when friend of BSA and musician Sam Hunt wore it while recording it took things to all together new level. We have a host of fishy hats online, check them out.

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Bud Lilly’s & Big Sky Anglers LS T-shirt and Sticker

This T-shirt pays homage to not only the roots of the modern Big Sky Anglers fly shop, but also the roots of modern fly fishing and outfitting in the west.  Bud Lilly laid the groundwork far essentially everything we do today, from promoting fly fishing as a means to enjoy nature, to providing the best gear available, and maintaining a strong conservation ethic.  Every time we pull one of these shirts on we remember all that Bud did for our sport. The classic Bud Lilly’s trout logo stands proud on the back of this shirt, with a small BSA logo on the front chest. For the holidays, we are throwing in one of our classic Bud Lilly stickers with ever shirt.

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Hydro Flasks

For cold or warm beverages, Hydro Flask can’t be beat. Most of our guide staff uses these on our guide trip each day to help reduce the waste of plastic bottles. Pitch in and do the same!

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Zippo Lighters

We find that having a lighter is an essential piece of gear while fishing, both on foot and in the drift boat, and Zippo lighters are as classy as they come.

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Sili Pints Drinkwear

Beers, cocktails and wine all taste better from Sili Pint, at least we think so. What we really like about them is their unbreakableness. Have one too many and drop your drink? No problem, at least you didn’t break the glass!

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Big Sky Anglers Sticker Packs

These are, by far, our most popular BSA stickers in the shop. These are perfect for your rod tube, hyrdo flask, cooler or the side of your rig. For the holiday season we have introduced a brand new, never before seen sticker – the BSA Beard sticker.

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Big Sky Anglers & Bud Lilly’s Trout Shop Pins

This gift is a perfect stocking stuffer for the angler in your life. Justin found a few more old school Bud Lilly’s pin and we paired those with our BSA pin and packaged everything up in a BSA fly puck and a BSA Sticker.

<< Click Here To Shop Online >>

Fly Selections

Who doesn’t love flies? Without flies, we are just plain old fishing. We help a ton of anglers throughout the season here on the corner of Madison and Canyon and with out a doubt, one of the questions we field is “can you help us with a selection of flies for the area?”. So after talking with the staff we pulled together these selections to help make the decision a little easier on you this Holiday Season.

Guides Choice Fly Selection

This little gift is perfect stocking stuffer for the anglers in your life. Come Christmas morning they will appreciate you even more!

<< Click Here To Shop Online >>

BSA Loaded Fly Selections

The sheer number of fly patterns that are available these days can be seen as both a blessing and a curse. For the angler coming to our area, the variety of water types, hatches, and fishing situations can make fly selection intimidating. We love all the flies, of course, but we also understand that it is really nice to get what you need in a simple, condensed, effective package. That’s where our custom BSA Fly Selections are perfect. Grab and go, and cover most of the situations you are likely to encounter!

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2020 BSA Streamer Box – Our guides and shop staff love to fish streamers on their days off and so we asked them to walk through the fly bins and pull some of their favorites. This selection of 21 streamers comes with a free waterproof slit foam fly box, a BSA sticker and a BSA pin.

Flies include 3 each of: #4 Black BFE, #6 Olive/White Double Bunny, #4 BLK/Olive Dirty Dumpster, #6 Coffey’s Sparkle Minnow Sculpin, #6 Thin Mint, #6 Crystal Bugger, #6 Jr’s Golden Shiner

2020 BSA Nymph Box – We love a great bead headed nymph around here at BSA and while we prefer to fish dry flies, there are just times when nymphing is a better tactic. This selection will get it done time and time again no matter if you’re fishing here in Yellowstone Country or anywhere in Rocky Mountains. This selection of 30 nymphs comes with a free waterproof triangle slit foam fly box, a BSA sticker, and a BSA pin.

Flies include 3 each of: #8 Black Rubber Legs, #12 Tan/Brown Rubber Legs, #14 Tungsten Micro Stone, #12 BH King Prince, #16 B’ Mean Machine Orange, #16 Tungsten Spanish Bullet Quill, #14 Tungsten Pheasant Tail, #16 Tungsten Holo-Point Red Jig, #14 Jake’s Tungsten Double Money Brown, #14 Tungsten Hare and Copper

2020 BSA Dry fly Box – Fishing with a dry fly is how most, if not all of us at BSA prefer to fish when it is a potentially successful option. From the big Western streams like the Henry’s Fork, Madison or the Yellowstone, to the little streams throughout Yellowstone Country that will remain unnamed here the flies in this selection will take care of you. This selection of 33 dries comes with a free waterproof 5 row slit foam fly box, a BSA sticker, and a BSA pin.

Flies include 3 each of: #6 Water Walker Salmonfly, #10 Henry’s Fork Golden Stone, #12 Missing Link Green Drake, #14 Jojo’s Rusty Spinner, #14 Mo River Halo Caddis, #16 Missing Link Caddis, #16 Parawulff Adams, #12 Arrick’s Ant BLK/CIN, #14 BSA Pink Lightning Legs, #14 Royal Wulff Cripple, #14 Jojos Chubbinator

2020 Big Bug Box – We start fishing big giant dry flies around these parts starting in early May and fish them with success all the way through the end of July. The shear amount of big stone flies in our local water is mind blowing and this box represents not only those, but also the bigger hoppers. We will often drop a nymph off these big bugs and so this box pairs nicely with the 2020 BSA Nymph Box. This selection of 30 big bugs comes with a free waterproof 5 row slit foam fly box, a BSA sticker, and a BSA pin.

Flies include 3 each of: #6 Water Walker Salmonfly, #8 Water Walker Salmonfly, #4 Henry’s Fork Salmonfly, #8 Henry’s Fork Salmonfly, #6 Royal Stone Walker, #6 Henry’s Fork Golden Stone, #10Henry’s Fork Golden Stone, #6 Water Walker Golden, #8 Water Walker Golden, #10 Chubby Black and Tan

Argentina Travel Update – 11/19/2020

Argentina Travel Update – 11/19/2020

We have recently fielded a number of phone calls here at Big Sky Anglers asking about fishing in Argentina/Chile this upcoming 2020/21 season. The time is right for an update on travel to Argentina, including the Patagonia regions.

Due to COVID related restrictions, our groups that were scheduled to fish Patagonia this November and December and January have been rescheduled for late 2021/2022.

As of now, we are hopeful that we will be able to safely, effectively, and legally travel to Argentina from February through April. That said, there is a lot that has to happen internally in Argentina before this is an option. Rest assured, we are in close touch with friends and partners throughout Argentina on an almost daily basis, and we are keeping a close eye on what has been developing down south.

Argentina’s fishing season recently opened to Argentine resident anglers, but many provinces throughout Argentina are still not allowing Argentines to move from one province to another. There is a plan in place to allow Argentine residents to travel to Patagonia from other provinces, but this new plan is in its infancy. There is currently no official date in place for when foreign visitors can travel to Argentina, that we have been able to find. Any dates being published are based on speculation. For our friends down south in the fishing business these next couple of months will likely determine if Argentina will open its doors to foreign tourists in 2021.

We here at Big Sky Anglers will gladly visit with you about the current state of affairs in Argentina relating to foreigners traveling in 2021 and going forward. If things do look like they are opening up to foreigners there a number of outfitters/lodges that we work with who will be in a position to operate and provide the fantastic experiences they are known for. If you are interested in visiting more about fishing in Argentina please call Justin, Joe, or Jonathan at the Shop: 406-646-7801. And, we will be sure to provide another update on our blog when we have more solid information in hand.

In the meantime we will be sharing pictures of our close Argentine friends experiencing some great early season fishing with almost no angling pressure.

If you are interested in doing some research on travel restrictions on your own, the following websites may come in handy.

Boca Fever!

Big Sky Anglers 2020 Demo Gear Sale

Big Sky Anglers 2020 Demo Gear Sale

Hi folks. The time has come to turn over some of our 2020 demo gear fleet. The list below represents what we have available, and we will be doing our best to update the list as items are sold. All of the items listed below have seen light use during the past 1 or 2 seasons by our customers, guides, and shop staff. All are in excellent condition, with only bits of cosmetic wear.

All prices are 40% off or more off of MSRP, and all sales are final.

If you have any questions about any of these items, or would like to make a purchase, please contact Justin Spence by phone or email.

Call 406-640-0420 or email

Demo Rods

Orvis Recon 9ft 7wt 4pc rod – retail $549 – sale price $329

Orvis Recon 9ft 8wt 4pc rod – retail $549 – sale price $329

Sage Sonic 10’0”ft 7wt 4pc – retail $550 – sale price $330

Echo Trout Spey 11ft 2wt 4pc – retail $499 – sale price $299

Echo Trout Spey 11ft 3wt 4pc – retail $499 – sale price $299

Echo TR 11ft 3″ 4wt 4pc – retail $379 – sale price $227

G Loomis Asquith 13ft 7wt 4pc – Retail $1300 – sale price $780

Redington Chromer Spey Rod 13’6” 8wt 4pc – retail $400 – sale price $200

Demo Reels

Sage Spey Reel 7/8/9 Bronze – retail $500 – sale price $300

Other Used Reels

The following are a couple of reels that are not demo items but are reels that have been owned by staff and friends of the shop that we would like to sell.

Abel Super 9/10 with custom Chrome Steelhead finish and drag knob. Line and Backing not included – retail $1,295 – sale price $777

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 10/29/2020

Big Sky Anglers Weekly Fishing Report – 10/29/2020

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Hello from West Yellowstone, MT – the Trout Capital of the World!

The fishing season in Yellowstone Park ends this Sunday, and weather is looking good, so get it while you can! This historically marks the end of our own busy season, and as such this will be our last weekly report for the year. We plan to chime in throughout the winter as we work on new instructional content, and get out fishing here and there as weather permits. Thanks to everyone who has followed along with us, and given us the feedback that we need to make our fishing reports and newsletters more useful for everyone. Thanks also to everyone who visited us during this crazy summer, and for helping us to keep everyone safe and healthy.

Some of the guys have been getting out of town lately for a little break after a great summer. Joe went bird hunting, a type of therapy that come to him in no ther way. Justin, Chris, and Marco headed a bit farther west in search of steelhead this week, and knowing how steelheading is, that can either be therapy, or force you to seek out some therapy after the trip! Whether you are into fishing or hunting, or the start of skiing, or another outdoor activity this time of year, get out there and enjoy it!

Remember, folks, this is the time of year where some of those big brown trout that we all love are already spawning. Brookies as well. Please, if you choose to fish waters with those species in them, be extra aware of your surroundings. Absolutely DO NOT target trout that are on or near redds. No hero shot is worth threatening the reproductive success of a wild trout. If you see fish doing their thing, just stay back so as not to disturb them, and enjoy one of natures great spectacles that few folks get to experience. And, when you are wading, keep an eye peeled for that clean gravel as accidentally stomping on trout eggs is every bit as bad as fishing for actively spawning fish.

Big Sky Anglers is OPEN from 8:00am to 6:00pm through this Sunday. After that we plan to close up for inventory for a bit, but if you need anythign, be sure to give us a call and we can organize for a curbisde pickup for you. We will pick up with winter hours after that, so stay tuned for that. Our fly shop remains a clean and healthy environment for both our customers and staff members. There is a sanitation station at the door complete with hand sanitizer and masks if you don’t have one, we are still under Governor’s mandate to wear them when 6′ of social distance isn’t possible indoors; the staff will continue wearing masks for the future. Stop on by, say hello and we’ll get you taken care of. Most importantly, stay safe, stay healthy, and enjoy your time outside.

Take care and fish on,
~ The BSA Crew

Henry’s Fork – by Jonathan Heames

Island Park Dam:  176 cfs Ashton Dam:  900 cfs

As we approach the end of the Yellowstone National Park fishing season, keep in mind that there are always options here in Yellowstone country for a day’s fishing, and the Henry’s Fork is no exception. There is fishable water throughout the system, the main closure being Harriman State Park, the Raillroad Ranch, which remains open through November 30th. It is closed from December 1st through June 14th.

The Box canyon will remain a good bet anytime the mercury doesn’t drop so far that you wouldn’t want to be in a boat, anyway. Small zebra midges and mayfly nymphs, dead-drifted streamers, swung leeches, and rubber legs will all produce results over the coming months. Eventually, snow will drift in and we won’t be able to launch a boat down there anymore, limiting access to wade anglers.

The Railroad Ranch is still producing daily baetis (BWO) hatches, these will be stronger and last longer if you have cloudy days, but they’ll still come off on a sunny one for now. The larger trout usually will respond better when there are clouds around, but any day worth walking is a day worth fishing right now.

The coming months are a good time to limit your endeavors in the canyon country downstream of Riverside on to the confluence of Warm River to wade fishing and the nicest of days. From Warm River on down to Saint Anthony, good fishing will be found through the fall and throughout the winter months. Again, cloudy days will provide the best opportunities for dry fly fishing, but it’s hard to argue with a sunny day in the coming weeks for the pleasure of being outside in it!

If you are heading to the Fork anytime this winter, be sure to give us a call at the shop, we’ll continue to fish down there throughout the year and will usually have a solid report for ya!

Yellowstone National Park – by Matt Klara

Sunday, November 1st is the last day of the fishing season in Yellowstone for 2020. We had some frigid weather last weekend, we are seeing the fisheries more seriously affected by low water temperatures. The NE corner of the park is officially off our radar until next summer.

Our focus during these final days of the season will be on the waters in the western region of Yellowstone: the Firehole, Gibbon, and Madison Rivers. All three of these iconic watershed benefit from an influx of warm, geothermal water providing good opportunities.

With overnight lows expected to be in the teens, with afternoon highs in the mid 40s through the weekend, there should be some great chances to get out for one last flick in YNP.
Look for hatches of Fall Baetis on the Firehole in the afternoons. Keep in mind the Firehole has a great many micro-habitats because of the varied influences from geothermal sources. If the bugs aren’t rolling at Fountain Flat, that doesn’t mean the same is true below Midway Basin.

The Madison River in YNP remains a good bet for lake run fish. Good numbers of fish are now available throughout the system. Browns will be a mix of new entries to the system as well as those that are settled, staging, and/or actively spawning. Keep an eye peeled and leave those fish alone. Remember, fall run rainbows eat flies well and run hard like a mini steelhead.

Madison River – by Jonathan Heames

The Madison River in Montana will continue to provide decent days in the coming week and month, efforts are best focused in the wade sections, both from Quake Lake to Lyons Bridge and from Ennis to Ennis Lake.

In the upper wade stretches, decent nymph fishing will be found starting late morning, with a daily baetis hatch occurring some time during the middle of the day. The biggest factor to watch out here is the wind, if it’s blowing hard in the valley, the days can be a struggle, if not, it’s usually a pretty nice place to be and the scenery is first class! As winter looms closer, baetis will give way to midges, prompting smaller nymphs like zebra midges and fuzzier dry flies, like Joe Moore’s Comparabuzz.

Below Ennis there is some streamer fishing to be found in some of the runs as brown are moving up the system from Ennis Lake. There are some runs worth swinging over these next couple of weeks, after which angling efforts will be better focused further upriver.

The Lakes – by Matt Klara

That blast of super cold weather shut us lake fans down for a few days at least. Many of the smaller and shallower bodies of water froze over last weekend, including parts of Henry’s Lake. While the ice anglers begin licking their chops, flyrodders have fingers crossed that the warm afternoons that are here this week will extend the stillwater season just a bit longer. As usual, late fall cold water fishing may require a low and slow approach, either on sinking lines or with balanced leeches under an indicator. Get it while you can, because hard water season is coming fast!

River Flows and the Weather Forecast

Below are links to the flows in Montana and Idaho as well as. This time of the year flows and the weather are changing daily, if not by the hour. Click the links below for the most up to date information.

Montana River Flows
Idaho River Flows
West Yellowstone Weather Forecast

The Madison River Recreation Plan: FWP Needs Your Comments By October 30th.

The Madison River Recreation Plan: FWP Needs Your Comments By October 30th.

Madison River Recreation Plan Proposal.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is seeking public comment until October 30th, 2020. The results of this will affect your fishing on the Madison River.

Some of you may have heard the buzz about Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks moving forward with a Madison River Recreation Plan.  This is an important next step in a movement that has been discussed for the past 10 years.  This plan has ultimately come to a head because of perceived overcrowding on the river.  Users wishing to preserve and protect the quality of the experience on the Madison River have been convening to discuss the many points of view and perspectives on how best to manage this.  In many ways, this is a discussion and plan that will set the standard for other rivers in the West for years to come, so it’s worth taking a moment to understand what is at stake here and offering your public comment where you are able.  Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) is accepting public comment until October 30th on this and the commissioners will come to a vote on November 18th, 2020.   

It is our goal to inform those of you that are interested in what Big Sky Anglers’ stance is on these issues, to offer some interpretation and navigability of the current proposals, and include links to the original documents so that those of you that wish to read and decide for yourselves are able to do so easily. The Madison is truly a special river that belongs to all of us (Montana residents and non-residents, commercial users and public users) and we hope that a reasonable plan that achieves the goal of limiting the perceived crowding and, most importantly, protecting the resource can emerge from all of this. As with all public resource management issues, the current discussion needs your opinion, it needs to hear from the public.   

We and others have found the current rules being proposed to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) Commissioners are a bit muddy and difficult to navigate, so we are hoping to put the current discussion into simpler terms here.  A link to the actual language for anyone who wishes to read through it more carefully is located here

FWP has clearly stated that this plan will be developed based on the comments received by the public.The Madison River is a public resource with rulemaking driven by public comment, not by commercial users.  Your voice is needed more than you might imagine.

Public Comment can be submitted by the following methods and must be received by October 30, 2020:

Online:  FWP website link

Mail:  Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Madison River Rules, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, MT, 59620-0701



Rule 1:  Cap outfitting use.

Rule 2:  Rest and Rotation

Rule 3:  Closure of Walk/Wade section to boats

Rule 4: Limit Development on Madison River

Rule 5:  Closure of Walk/Wade section to boats, alternate plan to Rule 3

Rule 6:  Management of Limited Commercial Users

Rule 7:  Transferred Permits

Rule 8:  Flex Trips

Rule 9:  Transfer of Guided Trips

Rule 10:  Mandatory Guided Trip Reductions

Rule 11:  Permit and Application Fees

Rule 12:  Reporting and Use Fees

Rule 13:  Plan Evaluation

Rule 14:  Commercial Use Working Group

Rule 15:  Madison River SRP Trip Distribution Pool

Rule 16:  Madison River Use Stamp


In short, there are 16 rules being proposed, and these three are standing out as contentious and worthy of comment: Rules 2, 3, and 5.  The rest deal with the management of commercial permits and we accept them as they are.  We believe that limiting our own impact, as commercial users, is critical to any proposed plan. 

Rule 2:  Rest and Rotation**Being proposed here is a Saturday closure of all commercial use from Varney Bridge to Ennis and a Sunday closure from Lyons Bridge to Palisades.  These closures will be active from June 15-September 30**

Our position is that Rest and Rotation as it is currently defined will not work on the Madison River and will in fact make crowding worse. The method needs improvement.

This doesn’t seem too extreme at face value but it should be noted that the language being used for Rest and Rotation is flawed in that the Sunday closure of Lyons-Palisades incidentally results in the closure of AT LEAST 8 float section options to commercial use.  Each of the following sections utilizes a portion of or all of the proposed closure and would be closed for guided trips on Sundays.         

 -Lyons Bridge to Windy Point        

 -Lyons Bridge to Palisades        

 -Lyons Bridge to Ruby Creek       

 -Lyons Bridge to Mcatee Bridge        

-Windy Point to Palisades         

-Windy Point to Ruby Creek         

-Windy Point to Mcatee Bridge         

-Windy Point to Storey Ditch         

-Raynold’s Pass to Windy Point         

-Pine Butte to Windy Point         

-Pine Butte to Palisades 

The incidental closure of all of these sections will force ALL guided float trips on Sundays into Palisades and downstream, into those sections that have much lower fish counts per mile than the upper reaches and cannot handle the inevitable increase of fishing pressure.  The concentration of guide boats caused by the proposed rule will also result in circumstances that we believe will be perceived as overcrowding of the river below Palisades on Sundays – the exact opposite of the intended result of the rule.  

Closing of the entire section doesn’t work on the Madison, perhaps we can explore rest and rotation on the individual fishing access level as a possible alternative.  For example, Lyons Bridge access could be closed on Sundays to commercial use. Another consideration might be to close that particular float on a given day, but still allow for other floats that overlap the same section to occur. Allowing boats to spread out is the key to avoiding crowded situations. 

Rule 3:  Closure of Walk/Wade Section to boats**Being proposed here is a closure to ALL boats (not just commercial) in the sections of river commonly referred to as the walk/wade stretches (Quake Lake outlet – Lyons Bridge and Ennis to Ennis Reservoir) on weekends: Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.  These closures will be active from June 15-September 30**

Our position is that we do NOT support the ban of watercraft on the wade section at any time and we do NOT support fishing from boats in the wade section. 

At face value this rule seems noble, but it’s worth noting several things here to consider.   Firstly, the issue we are facing on the Madison is overcrowding, taking boats out of the wade section on weekends lessens anglers’ ability to spread out, forcing everyone into the same wade fishing accesses.   Secondly, several landowners in the upper wade section have become increasingly aggressive about confronting wade fishing anglers, accusing them of trespassing according to their own interpretation of the Montana Stream Access Law.  They are aggressively posting no trespassing signs, arguably illegally, and chasing anglers off of the public water adjacent to their property.   

We believe that actively limiting stream access to public water does not represent Montana values, and establishes a dangerous precedent that flies in the face of our beloved Stream Access Law.  Limiting access in this instance may also result in future litigation, wasting both taxpayer money and State resources. When combined with Proposed Rule #2, this rule has the potential to cause even greater crowding of boat-based anglers and recreational floaters into the sections of river downstream of Palisades. This rule is an access issue and should be looked at with a more critical eye as it benefits very few (a handful of property owners) at the cost of many (the angling public). 

Rule 5:  Closure of Walk/Wade Section to Boats-Alternate to Rule 3**Being proposed here is an alternate rule to Rule 3: this is presented by FOAM (Fishing Outfitter Association of Montana) and proposes a closure to boats on the two walk/wade stretches on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  Leaving Sunday open to boats to accommodate the Rest and Rotation closure of Lyons to Palisades to commercial use in Rule 2.  It also proposes to allow fishing from the boat in the walk/wade section from Sunday through Wednesday.  These closures will be active from June 15-September 30**

Our position is that we do NOT support the ban of watercraft on the wade section at any time and we do NOT support fishing from boats in the wade section.

As mentioned, this is intended to be an alternate to Rule 3.  Best case scenario in our view is the omission of BOTH of these Rules, retaining the status quo in the walk/wade sections.  We believe that there is significant value to the angling public in retaining the existing rules banning angling from a floating craft upstream of Lyons Bridge.

MT FWP Needs Your Comments

We encourage you to make comments of your own, but if you are inclined to agree with Big Sky Anglers’ positioning on these matters and don’t have time to draft a personal comment, please feel free to utilize any of the following text in your comments to FWP on their website, by mail, or by Email:

Please feel free to contact us at with any questions or if we can help clarify any of these complicated issues.

Please Feel Free to Copy and Paste this Text if it Suits You

To Whom it May Concern, 

Thank you for allowing the public to comment on this important proposal for the Madison River, I agree with proposed rules 1, 4, and 6-16. I would like to issue the following comments on Rules 2, 3, and 5: 

Rule 2.  The language currently being used to define rest and rotation is flawed and I believe will have the reverse effect from that which is intended.  Specifically, by closing Lyons Bridge to Palisades on Sundays to commercial use, this rule as written will ban commercial float trips on AT LEAST 8 popular float sections of the river:          

1.  Lyons Bridge to Windy Point         

2.  Lyons Bridge to Palisades         

3.  Lyons Bridge to Ruby Creek         

4.  Lyons Bridge to Mcatee Bridge         

5.  Windy Point to Palisades         

6.  Windy Point to Ruby Creek         

7.   Windy Point to Mcatee Bridge         

8.  Windy Point to Storey Ditch         

9.  Raynold’s Pass to Windy Point         

10.  Pine Butte to Windy Point         

11.  Pine Butte to Palisades 

The incidental closure of all of these sections will force ALL guided float trips into Palisades and downstream, into sections that have much lower fish counts per mile than the upper reaches and cannot handle the inevitable increase of fishing pressure.  The concentration of guide boats caused by the proposed rule will also result in circumstances that we believe will be perceived as overcrowding of the river downstream of Palisades on Sundays – the exact opposite of the intended result of the rule.

I encourage the Commissioners to explore other options for Rest and Rotation rather than closing an entire section to all commercial traffic. One alternative would be to close a particular access on a given day, rather than the entire section. Another could be to allow floats to occur that pass through this section but do not start at Lyons Bridge and terminate at Palisades. Allowing boats the ability to spread out on the Madison is the key to helping prevent perceived crowding. 

Rules 3 and 5.  I disagree with removing boats from the walk/wade sections of the Madison.  This will only benefit the few landowners in these areas at the expense of the many public anglers.  It will also increase crowding at wade fishing access points. I believe that there is significant value to the angling public in retaining the existing rules banning angling from a floating craft upstream of Lyons Bridge.  I also believe that actively limiting stream access to public water does not represent Montana values, and establishes a dangerous precedent that flies in the face of Montana’s beloved Stream Access Law.  Limiting access in this instance may also result in future litigation, wasting both taxpayer money and State resources. When combined with Proposed Rule #2, this rule has the potential to cause even greater crowding of boat based anglers and recreational floaters into the sections of river downstream of Palisades.