Happy New Year from one of the snowiest spots in the northern Rockies! Winter started early this season, back in Late October, and it hasn’t let up. Over at the Forest Service office here in Town, there is thirty-six inches on the level - to say the least, we are covered up in the white stuff. For all of your numbers people out there, we are sitting at 130% of Snow Water Equivalent. That bodes well for the rivers, lakes, fish and insects; after past two winters of bleak snowpack, we will take everything we can get.
Our seventh year of operating in West Yellowstone began in 2023, I’m constantly bewildered on where the time goes. From the start of it all back in 2004 in my garage to the corner of 39 Madison Avenue in 2017, we have sought to build relationships with both our customers and staff, it’s the most important thing we can do and, in this day, and age connecting with each other in the Great Outdoors really does matter. We’d like to thank each one of you for your continued support of our businesses and for allowing us to become your friends and trusting us to make sure you’re well taken care of. We would not be here without you!
Back in March of 2022, the snow in the high country was dismal. While we never get too nervous about snowpack, Mother Nature was definitely making us sweat. 2021 was a tough winter and we needed record snowpack to fall and help fill Hebgen Lake as well as keep the tributaries running into late summer. In Late March the weather turned, and precipitation came in waves all the way through May and into June. The Great Flood of 2022 happened in early June after a massive rain on snow event, filling Hebgen was no longer an issue. The issue was too much water all at once and a 500 year flood was upon us. Yellowstone National Park closed all gates for two weeks opening back up on June 22 here at the West Gate and the East Gate. All other gates remained closed for some time and the North Gate never opened back up for the 2022 season for the general public. Our shop and guide staff were left to fish the Henry’s Fork as YNP and the Madison River were out of the question until flows subsided in late June. We made the most of that, no doubt.
We are so fortunate to have an amazing, talented staff hustling for us. Without them, Big Sky Anglers would not be what it is. From the fly shop to the guide staff, and over at the Golden Stone Inn these guys and gals put their nose to the grindstone and got after it. They pulled long hours for weeks on end with hardly a complaint. Summer rolled on with enough Salmonflies, Green Drakes, PMDs, caddis, hoppers, ants and Callibaetis to keep everyone on their toes. We live at nearly 7000’ and operate with a diversity of watersheds to fish on like no other place. Once again, the Henry’s Fork of the Snake played a large role for us in 2022, we can’t thank the good folks at The Henry’s Fork Foundation, for their dedication over the past thirty-eight years, without the HFF the Fork truly would not be what it is today.
At the Golden Stone Inn, Makenzy Graham and her talented staff at the GSI create a warm, welcoming home away from home environment, conveniently located in our quiet corner of West Yellowstone next door to some of the finest angling in the world. Our angling packages continue to be a popular option for visiting anglers, and we love seeing so many groups return year after year. On a side note, we’d like to congratulate Makenzy and our fly shop manager, Marco Ross; they got married last week and have tied the knot!
At Big Sky Anglers we are truly passionate about teaching and sharing what we have learned on our own angling journeys. We were fortunate to be able to bring in a handful of fabulous instructors/anglers this past year to help everyone up their own game on the water. George Daniel’s Euro Nymphing class and Simon Gawesworth’s multi-day Spey Casting School were both enlightening and inspiring to all those who were able to attend. In 2023, Simon is coming back twice; May and September so be on the lookout for updates about those schools. In 2021, longtime friend and BSA fishing Guide, John Hudgens, launched Anglers Academy. Our very own Jonathan Heames is one of the instructors in the course. If you’re looking to up your angling game, the Anglers Academy is for you! Our Trout Spey Days event in September brought together an energetic group of passionate folks with incredible instructors like Simon Gawesworth, George Cook, Eric Neufeld, Lee Davidson, our own Matt Klara, and industry reps with all the coolest Spey gear to demo. As many of you know, we have been working with the Town of West Yellowstone and Bob Jacklin to rebuild the local casting pond. Back in October, we achieved a huge milestone - concrete was poured! The benches and rod racks are made and will show up in the spring of 2023. We are now working on the kiosk as well as other signage. Stay tuned for the announcement of the Opening Ceremony and the return of Bob’s free casting clinics this coming summer.
We are beyond thankful that international travel has returned! Our early season hosted trip to Jurasic Lake and the Route 40 trip in Patagonia were a success; this winter we have groups traveling to Argentine every week until the end of April. We also have trips running to locales like Cuba and the Seychelles this winter, so stay tuned for trip reports and reach out to us for your angling travel needs. Many of you have met Patrick Johnson here on the floor of the fly shop, Patrick is now working year around for BSA in the role of Outfitting and Travel Manager. He is working closely with J4 on all things travel and outfitting quickly learning the ropes.
Looking ahead to 2023 we can’t wait to welcome everyone back to Big Sky Country, and create more great memories in the shop, on the water, and at the Golden Stone Inn. Our whole guide team is on board - the smiling faces of Earl, Jared, Nichole, Nicholas, Earl, Mike, Miles, Marshall, Donovan, Chris, Tano, Mickey, Travis, Colton, Tyler, Greg, Mike, Ray and Hudge are back for another season!
We are excited to keep in touch with all the Big Sky Anglers out there and share the countless things that we love about fly fishing. Keep an eye on your inbox and in your social media feed for weekly content from the BSA team throughout 2023 from Big Sky Country, Patagonia, and beyond.
On behalf of myself, Jonathan, Justin, Steve, and the rest of the BSA family, we want to wish everyone a healthy and prosperous 2023. We look forward to seeing you soon!