2023 Year in Review

2023 Year in Review

Hello there folks, Happy New Year from Big Sky Country!  January is rolling right on by, the days are getting longer and before we know it another summer season will be upon us, and we’ll be wet-wading knee-deep casting dry flies at hungry trout.  So far this Winter, we are seeing warmer and drier conditions than normal. While we don’t have mountains of snow stacking up just yet, there is still plenty of time for the white stuff to pile high. We don’t get too worried about snowpack this early in the year as our best snow fall months are yet to come. In our opinion, keeping a positive outlook on life and managing expectations generally leads to success, both on and off the water. Hebgen Lake is currently sitting at four feet from full and the water managers are keeping a close eye on snowpack and river flows on the Madison.  Over on the Henry’s Fork, Island Park Reservoir is sitting at 90% full, well ahead of most years due to the wet conditions we saw last Summer and Fall. Our friends at the Henry’s Fork Foundation continue to be at the forefront of hydrology and water management, and keep us informed on watershed conditions throughout the year. We’re hopeful for the new year to come, and thankful for the ones that have past.

2024 marks the 20th Anniversary of Big Sky Anglers. Twenty years ago, I spent the winter living in Big Sky trying to figure out my next move in the fishing world.  I’d drive my ’85 Landcruiser over to the free skier parking lot at the resort to toss a tennis ball for an hour while Huck, my first birddog, burned up his endless energy, and think about the fishing season that was still four months away. We’d ski the Bowl and the Tram all day and end up on the tailgate drinking beers as Huck ran the vacant lot.  That season, while riding the lifts and contemplating my future on the tailgate of that old Toyota, I decided to get my Montana Outfitter’s License.  On one hand, that decision back in 2004 seems like a very long time ago, a distant milestone in a blur of highlights in my fishing career. On the other hand, it seems like it was just yesterday.  Justin, Steve, Jonathan and I were all buddies back then, and spent time fishing and hunting together.  Those three were each on their own paths, but our trajectory was the same, and somehow we all managed to stay in the fishing business long enough to make a life out of being on, or at least damn near, the river together. Things have sure evolved from outfitting out of my garage to owning a fly shop, hotel, outfitting business and angling travel company. To all the folks who believed in BSA back then, I can’t THANK YOU enough.  Never in my mind did I think I would be part of an amazing business like the one we have built here in West Yellowstone.  I truly feel blessed to have a seat at the table with our fishing family and be surrounded with wonderful, hard working people who share the same passion for fishing as we do. Without customers like you, we would not be where we are at today, cheers and here’s to another 20 years!

2023 started off wet, white and as snowy as it could be.  A year ago we were skiing endless powder, day after day, watching the snow pile up in the Hebgen Basin. At times, we had too much snow! 

We hosted two different groups to Cuba last winter giving us a much needed break from the white stuff. Our annual migration south to the pristine flats and undisturbed marine environment of the Jardines de la Reina has become one of our most anticipated trips. Once again we saw terrific fishing for tarpon, and bonefish, and some great shots at permit. We’re counting the days until our 2024 trips, which are right around the corner, and we are nearly booked for 2025. Give us a call or drop us a line if you’re interested in experiencing this vast, pristine saltwater fishery.

For more than 20 years, our team has been hosting anglers, and personalizing custom trips in Patagonia, and 2023 was our busiest year yet. From the start of the season in November and December, to the finale in May, we had groups traveling throughout Argentina and Chile experiencing the tremendous fishing, scenery, and culture that has kept us coming back for decades. THANK YOU to everyone that trusted us with your travel needs. We love sharing our passion for these special places with you, and look forward to our next adventures together.

When Spring finally arrived in Big Sky Country, the moisture never really let up.  The rivers and their fish enjoyed good flows all season long, and the benefits of that moisture will last into the upcoming summer as well.  From the Henry’s Fork, to the Madison, and the waters of Yellowstone National Park, we had a great 2023 season.

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 an unmatched diversity of watersheds to fish, including our beloved Henry’s Fork of the Snake. Once again, we all spent a lot of days on the Fork in 2023, and we can’t thank the good folks at The Henry’s Fork Foundation enough for their dedication over the past thirty-nine years. Without the HFF the fishery would not be what it is today.

Stay tuned to the blog in the coming weeks for recaps on the 2023 fishing season for the Henry’s Fork, and other iconic favorites like the Madison, and YNP, as well as a forecast on what we expect to see for the upcoming 2024 season.

As many of you know, since 2017 we have been working with the Town of West Yellowstone and Bob Jacklin to rebuild the local casting pond.  Thanks to the tireless work of many in town, and the generous support from many of YOU, in October we held the Opening Ceremonies and dedicated the pond to Bob. The turnout was amazing and Bob enjoyed the evening. We are thrilled with how the facility turned out, and excited to put it to good use. Be on the lookout for the return of Bob’s free Sunday evening casting classes starting in June of 2024.

In 2023 we were fortunate to bring in a handful of fabulous instructors/anglers to help everyone up their own game on the water. At Big Sky Anglers we are truly passionate about teaching and sharing what we have learned on our own angling journeys, and we look forward to these educational opportunities every year. 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 2024, Simon is coming back twice; the Next Level Trout School in late August and October for Spey School. In 2021, longtime friend and retired BSA fishing Guide, John Hudgens, launched Anglers Academy.  Our very own Jonathan Heames is one of the instructors in the Signature Course in July and the Women’s Course in August. 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, Eric Neufeld, Nick English, Kurt Krueger, our own Matt Klara, and industry reps with all the coolest Spey gear to demo. 


Autumn brought with it a perfect mix of brilliant, sunny days punctuated by weekly storm cycles. It was a constant rotation between puffy layers under rain jackets, and sun-hoodies.

At the end of October 2023, we held an event at the shop marking the end of the season here in Yellowstone Country.  We had so much fun with live music, tasty BBQ, huge sales, raffles and good fishing, that we decided to have another party in 2024 – stay tuned for more to come on that front!

November brought with it the close of the season in Big Sky Country, and the start of another season in Patagonia. Big Sky Anglers hosted trips in November and December to Jurassic Lake, Pira Lodge (for Dorado), El Encuentro Fly Fishing, and Patagonia Nomads were enjoyed by all. Marco Ross, our Shop Manager, and Patrick Johnson, our Outfitting and Travel Manager both hosted trips this year, and are already putting groups together for 2025. Many of you have met Marco and Patrick over the years. They are both integral parts of the year round family here at BSA, and we are excited to see them developing into world-class travel hosts. Side note – Patrick, and his soon-to-be much better half, Shelby got engaged in 2023! So, next time you chat with Patrick, be sure to pass along your best wishes.

In 2024 we have groups traveling to Argentine and Chile every week until the end of April. We also have our annual trips to Cuba, as well as some exciting locales like the Seychelles. So, stay tuned for trip reports and reach out to us with any questions or help with your angling travel needs.

Looking ahead to 2024 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, Colton, Tyler, Greg, Mike and Brian are back for another season!

We are so fortunate to have an amazing, talented staff hustling for us. Without them, Big Sky Anglers would not be what it is today. 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.

At the Golden Stone Inn, Makenzy Ross 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.

Mark your calendars for 2024!

In late June of 2024, dates to be determined, we are throwing a 20th Anniversary Party to celebrate all things fishing.

For 2024, our annual Trout Spey Days is evolving and we are changing things up quite a bit.  Spey Days will now be a part of a much larger event here in town called The Wretched Mess Art & Fly Fishing Festival. This event is super exciting, the dates are Sept 6th and 7th, 2024.  Be on the lookout for A LOT more information here soon and be ready for one hell of a good time here in West Yellowstone at the Union Pacific Dining Hall and Bob Jacklin Casting Pond with live music, food trucks, beer garden, art venders, fishing reps from across the continent and much more.

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 2024 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 2024. We look forward to seeing you soon.

- Joe

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