Together we made the 2200 mile journey which started on Wednesday at 2AM in Boston, MA. By lunch time we had already passed the Appalachians, flown over the Mississippi and the Great Plains. After banking around the Great Salt Lake, we made a short stop in Salt Lake City for a bite to eat.
On the next leg of our flights, we boarded on a small puddle jumper for a quick trip to Montana’s capital, Helena. Coming out of the airplane, you could immediately tell this place was for people who love the outdoors. The inside of the airport was covered in wood beam facade, wildlife mounts, and huge pictures of the beautiful scenery the state has to offer.
Much like the airport, our rental house had a cathedral high ceiling filled with mounts of all sorts of local wildlife, bookshelves about everything hunting and fishing, and action shots of the many adventures before us. The bedrooms were what you would expect from a five-star hotel; spotless, modern, and cozy. The kitchen was ready to accept a master chef with cupboards and refrigerator full of ingredients, and a freezer full of game meat. This place was completely outfitted for the perfect getaway. The only thing going through our minds at this point was “wow,” but this was just the beginning.
The next two days were like clockwork; up, get ready, fill up on bacon, and head to the shop.
We met up with our guides and rode over to the boat ramps. In early June, the Missouri is being filled by cold run-off from the local dam. Water temperatures were around a chilly 50F mismatched by an extremely dry 95F air temperature. Being from New England, we could barely feel the dry heat, but the locals weren’t as resistant. Even our viking comrade was pretty comfortable. Still, we lathered up with sun block pretty often to keep from burning.
The conditions this time of year are variable and each day can bring a unique challenge depending on the weather. Clouds, sun and wind can all greatly affect how you fish and what you fish with. The water level, which is measured in cubic feet per second, was the lowest it’s been in over a decade. This forced us out of some fishing spots and shortened our tandem rigs in others.
The aquatic insect hatches included PMDs and weighted zebra midges. We also used san juan worms and different streamers to complement our set up. The trout loved all of it, but we had better luck on certain parts of the river. At times we would be hooking them one after the other and during the lulls we either practiced our casting or were tied up with knots.
We spent Thursday and Friday with the guide service flowing downstream in constant awe of the natural beauties of the landscape and wildlife. Getting distracted absolutely cost us a couple of fish. But it was hard to not stare as the bald eagle perched 100ft above you, or the herd of wild horses greeted you at the river bank for a drink. All in all we covered nearly 23 miles of river during the 16 hours of fishing.
On Friday we set out on our own and hiked through tall grass and thicket to get to the perfect spot on the river. On the way we could see what seemed like endless herds of white tail and elk running off because of our presence. Once we got to the water, we put all of our learning into practice; finding the seams in the river, inspecting the insects floating and flying, picking the flies, tying up the rigs, and the smooth casting. It all came together. We were fly fishing.
Montana, without a doubt, will be something the four of us will cherish and talk about for the rest of our lives. It was a complete trip filled with excitement, gorgeous landscapes and wildlife, tons of learning, and overflowing with college humor. Special thanks to Nick Grasso and Dylan Forte (who kept the shop running for us), the whole team at Head Hunters, and our guides Parker and Branden who had to put up with our nonsense.
We will continue to explore conservation and improve Big Bear to bring you the best products and services it can. Big Bear, adventure starts here.
Montana, without a doubt, will be something the four of us will cherish and talk about for the rest of our lives. It was a complete trip filled with excitement, gorgeous landscapes and wildlife, tons of learning, and overflowing with college humor.