That Time of Year Already…

As I was leaving the bar a few nights ago I stopped to talk to a buddy about some upcoming fishing trips.  Someone overhearing our conversation remarked to us, “Is it that time of year already?”  Both us being hardcore fly fisherman we responded emphatically, “It’s always that time!”  Meaning that, regardless of the weather, there are always fly fishing opportunities somewhere around Montana.  The following day, while exploring water in the Blackfoot River valley, I had the realization that regardless of your passion there is always a way to enjoy it throughout the year in this great state.

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Prime fishing season in Montana typically runs from mid-April until late October.  During winter months there are still plenty of options for anglers.  Lakes, such as the locals favorite Georgetown Lake, will freeze over and fishing can be very productive through the ice.  Plenty of local rivers and streams will flow free, not ice over, and fishing can be productive all year.  During cooler months the trout will tend to school up in the slowest, deepest holding water in the river; making them fairly easy to find.  Next, we are lucky to have a few world-famous tail waters, such as the Missouri and Beaverhead Rivers, within a couple of hours.  The dam regulated water temperatures in these rivers will help produce trophy size trout all year.  Finally, one can easily pass the winter months by tying flies, shopping for new gear, or by watching hours of fishing videos online.

Now let’s say that you are passionate about skiing, snowboarding or winter sports; how do you survive the summer months with no snow?  Plenty of people that I know switch to going downhill on the Mountain Bike.  We are fortunate that the lifts at many ski resorts around Montana, including Discovery, will run all year long.  When the snow melts; simply grab the bike, helmet and protective gear and you can still get the thill of screaming down the slopes.  If cross-country is more your speed though the winter, then you can strap up your hiking boots and have endless miles of backcountry to explore through the summer.  Next, if you live here for the epic snowmobiling then you can definitely make it though the warmer months by hopping on the ATV, Motor Bike, or in the truck and four-wheeling through our beautiful mountains.

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What about the hunters, don’t they only get a couple of months in the fall to pursue their passion?  The most accomplished and successful hunters I know are preparing for the fall throughout the year.  Shed hunting season is just around the corner.  Scouting the backcountry, discovering new areas, and tracking the movements of the herds is an ongoing process.  Finally, to be successful, most hunters spend lots of time through the summer with target practice.  Fine tuning their shot and learning their weapon.

It seems that most people live in Montana, or Philipsburg, because of a passion for the outdoors.  Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall there is always something available for you to enjoy.  And if the weather takes a turn for the worst, and the outdoors are unbearable, we are lucky to have lots of great breweries, distilleries and local bars around the state to help weather the storm.

Family Traditions Continue & Grow

For me, fishing has always been associated with family.

My dad tells me that I was two months old on my first fishing trip and we continue that tradition to this day.  Some of my fondest memories include my dad, sister, and occasionally my mom, enjoying the great outdoors on a beautiful river or lake.

Dad and sister on the banks of the Gallatin River
My Dad, sister and Lady Bird on the banks of the Gallatin River

Since becoming a fishing guide I have preached the joys of spending time with family and friends while on the water.  Regardless of how good the fishing is, quality time on the water with loved ones is hard to beat.

Recently, I have had the opportunity to spend quality time on the river with my dad and have had the chance to introduce my girlfriend’s family to the sport of fly-fishing.  Each experience was extremely rewarding in their own respects.

The Hyndman Family on the banks of Rock Creek
The Hyndman Family on the banks of Rock Creek

I have been lucky to show the Hyndmans – Ken, Judy, Gwyneth and Sean –  the beautiful rivers that I call home.  Ken and Gwyneth are now fly-fishing veterans after hitting the river a year ago, but Judy and Sean took their first casts just a few weeks ago.  It is always rewarding seeing the face of a beginner when they hook into a trout, but seeing the joy and excitement on Judy’s face was something special.  Judy lives with a disability and uses the support of crutches to walk most of the time.  When she expressed interest in trying to fly-fish I was determined to give her the full experience.  Instead of sitting on the bank, I made the decision to set up a chair in the river and to give her the chance to wade and cast from the water.  With the help of the rest of the family we got Judy to the water and I began the casting lesson.  Fortunately, the fishing gods where looking down on us and within a few casts we had a beautiful brown trout on the end of the line.  The thrill and emotion shared between all of us was overwhelming as we put the trout into the net!

Judy on the way to the river
Judy making her way to the river
Streamside entomology lesson
Streamside entomology lesson
Casting Introduction
Casting Introduction
First Brown Trout to the net
First Brown Trout to the net
Judy lands another!
Judy lands another!
Sean gets in on the action with a nice brown
Sean gets in on the action with a nice brown

A week after helping Judy check off the bucket list fish that she didn’t even know about, my Dad made his annual fishing trip to Montana in search of his bucket list fish.

Over the last few years he has been extremely jealous of the big fish pictures that I send him.  On this trip he had the goal to land the “big one” himself and he termed it his bucket list fish.  Since the summer season had wrapped up I was able to spend plenty of time with him on this quest.  Through his couple of weeks in Montana we had some great days on the Madison and Missouri Rivers.  Introducing him to the feisty trout of the Missouri River was an amazing experience.  The strength and size of these fish are enough to make any experienced angler chuckle and grin like a little kid on christmas morning.  My Dad was no exception when his reel began to scream after hooking into a his first 20 inch Missouri River rainbow.  After being schooled by a few hot fish he was finally able to get one into the net.  This beauty taped around 22″, weighed 5-6 pounds and my Dad exclaimed that it was the biggest trout he has ever landed!

Dad's bucket list fish!
Dad’s bucket list fish!

These experiences have reminded me of one of the biggest reasons that I love fishing; all of the lasting memories that are created with friends and family.

Fall Fishing in Yellowstone National Park

The Madison River inside Yellowstone National Park is a world famous fly fishing destination in the Fall!  Large brown and rainbow trout make their annual migration from Hebgen Lake to take part in the fall spawn.  This influx of big fish attracts anglers of all skill levels from hundreds, and even thousands, of miles away.