The Wild Life: Fly Fishing in Montana

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Author John Steinbeck had something in common with most diehard fly fishermen and women: a deep love of Montana. In his popular book, “Travels with Charley: In Search of America,” Steinbeck writes:

“For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection, but with Montana, it is love.”

Following Steinbeck’s lead, we recently went to the trout-rich waters of the Treasure State to test new fly fishing tackle and take in all that Montana’s fabled waters offer those eager to abandon the daily grind. Here’s what happened next.

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Our adventure began on the Clark Fork River with outfitter Joe Cummings, owner of A Classic Journey Outfitters. Cummings can read a trout stream like a bookie browses the box scores. His knowledge of the water was invaluable and helped our group net a bevy of beautiful trout.

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Aside from an occasional local passing by, we had the river to ourselves.

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No doubt the best morning commute—and office view—you could ask for.

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Here, some artists paint with a different brush.


john hafner_montana fly fishing_05RESIZED2The Midas Touch: Montana gold

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All kids could benefit from a front-row seat in Mother Nature’s classroom.

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The next leg of our journey found us floating the Big Hole River with Craig Fellin Outfitters. Fellin owns and operates the Big Hole Lodge, and he and his guides have spent decades putting anglers on big fish in some of the prettiest country you’ll find anywhere.

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A postcard-perfect stretch of Western Montana—the game-rich Big Hole River Valley boasts excellent fishing and hunting. Numerous outdoorsmen and women make an annual pilgrimage here in hopes of catching trout and filling their deer and elk tags.

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I’m pretty sure our guide was Boy Scout when he was a kid. This guy was prepared for anything.

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Small fish, big potential—This tiny trout will grow to a photo-worthy specimen and is a great reminder of the importance of protecting wildlife and wild places.

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The dress code for riverside dining? Montana-casual, of course.

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If the wild is calling you, you’d be wise to answer. It’s the perfect remedy for the busyness that all-too-often consumes us.

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Our only regret was that we couldn’t extend our stay in Big Sky Country. The sights, sounds and smells beckon a return trip…soon.


Feeling inspired? Gear up for your next fly fishing trip here.


All Images: John Hafner