Healing Waters – guest blog from Shalon Hastings

One to the Net – photo by Amber Cassidy

Full disclosure: I was one of those teenagers that avoided the call to military duty in every way possible. Back in 1993, recruiters were doing the hard sell via phone and in person. Being the nice person I am, I went to lunch where the recruiter tried to “wine and dine” me, obviously no wine but plenty of soda. I dodged the bullet, if you will, and avoided the, in my mind, unbearable pain & suffering of boot camp and basic training by leaving for college with no forwarding address for the recruiter.

Fast forward to present day: I have 2 small businesses that I call my own in downtown Helena and just recently added fly fishing guide to my list. Over the last couple of years I had found that being on the water was the only time my mind shut off completely to the point of calm. Never before had I experienced such a quiet. It was an addictive break from my never ending worries about my businesses, my struggles and my musings of “Am I good enough?”

Earlier this year with help from some girlfriends, I started a women’s fly fishing networking group, Last Chance Fly Gals (LCFG). It was enlightening to meet so many local women who shared the same passion for fly fishing and to hear shared stories of frustrations and accomplishments on the water that only other women could relate to. Yes, both men and women will share similar experiences but in addition there are some that men just won’t experience. I don’t think I’ve heard a guy admit that he’s cried because his spouse tried to teach him to fish. But I hear it a lot when women talk about their first trials of learning to fly fish.

Through an article written about the formation of Last Chance Fly Gals, an old acquaintance and Project Healing Waters board member reached out to me to see if I would be interested in working with female veterans that would be participating in a Project Healing Waters fishing trip on the Missouri. I jumped at the chance to be a part of this outing. I am in awe of those that have the balls to sign up for military duty and serve our country so that I can freely choose my entrepreneurial path and quite frankly do whatever I so desire. My heart breaks when I hear of the trauma that our veterans have brought home with them. And I get frustrated and angry that they face struggles outside of our cushy civilian life after they have risked life and limb. If I could help any of these women get to the point where they find that peace in mind on the water that I get, I was going to be there.

I joined two phenomenal female guides, Kelly Harrison and Kimberly Smith, and met the women in Craig. We were towing the Project Healing Waters Adipose boats that Wolf Creek Angler holds at the shop for veterans to use for free. The afternoon was spent doing introductions, then Kelly jumped into instructing basic knots, basic flies and basic casting. Each of the ladies was given a starter rod and reel package with miscellaneous small wares to get them started on the fly fishing journey. The lodge that was hosting us had a small casting pond. The pre-dinner entertainment was the girls catching little and mid-sized brookies on dry flies. The smiles, laughter, encouragement and commands to “hit it!!!” were raucous, heartfelt and contagious. After dinner was sharing of Jameson and White Claws, poop jokes, graphic bikini line mishaps and mentions of injuries sustained in service.

The next day was breakfast served by several PHW board members that waited on us hand and foot. After breakfast we gathered at the boats to rig up rods and review knots and flies with the ladies. Then it was to the river. Each gal caught fish. F bombs were dropped, cheering heard from one of the three boats across the river as one of the ladies in another boat would get a fish on, more F bombs when a fish broke off complete rigs, all 3 boats gathering to snap pictures of a fish landed in the boat. At one point, the gal in my boat had an epic fish arcing out of the water right after she set the hook, it was mad. It briefly showed its ginormous jawline at her before taking off and charging so fast it broke her nymph rig well past the split shot in a flash. That beast will haunt her.

At the takeout phone numbers were shared, promises to stay connected were made and sharing of pictures promised. The excitement, the frustration, the glee all shared and celebrated by an amazing group of women will be remembered forever. I expect and hope that I get calls and texts from these women sharing with me their future trips onto new rivers and the new found knowledge they will gain. I’m already looking forward to the next event, hoping that the guests will gain as much as I do in being a part of this honor of their service to the United States of America.

Fish on, ladies. Fish on.

FREE Drift Boat Rentals for Vets courtesty of Montana Project Healing Waters and Wolf Creek Angler

Wolf Creek Angler is the exclusive host for Montana Project Healing Waters free drift boat rental program.

Wolf Creek Angler is proud to be the exclusive host of the Montana Project Healing Waters drift boat rental program which provides free drift boat rentals on the Missouri River to all vets and active duty military personnel.

The shop hosts and maintains three custom Adipose Flow drift boats available free every day.  The boats can be reserved by logging on to montanahealingwaters.org and using the Reserve A Drift Boat link to select dates and boat options. Two of the boats come equipped with removable knee braces, the third has no braces and can be fitted with custom wheelchair platforms if necessary.

The boats are typically hauled by the user  (2″ ball required) but can be dropped off and picked up by Wolf Creek Angler for a fee. Vehicle shuttles are also available for purchase if needed.

“When the opportunity arose for Wolf Creek Angler to host all three of the PHW boats it was a total no-brainer” commented Jason Orzechowski, owner of Wolf Creek Angler. “We’d been impressed with the program from the start and had been lobbying PHW to place a boat with us since we opened the doors”.

They got their wish last fall when the board elected to add a third boat to the program and place it at WCA. Earlier this spring the other two PHW boats were relocated from Craig to Wolf Creek Angler, making WCA the exclusive host of the program.

“It was our privilege to finally get a chance to host a boat last fall” explained Orzechowski. “Having all three of the boats here this season has been awesome. We’ve met so many great people and the vast majority of them are so appreciative of the program. We owe these vets and active duty military a huge debt of gratitude and I feel like this is the least we can do to say thank you to those who are willing to serve.”

Montana Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc., is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of active military personnel and veterans through flyfishing, fly tying education, and outings, and education on the conservation, restoration, and improvements to Montana’s fisheries and their habitats.

Please consider donating your time or resources to this exceptional organization to help fund the outstanding work they do for veterans here in Montana.

 

 

 

 

State of the Missouri 2018

The Pat Barnes Chapter of Trout Unlimited hosted FWP Fisheries Biologist Jason Mullen at Montana Wild in Helena Tuesday night for the Annual State of the Missouri presentation.

We eagerly anticipate this report each spring. It’s a snap shot of the previous year which gives us stats on fish populations as well as river flows and tells us where those stats fall in the historical record.

The takeaway from 2017 is that we saw a slight increase in the fish counts over 2016 in the Craig section and a decrease in the Cascade section. The real highlight though was the river flows which in 2017 were the highest they’ve been since 2011.

The Craig section yielded just over 5500 trout per mile of which 4,936 were rainbows and 576 were browns. This was pretty much on par with what we saw in 2016 for rainbows though it’s close to double the brown trout we saw in 2016. The rainbow population in the Craig stretch is still well above the 3394 average while the brown trout population is close to the 563 average.

Size wise, we’re still looking at a lot of big fish on the MO’ with over 2000 of those 4,936 rainbows per mile  in the 18″ – 20″ class and almost 150 browns in the 19″ – 24″ class per mile. Also of interest is the abundance of brown trout in the 6″ class as well as the 14″-15″ class.

The numbers in the Cascade stretch are very close to historical averages with 1592 rainbows per mile and 387 browns per mile. Historical averages are 1616 and 398 respectively.

Flows on the MO’ peaked at right around 12,000 cfs last year which we would expect to see again this spring but only time will tell.

A couple of interesting points that highlight just what an amazing resource we have in the Missouri are the relative weight of the fish and the water temps below Holter Dam relative to those in the Toston section which is not dam controlled.

This graphic shows the relative weight of fish in the Craig section from 1982 – 2016. FWP describes Relative Weight as the “plumpness” of the fish. The reported ideal relative weight is in the 95-105 range, which as you can see is pretty much where these fish have been most of that time. Our fish are well fed and consistently healthy.

The other graphic I found interesting was this water temp chart which shows temps holding steady in the 60 to 64 degree range throughout the heat of the summer, well below the 73 degree temp which triggers closures due to the stress those temps put on trout.

Once again, the great thing about the tail water is that temps are controlled. Take a look at Toston temps and you can see what happens absent of controls.

Perfect temps, controlled flows, an abundance of food….this is one special fishery, but you knew that already.

Here’s to a great 2018 on the Missouri.

 

 

Last Chance Fly Gals

I had the honor of attending the inaugural meeting of Last Chance Fly Gals this past Monday at Lewis and Clark Brewing Company in Helena. I was blown away by the interest in this group as evidenced by the packed house.

LCFG estimates the number of attendees to have been right around 140. Who knew there was such an interest in fly fishing amongst women in the Helena area.

Shalon Hastings, that’s who.

Hastings, a local entrepreneur who owns The Hub and Taco del Sol restaurants in Helena, along with local fly fishing devotees Amy Glasscock, Anna Lindstrand, Kelly Lynch, Kim Ryan Agee, Liz Moore, Maija Schellhardt, Marty Steenberg and Megan Rotz,  have spearheaded this group and judging by Monday’s turnout they are off to a phenomenal start.

When asked about the impetus for forming the group Hastings replied;

“I would run into women that would see photos of me fishing on FB and they would ask to get out on the water with me or ask for advice on how to get started. In the few times I would get on the water with lady friends I really enjoyed the different experience than when I get out with the guys (I still love getting out with the guys). As a result, I threw out a FB post to my immediate network to see if there was interest in participating in a local women’s fly fishing group and the response was overwhelming. I then gathered a couple ladies out of this response to help organize the group and we were completely overwhelmed with the positive response from both the fly shops & outfitters as well as the attendance of ladies to our first meeting. We estimate that 140 women showed up!”

The first meeting was essentially a meet and greet as well as an introduction to the group and a request for input from attendees on the direction in which Last Chance Fly Gals will proceed.

While the group is a work in progress their mission is as follows;

Our Mission is to:

 

Connect. Provide a means for women of all ability levels interested in fly fishing to connect with each other, build friendships and fish together.

 Educate. Provide education for women (and girls) interested in learning how to fly fish, or to increase their knowledge of or improve their skills through mentoring and educational events.

Organize. Provide a venue for organizing fly fishing outings and events.

Influence. Influence the research and development of fly fishing equipment, clothing and accessories specifically designed for women.

Advocate. Participate in, promote and raise awareness of conservation issues that affect the fish and fisheries in our area.

Give back.

Wolf Creek Angler is proud to be on board with such a great organization and we are committed to doing everything we can to facilitate the growth of the sport among women. Our hats are off to the organizers of Last Chance Fly Gals.

Well Done Ladies. Keep up the good work!

 

Help Wanted!

As a member of the board of the Pat Barnes Trout Unlimited Chapter for the past three years I’ve urged a lot of people to join the organization and to get involved as a way to give back to the resources we all love so much.

More than once I’ve heard the accusation that PBTU doesn’t do anything other than ask for money a couple of times a year, that they aren’t involved in any hands on stream work. I’m here to tell you that this simply isn’t the case. Obviously there’s work to do on the stream but there is also plenty of work to do legislatively and PBTU is very much involved in both.

When these opportunities do come up for volunteer stream work you might expect an overwhelming response but unfortunately we tend to be underwhelmed more often than not. Just as an example, the River Cleanup day on the Missouri held in the spring consisted of around half a dozen people, most of whom were board members. It may be a case of the projects being underpublicized and we will do everything we can to remedy this but regardless, we urge you to consider joining TU if you are not already a member.

This Saturday PBTU and TU’s Clark Fork River Project are hosting a revegetation project on the recently restored section of Telegraph Creek. Unfortunately there have only been a couple of people who have RSVP’d to the event so it sounds like if we don’t get at least 20 people on board we’re going to have to cancel the project. Details are listed below. Please consider donating a few hours of your time this weekend if at all possible.

Good Morning TU Members, we’ve only had a few people RSVP for this Saturday. This is a great opportunity to do some meaningful service and give back to the resources we love. To RSVP please contact Max Lewis ASAP via phone or email at mlewis@tu.org or 207-701-1683. 
 
The Pat Barnes Chapter of Trout Unlimited and TU’s Clark Fork River Project invite you to join us in our efforts to revegetate the restored section of Telegraph Creek at the Lilly Orphan Boy Mine site. In 2016, TU and Montana DEQ removed 9,000 cubic yards of mine waste from Telegraph Creek and restored 350 feet of stream channel in the headwaters of the Little Blackfoot River.

The day will begin with a tour of the restored stretch of Telegraph Creek. Rob Roberts, TU Project Manager, will explain the techniques TU and partners used to reclaim the mine site and reconstruct Telegraph Creek. Following the tour, we will plant native trees and shrubs in the restored area.

Revegetation of this area will protect the stream bank and hillslope, promote native plant growth, and add shade to Telegraph Creek.  Please meet at 8:00 AM at the Van’s Thriftway parking lot on Saturday, September 30th. From there we will drive an hour to the site. Please bring appropriate clothing, footwear, and work gloves. Lunch will be provided.  We will finish the volunteer event around 2pm.

 

Thanks,
Your TU Board Members

 

We are also always looking for more board members so please contact us if you are interested.

Winter on the way?

The weather we’ve been waiting for

I’m not sure we’ll actually see snow or not but we are currently under a winter weather advisory from tomorrow night though Saturday morning for elevations above 6000 feet. Let’s hope we see an abundance of snow to help get these fires under control. Snow or not, we will see plenty of rain starting tomorrow and running through Saturday and low temps dipping into the freezing range Friday and Saturday night.

That’s good for fires and good for fishing and is exactly what we need right now so welcome back rain, snow and cold. We’ve missed you.

Cold weather gear will be back in play for the next couple of days. We’ve got you covered with layering,  outerwear and hats and gloves from Simms, KAST and Redington.

We’ll see mid 50’s tomorrow but that soaking rain and north wind can chill you to the bone so dress for it. Rain and snow on Friday and Saturday with highs in the 40’s will give way to sunshine and highs back near 70 on Sunday. Embrace it and enjoy it. With any luck we’ve seen the last of 90 degree days for a while. Let’s hope it’s the beginning of the end of fire season in Montana.

We do have limited lodging and plenty of guides available this weekend should you decide you want to fish the first wintery mix of the fall.

While you’re here don’t miss our Fall Rod Sale….30-50% off some great rods from LOOP, St Croix, Redington  and Echo and plenty of warm weather gear on clearance as well.

By |2017-12-07T16:10:16+00:00September 13th, 2017|Categories: Local Buzz, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Cooler Weather Ahead

 

It seems the weather forecasts are wrong more often than not but it looks like cooler weather is on the way, which is exactly what we need right now. It’s a week out so who knows but at this point they are calling for temps in the 60’s and a chance of rain next Thursday and Friday. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

This much hoped for fall weather will coincide nicely with the start of the “second season” with an influx of anglers bringing life back to the quiet Missouri. They are starting to trickle in already but judging by our lodging and trip bookings next week marks the real start of the fall fishing season.

If you happen to be in the area this weekend don’t miss 710 Ashbury Saturday night at 6 PM at Izaak’s Log Stage. From what it sounds like what started out as simply a fall bash has now turned into a full on fundraising event for the local firefighters assisting with the fight with the numerous wild land fires in the area. Resources are rapidly being depleted so come out and enjoy the band and do what you can to help with the war effort.

We’ve got a couple of rooms left for the weekend and things open up the first part of next week before we start to fill up again late next week. Guide trips are revving up again starting this weekend but we’ve got plenty of availability so if a fall guide trip is on your agenda give us a call and book your trip today.

Don’t forget we’ve got our Fall Rod Sale happening all month long with 30 to 50 percent off and also have some great deals on what’s left of the summer gear.  We are open daily at 7 AM for all of your Missouri River fly fishing needs. Lodging, guides, shuttles, rental boats, Simms sportswear, outerwear and accessories and a fly selection rivaling that of any shop in the area. We are the COMPLETE PACKAGE….your one stop Missouri River fly shop.

Ghost Town

No waiting at the boat ramps for the time being. The fish are here, where are you? Photo by Wolf Creek Angler

It’s that time of the year.

The streets of Wolf Creek and Craig are quiet. The boat ramps are virtually empty and if you do happen to see anyone around chances are they work at a fly shop.

It can mean long and lonely days in the shop, the kind of days that tempt us to close shop and hit the water where we can have it all to ourselves.

On the bright side the lawn is looking great since we’ve had PLENTY of time to mow and water grass and the shop is virtually dust free.

Welcome to August on the MO’!

A mixed bag of fishing reports from the last couple of days ranging from terrible to on fire and everything in between. The majority of the better reports have come from those spending their days with a guide as you might expect but that’s not to say you can’t get it done on your own.

Give us a call here at the shop if you’re thinking of coming out and need to get the skinny on things or make us your first stop on the way to the river and we’ll get you set up with shuttles, the right bugs and anything and everything else you may need including lodging and/or drift boat rentals.

We are, after all, your ONE STOP SHOP for EVERYTHING Missouri River Fly Fishing and beyond.

 

By |2017-12-07T16:36:36+00:00August 9th, 2017|Categories: Local Buzz, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Shotgun Annie’s…. A Sneak Peek

One of the major topics of conversation amongst our guests this season (and actually last season as well) has been The Frenchman and whether it will ever be open again.

The short answer is NO….the Frenchman is a thing of the past but don’t despair because there’s been a lot happening on the other side of those walls since last winter and very soon Shotgun Annie’s Eatery and Tavern will open its doors to an anxious public.

I had the chance to get a sneak peek at their progress over the weekend and all I can say is that this is EXACTLY what Wolf Creek needs!

Pending passage of all inspections they plan to open the doors on September 1st,  getting things off to a big start with a Labor Day weekend opening.

If you were a regular at The Frenchman prepare to be amazed. Nothing is recognizable! New floor, new walls, new ceiling, new kitchen, new bathroom, new bar, new porch…..you get the idea.

The plan is to have family friendly dining in the restaurant with more of an “adult atmosphere” outside on the deck. Expect an excellent dining experience and a few Montana microbrews on tap along with a domestic or two and a full bar.

We are Super Excited and can’t wait to make Shotgun Annie’s our new haunt.