Welcome October

The return of autumn on the Missouri River

The winter storm that brought historic September snows and cold to Montana last weekend has come and gone and despite the lingering cold these last two days, it looks like we’re on our way to more seasonable fall weather as the week goes on.

We’ll see temps climb back into the 50’s starting today and it appears as though we may see a bit of Indian summer the first part of next weeks with temps near 70. Night time lows in the 30’s will keep things chilly for those early morning and late evening outings but a far cry from the low teens we saw Tuesday morning which took a toll on our psyches as well as on some of our exterior plumbing.

We did lose a few trips to cancellation over the weekend but those who kept their dates and fished through a couple of cold mornings were rewarded as the plummeting water temps and dramatic weather change seemed to have perhaps flipped the switch on fall fishing.

We had some good streamer and dry fly reports from yesterday, just in time for our big group trip from our friends at Schultz Outfitters in Southeastern Michigan happening all this week. Of course these Michigan folks are no strangers to cold weather fishing but we’re all stoked to see fall weather return and I’m sure they are as well.

Hopefully we’ll lose the rest of our snow here at the shop today and fingers are crossed that water will again be flowing through our aforementioned exterior plumbing in an orderly manner (not spraying out of cracked pipes) by this afternoon. Unfortunately we’ve embarked upon the season of long shadows here in the Wolf Creek canyon and while we do still have a parking lot full of sunshine we won’t see sun in the back yard until spring and it won’t be long before we lose our sunlight in the front so suffice it to say, we’re enjoying it while it lasts.

But enough about the coming winter woes…..right now the warm up is underway and we’re in the midst of our busiest three weeks of the fall season. The empty lot is empty no more and the quiet shop is now abuzz with activity, at least for the next few weeks. We do have a few vacancies here and there but for the most part rooms are going to be hard to come by until late October. If you’re planning on coming out over these next few weeks I’d recommend you call sooner rather than later as things are rapidly filling up.

Expect plenty of traffic out there (though nothing like during the summer season) if you’re headed this way and make sure to make us your first stop on your way to the river for shuttles, bugs, cold weather gear and so much more including the best streamer selection in the canyon.

Nymphing will continue to provide the numbers but there are plenty of other options if bobber fishing doesn’t excite you. Streamer fishing is heating up and is definitely worth your time though weeds will be an ever-present frustration. Keep calm and strip!

Pseudos and caddis have been providing plenty of top water action in a target-rich environment. The cool water temps should facilitate BWO action soon. In the meantime terrestrials will be back in play on the warm sunny days so make sure you’re stocked up on ants and beetles and the like.

Fall fishing is underway and it’s about to go off!

Farewell to Summer Days

Autumn is a magical time on the Missouri – photo by Wolf Creek Angler

Summer is rapidly coming to a close. And as always, it’s bittersweet.

After all, we do LOVE summertime in Montana. It’s in large part what brought us here and what keeps people coming back.

Long days. Blue skies. Wet wading or floating your favorite stream while soaking up the sun. Warm nights, barbeques, beers on the deck, live music under the stars, visits from friends and family and spending time together before the world clocks back in.

Summer number six at Wolf Creek Angler was a good one and flew by faster than the rest as they tend to do.

Soon we will sadly bid farewell to summer as autumn takes hold but there’s really no need to despair.

Sure, summer is amazing but autumn runs a close second as far as I’m concerned.

The transition has already begun. The days are growing short, so much so that it’s actually dark when I’m driving to work in the morning and again before I go to bed.

The calendar shows summer for another three weeks but there’s a chill in the air (40 degrees in Wolf Creek as I write) most mornings and evenings. We will unofficially say goodbye to summer this Labor Day weekend and close the books on a great summer season while we gear up for the “second season” on the Missouri coming soon.

For many who call this part of the world home, the change in seasons shifts the focus away from fishing to hunting which maintains the late summer and early autumn solitude on the river but for others fall is considered THE best time of the year to fish.

In several weeks we’ll celebrate the arrival of the autumn equinox and with it, a second round of busy chaos as anglers from all around once again set their sights on the Missouri.

Of course Mother Nature has the final say on when the second season begins and ends but we’ve come to expect good fishing and good commerce generally through early November.

We’re open through all of it and beyond. We are your four season Missouri River fly shop. Lodging options dwindle as the temperature drops and we’re forced to winterize but we’ve always got at least a few rooms available, even in the dead of winter. In fact late fall into winter is when Wolf Creek shines as much of the fly fishing infrastructure in and around Craig starts to shut down making Wolf Creek the place to be with two bar/restaurants, a gas station/convenience store and a first rate full service fly shop with onsite lodging all just minutes from Holter Dam and Wolf Creek Bridge.

The feeling must be in the air as the phones have been busy and we’ve been booking a lot of fall trips these past few days. October is prime by fall standards but don’t hesitate to book September dates as well. November is hit and miss but can often deliver the best fishing of the fall as the shift to winter begins ushering in epic days of BWO’s.

Nymphing is always a good bet on the Missouri and fall is no exception but for those of us addicted to the streamer game fall means one thing and one thing only….big cantankerous browns on the prowl. They’re angry and aggressive and colored up in autumn splendor and there’s no better time to target them. Strip through the autumn, swing through the winter….it’s about to be streamer time on the MO (and every other stream in Montana).

So enjoy these last weeks of summer to the fullest but embrace the arrival of fall. It’s a magical time on the MO!

Guiding For The Future

Tom Miner Creek – a classroom like no other

Entomology 101

Hydrology 101

Guide Ethics – Campfire Discussion

Home away from home at the B Bar Ranch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the pilot program of Guiding for the Future, an Advanced Guide Training Program established “to inspire dedicated stewardship of aquatic ecosystems while increasing knowledge, professionalism, and ethics of fishing guides, outfitters, and the fly-fishing industry.”

The program came about in part as a reaction to the PKD outbreak which closed down the Yellowstone River during the summer of 2017.

I first heard about G4F in the winter of 2018 while attending a Montana State Council Trout Unlimited meeting in Livingston. Montana TU Executive Director David Brooks mentioned the program to me and asked if he might pass my name along to Brant Oswald and Sean Blaine who were in the early stages of creating the program, as an outfitter and active member of TU who might be interested in participating.

I was intrigued with the concept but also somewhat suspicious of the motives behind it as it seemed very possible that it was simply a ploy to add more regulation to what is already a heavily regulated industry.

Blaine and Oswald presented the concept later that spring at the Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana Annual Meeting. Still somewhat skeptical, I jumped at the chance to participate in the Steering Committee meeting held last April in Craig MT.

It was here we discussed the nuts and bolts of what Guiding for the Future would be and as it became clear to me that the vision was for guides and outfitters in Montana to have the opportunity to separate themselves from the pack through this continuing education program my skepticism turned to optimism as we discussed putting together a program unlike any other  out there.

The program would be offered annually by application only and would fill the void in our industry which is met by continuing education in most every other trade or industry. Rather than being just another requirement for a guide or outfitter license like a First Aid/CPR certificate, Guiding for the Future would be an opportunity for a guide or outfitter to separate themselves from the pack by receiving a well-rounded education going well beyond the basics.

Guiding for the Future would not be a guide school. The assumption would be that a guide or outfitter interested in this program would already be an experienced guide or outfitter looking to take things to the next level. The course would consist of an On-line curriculum followed by a three-day practicum to give students hands on training in the field.

In March this year the program was announced via FOAM and those interested were invited to apply. One look at the curriculum and I was sold.

Online coursed included;
– A History of Fish and Wildlife Conservation in the United States
– Laws and Regulations
– Hydrology and River Ecology
– Entomology
– Fish Ecology
– Water Users and Challenges
– Guides as Stewards
– Beyond Flies and Drifts

Happily, I was accepted into the Pilot Program and delving in to that first online module I was pleasantly surprised by the scope and depth of the material.

With just a few weeks to complete the online portion of the course time constraints were a challenge, though a challenge is exactly what I had hoped Guiding for the Future would be.

Last week we were invited to the B Bar Ranch in Tom Miner Basin near Gardiner for the 3 day practicum which included both classroom and field instruction.

This portion of the course had me out of my comfort zone but it didn’t take long to settle in. A few familiar faces and a bunch of new ones made for an awesome opportunity to network with others in our industry and after a couple of days of sharing the classroom and the dinner table with these folks it soon evolved into a very comfortable and friendly setting.

Standing high above Tom Miner creek observing the glacially carved valley through which the creek flows the significance of the Guiding for the Future program couldn’t have been more evident. While a group of us discussed hydrology and stream morphology a group of students waded into the stream below us, overturning rocks in search of the nymphs that provide forage for the trout we chase. Still another group stood on the bank of the creek near a head gate of an irrigation diversion listening to a surface water hydrologist from DNRC explain how stream flows are calculated, bringing life to those graphs and numbers we follow so closely all year long.

Back in the classroom, topics ranged from candid discussions with an FWP Warden Captain regarding laws and regulations governing our industry to leveraging our role as outdoor industry professionals to advocate during public comment opportunities.

An in-depth look at water rights in Montana was a highlight of the program for me but I also very much enjoyed a look at fish biology and ecology and the role required of us as guides and outfitters and as stewards of this resource.

Risk assessment and CPR training kept us grounded in the realities of having clients in our charge every day and the absolute necessity of being proactive when it comes to client safety and health and field work with Yellowstone Ecological Research Center taught us how we, as guides, can play a direct role in monitoring stream health through water sampling.

This was not nail knots and casting clinics (although there was some of that as well). This was big picture education on a broad range of topics which I believe are of vital interest to all of us who work in this industry.

As G4F proclaims… Montana’s rivers are undergoing increased demands for water, recreation, and environmental services. These demands, in the face of increased periods of drought and other stressors, impact the rivers’ resilience and fisheries, while also translating into increased potential for conflict among users. In response, Guiding for the Future (G4F) is part of a new continuing education program led by the Fishing Outfitters Association of Montana (FOAM) that provides advanced levels of knowledge and skill development for professional fishing outfitters and guides throughout the state.

To me it’s a No Brainer and the general consensus amongst those of us who participated is that we hope G4F certification eventually becomes the norm, rather than the exception.

When you see this sticker on your guide’s boat you can rest assured that you are with a guide who not only cares about putting you on fish but who has also gone the extra mile to provide you with a safer, richer experience that goes far beyond flies and drifts.

At Wolf Creek Angler we’re Guiding for the Future

And while the fishing is, and should always be, the primary focus, wouldn’t it be nice to go deeper? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to talk with your guide about how rivers work, how water rights work, how conservation has evolved, how the life cycle of different bugs has a bearing on the fishing day etc. all the while having the confidence in your guide’s knowledge of the rules and regulations AND knowing they have the skills to respond in an emergency if called upon?

We hope and expect that this program will gain popularity not only amongst guides and outfitters but also amongst our clients. Keep an eye out for the G4F logo in sticker form on your guide’s boat or on the website of your favorite outfitter or fly shop and know that when you fish with those who have gone through this certification program you are fishing with individuals who take their profession very seriously and who have gone the extra mile to better themselves and the industry as a whole through advanced education and training.

There is nothing else like this in the country right now and I for one feel privileged to  have been a part of the pilot program and I plan on doing whatever I can to contribute to the program in the future.

Finally…A Farewell to February

Coming Soon?

The shortest month of the year feels like it’s been the longest as winter drags on with no end in sight.

March will pick up right where February left off with single digit temps through the weekend and into the first part of next week but then it looks like something might just be starting to happen. Things could change between now and then but at this point it looks like we’ll be bathed in sunshine Sunday through Tuesday and while the temps will be far from warm we all know how good that late winter sun feels.

We’ll climb into the 20’s on Wednesday and Thursday and near 30 on Friday. Is it a warming trend? Here’s hoping so!

We’re thankful to have made up for winter’s slow start with plenty of precipitation throughout the last month but I for one have had just about enough. I’ve had enough of shoveling snow. I’ve had enough of fighting ice dams on the roof. I’ve had enough of NOT FISHING!

Snowpack has edged up to 110 – 120 percent of normal in our region and most of the state looks good right now at or near 100 percent of average. Only the Kootenai and the Sun, Teton and Marias drainages are lagging behind but  are currently right around 90 percent of average. We like the looks of this map and we’re remaining cautiously optimistic that high water will not be an issue however Mother Nature always gets the final say on this so no guarantees here.

Ideally we’d see a return to normal temperatures sooner rather than later. The average high for February is 39 degrees, we’ve seen highs in the single digits or below zero more days than not this month. The average high for March is 47. We obviously won’t see that the first week of the month but sooner or later it has to warm up and when it does we’re expecting an extremely busy spring as the throngs arrive to satisfy that long-delayed Missouri River Fix.

And speaking of spring fishing, don’t forget it’s time to buy your 2019 Montana fishing license. 2018 licenses expire tomorrow.

Sadly we still have no fishing report to share but as you look towards the eventuality of spring fishing here’s what you need to know.

Water temps are currently holding in the 33 degree range….COLD! We would expect much of March to be full on winter fishing as far as the nymphing goes. Slow, deep water is what you’ll want to target with winter fare. Pink should be in the mix along with firebeads, tailwater sows, Yum Yums, Caviar Scuds, Zebra Midges, Rainbow Czechs, Soft Hackle Sows, Lightning Bugs, Ray Charles etc. Fish deep with weight (tungsten bead nymphs or split shot or both) and cover the water from the inside out, shortening the depth of your rig until you find where they’re at.

Warming water will get them moving at which time we’ll start to key in on the traditional spring hot spots, typically a little faster current with a little less depth. We like to run sowbugs all season long as they’re a constant food source but as we move into spring we will typically swap out the winter fare for mayfly nymphs and maybe even a dirt snake. Little Green Machines and the like tend to shine as the water conditions hit the spring prime.

Spring is brown trout time as the spawning rainbows become scarce. Watch those redds and please don’t target spawning fish. Late March through April and into the first part of May are the prime weeks for streamer fishing on the Missouri. We can’t wait!

Spring is also dry fly time as the Midge Machine churns out piles of bugs. We typically start fishing midges in late February but since nobody has been on the river harassing and educating the fish this year, those first few fishable days could be lights out with relatively easy pickings.
Don’t care for fishing midges? Spring is also Skwalla time so if throwing big dries is your thing don’t miss this opportunity. Many of the larger browns we catch each spring fall for the Skwalla.

I think we could be in for one phenomenal spring if this weather ever breaks and while it’s tough to shift gears to fishing mode while winter continues to have a stranglehold, it’s coming soon so there’s no time like the present to prepare.
It’s time to dig out your gear and get it organized. It’s a great time to replace those old, worn fly lines and this is the spring you should treat yourself to a new pair of Simms waders and boots. We’d be happy to help you with that!

How about a brand new Lamson, Ross or Redington reel or maybe a new LOOP, Redington or Echo rod. We’ve also got a limited supply of Nautilus reels we’re clearing out at 25% off. Once they’re gone they’re gone.

Great deals on Simms winter wear including Cold Weather Pants and Shirts and guide flannels….all 25 % off. Help us make space for the new gear arriving daily.

Remember spring is also time for the WCA Spring lodging and guide trip special….we guarantee it’s the best deal you’ll find on the MO’ and it’s happening right now!

$500 for two nights of premium lodging at Wolf Creek Angler and a full day guide trip for one or two anglers through the end of April. This same package will cost you over $800 starting May 1st so don’t miss this opportunity.

 

A call to action

This is a call to action recently issued by Pat Barnes Missouri River Trout Unlimited. We are expanding this call to action to all of you who enjoy trout fishing on the Missouri River. Please take a minute to read and more importantly we urge everyone to click on the link below and submit your comments to FWP.

CALL TO ACTION – Every Member Needed!

Good Afternoon,

As some of you may have heard, Montana’s Statewide Management Program & Guide Draft is out for public comment until February 4th.  The Statewide Management Program & Guide is the guiding document for how FWP manages fisheries statewide.  As you may have also heard, Walleyes Unlimited is pressuring FWP to consider walleye a native species east of the Continental Divide, which could potentially alter the current management of walleye downstream of Holter Dam.  This would threaten the Missouri River trout fishery we have all come to love.

PLEASE, visit the link below and comment on the plan to back the Department’s science-based management as a non-native species in Montana.  Particularly, not to alter the current management status of walleye in the Missouri below Holter Dam as anything other than “suppression”.  If nothing else, please copy and paste the language below into the “Comments” section at the link below and click “Submit Comments”.

“The Statewide Management Plan & Guide should uphold the current status of walleye as a non-native species in Montana’s waterways.  I support the peer-reviewed science that guide’s the Department’s classification of this illegally-introduced species as non-native to Montana.  Additionally, I support the full suppression of walleye management in the Missouri River below Holter Dam.  People cross continents to fish for wild trout in the Missouri River, and altering the management of walleye from anything other than full suppression places unnecessary risk on this world class fishery that draws millions of dollars to our local economy.  Thank you.”

http://fwp.mt.gov/news/publicNotices/fishing/pn_0091.html

Right now, the Missouri River needs your help.  PLEASE take 3 minutes and leave a comment. The effort by Walleye Unlimited to have the Missouri managed as a walleye fishery is organized and energized. The Missouri River’s trout need your comment.

Thank you,

Sincerely,
PBTU Board Members

MOvember Special

Judging by the abundance of vacancies and the lack of traffic in the shop I’d say the 2018 season has pretty much drawn to a close. We’re currently sitting just shy of 30 degrees with a light snow falling. More of the same on tap through tomorrow with lows dropping into the teens the next couple of nights.

While these aren’t exactly prime fishing conditions we’ll see highs climbing back near 40 by the end of the week which could translate into good fishing and a good opportunity to spend a little more time on the water before winter sets in.

To encourage you to make the journey we’re offering a late fall/winter special you can’t afford to pass up. We’re calling it the MOvember SPECIAL but it will be in effect all winter long.

We are offering full day Missouri River Guided float trips for one or two anglers for $400 or two nights of lodging and a full day on the water for $500. That’s a savings of over $300!

Mind you we’re starting trips later in the morning this time of year and with the dwindling hours of daylight you’re getting a shorter trip but you won’t find a better deal anywhere.

Some aren’t offering winter trips at all. Others are offering them at full price and some are offering a discount but nobody else is offering a lodging and fishing package deal and NOBODY can come close to what we’re doing. We’re offering two nights of premium lodging and a full day on the water for less than a guide trip will cost you elsewhere.

Keep in mind also that while the lodging tax is always in effect, beginning November 15th the resort tax will be on hiatus until April so that’s an additional 3% savings on EVERYTHING. Lodging, Guide Trips, Shuttles, Flies, Simms sportswear and accessories, Drift Boat Rentals…..EVERYTHING!

And the best part of the deal? No cancellation fees! When you book a trip during the season you are locked in and under most circumstances you will end up losing your 50% deposit. That’s not the case now. Winter can be a challenging time to book a trip because the weather can change without notice and while we don’t mind being on the water in sub-zero conditions we realize that this isn’t for everyone.

Not to worry. Book your trip and rest assured that if the weather turns or if you simply change your mind you’re off the hook. No fees. No questions asked!

Just looking for a place to stay on your DIY hunting or fishing adventure? Winter lodging rates are $99/night plus tax. All available units are completely furnished with a kitchen and private bath.

Winter fishing on the Missouri can be downright fantastic. It can also be slow. It’s fishing! We’re concentrating primarily on nymphing and streamer fishing right now but there are plenty of dry fly opportunities as well. As we move into December and into the heart of winter fishing those dry fly opportunities will dwindle but will return in the late winter as midge fishing becomes a viable option.

Winter fishing is not for everyone but once that cabin fever begins to set in a day on the Missouri might be just what the doctor ordered. Things are quiet in Wolf Creek and Craig for the winter months but we do have Shotgun Annie’s and The Oasis for dining and night life; The Canyon Store for gas, groceries and a great Montana Microbrew selection and of course Wolf Creek Angler for all of your Missouri River Winter Fly Fishing Needs.

We’ve got more on-site lodging than anyone, the best winter bug selection around and all the cold weather gear you’ll need to eliminate cold from the equation.

Don’t forget our lodging units are all furnished with a full kitchen and access to barbecue grills so bring your own food with you and you won’t have to go anywhere!

We hope to see you this MOVEMBER and all winter long for HOT fishing on COLD days with Wolf Creek Angler.

Bidding a Fond Farewell to October

The season continues to wind down as we bid a fond farewell to the month of October.

We had our last full house over the weekend and this morning all is quiet at WCA as only a few guests remain. The motel units have seen their last guests of the season and will be winterized by week’s end. The last of our long term RV guests left yesterday and we’ll soon be wrapping up our guide season.

It seems as though the end of the 2018 season is looming but before we close the books on another great year we want to remind you that we’re not going anywhere! The shop is open all year (not necessarily every day, but on the days that make sense) and we’re open for lodging and guide trips each and every day.

Keep an eye out for our MOVEMBER special….details coming soon. In the meantime, as October draws to a close, I just wanted to take a minute and proclaim that October may in fact be my favorite month of the year.

Fall fishing is my favorite fishing period and the peak of the fall color can’t be beat. October fishing on the Missouri was nothing short of spectacular with some of the best fall dry fly fishing we’ve seen in years.

I’ve also made a habit of wandering every October. It’s a magical time of year in Montana.

Every year since we moved here we’ve made a fall getaway to Glacier NP. Often times it can be pretty gloomy in that part of the state in mid-October but this year we were treated to four straight days of blue skies and sunshine and temps in the 50’s and 60’s….Indian Summer at its best.
It’s strictly R & R. It’s sight seeing, eating a lot, sampling local brews, hiking, drinking wine on the porch on chilly nights, sleeping in etc.  and there are very few things I look forward to as much as I look forward to this annual trip. It was on the bittersweet side this year being that it is our son’s senior year in high school. He was in sixth grade the first year we made the trip.

I’m certain there are more reflections on mortality and the passage of time to come (what with the empty nest now on the immediate horizon and all) but for now suffice it to say that we enjoyed the trip immensely, knowing that it may be a while before he joins us on this one again. We’ve had some great times over the years but we’ve also had some downright unpleasant trips where our mopey kid had no desire to be there and in some cases where we’d  preferred he wasn’t. None of that this time! This was a great family trip and I think we all enjoyed most every minute of it.

I’ve also made a streamer float on the Yellowstone an annual October event. This one has evolved over the years and now includes a night of revelry with friends who live in YNP and who tolerate my obsession with hunting big browns on streamers and streamers ONLY. No behemoths for me this year though our friend Sara lost what may have been the fish of the year in my boat.

Add to these trips my first ever day fishing the Jefferson, a few days on the Blackfoot and a bunch of awesome days on the Missouri along with a steady diet of football and baseball and the chance to see a bunch of our favorite regular guests who have become friends and who have made October their annual thing at WCA and you’ve got the best month of the year.

We’re hopeful that with the mild forecast we’ll continue to finish strong at least through the middle of November but dark winter days are looming. It’s already been a month or more since the shop has seen direct sunlight and with this coming weekend’s time change it’s only going to get darker. But that doesn’t mean the fishing won’t be good. Sure the days are shorter but this slow transition to cold has delivered the best fall fishing we’ve seen in several years.

Dry fly fishing has been, and should continue to be strong and if streamers are your obsession this is definitely your time. Nymphing will always deliver so if you think late fall is the time to put away your fishing gear…think again. We fish all winter long when the weather allows for it and so far from what it sounds like we may see a relatively mild winter which means plenty of fishing ahead.

Once again, keep an eye out for our MOVEMBER Lodging and Fishing Special and keep us in mind for lodging whether its fish or big game you are hunting.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

Fall on the Blackfoot

It’s hard to beat autumn in Montana.

Sure, summer is amazing and never seems to last quite long enough but there’s something about the transition to fall that quickly makes us forget all about those long, warm summer days.

Chilly mornings, flannel and fleece, painted fall foliage, bugling elk, brown trout on the prowl….what’s not to love?

Come experience the best of what Montana has to offer. Book a trip with us this fall and we’re confident you’ll make autumn your go to time for Montana fly fishing.

If you’ve got the time we encourage you to make it a multi-river trip with a day or two on the Mighty Missouri and a day on the Blackfoot as well.

It’s just a short drive across the divide to the Blackfoot (less than two hours) but a full day on the water can make for a long drive back to Wolf Creek. Many don’t mind the trip but if you’d prefer we can get you set up with lodging in either Ovando or Lincoln.

Maybe take a day off guided fishing to explore wade fishing opportunities on the Blackfoot before returning to Wolf Creek and the Missouri.

If you’re strictly into numbers then stick to the MO’ but if you want to experience two completely different Montana fly fishing experiences then book them both. Our guides feel right at home on either.

We look forward to seeing you this fall.

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.