Mid July Prime Time Report

Caddis Sunset – photo by Wolf Creek Angler

Rapidly approaching mid-July and everything is falling into place.

The flows have been cut in half since last week and are currently leveling off at a wade-friendly 5900 CFS. July operation plans from the Bureau of Reclamation are predicting most probable flows to be right about where they are for the month before falling in August and leveling out at around 4500 CFS for the remainder of 2020. Water temps are holding at around 63 degrees.
The late push of water had many singing the blues these last two weeks but to be honest with you, the conditions couldn’t be much better than they are right now as far as flow and water temperature go. The weeds are definitely starting to take hold but we’re in really good shape for Mid-July.

So it took a while but the water conditions which are the first piece of the puzzle just fell into place. Obviously the other critical component of the Missouri River dry fly extravaganza is the bugs and we’re happy to report that this component has also been shaping up nicely throughout the season.

This time of the season is what makes the MO a legend in the lore of western fly fishing. PMD’s? Check. Caddis? Check. Tricos? Check. And some pseudos in the mix for good measure. So many bugs, so many trout and nothing but time.

These are the days of pre-dawn launches and of picking boats after dark. These are the days of sleep deprivation amongst crazed dry-fly anglers and shop staff alike. These are the days of hunting heads, of blanket hatches, of putting pods of fish down with blown casts and with any luck, of artfully delivered casts being rewarded with the take and the fight and just maybe landing the fish of a lifetime. Big fish. Small flies. Delicate tippet and a highly developed combination of steely determination, resolve and finesse (as well as one hell of a well-rehearsed and more often than not, perfectly executed reach cast) culminating in an oddity known in our world as the DFO.

They’re a rare breed and the banks of the Missouri are crawling with them right now. That being said, “crawling” might be a stretch. After all, it’s the season of Covid and nothing is quite as it should be. Don’t get me wrong, there are folks here and we’re “busy” by 2020 standards but in a normal year with these bugs and these conditions you would expect the Missouri to be overrun with anglers which it is not.

That being said, we’ve been doing this dawn and darkness boat thing for years and while it’s definitely not every night, there have been a couple evenings at the ramp, the likes of which I’ve never seen with the parking lot at the takeout looking like 3:30 pm on a summer afternoon with nearly every trailer spot occupied.

Other days (and nights) it’s already feeling like the coming Dog Days of August with next to no one around.

Weekends are a different story as it seems Covid has kept folks close to home. A ton of rafts and SUP’s and all manner of floaty things assembled on all stretches of the river have made Saturday the day you probably don’t want to try to fish the MO.

Aside from Saturdays however, this is the season to be here if you want to experience the Missouri River at PRIME TIME like you’ve never experienced it before and hopefully won’t again with light to moderate traffic and an abundance of target-rich water there for the taking.

A recent lull in our lodging caused by Covid cancellations has ended and we’re back to full bore with a nearly full house for the remainder of the month.

Guide trips are filling in nicely and requests have reached a point where we’re having to turn down days because all of our guides are booked. This is a welcome development in a season we feared we might lose altogether.
We continue to play the fill-in game with inventory at the shop, walking the fine line between cautious purchasing and having everything on hand you might ask for. We still don’t know where this thing is going so we’re continuing to cautiously plot the remainder of the season but rest assured we do have bugs a plenty as well as a full stock of leaders/tippet/lines/tools/accessories/ etc. and we’ve also just placed a couple of logo orders to replenish our depleted stocks of WCA gear. New stuff coming soon.

The fly bins are full with all of the PMD, Caddis and Trico patterns (as well as the largest assortment of Missouri River nymphs ever assembled under one roof in Wolf Creek MT) And don’t miss our drawer of foam fully stocked with all of the best hopper patterns for the rapidly approaching terrestrial season.

Summer hours 7:00 AM – 6:00 PM officially, and usually someone around before and after those hours. Shuttles, sun protection, Adipose Drift Boat rentals, Affordable lodging and the hardest working guide crew on the MO’.

We are your Missouri River summer fly fishing destination.

The Elephant Lurks

Throughout the pandemic I’ve done my best to avoid any political discussion regarding our current situation. I’ve kept readers informed of our efforts to handle the unique challenges of conducting business in the Covid World and while I certainly have devoted some space on this blog to thoughts and reflections on life in the age of Coronavirus, I’ve been careful to steer clear of controversy.

I find it best to continue with that approach but due to the fact that we seem to be at a Covid Crossroads as evidenced by daily increases in case numbers coupled with press conferences from our Governor as well as from our County officials regarding these increases, I’m going to stray from that approach ever so slightly today just to keep everyone apprised of what is happening with Coronavirus in Montana and more specifically in Lewis and Clark County where we reside and where we conduct our business.

The bottom line is that whatever your opinion of the pandemic and the way in which it’s been handled, the fact is the numbers are increasing daily which is concerning to all of us. Mind you, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that we’re seeing an increase in the numbers as things open up and restrictions are lifted. The point was never to STOP the spread, it was to SLOW the spread in an effort to not overwhelm health care systems. That goal was reached during the stay at home order.

Increased testing obviously means increased cases and while those daily numbers can look scary I would contend that the relatively low (and steady) hospitalization and death rates should give us hope that this thing is not nearly as menacing and deadly as it was thought to be early on.

That being said Montana did see its largest single day increase in cases yesterday with 80 total cases (over 50 of which came from one place, a nursing home in Yellowstone County). So while I’m not necessarily losing sleep lying awake at night freaking out about Covid it’s obvious that the increased spread is very much a thing and this being the case I have decided to push hard for masking in our shop.

For the time being and until further notice, all employees are required to wear masks when anyone is in the shop. I’ve placed conspicuous signage up explaining that we are strongly encouraging the wearing of masks by our customers and that we do have disposable masks available for those who don’t have a mask. Mask wearing has increased ten-fold since we stepped up our masking program but we still see a fair number of customers entering who don’t seem to give NOT wearing a mask a second thought.

I’ve tried to maintain a level head throughout but I must say that this all seems to have many folks from all sides of the issue on edge. We’ve seen some push back from customers who are skeptical of the whole thing and are more than happy to share their opinions about the masks. We’ve also heard a number of complaints from masked customers who wonder why we are allowing people in our shop without masks.

I’ve been ok with letting folks make their own choice as to whether or not they choose to wear a mask in the shop but I will say that as the county has pushed closer to mandating masks and as some states have taken that step and mandated wearing a mask in all public places, I’ve been surprised to see people choosing to not wear them. Believe me, without getting political about it, I do not have a favorable opinion of any government agency issuing such a mandate. However, as a business owner and a consumer, I have no problem with a private business implementing such requirements.

It has been made clear to us in Montana that we need to get it together…OR ELSE,  and while such threats immediately raise hackles (mine included), we all share the hope that Covid numbers can be held in check and that we can continue to move towards Phase 3 of reopening. If wearing a mask and social distancing are going to get us there then I’m in. We’ve struggled through this season so far and will continue to do so but we’re thankful to be doing our thing right now, even if it is in somewhat of a limited capacity, and we’re going to do what we can to maintain and hopefully increase the opportunities afforded us.

Once again, just to be clear, having the health department mandate mask usage for all and urging our customers to wear masks in the shop are two completely different animals and we hope you agree with our assessment and appreciate the distinction.

I’ll stop just short once again of requiring the masks because I don’t really want to get into policy enforcement issues but we would humbly ask that you do your part to help us keep our business open by observing social distancing, wearing a mask in the shop, using hand sanitizer when you come in and adhering to our limited customer capacity request.

We’ll continue to clean and disinfect often and will continue to implement measures to keep all of our employees and customers safe and all we ask of you is that you respect our efforts to do so.

By |2020-07-08T18:30:33+00:00July 8th, 2020|Categories: Shop Life|Tags: , , , , |4 Comments

Spring 2020 – A season of opportunity for the Montana angler

Amidst a covid crisis which has threatened our physical as well as our financial health world-wide, the sun continues to rise and set each day.

The ways in which we experience our world have undergone drastic change over the past two months with social distancing, shelter in place orders, arbitrary and ambiguous designations of which businesses are “essential” during a pandemic, empty store shelves, masks, meat shortages, travel bans, zoom meetings, fear and loathing and an uneasy uncertainty about what the future holds.

But through all this chaos in the structure of our lives the rhythms of the natural world continue, taking no notice of the covid chaos. Spring continues to transition into summer. The grass gets greener, the days get longer, the air gets warmer, the flowers grow and the rivers flow.

Spring has always been a great time to fish the Missouri and that hasn’t changed. What has changed however, is that with non-residents being required to quarantine for 14 days when traveling to Montana PRIOR to taking part in any activities, traffic on the rivers is but a fraction of what it would normally be during this time of the year.

And while that’s bad for fly shops and outfitters, it’s a golden opportunity for Montana anglers to extend the quiet season on rivers and lakes all around the state. The absence of out of state visitors means less traffic at the ramps and on the water, less pressure on the fish and an abundance of solitude, during what is usually an extremely busy time of the year, especially on the Missouri as run-off elsewhere forces an influx of traffic to the perfect water conditions on the MO.

That being said, we did just experience what was by far our busiest weekend of 2020 with a full house and a steady parade of customers in and out of the shop all weekend long. Things actually felt “normal” on Saturday (which would have been Caddis Fest) with boat ramps buzzing with activity and an armada of drift boats and rafts occupying every stretch of water. The hope is that these were all Montanans converging on the MO, taking advantage of the nice weather and the great fishing and reveling in the freedoms afforded by phase one of our reopening. The assumption however is that not everyone on the water this weekend was a Montanan.

We are so anxious to welcome all out of state visitors back to Montana. Not only are we looking forward to seeing you all again but our livelihoods actually depend on it. That being said, we’re of the opinion that Montana has done a great job of handling this thing thus far so we urge you to abide by the quarantine rules currently in place and wait until the quarantine is lifted before you travel here. We have a feeling that will be very soon.

In the meantime this is a season of opportunity for the Montana angler. An opportunity to have what will likely soon be very busy rivers all to yourself during the prime of spring fishing.

Wolf Creek Angler is your Missouri River destination with everything you need for magical days on the Missouri. The hardest working guides on the river, clean and affordable lodging, Adipose drift boat rentals, vehicle shuttles, Simms waders, boots and sportswear and the legendary largest selection of flies ever assembled under one roof in Wolf Creek Montana. And don’t forget, we are also proud to host the Mending Waters Montana drift boat program providing FREE drift boat rentals to all vets and active duty military personnel. Book your boat today at mendingwatersmontana.org

By |2020-05-19T21:02:24+00:00May 19th, 2020|Categories: Shop Life|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

Rainy Day Blues

Have it all to yourself (for the time being) this spring on the MO’

We’re three days into a dreary, wet and cold week on the Missouri with likely a couple more on the way. Welcome to springtime in the Rockies!

Our forecast for the remainder of the week looks to be much of the same with cool temps and a chance for rain and or snow most days but we should start to see some peeks of sunshine starting tomorrow. The grey days can be a little tough to take sometimes but on the bright side things are greening up nicely and it looks like we’ll see a bit of a warm up this weekend.

We’re still dealing with a mandatory 14 day quarantine for all out of state travelers which is substantially limiting our business right now but thankfully as things continue to open up in Montana we’re seeing business start to pick up as many look to get out of town and take advantage of having one of the premier trout rivers in the world right in their back yard. Lodging has really started to pick up and we’re managing to do a few guide trips here and there as well. All of this has us feeling cautiously optimistic about the future as we continue to adapt to the new normal.

Obviously things are far from normal but the hope is that if we continue to work hard at doing things right through these early phases of the re-opening then hopefully we’ll be able to expedite the easing of restrictions.

We’re still obsessively cleaning and sanitizing in the shop and limiting customers to four at a time. We’re wearing our masks and we appreciate when you do as well. I don’t see getting away from these practices anytime soon and whether we’re actually dealing with exposure to coronavirus or not it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a clean and germ-free shop.

Ditto with our enhanced housekeeping procedures. We’ve essentially doubled the time it takes to clean a room with the additional steps we’re taking to clean and disinfect so you can rest assured your health and safety, along with that of our employees, is our number one priority.

Guide trips look and feel a little different these days as well with a lot of disinfecting of surfaces and equipment happening as well as more attention paid to keeping our boats and our rigs clean. We’re wearing our masks in the vehicle on the way to the river as well as in the boat and asking our clients to do the same. Some aren’t crazy about the mask thing but it’s not so bad once you get used to it and if it allows us to get out there and put our clients on fish we’re happy to comply.

Slowly but surely it’s starting to look more and more like an actual season. Shotgun Annie’s and Izaak’s are open for business (with social distancing directives in place) so the food challenges are becoming less so. Annie’s is open Monday – Friday from 11 AM – 11:30 PM and 7:30 AM – 11:30 PM on Saturday and Sunday. Please note, closing time is dependent on how much business they are doing so I wouldn’t wait until 10 pm and head there for dinner, at least not without calling first. Izaak’s is open Wednesday – Sunday from 3 PM – 9 PM. We’re super-stoked to have them both back and we encourage you to support them through the challenges of limited capacity re-opening.

One more food option we’re super excited about this season is Mo’ River Eats. Kelli is providing us with exceptional lunches for our guide trips this season and also offering breakfast and dinner DELIVERED to your room at Wolf Creek Angler. You’ll find menus in all of our rooms with contact information so if you want a great dine-in option for dinner or want to start the day with an amazing breakfast burrito, breakfast sandwich, sausage biscuits or a Greek Yogurt Parfait all you need do is let Kelli know by 9 pm the night before and she will deliver items right to your room. I’ve sampled breakfast, lunch and dinner and highly recommend them all and the fact that she delivers is a game-changer. I’m expecting a busy season for MO’ River Eats as word gets out and hope you’ll give them a try.

So there you have it. We’ve got all kinds of lodging available AND you have a multitude of options for dining, including bringing your own food and preparing it in your fully furnished kitchen AND THE FISHING IS GOOD AND GETTING BETTER.

Dry fly fishing, nymphing, streamer fishing…all solid options right now.

So while things are still weird out there we are happy to provide you with an escape from the weirdness. Fresh air, moving water, wild trout….I can’t think of a better escape. And while we’re definitely hoping for a rapid return to being able to host out of state clients, at this point their absence is your gain as traffic is but a fraction of what it would normally be this time of year.

We hope to see you all very soon.

Blessed with Social Distance

The Treasure State (AKA the Social Distance State)

Montana – The Treasure State (AKA The Social Distance State)

With our doors closed now at least through April 24th, it would be a gross understatement to say that life during a global pandemic has taken some getting used to.

Like most small business owners, I have been immersed in the seemingly ever-evolving provisions and procedures of seeking assistance through what will undoubtedly be the biggest financial and economic challenge of my lifetime.

Like all of those who have had their lives and livelihoods put on hold by Covid-19, I spend my days contemplating what the future might hold while ingesting a steady diet of webinars, zoom meetings and phone calls…what our life has become during the pandemic.

I’ve spent some time at the shop but there hasn’t been much to do there that can’t be done from home so why burn the gas to get there? There’s plenty of yard work to be done both at the shop and at home but spring snows have interrupted those endeavors and while it definitely feels and looks like spring today we will be under a winter storm warning starting tomorrow night and will likely see several inches of new snow and the return of single-digit temps on Saturday night.

I’ve spent plenty of time on the couch. Too much television, too much beer, too much junk food. And while I have done some hiking near my home, I’ve not been nearly active enough for my liking.

It was considering these circumstances that I decided Sunday night that I would spend as much time as possible on the water this week. Mind you drift boat fishing is out (unless you are with members of your household), so I decided it was a good time to go solo and visit a few of my favorite walk-wade spots, some close to home, some not so much.

My routine this week has been to spend the mornings answering emails and doing whatever business can be done followed by late morning drives to unspecified locations and afternoons spent standing in moving water doing what brought me here in the first place. It didn’t take long for me to conclude that there is no place in the world I would rather be during these times of social distancing than in the wide-open spaces and secret corners of Montana.

Spring streamer fishing is among my favorites and these last few days did not disappoint. Plenty of fish to hand, none of which were record breakers, but all of which were the perfect dose of euphoria, making even better these great escapes.

Empty roads, sprawling landscapes of mountains and valleys and forests and miles of magical water with nary a soul in sight. Four rivers over three days and I encountered no one which kind of surprised me seeing that everyone is trapped at home these days with nothing to do. But what a blessing. What a blessing to live in a place where we can always go out and do our thing and maintain social distance, sometimes to the extreme if we choose. I can not imagine what it’s like to live in a heavily populated area with nowhere to escape to and just to address the issue, I have heard plenty of people making the point that this isn’t a vacation, that you’re supposed to stay home but in Montana I would disagree.

Here we can cover miles of uninhabited space in a day, visiting the places we love, doing the things we want to do while not exposing ourselves or being exposed to anyone.

So, take that Coronavirus. You can disrupt our world. You can destroy our economy, but you cannot take this from me! Amid the scariest, most unprecedented thing I’ve seen in my lifetime I will continue to do what I love in the places that stir my soul.

That being said, as much as I love it, spending my days fishing does not pay the bills. So while I feel blessed beyond measure to live in this place and to be able to social distance in this way, like everyone else, I am ready to go back to work.

Stay At Home

Late last week Montana Governor Steve Bullock issued a Stay at Home Directive which went into effect on Saturday and which is set to run at least through April 10th. The directive requires Montanans to stay home and temporarily closes all non-essential businesses, of which we of course are one.

We appreciate and understand the intent of the directive and we encourage everyone to abide by the order and by so doing, hopefully get things back to some sense of normalcy soon. We had shut down guiding operations early last week as well as closed access to the shop in an effort to comply with social distancing standards. Our lodging had remained open and though hotels/motels do fall under essential businesses in the directive we have decided to close everything down for the duration of the order in keeping with the spirit and intent of the directive which is that people should be staying home as much as possible for the duration. We understand that outdoor activity (close to home) is allowed and encouraged and fishing certainly meets the standard however in our view driving somewhere far away enough from home that overnight lodging is required is not really in keeping with the intent of the order.

For this reason all operations are shut down until further notice.

That being said, we are taking orders over the phone as well as by email and we’re happy to ship you anything you need. We’ve also seen a trend on social media encouraging folks to buy gift cards from the businesses they want to support as this immediately puts much needed money in the hands of these businesses. We applaud the trend and would be thrilled to sell gift cards in any amount. Our gift cards are good for everything we sell from lodging to guide trips to merchandise and they never expire. Please call the shop if you would like to purchase a gift card or any other item we can ship to you.

Like all of you, we are hopeful that the future will become increasingly clear as the uncertainty is crippling us all.

In spite of the darkness there is light and I am humbled by the support we’ve received from all of you. The emails and phone calls from our regular customers just checking in to see how we’re doing mean the world to me and the willingness of many to leave deposits in place for future trips has been overwhelming. We’ve also had a steady trickle of folks calling for flies and fly lines and leaders etc which I would bet in many cases have not been needed and I simply can’t express how grateful we are for all of this support through these uncertain times.

Every day draws us closer to the time this will all be a memory. As the weather warms and the grass starts to green and the songbirds return we are hopeful.

Stay Safe, Stay Sane, Stay Home!

By |2020-03-30T20:13:30+00:00March 30th, 2020|Categories: Local Buzz, Shop Life, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Under the Influence Part Two

Long ago and far away – pre fly fishing days in Ontario with my dad

This is the second installment of a two-part post.

A couple of weeks ago I shared a blog on our Facebook page from HATCH Magazine that asked the question “Which Anglers have influenced your Fly Fishing?” The post got a good response and got me thinking about my own fly fishing history and remembering all of those who played a role in my journey from curious observer to reluctant participant to sell it all and move to Montana to be a fly fishing guide and fly shop owner.

As is the case for many of us, the towering figure in my personal fishing history most responsible for my being where I’m at today would have to be my dad.

This breaks slightly from the theme of that Hatch blog because my dad was not a fly fisherman but that aside, he did instill in me that sense of awe and reverence elicited by the sight of mountains and forests, the sound of babbling streams and raging rivers, the smell of spring rains and the feel of a trout on the line.

Like many, I grew up fishing conventional gear. I was handed a Zebco rod at the age of five, prompting a journey which continues today.

I fished worms with a bobber for bluegill, sunfish and bass on the lake I grew up on in Michigan, and eventually graduated to hardware. My first experience on a trout stream was also fishing with worms but the memories I have of those early days trout fishing the White and Pere Marquette Rivers in Western Michigan have much more to do with experiencing moving water than with catching fish.

Michigan’s Pere Marquette River

I remember donning my first pair of waders and stepping into those rushing waters. I remember feeling the force of water pushing against me, lifting my feet off the gravel bottom. It was like nothing I’d felt before. It was both thrilling and terrifying and I loved it.

The twists and turns of the stream framed by the emerging spring vegetation under the radiant heat of the April sun left a permanent mark on my memory and I still recall those mid-spring Midwestern days on the water like they were yesterday.

But it wasn’t all warm and fuzzy. Numb fingers on cold mornings, an often-times less than patient guide who was doing his best to enjoy his own escape while making sure nothing terrible happened to his kid, snags and tangles and what felt like an awful abundance of SNAKES all tipped the scales in favor of staying home.

I don’t recall how often we trout fished, probably not more than a couple of times a year, but it was enough to plant the seed. I wasn’t always thrilled to be going and I don’t recall really ever being given a choice but the bribe of snacks for the ride helped and once I stepped in that water I always enjoyed myself. I began to learn where the trout live and why, Reading Trout Water 101.

At some point in my late teens it all clicked and I fell in love with trout fishing. I began to pursue it on my own which has obviously led me to all sorts of places but it was all rooted in those early days on the water with my dad.

He was an avid outdoorsman and did what he could to bring me into the fold but I think more effective than his efforts was his passion. I grew up surrounded by books about National Parks and wilderness and hunting and fishing. I grew up watching my dad head out the door, shotgun, rifle or fishing rod in hand, only to return with all manners of tasty table fare. We watched Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom every week on television and we actually saw The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams in the movie theatre. The concept of wilderness was not a foreign one in our house.

Having spent his army days at Fort Lewis in Washington State, my dad always had a fondness for the Pacific Northwest and the western half of the country in general. When I was eight or nine years old we did the family cross country trek from Michigan to California, traveling through the Dakotas, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon to get there.

The pictures I had poured over time and again in those National Park books on the shelf at home were brought to life as I took in the plains and forests and snow-capped mountains and rivers and Big Skies and red wood trees and finally the big blue Pacific. There is no doubt the immersion in wild places which occurred on this trip planted the seeds for my future as I fell in love with the place I would someday, some way, call home.

My dad and I fished together in an on-again, off-again manner over the years. He spent most of his fishing efforts on Lake Michigan where he operated a charter boat. I worked as his first mate for a couple of seasons but never cared for that type of fishing.

The solitude and the poetry of the trout stream continued to captivate me. We fished Ontario’s Superior tributaries annually for steelhead which pulled me even further into the wade fishing fold and then fly fishing caught my eye.

As is the case for so many of us in this business, A River Runs Through It played a pivotal role in attracting me to the sport of fly fishing and reinforced my infatuation with Montana. After seeing it, I sheepishly told my dad I wanted to try fly fishing. Sheepishly because, as already stated, he was not a fly fisherman and he was not a fan. In fact, I don’t recall him ever having much nice to say about fly fishing in general.

My first fly rod was a Shakespeare kit that he gave me. I don’t remember what weight it was but looking back it seems like it was likely a #8 or #9 weight. Whatever the case, it was a broom stick and not only was it a broom stick but it was a broom stick I mismatched with a trout line because I was afraid to ask questions at the K-Mart where I purchased the line and no backing. Obviously my time on the lawn trying to cast this ridiculous set up did nothing to inspire me to actually try this on the stream. I quickly abandoned the idea of fly fishing based on my experience with this set up but that desire to learn the quiet sport lingered though the intimidation factor would ultimately keep me gear fishing for several more years.

Little did I know how much this particular episode would relate to my future as the owner of a fly shop. It’s where my customer service is rooted. It seems like a few times a season a kid will show up with a similar set-up and a similar hesitation to ask questions about what, for the beginner, is an insanely confusing, overwhelming and intimidating sport. I pride myself on having been in those shoes and I always do everything I can to simplify things and to encourage the would be fly fisher to ask all the questions they want but not to over-complicate it.

My second fly rod was a Cabela’s PT(Progressive Taper) #5 weight which also came in a kit but this one I’d done the research on and it was much better suited for what I was wanting to do. Casting remained a struggle but there was hope. I flailed around on the water with this rig but I would always take my spinning gear as well and would usually spend no more than a couple of minutes frothing the water before switching over to the deadly Panther Martins I loved so much.

I dabbled in fly fishing for trout for a couple of years while continuing to gear fish, mostly for steelhead with my dad.

He called me one summer afternoon when I was 29 and asked me if I wanted to go trout fishing with him. We hadn’t trout fished together in years. My passion for the sport was growing, his seemed to be waning. While I was starting to become proficient with the fly rod I opted for my spinning gear to avoid his criticism. We agreed on a time and place and I headed there early to get a shot at the best water.

I heard his vehicle pull up and a few minutes later heard his door close so I made my way to a spot where I could signal to him where I was. I waved and thought I had seen him wave so went back to fishing. He looked to be about a 10 minute walk from me.

A half hour later I wondered where he was and figured he must have found good water so I continued to fish. Finally he emerged from the brush looking perturbed and a little out of sorts and told me he had gotten turned around trying to make his way to the creek.

It was now getting towards dark so we fished within ear-shot of one another and then made our way back to the vehicles. Neither of us caught fish that evening. The Panther Martins were ineffective, as were the Rooster Tails.


When we got back to the vehicles he offered me a beer and cracked one himself. At this point in his life my dad was not a beer drinker so I found it maybe a little strange but I was incredibly moved by the gesture which I felt affirmed our emerging relationship. My dad and I clashed a lot over the years and were never particularly close. This invitation to fish followed by streamside beers exemplified the new norm. We worked closely together in the family business and the battles of the past were gone. He was 60, I was nearing 30, the time had come to develop an adult relationship and it was perfect!

In retrospect, I think he had other reasons for inviting me to go trout fishing that summer evening. It was purely a gift.

I was anxious to talk him into trying fly fishing and I was looking forward to a summer of trout fishing and a fall of deer hunting with him.

Alas, it was not to be. This would be the last time we would fish together. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor a couple of weeks later and was gone before I turned 30.

20 years later, looking back, while he didn’t have so much  to do specifically with my fly fishing history, there is no one more responsible for shaping who, what and where I’ve come to be.


Under The Influence Part One

A couple of weeks ago I shared a blog on our Facebook page from HATCH Magazine that asked the question “Which Anglers have influenced your Fly Fishing?” The post got a good response and got me thinking about my own fly fishing history and remembering all of those who played a role in my journey from curious observer to reluctant participant to sell it all and move to Montana to be a fly fishing guide and fly shop owner.

While I don’t have any TITANS of the industry in my history, there are a couple of individuals who come to mind when I ponder this and I’ll likely treat this in a couple of installments in order to do it justice.

Mike Lenahan

When I was attempting to make the transition from fishing conventional gear to fly fishing I stalled out because I was afraid of making a fool of myself on the water trying to cast a fly rod. My casting work on the lawn was coming along but my fear of being seen on the river flailing away kept me fishing conventional gear more often than not until I met Mike Lenahan.

Mike was CEO at Resource Recovery Corporation of West Michigan where I served on the board and he and I would get together and fish occasionally. I told him I wanted to learn to fly fish and he was happy to oblige. I don’t know that it was his favorite thing in the world but our next trip to the Pere Marquette River he convinced me to leave the spinning gear in the truck and then proceeded to spend the majority of that outing teaching me to fly cast and to mend.

I don’t believe there were fish caught on that trip but what I do remember about it was finally feeling like I could actually cast and just being so excited that I was really fly fishing after years of flailing around and being too embarrassed to take my fly rod on the water if there was even a remote chance that someone would be there who might see me making a fool of myself.

Mike and I fished a few times after that and he was there when I caught my first brown trout on a fly. It was a glorious experience! And while I don’t recall exactly what all Mike taught me about fly fishing I can say that had he not taken the time to go with me that day and had he not convinced me to leave my spinning gear in the truck I might still be fishing gear!

Paul Drewry

Once I started to develop some proficiency at fly fishing for trout I decided it was time to give Steelhead fishing a try.
Our veterinarian Paul Drewry was an avid fly fisherman and we spent a fair amount of time at dog appointments talking fly fishing. The subject of steelhead fishing came up and Paul told me exactly what setup I should purchase.

I drove to my local fly shop and bought a 9’6” #7 St Croix Avid and a Solitude reel. It was the sweetest rig and compared to my Cabelas trout setup, my first foray into what at the time felt like high dollar gear. Little did I know this was just the gateway drug but it was a great way to ease in to it.

I’d spent enough time fishing dry flies on a #5 that this #7 felt like a whole different world to me. At that time most of the folks fly fishing for Great Lakes steelhead were indicator fishing which was a completely foreign concept to me. Sure, I’d dropped a hare’s ear off of a hopper before but this was a whole different animal and while I was excited to learn something new, I could feel myself sinking back into intimidation paralysis. Paul was able to help!

We spent a few early spring days wade fishing the Pere Marquette where I had grown up fishing worms for trout and spawn bags for steelhead. Paul clued me in to how to nymph a steelhead run.

Those days were filled with snags, re-ties, bad casts and more bad casts and while I caught plenty of tree branches both on the river bank and the river bottom, after three or four outings I had yet to hook into anything that felt remotely like a fish.

And then everything in my fishing universe changed….

Paul invited me to float with him one spring day. I’d never set foot in a drift boat and wasn’t sure what to expect.
Nothing has had a bigger effect on my fly fishing life than stepping in that boat that day. The change in perspective from standing in the water to standing in the bow of that drift boat was life altering for me. That was the day I knew I’d be buying a drift boat and that was also the day my psyche underwent a transformation from reluctant participation to obsession.

As we made our way down the river I was captivated by every log jam, deep bend and shallow riffle. I’d spent more than my fair share of time on a boat on Lake Michigan and I’d been down the river a time or two in a canoe but this, this was something different. We floated probably 5 miles that day, a relatively short float, but it really struck me when I recognized a bend in the river as the start of the 1/2 mile or so of water I’d fished since I was a little kid. This short stretch of river was my entire fishing world for so many years. It WAS the Pere Marquette to me. Now, floating through my “world” in just a few minutes time I discovered just how small my world was and the idea that stepping in that boat opened up an entirely new frontier completely blew my mind.

I fished a bit that day but the fishing was not what was significant on that trip. It was all about the journey from wade fishing with all of its limitations to a new world of opportunities I’d never even considered.

Following that trip I immediately started looking into boats. I didn’t think I could afford to buy a drift boat so I bought a pontoon but as I assembled that boat all I could think about was how awesome that day in the drift boat was. All that room for all the gear you could possibly need. I disassembled the pontoon, put it back in the box and returned it and headed to Newaygo to order myself a drift boat.

I picked up my brand new Hyde in November and began to plot the future. However, one big obstacle did remain…I had no idea how to row a drift boat. I figured the best way to learn was to dump the thing in the water and figure it out. Looking back, launching the boat at Rainbow Rapids (the only stretch of water on the Pere Marquette even remotely resembling a rapids) was probably not the wisest decision but it did reinforce the fact that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, as if there was any doubt.

I think we ran into or over every boulder in the rapids but spun our way through without sinking the boat and once below the rapids, just when I was feeling like I was getting the hang of it I ran the bow of the boat into two steel posts while trying to power forward through a bend leaving a permanent reminder on the bow of my shiny new boat of that maiden voyage.

Following that trip I invited Paul to fish with me, asking him if he would give me some tips on rowing. He obliged, sitting behind me most of the day and teaching me with taps on the shoulders and audible commands of “push” or “pull”. It was slow going but by the end of that day I felt like I had at least a rudimentary understanding of rowing.

The Pere Marquette was a great river on which to learn to row a drift boat. Not much in the way of rapids but plenty of log jams and tight bends offering ample opportunities to sink a boat (which thankfully I’ve yet to do, though I’ve had a couple of close calls).

I’m eternally grateful to Dr. Paul Drewry for his excellent care of our pets during those years as well as for opening the doors to a new world for me.

Fred Davison

At 30 years old I was not really looking to make friends. I was busy with work and had a kid on the way and even though I was enjoying fishing it was something I enjoyed doing on my own.

I met Fred when he was doing drywall work in our house as we prepared a room for the coming baby. Fred’s wife worked in the same office as my wife Sheila and they arranged for him to do the drywall as he was running his own drywall company at the time.

The first day I talked to Fred was just for a couple of minutes when he was working on the house and I came home from work and grabbed my gear, heading for Canada for solo steelhead fishing.

I told him where I was headed and he mentioned that he liked fishing but didn’t like it THAT much, that he’d drive 8 hours to do what he could do in our back yard. I assumed he must not really be into it. Little did I know we would end up spending the next 11 years on a fishing odyssey, both trading in our conventional gear for fly gear and getting to know the Pere Marquette and other local waters intimately as we indulged our habit which turned us both into streamer junkies and eventually led us to leave what we knew behind and start a fly shop in Montana.

Fred is one of those people who is really good at everything he does and seemingly everything he tries and he seems to pick up most of what he tries on his own with very little formal instruction. Over those eleven years Fred picked up fly fishing, fly tying, hockey, home brewing, boat building…just to name a few, and was pretty damn good at all of them. The boat building may have been a stretch but it did float and even made it down the river a few times!

The first time I fished with Fred was on the Pine River with conventional gear. He pulled a 17” brown off the bank on one of his first casts with a gold Panther Martin and I noticed he could read the water better than most anyone I’d seen.

I don’t know how much we discussed the idea of fly fishing but we were definitely on the same page. I called him one day to tell him I had bought a fly rod…he had as well.

I was given a guide trip on the Pere Marquette for my birthday that summer and I asked Fred to join me. It was a fun trip though not one I would say had much of an effect on my fly fishing history. Neither of us was crazy about the guide and I can’t say that I learned much on that trip but what I do remember was an after-dark explosion on a mouse pattern, followed by a second which I actually connected on. I lost that battle much to mine and the guide’s disappointment but the after-dark thing grabbed hold and would eventually become an obsession. I also remember a thunder storm rolling in and the guide having to row out the last couple of miles through that storm which wasn’t pleasant for anyone involved but it was an experience to be sure.

The following spring I convinced Fred to go to Canada with me on the steelhead trip. If I recall correctly we stuck to conventional gear on that trip but on the way home we caught the BWO hatch on the Holy Water of the Ausable near Grayling and shortly thereafter we discovered the Gray Drake hatch on the Pere Marquette and went night after night. Then it was Hexagenia in the swamps, hoppers through the summer and salmon fishing in fall.

At that time we hadn’t yet attempted to fly fish for steelhead but we booked a guide trip that winter and each caught our first steelhead on a fly rod. We’d both been bitten hard by the bug though as was typical the obsession took hold in different ways.

I was attracted to the gear, the boats, the brands, and the destinations….everything about fly fishing. Fred liked tying flies and catching fish and could care less about Simms or Sage or Hyde or Orvis or any of it. He just wanted to fish and as was usually the case when he tried something new, he was rapidly becoming a very good angler and fly tier.

When I bought my first drift boat it opened up a whole new world of adventure for Fred and I and we spent countless hours on that boat, both of us developing proficiency on the sticks as well as learning the addresses of many a hefty brown as we picked apart the PM with sinking lines and streamers.

We fished every month of the year and covered the entirety of the PM.

During the summer months we would fish all night frequently, developing different patterns and techniques for fishing mice and learning to row and cast in the dark.

We would occasionally float the Ausable or the Upper Manistee but most of our time was spent on the Pere Marquette. It was an education by immersion.

We fished through a lot of life events during those years. There were good times, bad times, sad times, dark times… and the river was always there for us even when we were blind to it.

My focus started to turn towards going and fishing other places including Montana which I first fished probably around 2008. Once I’d done that my dreams got big and my mission became figuring out an exit strategy and a way to move to Montana.

Long story short we left Michigan in 2012 and I bid farewell to Fred and while I was thrilled to be in Montana it was tough losing my fishing partner of the previous decade.

As doors opened in Montana I got in touch with Fred to see if he would be interested in going into the fly shop, lodging and outfitting business. With nothing really holding him back in Michigan, he agreed to join us as a partner in Wolf Creek Angler.

His plan was to spend the seasons in Montana and go back to Michigan in the winter to be with his family though the year we bought the place he spent a good part of the winter here doing the remodel on the shop. It seemed like the perfect arrangement but things being what they are and adding up like they do, we opted to go our separate ways after a couple of seasons.

Times change, people change, circumstances change and ultimately things happen as they’re supposed to but that being said, regardless of how it turned out for us at WCA, I’ll always cherish those years Fred and I spent learning to fly fish and honing our skills while developing a wonderful friendship.

Valentines Update

Valentines Flies – Better than Roses!

It’s been a fairly quiet week here on the Missouri with a mixed bag of weather keeping traffic on the sparse side to say the least.

We’ve had some colder temps and a shot or two of snow along with a daily dose of winter winds. Par for the course for mid-February in Montana.

Boat traffic has been non-existent but there have been a few wade anglers around.

This weather pattern will stick around through the rest of the week with high temperatures hanging right around 40 and a slight chance for snow each day.

Don’t forget tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. If you had planned on taking your valentine to the Missouri expect a breezy day with west winds 17-21 mph, gusting to 36 mph. Saturday looks a little better as far as the wind goes but it’s still going to be breezy.

Hopefully by now you’ve bought flowers and made dinner reservations for tomorrow night, if not, good luck! You might be better off skipping the flowers and purchasing something more thoughtful and definitely more romantic like a new rod and reel for your sweetheart.

Think of the look on their face when you present them with their special gift and pop the question…will you fish with me? Does it get more romantic than that?

Well, maybe it does. But be that as it may, you should still think about a new rod and reel for your sweetheart. Flowers are nice but they’re expensive and they don’t last long. A new rod and reel could last forever and if you come out and purchase them from us you’ll get the best deal of the season at 25% off and a FREE ARC fly line on top of that.

We’ve got limited lodging available should choose our Winter Romance Package – this weekend only. Book two days of guided fishing and one night of lodging and we’ll throw in a second night of lodging for FREE.

And don’t forget – Monday is President’s Day so if you’re lucky enough to have Monday off you can make it a 3 day stay.

Whether you’re fishing with us or not we hope you make Wolf Creek Angler your first stop on your way to the river. We are your one-stop Missouri River fly shop with EVERYTHING you need for your day on the water.

A big thank you to all who came out to the F3T in Helena on Tuesday night. As always, a good time was had by all. It’s a great chance to get together with the Helena fly fishing community and get primed for the coming season.

We’ll do it again one week from tomorrow with the Orvis 50/50 On The Water Film Tour presented by Last Chance Fly Gals. There will be a Pre-show Social at Crosscurrents Fly Shop in Helena from 5 pm – 7 pm followed by the show at 7:30 pm at Grandstreet Theatre. Join us for an evening of inspiration and support for women on the water.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

By |2020-02-13T20:21:49+00:00February 13th, 2020|Categories: Shop Life, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Winter Returns

And just like that winter is on its way once again.

You didn’t think it was over did you? It’s barely even begun!

Winter Storm Warning in Effect from 2 PM today through 11 AM Friday above 5500 feet, Winter Weather Advisory in Effect for areas below 5500 feet.

For the Winter Storm Warning heavy snow is expected. Total snow accumulations of 8 to 30 inches. Winds gusting as high as 40 mph. For the Winter Weather Advisory total snow accumulations of 1 to 6 inches possible.

Just the way we like it! Another big shot of snow for the high country adding to our snow pack which is already in decent shape and manageable accumulations (or possibly none at all) where we live. It’s the best of both worlds!

It looks like highs near 40 for the remainder of the week with lows hanging right around 30 for the next few nights. We’ll see a blast of arctic air mid-week next week with high temperatures dropping back into the teens with lows in the single digits or colder. Now is the time to get on the water.

It’s on the breezy side today but the rest of the week could provide excellent fishing conditions with overcast skies, the potential for snow each day, moderate temperatures and relatively calm winds in the 6 – 8 mph range through Friday.

Often times the leading edge of these weather systems can flip the switch on the fishing. It’s been decent all week by most reports we’ve heard but it could be downright epic these next couple of days. There’s only one way to find out. You won’t know if you don’t go!

We offer the best winter lodging value on the MO at just $99/night (plus tax) for a cozy bungalow with full kitchen and private bath. Two twin beds and a Full pull-out sofa sleep 3 very comfortably and a rollaway will accommodate a fourth if need be.

And while a lot of the competition offers discount “Spring Special” trips come March, Wolf Creek Angler offers the best deal on the river ALL WINTER LONG. $400 for a FULL DAY GUIDE TRIP with the best guides on the water. And as if that weren’t enough we’re giving away FREE LODGING. That’s right….FREE as in ZERO Dollars!

Book two days of guided fishing and your second night of lodging is on us. Try to find a better deal…you won’t. And the best part…NO CANCELLATION FEES, NO QUESTIONS ASKED. Winter weather can change rapidly which makes planning a trip tough to do. If the weather turns or if you simply change your mind you’re off the hook.

We hope you take advantage of the weather these next couple of days and enjoy what could be the best fishing yet of 2020.

Even if you decide to pass on this amazing deal and do things on your own we hope you make us your one-stop on the way to the river. We’ve got anything and everything you need for winter fly fishing on the Missouri. The best and biggest selection of Missouri River winter bugs ever assembled under one roof in Wolf Creek, Adipose Drift Boat Rentals, shuttles, Simms waders and boots, cold weather gear and the best deals of the winter on rods/reels and so much more.