Montana. It truly is heaven on earth for a fly angler. I had the privilege and the pleasure of doing a nine-day fly fishing excursion with Jo and it was an experience that I will never forget. Jo is definitely the kind of guy you want to explore an amazing place like Montana with. He’s a kind and brilliant person whose knowledge and passion for fly fishing are absolutely contagious.
We started our trip by getting off the plane, picking up the rental car and immediately getting out on the water. We fished a nearby river while we waited for our Airbnb to be ready, and I was soon fighting my first Yellowstone cutthroat that had been fooled by a sculpin game changer fly. An hour in Montana and we were already catching fish!
We spent a few days fishing a beautiful spring creek for wild browns, rainbows and cutties. The fishing in these spring creeks was not unlike some of the waters here in western Massachusetts. Crystal-clear water and picky fish that hone in on smaller insects. However, just as I’ve found out on my home waters where the fish get selective, a well chosen and carefully placed streamer with an erratic retrieve triggered the predator instinct in some of these trout and I spent a good portion of the time catching them on the “Sculpzilla” pattern as well as with game changers! Jo and I also were able to get some amazing dry fly time when a PMD spinner fall took place one evening. Nothing like casting a simple mayfly pattern to actively sipping trout!
We then made our way down to the southwestern portion of the state and stopped at the Gallatin River on our way there. Even though this was a very public swimming and vacation area, we were still able to catch quite a few fish! Several of the rivers in this region are reported to contain 2,000 to 3000 wild trout per mile, so it’s not a huge surprise that we could run into fish in such a crowded area, but that’s still a little mind blowing compared to what I’m used to here in New England!
For the remainder of the trip, we fished the waters near Kelly Galloup’s Slide Inn. Jo and I even had the pleasure of having some long chats with him about fly tying and summer fishing tactics on the Madison River. Being a huge streamer junkie myself, I of course took the opportunity to talk big chunky streamer patterns with him. Kelly is known far and wide for his contributions to the streamer world, and it was encouraging and exciting to pick his brain for a few minutes about my favorite way to fish.
We explored the upper Madison River for the remainder of the trip, and between nymphs, dries and Jo’s talented Euro techniques, we were able to get into not only a large quantity of wild trout, but also some very quality fish as well. It was interesting throwing dries, because as Kelly Galloup told me, you often won’t see fish rising in this stretch of water, but throw a dry anyway because they will actively take a surface fly. His advice was spot on, and I spent a couple mornings enjoying quality dry fly fishing on caddis and BWO patterns.
I could ramble on and on and tell more stories of some of the amazing fish and people we ran into, but that would take far too long lol! For now let me just say that the west is incredible. Life seems to make more sense out there to me, and I can’t wait for the next opportunity to be back in God’s country hunting for wild trout with a good friend!