Leapin' Into March!

With a whole extra day on our hands this year it seems like there should be plenty of time to get ready for the impending fishing season, but it has snuck up on us once again. Our first guide trips of the season head out next week and our first guide school session kicks off in less than three weeks -  it's time to get cracking! We've been busy the last couple months talking about fishing, and now it's time to actually go fishing.

Why Should I Fish in the Spring?

The spring season is not what it used to be, that's a fact. In the good old days March and April were considered the 'warm-up season', and a good guide was working by May 1 at the earliest. Times have changed though; maybe it's the climate changes, maybe it's the info sharing by businesses like ours, maybe it's the desire of die-hard anglers to extend their season any way they can. But this is for certain - we love early season fishing from mid-March to mid-May across Montana and here are the top five reasons why:

Nymphing: Fly Fishing's Misunderstood Art Form

Many of us started with single dry flies and have progressed to long leaders with strike indicators, split-shot, and two weighted flies tied-on with fluorocarbon tippets. Why did things get so complicated? Because we like to catch fish, that’s why. Few things in fly fishing top watching a fish eat your dry fly on the surface, but the more you can successfully fish flies under the surface, the more you can enjoy a bend in the rod when hatches wane. Here’s some help I never had:

Spring Special Road Trip

Spring is knocking on the door in Montana. With many new changes to our angling regulations, such as the Upper Madison and other small streams being open year-round, along with our discounted fishing rates until May 1, March and April will be great months to fish. If the winter months have clouded your angling brain, here’s the best 3-Day Angling Road trip on the planet.

Happy New Year!


It's hard to believe another year has passed here at MFO - this will be our 17th season as a guide service and outfitting business - but we are ready for it and excited for what lies ahead. While it is full-on winter here now, our early season fishing and spring special are a mere 8 weeks away, so there is no rest for us. We also have our first guide school of the season kicking off at the end of March, more info on that below.

January and February are the months that we dedicate to the backend of our business - specifically, to spend time talking to you about planning your trip this season. Now is the time to do it - primo lodging spots and guide calendars are filling fast for the spring and summer months. Montana is a popular place, so you have to plan ahead to get the premium experience you are looking for, that is just how it works.

Our 406 On The Fly trout tours are a great place to start if you want to sample the best of what Big Sky Country has to offer for the venturing angler.

We are sure 2016 will bring many excellent adventures for all of us, so start scheming yours and know that we look forward to seeing you in Montana before too long.       


Garrett and Pat
406.431.5089 ~ 406.439.4545

2016 Guide Schools


There are only 10 weeks remaining until our next Montana Fishing Guide School session kicks off in Bozeman and wraps up a week later on the Missouri River. If you want to learn the skills needed to be a professional guide in Montana, or just improve your game as an angler, this is the ticket. This is a full immersion course that covers stream entomology, rowing skills, fish behavior, fly tying & selection, first aid & CPR, river rescue, conservation and much, much more. 

Our guide school schedule for 2016:
March 20 – March 26     Bozeman/Missouri based
March 27 – April 2         Bozeman/Big Sky based
April 10 – April 16          Bozeman/Missouri based
April 17 – April 23          Bozeman/Big Sky based
May 15 – 21                  Bozeman/Missouri based
June 19 – 25                 Bozeman/Big Sky based
October, dates tbd         Bozeman/Big Sky based

Contact us pronto if you are interested, and we'll answer all the questions you have about the course schedule and how you can take your game to the next level.

Winter Fishing in Montana? You Bet!

Just be sure to bring your skis, too.


Montana winters are long, but as anglers we need to cherish the season of white because winter snow means good summer streamflows. If you’re looking for the best of both worlds, here are our favorite Montana winter fishing and skiing locales. To avoid any throw-downs, the listing is alphabetical.
Anaconda. Someone had to be listed first besides Big Sky. Nestled at the base of the Pintlar Range and a little over a half hour from Discovery Basin, this town is a cast-and-carve sleeper. The Clark Fork gets its start near here and the winter fishing on the river near Anaconda is consistent and good for some big brown trout. Rent is cheap in this town. Skiing is surprisingly good. If you love shrimp cocktail and large cuts of beef with real horseradish, this historic place is for you.

Big Sky. Since the ‘70s this is Montana’s largest resort-centered mountain town. Skiing here is massive and lift-lines don’t exist. Nothing about this town is off the radar, but there are few places on earth where you can ski fresh powder in the morning, cast to rising trout on the Gallatin River in the afternoon, and eat great Pad Thai in the evening. The Big Sky trifecta:ski, fish, eat.

Bozeman. The world knows of Bozeman’s great fishing. The skiing at nearby Bridger Bowl and it’s “Ridge” is world class. Bozeman rents are do-able on a Top Ramen budget and the fishing is close by so what you save on gas can go to fend off scurvy.

Missoula. The largest town in the listing. Small freestones and large freestones, and the potential for skwala dry fly fishing in March. Snowbowl is your ski area. Snowbowl is no Whitefish Mountain Resort or Big Sky, but once you’ve had a few drinks at Al and Vick’s you’ll forget all about those other mountains.

Red Lodge. Off the radar indeed, but it shouldn’t be. Beer is great at the Red Lodge Brewery. Fishing, if you’re willing to drive to the Bighorn River, is the best winter fishing in all of Montana. Skiing at Red Lodge Mountain is budget in many ways, but, you’ll certainly have money left in the tank in April to visit your mom or even chase a few tarpon.

Whitefish. Winter fly fishing here is not great, in fact, it’s mostly an ice fishing game. But the town of Whitefish and Whitefish Mountain Resort, the ski resort formerly known as Big Mountain, is a favorite of many long-time Montanans. Despite the lack of winter fishing, the food and drink scene allow you to party like its 1999. 

The Big Bug

Chase salmon flies for three months? It can happen. We’ve been doing it for years.

Last June while floating the Upper Madison, in between casts to bankside structure, a client asked Pat when was the best time to fish salmon flies in Montana? His response: mid-May through July.

“Seriously?” the angler responded.

For Pat, during May through July it has been a personal goal to fish a salmon fly pattern more often than not. He’s been getting closer each year.

On certain rivers like the Smith and Dearborn, the big bugs can hatch as early as Mother’s Day, but Memorial Day is more likely. After the holiday weekend, west-side rivers like the Clark Fork, the Blackfoot, and others see the big bugs.

By the time June rolls around it is very likely to see three-inch long naturals on the Lower Madison, then the Upper, and then over the mountains on the Yellowstone.

Late July means Yellowstone National Park waters, and primarily the Yellowstone River in the Park, to find salmon flies. For adventurous and fit anglers willing to hike, throwing large dry flies to native cutthroat trout is a well-deserved reward.

By August, the potential for salmon flies finally wanes…but that’s ok, because then it’s ‘hopper season, just another big bug!

If chasing trout with a single, large dry fly on a freestone river is your passion, contact us today to start planning your big bug adventure.

Conservation Corner

We want to let you know we continue to support progressive conservation groups like Trout Unlimited, doing good work on behalf of our trout and all the folks who fish for them. We are proud to be a member of the TU Endorsed Business program and encourage you to find your own way to pay it forward for all the great experiences that are soon to come from enjoying the wildness that we find in Montana and beyond.

Happy Holidays

Dear Fellow Fishheads,

It's been a wonderful year for us and we hope it has been for you as well. Enjoy your time with your family and friends this holiday season, and try to find time to reflect on the awesome adventures you got to partake in during the last year. Spring is just twelve short weeks away and we look forward to seeing you in Montana as soon as you can get here. The snow is piling up nicely and we think the 2016 season is going to be a great one.   

Happy Holidays from the whole MFO family!

Happy Holiday High Five

The MFO Thankful List

Thanksgiving might have officially ended a few days ago, but we can still give thanks for our good fortune, can’t we? We’ve got it pretty good here in Montana. Amidst all the hustle of the Holiday Season, we pause to be appreciative of the good things.

Clean air, water, and open spaces. Thanks to the many groups and organizations dedicated to protecting what we love and enjoy daily. Groups like Montana Trout Unlimited, the Montana Land Reliance, the Gallatin Valley Land Trust, Prickly Pear Land Trust, Upper Missouri Watershed Alliance and many more, all ensure we have plenty of places to wet-a-line, take a hike, and leave things better than we found them.

Helena and the Gallatin Valley’s community parks and events. For small mountain towns, residents and visitors to our area have access to a great parks, ball fields, trails, kid’s playgrounds and more. We also have arts programs, performing arts centers, and many great community-centric events. Many volunteers have played vital roles in making these things a reality.

Public lands. We live in a state where public lands, both federal and state, allow us ample opportunity to partake in the things we love to do: fish, ski, hike, bike, hunt, and more. We’ve got it good in Montana with the amount of public land we use on a regular basis.

Local knowledge and professionals. Within a hundred mile radius of our waters, hundreds of outdoor recreation professionals live and work. These professionals operate stores, run clinics, and are our neighbors. People travel thousands of miles to spend time with the fishing outfitters and guides, ski instructors, horse-wranglers, and other professionals in our area. Be thankful we have this amount of expertise so close to home.

Sharing with friends and family. The best memories are often created with friends and family. This one’s pretty simple: try to find time to spend outdoors with the important people in your life. You'll be glad you did.

If you are looking for a good group to support for some year end philanthropy and future trout karma building look no further than these:

Upper Missouri Watershed Alliance
Prickly Pear Land Trust
Gallatin Valley Land Trust
Montana Land Reliance
Montana Trout Unlimited

Finding Paradise on a Spring Creek

At MFO we pride ourselves in being Montana’s Most Unique Guide Service. We do that by covering a lot of Montana—we have local guides on nearly all of Montana’s trout waters. And, the Paradise Valley Springs Creeks are no different. In fact, two of Pat’s favorite waters are DePuy’s and Armstrong’s Spring Creeks.

Fishing these crystal clear creeks requires a unique approach to fly fishing, as these waters truly have no peer in the world of fly fishing. Fishing these creeks is likened to hunting, as most fish that are caught are seen first. If you’ve done the drift boat thing, let MFO show you the intricacies of walk-wade fly fishing on the Paradise Valley Spring Creeks. The ideal trip is two or three days as that allows you to fish all the creeks, or focus on one or two and fish during the best weather. Rod fees apply, and are their peak in high summer.

You don’t have to be an expert angler to enjoy the spring creeks. All you need is the desire to try a different style of fly fishing than what you’ve most likely done before. And, with an MFO spring creek specialist, you’re sure to have a good time. Plus the streamside Merlot and brie always spice up a day’s fishing.

The three Paradise Valley Spring Creeks are an annual favorite of local and traveling anglers. The creeks themselves are private, but the rod fee and guide allows you access. The three creeks, Nelson’s, DePuy’s, and Armstrong’s/O’Hair’s offer fishing in one of the most beautiful valleys in Montana, the Paradise Valley.

DePuy’s is the longest of the three creeks, then Armstrong’s/O’Hairs, and then Nelson’s. Anglers looking for selective fish in a technical piece of water should try their hand at some of these trout. But if you are serious about making this trip, book it early because the good guides go fast.

End of the Line

Another stellar season is mostly in the books here at Montana Fishing Outfitters and we want to thank all our great anglers and guides for making it happen. It was a bit drier than we like, but overall it was a pretty darn good fishing season, and as we put our trout into their beds for their winter slumber they are looking healthy and happy.

They next couple months here are focused on wrapping up the fishing season, reconnecting with friends and family, chasing birds, elk and the first powder days of the ski season. Hopefully it stacks up deep this winter, and the storm raging out our window today looks like a good start.

We are also looking forward to the 2016 season and all the great fishing fun it will bring us in the near future. Our spring season kicks off in a mere 18 weeks, and it has become our favorite period of the year for many reasons, but mainly because it's awesome. Our Spring Special will be in effect once again so you can sample our early season trout on the discount.

Have a great holiday and harvest season, enjoy your time with loved ones, and get your ducks in a row for your next angling adventure. The next season will be here before we know it, and we're here to help you put together a fantastic trip. 

Garrett and Pat
406.431.5089 ~ 406.439.4545

Think You Have What It Takes?

Then you should consider attending a Montana Fishing Guide School session soon.

Our October session wrapped-up a few weeks ago and the fishing and weather were great—Blue Wings and flip-flips…only in Montana! The 2015 October session marked our third year in operation and we're still chugging with more sessions planned for next year.

We started the Montana Fishing Guide School with one goal in mind: to put the best possible guides on the water. In three years, we’ve done that and more. What started as a concept to improve on existing guide schools has grown into nearly a half-dozen weeks a year. In 2015 we saw the guide school grow exponentially. Feedback from attendees, instructors, and our guest lecturers has been overwhelmingly positive: “this was the best week ever.” Our 2015 guide school calendar began with ten attendees for our March session. We fished the Bozeman-area and the Missouri River all three weeks. Demand for our March session was so high we quickly filled our April session and that one filled so fast we scheduled a May session. Our October session was Bozeman and Big Sky based, and we fished the Paradise Valley Spring Creeks, the blue ribbon rivers, and some secret spots.

To date, the Montana Fishing Guide School has trained dozens of new guides, but we’ve also helped dozens of anglers become that much more proficient in catching trout and rowing a drift boat. For 2016 we’ve expanded our schools to over two sessions a month starting in March and running through May.

 Visit our website for all of the information. And, remember the guide school makes a perfect Holiday Gift for that aspiring guide or expert angler in your life. Tuition will rise in 2016, so be sure to reserve your spot before rates go up.

'Tis the Streamer Season: It Is Finally Here

Here are some tips to help git ‘er done with the big bugs.

You must learn to double-haul. This advanced cast is crucial to success in the streamer game. It adds line speed to your cast, which makes fishing large, weighted flies easier.

Always keep your hand on the line. When streamer fishing, your line hand is crucial. The line hand is the hand holding the line, not the rod. This will help you keep “in touch” with your fly.

Learn to cast further. Distance casting is essential when streamer fishing and this brings us back to the double haul. Being able to air it out fifty or sixty feet can be very effective because you can cover a lot of water.

Adjust your gear arsenal. Longer, heavier rods make casting big flies easier. The rod selection of a streamer fiend will include six and seven weights in lengths of 9’6” and 10’.

Strip-set with conviction. Use a simple strip set, and use it with purpose. When a hit occurs, violently strip the fly line and yank the rod to side. Think about driving the hook in the fish. It happens fast, but the most important thing is to strip that fly line more than moving the rod. Strip, strip, STRIP IT HARD! Get aggressive. You’re the predator going in for the kill.

Fight the fish the purpose. Large fish have a very strong sense of self-preservation and often find a way to elude capture. Be diligent and attentive to your rigging and knot tying. Manage your line carefully whether the fish is on or off the reel, don’t let line tangle disasters happen. Learn the limits of your rig and put the heat on the fish whenever possible.

Trick 'em and Treat 'em To A Release

The first high country snow of the season is right on schedule here in Montucky, and with it comes the beginning of the end of our peak fishing season. October is a month we relish here for the solitude and dramatic change of seasons. Not to mention of course, all the well conditioned trout who must get one last strong feeding cycle in before winter arrives and they go take a nice nap.

We are geared up for the final push - waders are back in the boat along with thermoses of hot coffee and lots of mayfly patterns to match the hatches. Mornings are crisp, afternoons are balmy and the scenery is unbeatable. We love October, and if you haven't experienced fall in the Rockies yourself yet, you really should. 

If you are not planning on a Big Sky visit in the next month or so then turn your attention to the spring when things will be rolling again and we'll be here to help you plan an awesome angling adventure.

Garrett and Pat
406.431.5089 ~ 406.439.4545

Casting For Recovery and Rowing For The Cure

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Here at MFO we’re always looking for ways to give back. From our long-time commitment of time and dollars to Trout Unlimited, Prickly Pear Land Trust, the Montana Land Reliance, and others, we take pride in helping others. This month is no different.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we feel like Casting Recovery and Row for the Cure are well-run organizations and deserving of your support. From retreats to single day events, both of these organizations offer many ways to support those affected by breast cancer.

For more information, visit their websites and get involved.

Casting for Recovery
Rowing for the Cure

Simple Secrets to Group Trip Planning

We have really enjoyed the fun and camaraderie of the group and corporate trips we have done the last few seasons - and we want to do more! Arranging the perfect lodging and logistics so everyone gets what they need from the trip is our strong suit, and our great guides and tremendous trout take care of the rest.

There are three secrets to success, and we're happy to share them with you:

1. Choose your crew wisely. Friends, family, couples, employees, customers; whoever it is you are inviting, be thoughtful about the mix of personalities of your group. 

2. Stay at the right spot. The river(s) and the lodge or house or hotel you choose will be the defining characteristic of your trip. Freestone or tailwater?  Fully hosted fishing lodge or a cozy house on the water with self prepared meals?

3. Choose the sensible season. If you group likes easy logistics and flip flops then come in the summer. If they like to gear up in waders and layers then come in the spring or fall.

Need more fodder to keep the wheel turning? Check out this excellent article on corporate fishing trips from the recent issue of Trout magazine.