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Reel Time on The Road: Montana’s Big Hole and Beaverhead Rivers

This post is a Reel Time column I write for the Anna Maria Island Sun.

When Robert Redford introduced fly fishing to popular American culture in the 1992 movie, “A River Runs Through It,” he also introduced them to the storied trout streams and rivers of Montana. Although I had been a fly fisher for some time this, like so many other anglers, was my introduction to this beautiful part of the world. Since then, over the years I have had the pleasure to fish many of the iconic trout rivers and streams in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

While I was always enthralled with the scenery that a float trip opened up to anglers, it was a trip to Oregon last year that expanded my horizons. My wife Chris and I were on the Deschutes River when we found out that you couldn’t fish from the boat there. The fishing consisted of stops to wade for trout and steelhead. What that trip taught me was to take breaks from fishing during a float to sit back and really appreciate the scenery.

When I had the opportunity to take a trip to Montana and experience some famous rivers I had never fished, I signed on. My friend, Captain Rick Grassett, has been leading trips to Montana every year for the past two decades and this year I joined him on the trip. This was an opportunity to fish the Beaverhead and the Big Hole Rivers near Dillon, Montana. The group was hosted by Dave King of King Outfitters and stayed at the Hansen Ranch, a working cattle ranch, an hour southwest of Dillon. Over five days we fished various sections of both rivers as well as a day on a private section of the Beaverhead that included a spring creek. Not only did we have wonderful fishing, but we were also treated to some spectacular scenery and wildlife only available during a float. I did my share of catching wild rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout but also took breaks to just sit back and take in the scenery and the moose, wild turkeys and mule deer that were visiting the river to drink.

We fished dry flies with nymph droppers which gave us a chance at explosive surface strikes from aggressive trout but also allowed us to explore the deeper sections of the river where trout feed on various stages of insects that develop there. My largest trout, a 22” brown, was taken on the private section of the Beaverhead and attacked my hopper imitation with a vengeance. We were alternately guided by King and Dan Allen on our drifts and they provided excellent instruction in reading the river and working the fly line to deal with the various seams and back eddies, to create a natural drift for our flies.

The days of fishing were the highlight of the trip followed closely by the appetizers and meals we enjoyed back at the lodge courtesy of Annie Waltz Kubicka. Kubicka prepared food that combined eye and palate appeal, a consistent topic of conversation and praise from the group.

If you haven’t experienced the fishing and scenery along one of America’s wild rivers, I highly recommend it. Grassett runs yearly trips to Montana. For more information and to experience this fantastic fishery, contact him at 941-350-9790. Contact King Outfitters at 406-596-0209 or visit his Facebook page at King Outfitters. Next week Yellowstone and the Madison River Valley.