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Fly Fishing Tips and Tricks

Montana Casting Co. News & Blog

Recent Posts
  • Caring for Your Fly Fishing Rod

    Caring for your Fly Rod

    If you’re new to fly fishing, there’s a lot to learn: casting, knots, reading the water, setting the hook… But caring for your new equipment is just as important if you want to have it around for years. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you’re handling your rod both on and off the river:

    Fly Rods Being Kept Off the Ground in the Willows
    If there are willows along the riverbank, they can help you keep your gear safely off the ground.

    Cleaning Your Fly Rod (and Other Gear!)

    After getting home from a weekend of fly fishing, cleaning your gear might (understandably) be the last thing on your mind. But a fly rod is an investment—one that’s meant to last a lifetime, assuming you take proper care of it.

    Cleaning your rod can be as simple as running some fresh water over it after a day of hard fishing. Take a moment to look the ferrules over, removing any sand, dirt, or mud that might’ve gotten trapped inside. You can keep the threads of your reel seat clean and free of debris by wiping it with a soft cloth. All told, this process adds a few extra minutes to the end of the day—and the longevity of your fly rod is well worth it.

    Keep in mind that cleaning your rod becomes extra important after fishing in a saltwater environment. Without proper washing and maintenance, saltwater will lead to corrosion (and ultimately the breakdown) of your fly rod and other gear.

    It’s also a good idea to wax your fly rod a few times each season, especially before storing it for a long period of time. We like to use Riley’s Rod Wax or Pledge; just make sure you don’t get any wax on the male ends of the ferrules. Waxing your fly rod will increase your casting distance and make your rod look new again!

    Rookie Moves to Avoid

    Rookie move #1: Laying your rod on the ground. Always find a place to prop it up or ask someone to hold it. People, dogs, horses, etc., are used to walking on sticks. They are not used to walking around with fly rods lying on the ground.

    Fly Fishing Rods on Vehicle Windshields

    Rookie move #2: Propping your fly rod upright next to any door—house and car doors are a fly rod's Grim Reaper! If you are around a vehicle, just lift the windshield wiper and set your rod on the windshield while holding it in place with the wiper.

    Rookie Move #3: Putting your fly rod in the bed of a truck and slamming the tailgate on it or letting the rod get into the tailgate joint where it closes against the body of the truck. Be careful around tailgates. Yes. We’ve all driven down a dirt road with a fly rod in the bed of the truck leaning out over the top of the tailgate, but do it properly—don’t be a Rookie!

    Rookie Move #4: Holding your rod anywhere other than the handle. Fly Rods are designed to have a full flex from the handle to the tip. If you hold the rod somewhere along the body while lifting a fish for a picture, for instance, there’s potential for the rod to flex in ways it’s not supposed to. That flexion can leave it vulnerable to snapping above the point where you’re holding the rod.

    Ferrules

    When assembling the rod, it's vital to ensure the alignment dots are correctly matched before firmly pushing the pieces together. If you push the pieces together tightly and then twist to align the dots, you risk damaging the rod. Fly rods are designed to flex up and down—not for twisting pressure.

    Assembling a Fly Fishing Rod

    Loose ferrules are another cause of broken rods. If they are not fitted snuggly together, the flexion of the rod is again disrupted, placing undue stress on that connection point. Loose ferrules are generally caused by not being tightened down effectively, though dirt and grime could also be preventing the ferrule from fitting together properly. As mentioned above, avoid waxing the ferrules—this will cause the ferrule to slide apart when casting.

    If you ever find yourself struggling to pull the ferrules apart, there’s a few simple steps you can take. Get the ferrule as cold as you can. Wrapping it in an ice-filled towel or zip-lock bag often does the trick. Once it’s nice and cool, try to pull the sections straight apart. We recommend using rubber gloves or something with a similarly grippy surface. This will help prevent your hands from sliding and damaging guides. Using two people can also be helpful, but be sure to keep the rod straight to avoid damaging it. Whatever method you decide to use, always avoid excessive force!

    And lastly, don't forget, we have a Father's Day Sale running right now through June 16th: 25% Off All Fly Rods!

    Questions? Comments? Tales of your own rookie fly fishing mistakes? Tell us about them in the comments section below!

    Caring for Your Fly Fishing Rod

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  • Our Kit Series: Montana's Upper Missouri River

    Fly Fishing in Four Seasons

    The Missouri is open to fishing year-round in Montana, so you have four very distinct seasons to enjoy. We tend to frequent the section of water north of Holter Lake Dam and south of Hardy Bridge. That said, there’s plenty of great fishing elsewhere along its length.

    This article will dive into what we like to have on hand for fishing north of Holter Lake. Regardless of the exact location you choose to go fishing, however, fly fishing the Mighty Mo will requires a season-specific bag of tricks.

    Spring Fly Fishing

    Early spring generally means low flows and cold-water temperatures… And that makes for sluggish fish in deep-holding water. Because they’ll be holding in slow water, they’ll also have plenty of opportunity to look over your presentation. Good quality fluorocarbon like Montana Casting Co. Conceal or Emerger tippet is essential.

    Your fly box will need flies that get down into the deep water quickly. Perdigon patterns with a tungsten bead head will sink fast and are a must-have on the Mo. You’ll also want an arsenal of bright-orange or hot-pink, bead-head flies (Hot Heads), as well as scud or sowbug patterns. Adjust your strike indicator to get the correct depth, and use some non-lead split shots to help get those flies down fast.

    Fly Fishing from a Drift Boat on the Missouri River
    Fly fishing the Montana's Missouri River in spring. 

    In late spring, we finally start to see glimpses of summer, but don’t be fooled; winter can (and will) rear its head at the drop of a hat. We often say that if you don’t like the weather in Montana, wait five minutes—it will change. This is especially true in the spring, so plan accordingly.

    In between the occasional sleet-storm, warm, sunny days will start to increase water temperatures and runoff from snow melt. The runoff, in turn, further increases the water temperature, and the sleeping river comes to life. Aquatic insects will start to move, emerge, and hatch—mostly midges, mayflies, and baetis, so you’ll want to have some small black to dark olive dries on hand. Nymphing will still be the mainstay using Perdigons, Hot Heads, and scud or sowbug patterns. That said, don’t be afraid to try a Juju Baetis and similar patterns. The fish will be much more active, looking for food throughout the river.

    Summer Fly Fishing

    Hot days mean caddis and epic Trico (callibaetis) hatches, followed by a cold drink and dinner at Izaak’s restaurant in Craig. This time of the year, bring plenty of sunscreen and fly floatant (but remember that sunscreen should not go on your line).

    Fly Fishing the Missouri River from a Drift Boat
    The Montana Casting Co. family on a summer fishing trip.

    During the heat of the day, use terrestrials: ants, hoppers, and beetles. Sinking a hopper just barely under the surface while running it through a fast, foot-deep riffle is often too tempting for a trout to pass up. That said, the real magic is worked with Tricos and caddis in the mornings and evenings—it’s a fish-wrangling marathon. Make sure to have plenty of sowbugs, scuds, jujus, and frenchies on hand as well. Summer is a great time to try out different techniques—you’ll likely find success with almost all of them.

    Fall Fly Fishing

    Days get shorter, the water starts to cool, and the browns start to move towards spawning grounds. Fall is still a great time to fish dries and nymph rigs, but the real star of the show is the streamer! There are many exotic streamer patterns to choose from—Mini-Dungeon, Balanced Leeches, and Wolley Buggers, to name a few. Make sure you have a good selection of Parachute Adams and callibaetis on hand in case you happen to hit a warm day with a good hatch coming off. If you’re nymphing, keep throwing the sowbug and scud patterns and try some worm patterns and a Copper Johns or a Pheasant Tail.

    Woman Fly Fishing from a Pontoon
    Fly fishing Montana's Missouri River in early fall.

    Similar to spring, the Montana fall tends to vary widely in terms of weather. You might be fishing the 80-degree remnants of summer or squinting into the wind of winter’s first snowy spat. Layers and sun protection are a must!

    Winter Fly Fishing

    Once again, cold water temps mean sluggish fish in deep water. This time of the year, you’ll want primarily small wet flies for nymphing: scuds, Pill Poppers, sowbugs, and Zebra Midges. This time of the year, I like to allow my flies (along with some no lead split) to tap across the bottom of the river during the casting drift.

    If you manage to time it right and hit a 40-degree day in December or January, don’t be afraid to take a short float. Bring a Jetboil for ramen and hot toddies and a Mister Heater for warmth. Heated socks and a good warm coat are also highly recommended!

    Our kit for the Upper Missouri:

    • A 4 or 5 wt Montana Casting Co. fly rod for spring and summer AND a 6wt in the fall for streamers
    • The Lite or Elite Reel with the Dearborn fly rod OR Envy or Elite Reel with the Warm Springs fly rod OR the Lite or Envy Reel with the Craig fly rod
    • MC-40 Fly Line for dries OR MC-30 fly line for nymphs OR MC-38 fly line for streamers
    • 7.5 ft 5X leader for nymphs and streamers or 9 ft 5 OR 6X leader for dries
    • Conceal tippet for nymphs and streamers OR emerger tippet for dries
    • Micro swivels, non-lead split and some indicators for nymphing
    • Sunscreen
    • Warm layers (especially for fall, winter, and spring)
    • Flotant
    • Seasonal fly box
      • Spring: Perdigons, Hot Heads, scuds, sowbugs, black or olive dries, Juju Baetis
      • Summer: Flotant, Tricos, Caddis, terrestrials, sowbugs, scuds, jujus, and frenchies.
      • Fall: Streamers, Parachute Adams, callibaetis, Pheasant Tail, scuds, sowbugs, and worms
      • Winter: Scuds, Pill Poppers, sowbugs, and Zebra Midges

    As ever, we encourage you to drop in at the local fly shops wherever you visit—they’ll have the most up-to-date information on what’s getting the fish to bite and they’re also a great resource for stocking up on any last-minute supplies. Happy fishing!

    Don’t forget to leave your thoughts, questions, and fishing stories in the comments below!

    Our Kit Series: Montana's Upper Missouri River

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  • Reflections on a Weekend Fly Fishing Among Women (Part 3)

    Note: This is the third in a three-part series on a women's fly fishing clinic that took place in April of 2024 on the Upper Missouri River. Need to catch up? Read part one and part two.  

    Why Fly Fishing?

    Over the course of preparing to write this article on the women’s fly fishing clinic, I had the chance to interview several of the individuals involved to hear about their experiences with the clinic and beyond. There was one question I asked all of them: “Why fly fishing?” I found their answers inspiring, so I decided to share them below:

    The co-founder of Wolf Creek Angler and a dedicated fly fisherman, Jason’s immediate response was “Is there anything else?” While he doesn’t begrudge other anglers their fun with conventional gear, for Jason there is only fly fishing. “I love the artistry of the sport and the soul stirring fulfillment I get out of my hours spent in solitude with a fly rod in hand.” As for the guiding, starting a fly shop, running skills clinics, and supporting projects like Mending Waters (a program dedicated to helping veterans and active military personnel find healing through fly fishing)… He loves giving others the chance to find that love for themselves.

    Women Fly Fishing from a Drift Boat
    Drifting the Missouri on a gorgeous afternoon. 

    Shalon had to pause and think for a moment. “That’s a good question. I’m not sure I know the answer. I really like the intricacies of it. I’ve developed an addiction to flies… I love looking at the patterns and I love doing seines.” Seine, in this context, refers to a small, fine-meshed net that is used to capture a sampling of aquatic insects in a river or stream—a handy tool if you’re unsure which fly to use. In the end, though, it’s really the whole package for Shalon. The romance. The challenge of wrangling a fish or working on her cast. “I’m always learning something new,” she remarked over the phone, and there’s something deeply beautiful in that. As for attending the clinic—surrounded by a group of boisterous, supportive, adventure-hungry women—Shalon admitted that, “It’s one of the more meaningful trips I do all year… And that’s worth something.”

    Madeleine, who spent much of her life hopping across the central and eastern United States, is often too busy catering to fly fishermen when the weather’s good to do much of it herself. She stumbled upon the job posting at Hidden Canyon Lodge by chance back when it was first opening. She landed an interview. The interview led to a cooking demonstration… “And I was moving to Montana.” Since then, she’s gotten to embrace her passion for cooking while working alongside stellar people in a truly scenic part of the state.

    The job comes with its share of challenges—power outages, septic issues, boulders falling on propane tanks from the looming cliffs above… These all come part and parcel with working in a remote river canyon, but so do the grand views, the constant susurrus of the river, and the opportunity for solitude. “Living by myself in winter… It puts you strangely in tune with things. I can step outside and know whether a rustle is a bobcat or a bear.” Madi hopes to do more fly fishing in the future and sees events such as this clinic as a turning point for the industry. “Men, when they’re new to the sport, there’s more of an aggressive attitude,” she reflected—and I could hear her smile through the phone. “Women don’t use their strength as much. I think they’ve got more natural finesse when learning to cast.”

    Reeling in a Trout with a Craig Fly Rod
    Cat Joyner fights a trout on her Craig Fly Rod. 

    Finally, I asked my mom (Cay Joyner), wondering if her fourth outing with this group of women has had any impacts on the way she sees fly fishing.

    She came to fly fishing later in life, largely through meeting and falling in love with my stepdad, Scott. “I always thought it was beautiful to watch a truly gifted fly fisherman cast a dry on a still summer day during a hatch,” she remarked. Stepping into the sport late was intimidating. She was surrounded by skilled fishermen—all men eager to help—and it was a struggle at times to relax into the process of learning. “I think the people who are teaching you to fish always want to see you catch fish…” Which doesn’t always lend itself to patience.

    Though she picked up a lot of her skills prior, the women’s clinic gave her the confidence she’d lacked in rigging her own rod, picking her own flies, and reading the water. Now, she actively seeks time on the river, whether it be among friends and family or by herself. “Fly fishing has… provided me with another way to connect with God. Call it what you want—a connection to nature, the universe, the spiritual world, a sense of something greater than yourself. The sound of the river, the sight of the landscape around me, the color of the fish… Each new fishing experience is an opportunity to find a new connection to that side of us that longs to be connected to something better and greater.”

    Mid Canon Fishing Access Site and Boat Launch
    Morning at the Mid Canon Fly Fishing Access along the Missouri River. 

    When I try answering this question for myself, it feels like it might just be another iteration of what’s been said above. To some, fly fishing might just be one more way people have found to exist in the outdoors. But the more I learn about the sport, the more I have to admit that there’s something special to it.

    Maybe it’s like Shalon said—the romance of standing in a river, a single human being surrounded by the power of rushing water. The improbability of existing in a great big universe that you’ve somehow been lucky enough to find a tiny little nook to fish in. Maybe it’s the joy of constant discovery. Of honing old skills and seeking out new ones. Maybe it’s whooping across the river in spite of the glares from other passing fishermen because your new friend has just caught her first or second or twentieth trout.

    Or maybe it’s the literal connection of your line to something living, wriggling, fighting. Probably, it’s all of that and more.

    Holding Rainbow Trout Caught on Craig Fly Rod
    Hannah Dreesbach presenting a rainbow trout caught on a Warm Springs fly rod. 

    ...

    A final shout out to the organizers, partners, and guides who made this clinic possible: 

    Thank you to the staff at Hidden Canyon Lodge, who constantly worked behind the scenes to provide us with delicious food, pristine rooms, and friendly customer service. Thank you to our guides for sharing your endless patience, knowledge, and passion for fly fishing. And thank you to Jason, for your behind-the-scenes dedication in organizing this event. All of these wonderful people have found ways to embrace their love of fly fishing while also sharing that passion with others—check out their businesses below!

    Questions? Comments? Fly fishing stories? Share them in the comments section below! 

    Reflections on a Weekend Fly Fishing Among Women (Part 3)

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  • Reflections on a Weekend Fly Fishing Among Women (Part 2)

    Note: This is the second in a three-part series on a women's fly fishing clinic that took place in April of 2024 on the Upper Missouri River. Need to catch up? Read part one

    Saturday: Fishing through the Rain

    Women have become an increasingly important demographic in the world of fly fishing. With more and more women showing interest in the sport, it’s no surprise that businesses have started catering to them. Women-specific clothing, gear, and skills clinics have been on the rise. Shalon, Jason, and even Kara—who runs Damsel Fly Fishing with her sister, Lynae Axelson—have all jumped on the bandwagon… And that’s opened up a plethora of new opportunities for women in the area looking to get into fly fishing.

    Business ventures aside, their main goal leading up to and during the clinic has always been to provide a safe and welcoming space for participants to learn in. When I asked him what he hoped participants would take away from the clinic, Jason remarked that, “While we are, of course, focused on teaching the basics of fly fishing—tackle, entomology, casting, knots, etc.—what we’re really hoping for is an experience that is student-driven.” He also pointed to the bonds formed between participants and guides as an important aspect of the experience, believing such relationships lay the groundwork for future events and experiences tailored to participant needs.

    Saturday, the first official day of fly fishing, was a prime example of how those relationships have molded and enriched the clinic over the years. With many of the participants coming back from the previous year(s), the guides decided to move away from more classroom-style teaching and spend as much time as possible on the water giving one-on-one instruction.

    The morning presented a gloomy canvas: low clouds shrouding the green hills and craggy canyon walls along the river. The Missouri loped by the Craig boat launch in currents of steely grey and the rain began almost as soon as my mom and I stepped into the drift boat.

    Fly Fishing Drift Boats Sheltering From the Rain

    "Drying off" under the shelter of a bridge. 

    Our guide for the day was Kara. Quick, confident, and full of stories, she’s a hoot to be on the water with—and an excellent instructor. Despite the positive presence, however, I felt myself slipping back into a place of anxiety. My fingers, already stiff from the rain, fumbled with the line as I tried to remember the motions of casting, mending, and setting the hook. I’d done this before, hadn’t I? Shouldn’t I at least be passable at it?

    Five or six missed strikes later, I felt the familiar frustration of being a beginner. The rain hadn’t let up. My mom had caught several nice trout, but I knew she wanted more than anything to see me experience the thrill of catching fish… In that moment, I was sorely tempted to wallow in self-pity.

    But it dawned on me then; it’s not every day I get to be on the Upper Missouri—a land rife with dramatic scenery and wildlife. More importantly, it’s not every day I get to go fly fishing with my mom. I’d come to this clinic hoping to approach fly fishing with a different perspective and now was the time to put that into practice. So, I did. I practiced my cast. I practiced being there in the moment. I practiced fly fishing the entire day, and by the time we reached our take-out at the Mid-Canon Fishing Access, soaked and shivering, I’d caught a Missouri River Grand Slam (that’s at least one brown trout, rainbow trout, and whitefish, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term). The best part? I’d had fun doing it.

    Fly Fishermen Laughing in the Drift Boat

    Guide Kara Tripp and participant Cat Joyner laughing in the drift boat... You had to be there.

    That night, the lodge was alive with talk of all the fish that were caught. One participant hadn’t fished in forty years. That morning, she’d been nervous about picking up a rod and getting in a drift boat. Now, she sat by the fire with a mug of tea, her face split in a broad smile— “I’m so excited to get back in that boat!” There was something deeply infectious about her enthusiasm.

    Sunday: Queens of the River

    The last day started with sunshine and comradery. Rigging up our rods outside the lodge, I struck up a conversation with one of the other participants. It was her second year in attendance at this specific event, but she’s been to other women’s fly fishing clinics as well and attends a fly tying club back home. When I asked what the biggest takeaway from these experiences has been, she only had to think for a moment. “Community.”

    I chatted with a few of the other women throughout the morning, curious about their takes on the clinic. One participant pointed to the food as the highlight of the weekend—only half joking. I approached another, the older woman who was so excited to get back in the boat the day before, intending to ask her what it’s been like to fly fish again after so long. Instead, we spent a good fifteen minutes talking about some of the long-distance hikes we’d done across the pond in Europe. I couldn’t help but smile. Community indeed.

    My mom and I fished with Libby. Though there was hardly a rain cloud in sight, the day promised to be a windy one—the occasional gust through the canyon set my rig into knots more than once. Between Kara’s aid the day before and Libby’s own brand of easy-going, practical approach to instruction, I started to find a groove. Before lunch, I’d managed to double the number of fish I’d caught the day before—and it was a blast.

    Rainbow Trout Caught on Warm Springs Fly Rod

    Rainbow trout, brown trout, and white fish abounded.

    The guides kept the drift boats closer together for the last day. Though we were all focused on fly fishing, it also quickly became clear that this was not a group that shied away from being loud and energetic. Every so often, a wave of hoots and hollers announced that it was “Fish on!” in at least one of the boats. Fly fishing can sometimes be a window into the silence and solitude only nature can offer. That day, however, it was about reveling in the pure joy of wrangling fish in good company. In that moment, we were all queens of the river—and nothing could dampen our spirits.

    Women's Fly Fishing Clinic Drifting the Missouri

    Queens of the river.

    This women’s fly fishing clinic began as a way for women to find their confidence in the basic skills of fly fishing. After four years, it’s turned into a community of anglers who find mutual support and comradery in one another. “We want to continue to bring all of you in as a group of fishing friends and to continue to help you all further develop and hone your skills…” Jason told me later, adding that, “we’re also anxious to bring in new groups of beginners and start the process all over again.”

    For my part, I walked away with a newfound desire to spend more time on the river. The women’s clinic had shown me a group of anglers of all different skill levels who all engaged with the sport in different ways. Some were there to hone their skills and feel more confident fishing by themselves. Some were there because they wanted to spend a weekend fly fishing with a fun group of people. Some were there because they hadn’t touched a rod in years and wanted to give it another go. For a long time, I’ve avoided fly fishing because I felt I guilty that I didn’t love the sport as much—or perhaps in the same way—as the avid anglers all around me. I realize now that I might’ve been missing the point.

    ...

    We'll be dropping part three of this three-part series next week, so stay tuned! In the meantime, a shout out to the organizers, partners, and guides who made this clinic possible:

    Thank you to the staff at Hidden Canyon Lodge, who constantly worked behind the scenes to provide us with delicious food, pristine rooms, and friendly customer service. Thank you to our guides for sharing your endless patience, knowledge, and passion for fly fishing. And thank you to Jason, for your behind-the-scenes dedication in organizing this event. All of these wonderful people have found ways to embrace their love of fly fishing while also sharing that passion with others—check out their businesses below!

    Questions? Comments? Fly fishing stories? Share them in the comments section below! 

    Reflections on a Weekend Fly Fishing Among Women (Part 2)

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  • Reflections on a Weekend Fly Fishing Among Women (Part 1)

    The Women’s Fly Fishing Clinic at Hidden Canyon Lodge

    Stepping into Hidden Canyon Lodge on a cool April evening, the first sensation I felt was one of warmth. A fire glowed in the hearth and a cozy sitting area—decked out in a tasteful hodge-podge of fly fishing memorabilia and old-timey antiques—buzzed with conversation. Drinks were being mixed behind the bar. Savory smells drifted from the kitchen. I felt my anxiety melt away immediately.

    I’d come for the fourth annual women’s fly fishing clinic hosted each year in partnership with Wolf Creek Angler—a fly shop nestled in nearby Wolf Creek, Montana. Kicking off on a Friday evening with cocktails and dinner, the weekend ahead promised plenty of fly fishing, good food, and—of course—the company of my fellow female anglers.

    Fly Fishing Montana's Upper Missouri River from a Drift Boat
    Montana's Upper Missouri River has many moods, all of them beautiful.

    I grew up in Helena, Montana, a stone’s throw from one of the world’s premier blue-ribbon trout fisheries: the Missouri River. These days, I work for Montana Casting Co., writing about fly fishing for a living. Those two facts always seem like they should be connected, but in truth I’ve never really considered myself an angler until recently.

    It wasn’t for lack of trying on behalf of my parents. When I was little, my father put a fly rod in my hand at every opportunity—and he was endlessly patient. When I was older, I was lucky enough to meet a step-dad who never missed a chance to take the drift boat out and who spent his spare time building custom fly rods. In recent years, my mom has also become an avid angler. Now she rarely heads for the mountains without her fly rod handy.

    In short, I was surrounded by people who loved fly fishing. I could see their passion for it and the excitement to share it with me. Because I didn’t want to disappoint them, I fished when they asked me to go fishing… But I never felt confident fishing alone, and that meant, despite years of off and on exposure, I was still very much a beginner every time I picked up a fly rod. And that was frustrating.

    When the option to attend a women’s fly fishing clinic arose, I was nervous. I could feel old insecurities circulating in the back of my mind: what if I looked unpracticed? What if they noticed I was a “fake” fly fisherman? I already felt hesitant about the sport and I wasn’t sure I could match their passion or excitement for a weekend on the water. But there was also a feeling of anticipation. Perhaps this time around, I could discover what it might feel like to fly fish for myself.

    Friday Night: Cocktails and Catch-Up 

    Hidden Canyon Lodge is roughly a ten-minute drive from the fly fishing mecca of Craig, Montana. Tucked into an offshoot of the Missouri River canyon, it’s a few short strides from the Mountain Palace Fishing Access Site along Old U.S. Highway 191.

    Modern luxury hides a storied past: built in the early 1900s, it began as the Mountain Palace Tavern—a once bustling stop-over for travelers between Helena and Great Falls. “Anyone over fifty still knows it that way,” Madeleine Cantoni, manager and executive chef, told me with a laugh during a phone call following the clinic.

    Since the 1970s, it’s seen a stint as a biker bar, a period as the Fly Fisher’s Inn, and several years of dormancy before it was finally bought in 2016 by current owners Peter and Patricia Wooldridge. Heavy renovation and restoration of the original cabin structure resulted in a luxurious, Montana getaway perfectly suited to the fly fishermen who flock to the Missouri year after year.

    Long days in the outdoors don’t always lend themselves to the cleanliest of clientele—but you wouldn’t have known it given the sparkling state of Hidden Canyon Lodge’s beautiful rooms. I dropped my bags beside a luxurious queen bed. Between the clean and comfy furnishings, heated bathroom tiles, fully stocked Keurig, and a generous handful of Werther’s Original candies, I was half tempted to spend the rest of my evening relaxing in the confines of my room.

    Alas, that queen bed would have to wait. I stepped out into the crisp evening air and headed for the main lodge. It was time to say hello to the ladies.

    Sundown at Hidden Canyon Lodge Along Montana's Missouri River
    Sundown at Hidden Canyon Lodge along Montana's Upper Missouri River. 

    The core group of women who attend this particular fly fishing clinic hasn’t changed too much since the first clinic in 2021. The end result feels more like a family reunion than a random gathering of individuals looking to improve their fly fishing skills. The introductory cocktail hour is filled with hugs and stories from the year past—but they’re not the only familiar faces. Three of the weekend’s four guides trickled in as the evening progressed: Libby Stultz, Kara Tripp, and Shalon Hastings—who’s been with the clinic from its very inception.

    There’s still a relatively limited number of female guides on the river, so getting enough of them to lead this clinic annually is one of the challenges Jason Orzechowski (co-founder of Wolf Creek Angler and owner of Iron Fly Outfitting) and Shalon face each year when organizing the event. “We do have other female guides on the river,” Shalon told me later, “but they’re booked.” This year, they asked the cheerful and easy-going Luke Koerten to guide the fourth boat.

    Though I didn’t end up sharing a boat with Shalon, I did get the chance to pick her brain the following week during a phone call. I was interested to hear if she’s faced any challenges breaking into a community that has long been male-dominated. She took a moment to answer—she’s got a warm, thoughtful presence about her that immediately puts me at ease—then said, “It’s been great, to be honest.”

    Prior to becoming a guide, she already had roots in the fly fishing community. After owning and operating small businesses in downtown Helena for years—including the popular coffee shop Hub Coffee and Taco Del Sol—she saw a rising demand for fly fishing instruction among female anglers. In March of 2018, she helped kick off Last Chance Fly Gals, a nonprofit working to connect female anglers with community, education, and meaningful experiences. Shalon went on to start Fly FisHer Adventures (currently offering personalized instruction for women anglers in partnership with Iron Fly Outfitting) and become a certified guide, citing the support and teaching of other guides as an important factor in her success.

    Jason attended the first meeting of Last Chance Fly Gals as a sponsor. Just six years prior, he'd moved his family to Montana to pursue fly fishing as a career and embrace the outdoors lifestyle. After a year of guiding and managing a fly shop for Montana River Outfitters, he purchased the fly shop from MRO, remodeled, and opened Wolf Creek Angler in the spring of 2014. Now, WCA is a go-to source for guide services, shuttles, watercraft rentals, gear (including an impressive selection of fly patterns), river info, and great advice for making the most out of your fly fishing adventures. The idea for a women's clinic came to Jason after seeing the massive turn out for the Last Chance Fly Gals meeting, and he approached Shalon about it soon after.

    Since the first successful clinic in 2021, it’s morphed from a station-heavy course in fly fishing basics to a small community of gung-ho female anglers who reunite on an annual basis. Shalon has come to look forward to the experience each year. “I marvel at this, and it happens at other women’s clinics I do… The women just mesh.”

    That “meshing” was on full display night one around the dinner table. The initial awkwardness of getting reacquainted soon devolved into fluid conversation jumping between work drama to new puppies to exciting fly fishing adventures—many of which came from Kara’s reflections on guiding in Chile and Argentina. (The size of the trout and the force of the winds at Patagonia’s Jurassic Lake both seem truly legendary.)

    At some point, Kara posed a question to the group: “What’s been your biggest high and your biggest low from the past year?” There was a collective moment of silence before someone started laughing. “Getting right into the deep stuff, aren’t we?” But the women around that table didn’t shy away from the deep stuff. One by one, we all shared.

    The highs were beautiful—new found job satisfaction, a grandbaby on the way, an adorable puppy joining the family, or simply getting to be there for a weekend of fishing on the Missouri. The lows were hard—family members battling cancer or other diseases, difficult transitions in relationships or jobs. For a moment, we all got to see one another for the complex human beings that we are, and it was humbling.

    Example Dinner Menu at Hidden Canyon Lodge in Montana
    Example Hidden Canyon Lodge dinner menu featuring night two's feast

    The night ended with some delightful huckleberry cheesecake—the sinful punctuation to a multi-course dinner including fresh Caesar salad, spinach-stuffed chicken over pilaf rice, and hand-picked wine pairings. (I feel it’s worth mentioning that several participants throughout the weekend cited the food as a significant factor in returning to this clinic year after year. Madi takes pride in the lodge’s culinary offerings. She, along with the other chefs she manages, are encouraged to be creative…and it’s yet to disappoint.)

    Filled up on good food and good company, we all headed to bed with the promise of a wide-open river and flashing trout to lull us to sleep.

     ...

    We'll be dropping part two of this three-part series next week, so stay tuned! In the meantime, a shout out to the organizers, partners, and guides who made this clinic possible:

    Thank you to the staff at Hidden Canyon Lodge, who constantly worked behind the scenes to provide us with delicious food, pristine rooms, and friendly customer service. Thank you to our guides for sharing your endless patience, knowledge, and passion for fly fishing. And thank you to Jason, for your behind-the-scenes dedication in organizing this event. All of these wonderful people have found ways to embrace their love of fly fishing while also sharing that passion with others—check out their businesses below!

    Questions? Comments? Fly fishing stories? Share them in the comments section below! 

    Reflections on a Weekend Fly Fishing Among Women (Part 1)

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  • Let’s Get into the Weeds: Fly Lines Part 3

    Our fly line series so far...

    If you’ve kept up with the previous two posts on fly lines, then you’ve slogged through a lot of information on fly line weight, taper, and general physics. Congratulations! You’ve graduated. I hope we’ve managed to beat back some of the mystery surrounding modern fly line specifications. At the very least, you’ve got a few facts in your back pocket to school your buddies with on the river.

    If you haven’t kept up, no worries. Regardless of your familiarity with the Common Cents System (see Part 1) or the parts of a taper (see Part 2), Part 3 is meant to be a quick, user-friendly guide to Montana Casting Co. fly lines. Which line is best for you? Read on and find out.

    The lowdown on Montana Casting Co. fly lines:

    Montana Casting Company is rooted in the traditions of custom rod building. When we decided to expand from those roots, we decided to design our rods, reels, and fly lines in tandem so that each component could maximize the performance of the other. With a selection of three different fly lines in our store, you’re free to customize your line to fit your rod and the environment you plan to fish in.

    Just to be clear, our fly rods can be used with any brand of fly line. If you have a tried-and-true brand that you fall back on, use it. Our rods will cast it with ease and accuracy. That said, we’ve put a considerable amount of thought into designing three fly lines that we believe will maximize the performance of your fly rod and we encourage you to give them a try. Here’s a simple rundown of what to look for when choosing a Montana Casting Co. fly line.

    What do the names of MCCo. fly lines tell you?

    You can choose between the MC-30, MC-38, and MC-40 fly line. Your first hint at the difference between these lines is in the name. MC-30, for instance, indicates that the tapered head of the fly line is in the first 30 feet. Additionally, there will be a number following the name of the general model to specify line weight; MC-306 refers to a 6 wt MC-30 line. As stated earlier, you’ll generally want to match the line weight to the weight of your fly rod.

    When should I use the MC-30 fly line?

    The tapered head of this fly line is in the first 30 feet, making this an aggressive weight-forward line. If your current fly rod is fast action and you're having trouble loading the rod, try this line; you’ll really feel the difference. This is also a great line for times when you’ll be consistently making short casts of 30 feet or less. It’s a blast to cast!

    MC-30 Fly Line Packaging with Specifications
    MC-30 Fly Line Specifications

    When should I use the MC-38 fly line?

    The tapered head of this fly line is in the first 38 feet. That extra 8 ft adds 30 grain to your standard fly line and serves as a happy medium between more aggressive weight forward lines and lengthier tapers meant for long casts. This is a great line for your day-in and day-out fishing trips, and it will work in any condition. (It pairs especially well with the smooth, medium action of the Craig Fly Rod!)

    MC-38 Fly Line Packaging Showing Specifications
    MC-38 Fly Line Specifications

    When should I use the MC-40 fly line?

    The tapered head of this fly line is in the first 40 feet. This line fits the AFFTA standards, meaning that it is a standard taper line. Though it works well in all conditions, this line is perfect for long casts with dries to a skittish hog brown or the like. Gentle presentations are key, and the MC-40 is the right fly line for the job.

    MC-40 Fly Line Packaging with Specifications
    MC-40 Fly Line Specifications

    Get out of the weeds and get fishing!

    The question of which fly line is right for you can be a complicated one to answer. We’ve mercilessly dissected many fly lines over the years in the name of science… As a result, we’ve gotten our fly rods and fly lines to be exactly what we want them to be. That said, fly fishing is a sport of continuous learning and growth. So get out there, have fun, and experiment!

    Have questions? Want to talk shop? We’re always happy to chat. Leave a comment below, send us an email at gethookedup@montanacastingco.com, or give us a call at 406-285-1452. Happy fishing!

     

    Let’s Get into the Weeds: Fly Lines Part 3

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  • Let’s Get Into the Weeds: Fly Lines Part 2

    Digging into Fly Line Taper

    In Fly Lines Part 1, we looked at how a rod’s optimal line weight is determined using the Common Cents System as well as how additional factors (such as target species, weather conditions, and casting ability) might influence which line weight is right for you. This week’s post is all about taper. What is it? How does it vary across fly lines? Why do we care? Let’s jump back into the weeds!

    What is taper?

    In generic terms, taper refers to the shape of a fly line. Fly line shape (or diameter) usually varies throughout the length of the line. There are a few key components to a fly lines’ taper: the belly (where most of the mass is located), the front taper (the transition between the tip of the line and the belly), and the rear taper (the transition from the belly of the line to the running line). Varying the length and diameter of these different components allows for the creation of specialized fly lines.

    MC-38 Fly Line Taper Diagram

    Nowadays, there are several types of tapered fly lines, including weight-forward, double taper, shooting taper, and level line. Weight-forward fly lines are arguably the most popular, but we’ll also touch briefly on double taper lines.

    What is a double taper fly line?

    Double taper lines have a belly section that takes up most of the length of the fly line. The front and rear tapers are uniform in length and profile, and the middle of the taper is the exact center of the fly line. The idea behind this was to make your fly line last longer; once you wear out one side of the fly line, you can flip the line and use the back half just like a new fly line. Though they lack the direct power of weight forward lines, their longer, thinner tip section makes them ideal for delicate, dry fly presentations.

    What is a weight forward fly line?

    All Montana Casting Co. fly lines are designed with weight-forward tapers. As the name suggests, weight-forward lines are designed to carry most of the mass in the head of the line. A shorter, heavier belly pulls the comparatively light “running line” (or uniform, non-tapered section) forward. This makes it easier to shoot line over long distances, through windy conditions, or with a heavier, more air-resistant fly.

    When you’re shopping around for a weight forward fly line, you’ll find differences in the lengths of the front and rear tapers as well as the belly sections. These factors influence the accuracy, presentation, line control, and the overall aggressiveness of the line. Choosing the right weight forward line is often a matter of determining what balance of these features is best for the conditions you’ll be fishing in.

    For example, you might be fishing a fast-action fly rod on small rivers or creeks. You’re making short casts—30 feet or less. A shorter, more aggressive, weight-forward tapper will allow you to feel the rod load.

    If you’re fishing a buttery-smooth, medium action and you’re float-tubing on a lake, you’ll want a longer tapered head to allow for longer casts and to help prevent your line from slapping the water behind you.

    Or maybe you’re fishing with Montana Casting Co.’s “Old Blue” (the Warm Springs) and you’re looking to use it on everything from gurgling mountain creeks to big rivers and wide-open lakes. If you have a favorite rod, you’ll want to bring it everywhere—and that means you’ll want a medium taper line that can handle a variety of situations.

    How can you tell what the tapper of the fly line you're looking at is?

    Most modern fly lines have specifications online or on the packaging that inform you how long the tapper is and the weight in grains of the first 30 feet of the fly line (minus the level line). You might also see abbreviations (such as WF for weight forward lines) that tell you more about the lines. Here’s an example of what you will find on the packaging of a Montana Casting Co. fly line:

    MC-38 Fly Line Information on Packaging

    The final post in our three-part series on fly lines will cover Montana Casting Co. fly lines. We’ll talk design process, key differences, and how to decide which MCCo. line is right for your upcoming fly fishing adventures.

    Disclaimer: Yes, we’ve mercilessly dissected and weighed many fly lines over the years to get our fly rods and fly lines to be exactly what we want them to be. I know it's terrible, but it was done in the name of science!

    We’d love to answer any of your fly fishing related questions! Leave a comment below, send us an email at gethookedup@montanacastingco.com, or give us a call at 406-285-1452. Happy fishing!

     

    Let’s Get Into the Weeds: Fly Lines Part 2

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  • Getting Hooked on Fly Fishing

    The Little Brookie that Flew - A Fly Fishing Story by Hannah Dreesbach

    I was in elementary school when my father first put a fly rod in my hand. We were in the Tizer Basin, walking a small, tumbling stream pock-marked by boulders. It was the sort of place that would leave any kid itching to explore. Fallen logs became bridges across deep holes. Crowded fir trees created pockets of shadow that hid lichen-covered stones and half-decayed stumps. I could have spent the entire day roaming the woods, inventing games beneath the shade of the trees. But my dad had brought me there to fish, and so I resigned myself to the tedious task of casting a bright little dry into the water over and over again.

    I didn't think much about line placement or where the fish might actually be, even though I’m sure my dad offered wisdom on both of these subjects. For the most part, I tried to copy his movements (after all, he was actually catching fish). More often than not, I wound up with my line wrapped around an overhanging willow or snagged on a limb. The day, it seemed, was destined to be frustratingly fishless.

    I suppose Mother Nature took pity on me: between snags, I managed to hook a single brookie—so small I didn't even feel it on the end of my line. When I went to recast, it sailed out of the water, past my head, and back in—unhooking itself in the process. I let out a shout. I’d caught a fish! I was a real fly fisherman, just like my dad.

    It was a small moment in the scheme of things, but looking back, years later, I can’t help but smile. These days, I look forward to afternoons on the water, fly rod in hand, exploring the twists and turns of the river. I have my dad to thank for that. My dad and one tiny, miraculous brookie.

    Hannah Dreesbach Readies for a Day of Fly Fishing
    Hannah Dreesbach enjoys a quiet moment before a day of fly fishing. 

    Questions? Comments? A story of your own first time on the water? Share in the comments below!

    Getting Hooked on Fly Fishing

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