Blog Posts In missouri

2014 Preview: Your Own Room, Fresh Faces and a Fresh Look!

ImageWith another snowstorm bearing down on Southwest Montana, I thought it would bolster my mental fortitude to write about fly fishing.  I’ve been tying steelhead patterns to use on the Salmon River next month for the early spring run. This has helped abate the extreme cabin fever all of us in the Big Hole Valley seem to contract about this time each winter, although this winter has been different than most. I think that could be an understatement for just about anywhere in the country, but I make the motion with great enthusiasm that its time to start thinking about big brown trout and beautiful rivers like the Big Hole, Beaverhead and Bitterroot.

“I still don’t know why I fish or why other men fish, except that we like it and it makes us think and feel.”
Roderick L. Haig-Brown
A River Never Sleeps (1946)

Tight Lines,
Craig Fellin

Our season starts with an early pre-runoff 4 night/3 day fly fishing package (see rates) from April 29-May 2nd. The water level on the Big Hole is usually ideal at this time and the trout are hungry after a long, cold winter. Expect to fish nymphs and streamers in the morning and skwala stonefly and blue winged olive dry fly patterns in the afternoon. Very few people are on the river at this time and the trout haven’t seen many flies yet. This is also a great time to be on the Missouri River, which is well known for its prolific blue winged olive hatches in April and May and superb dry fly fishing.

Big Hole Lodge will be hosting its 2nd annual Spey Casting Clinic with Larry Aiuppy on May 3-7. Larry is the only certified spey casting instructor in Montana and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the event. For me the spey cast is like watching a well-balanced and well-timed golf swing or even a ballet as some would compare. Granted the cast is meant for large salmon/steelhead rivers but there are also trout applications with the shorter spey or switch rods, fishing streamers or soft hackles in the surface film. This is a 4 night/3 day package for $2,630 per person based on double occupancy and guaranteed to jump-start your fly fishing season.


We have changed our total capacity at the lodge from twelve down to eight guests. We still plan on accommodating larger intact groups of 10-12 by special request, but the norm will be eight guests per week. There are several reasons why we made the change, but primarily it will allow each guest to have their own bedroom.  We heard so many tales of guests not being able to sleep because their roommate kept them awake at night, so now your worries are over and you’ll be able to sleep to your heart’s content. We also feel that we can give more attention to the individual at our lodge with the lower capacity and be able to deliver a quality experience that exceeds all expectations. Your satisfaction has always been our utmost concern and now we’ll be able to give you even more attention than before.

We have also replaced a lot of the furniture around the lodge with plush leather armchairs and sofas that we think you’ll really enjoy. The outdoor furniture has also been replaced with cedar Adirondack chairs that will make your cocktail hour even more enjoyable as you gaze at the majestic Pioneer Mountains surrounding the lodge.  We now have Verizon cell phone service at the lodge limited to the dining room and the deck adjoining the dining room.

We have a new guide in our line-up, Rudy Ketchum, whom I think will be a great addition to our team. Rudy grew up in Butte and has fly fished the Big Hole most of his life. He has an MBA and has installed healthcare software in hospitals for the past 22 years. Rudy has two sons and a daughter and looks forward to spending more time with his family and guiding our clients on the Big Hole. We also have a new guide for the Missouri River, Russ  Dobrzynski, who lives in Craig, MT and fishes and guides on the river year round.  Russ will be our Missouri River expert and loves to hunt those trophy brown trout that the river is known for. This is an overnight trip and requires advance reservations so please call us if you’re interested. The additional fee for the Missouri trip is $200 per person. My son Wade will finish law school and sit for his bar exam in late July. After what will be a much-needed vacation, he’ll return to our guide roster in late August and be with us each summer going forward.


With all the snow we’ve been getting, the Big Hole should have great flows this summer and allow our guides to float their boats with relative ease through September. The snowpack going into March is 145% of normal which is fantastic! We still have some excellent weeks available in July, August and September that should offer some of the best fishing we’ve had in several years with the healthy flows that are predicted for the latter part of the season.

As an Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing Lodge and being one of the premiere lodges offered by Frontiers Travel, we are proud to have hosted fly fishing trips for our guests for over 30 years.  Please give us a call soon and we can talk Montana trout fishing! This is shaping up to be a very special year and we don’t want you to miss it.

(406) 832-3252

Dry Fly on the Missouri

A must watch video from Sharptail Media on Dry Fly Fishing the Missouri.


Running From the Law

 Classes ended last week at the University of Montana School of Law and students were expected to lock themselves away in the library cubicles for seven days of "reading week".  The vast majority of these students chose the UMSL because of its location on the Clark Fork river, in the heart of one of the West's most happening hangouts for outdoor enthusiasts.   After sitting inside and furiously taking notes for the past five months, the thought of spending another day inside was unbearable.

Tom Murphy, a Great Falls boy raised on the Missouri River, called me after our last class and said we were going fishing.  Most of the state's rivers were blown out, but we had heard that the midge hatch on the Mo was going off.

I awoke to the sound of rain on Wednesday morning and by the time Tom and our fellow classmate Paul, an avid fisherman from New Mexico, picked me up, the temp had dropped below freezing.  We ventured up the Blackfoot through the snow storm with smiles on our faces and long-johns under our  rain coats.  Thankfully, the storm broke by mid-afternoon and we were all overdressed.

On our way up the Missouri from Craig, we saw fish after fish rising and assumed the campers and guides would be elbow to elbow up at the dam.  To our surprise, there was no one on the water!  Paul wasted no time tying on a small adams and clambered down the bank below three rising rainbows.  He must have landed seven fish before having to move his feet.

While I was snapping shots of Paul's fish, a victory yell rang out  upstream.  I turned to see Tom grinning from ear to ear with a big rainbow on.

By the time I reached him, he had released his fish. I asked him about the size and species and he replies, "Put that damn camera down and grab your rod!"

I took his advice and landed 3 fish on a size 18 parachute adams.  The dam above us was a gorgeous sight with the massive column of water coming over the top of the spillway.

We couldn't have been happier to be out on the water and away from the flickering glow of fluorescent classroom lights.

The first day of Reading Week was undoubtedly spent reading, but we were reading the body colors of mayflies, the pockets behind rocks, and the current lines of the Missouri River.  We headed down to Great Falls for a famed Mrs. Murphy meal at Tom's house with plans to hit the river again the next day en route back to Missoula for finals preparation.

Midges on the Mo'

photo: Ian McDonald

The Missouri is HOT right now.  The sunshine was great this weekend, but it definitely brought some snow down.  Most of the rivers are blown out for a while, but the Missouri is in great shape and fishing extremely well on midges (pictured above) and blue winged olives when the clouds roll in.  The Midges are coming off the last 2 hours of the day, so sleep in!

A couple of links you ought to check out:

Big Hole River:

  • Water Flow: 1,210 cfs
  • Water temp: 40 degrees
  • Visibility: 2 feet
  • Fishing: Good!  The temps are supposed to reach the mid-sixties today which may bring down some meadow snow in the upper valley, the water may discolor over the weekend, but I wouldn't be afraid of fishing big stone fly nymphs.

And now a couple of links you might enjoy:

A man catches a fish of a lifetime on the Missouri River yesterday:  Monster Rainbow interviewed me for Trout Bum of the Week:  Orvis Trout Bum