Blog Posts In Quality Chicks

The Lunch Guest

 Christina, newest member of the Quality Chicks, does not take lunch breaks.  Not when 25" rainbows cruise by the picnic table.

Christina showed up at the Big Hole Lodge, just her second trip fly fishing, ready to begin her journey toward mastering the sport.  Her bags weren't even unpacked before she strung up a rod and began casting practice with fellow Chick, Chris, on the front lawn of the lodge.

Over the course of the week, she caught numerous fish and even completed the Big Hole River Grand Slam, catching a grayling, cutthroat, rainbow, brookie, and brown all in one day.  On her final day of the week, guide Marc took her and three other Chicks down to the Beaverhead River.  After a productive morning, the crew spread out table clothes under a sun tent on Wheat's Pond and sat down to a liesurley lunch. Or so they thought.

Two bites into her sandwich, Christina spotted a massive rainbow cruising the shore near the tent.

She grabbed her rod and carefully flipped a crawfish pattern into the moss in front of the fish. She waited until the big bow swam within sight of her fly and she twitched it ever so slightly, just  enough to give it the illusion of a live crawfish burying itself in the moss.  BAM.  The rainbow flipped its tail and dove on the fly.  As soon as it felt the hook it was running across the lake like a bonefish, peeling line off of Christina's reel, and taking her well into her backing.

And then it ran back, sending Christina back-peddaling to the barbed-wire fence surrounding the lake.  Her line caught in the fence briefly, then wrapped around her legs just as the fish turned for another run. Marc saw what was bound to ensue and leapt from his lunch.  He ran to Christina, stuck out his arm, and shouted, "Grab my arm and lift your legs!"  As Christina did a one armed pull-up on Marc's arm, fellow guide, Mike, untangled the line from her feet.  All the while, the three were shuffling toward the shore as the rainbow tugged them from the other side of the line.  At this point it was unclear who had caught whom.

In the end, Christina was admiring her conquered through the lens of her underwater camera as Marc revived the fish near shore.

Congratulations on a great week!

(Photos by: Christina)

Wowzer! Quality Fish from a Quality Chick!

Cathy, of the Quality Chicks, put this 24" bruiser in the boat right out of the gate with Chuck Page on Monday, despite rising river conditions, drizzling rain, and cold temperatures the night before.  Great Fish!

The Real McCoy!

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Suzanne, of the Quality Chicks, with a huge spring creek brown!

"She's got it!"

Cheryl Khoury and her daughter, Caroline, arrived at Big Hole Lodge describing themselves as novice fly fishers, but it was quickly evident that they both possessed a deep rooted appreciation for the outdoors and a passion for experiencing what it has to offer.  They are well known in their sailing and horseback riding circles for their abilities and now are willing to put in the work necessary to become accomplished with fly rods.
During their stay with the Quality Chicks, Cheryl hooked and landed a 24" brown on a dry fly, an event which I consider myself lucky to have witnessed.

Motivated in part by talk of 'beginner's luck' and largely by an affinity for the sport, Cheryl worked on her cast and fly presentation and returned to Big Hole Lodge this past week in search of a great time.  With spruce moths on the water and cooperative weather conditions, Cheryl and her fellow clients filled memory cards with trophy trout.  Here are a few from her hit list which will undoubtedly quiet the Orvisnews bloggers who shouted 'beginner's luck' and have the rest of us singin', "She's got it!"

And these are just the Big Hole fish!  This hit list doesn't include the beauties she netted on McCoy Spring Creek or the Beaverhead.  

Way to go, Cheryl.   Looking forward to having you and Caroline back next summer for more big fish finding!

What a Quality Week!

The Quality Chicks. Fish tremble at the mention of their name.  For the past 19 years they have spent the off-seasons perfecting their casts and fly patterns in anticipation of their annual destination lodge retreat.   Last week I said, Big Hole Lodge is proud to again host such a passionate and engaged group of anglers. The rivers of Southwest Montana are finally coming into shape, and the trout are healthy with all of the food and water this spring.  I then warned, the fish had better be careful this week, these gals are here to fish.  The Chicks did not disappoint.  Under sunny skies they hooked fish after fish on dry flies, and into the teeth of the wind and rain they threw heavy nymphs and streamers.  Their tenacity paid off, check out the hit list:

On Thursday, a nasty hail storm washed a dirt bank into a feeder stream of the Big Hole and the fish were not looking up at all. Suzanne went down after them with a nymph below a dry and found the grandfather of the Big Hole River.  This 27" brownie has lived a full life, evidenced by its shape and the missing chunk from its tail.

Cheryl, a newcomer to the Chicks group this year, made my summer when she hooked and landed this 24 inch brown on a dry fly.  We spotted the rise, she made the cast and mend, and had the patience of a rattlesnake as she waited for that huge mouth to close around her fly.

Lisa found this beautifully colored Big Hole brown with a dry fly during a break between thunder and lightning storms.

After tirelessly throwing a streamer through the rain showers to no avail, Linda was finally rewarded with this healthy golden beauty.

Now in her sophomore year with the Chicks, Sarah has come into her own as an angler.  This 22" bow took off with all of her fly-line, and then all of her backing!  The reel vendor was a bit skimpy with the backing and Sarah had to wave the rod back and fourth like a fan at a Grateful Dead concert to tire the fish before reeling it in.

Lisa opted to have Matt hold her big fish for this photo, remembering the strength and acrobatic ability of the Beaverhead trout from her trip last year.

Just hours after boating a 27" fish, Suzanne capped her trip with a thick colorful Big Hole brown, measuring in at 24".  Two 'wall fish' in one day?!  

These photos are perfect examples of reaping what you sow.  If you are willing to put in the time to learn the necessary casts, willing to go out and pay your dues through the good times and bad, and able to keep this sport close to your heart year after year, the fish gods will smile upon you.
Thank you for a great week, ladies.  Can't wait for next year!

Double Whammy!

27" Brown, the Grandfather of the Big Hole

24" Brown in the rain

Suzanne, co-founder of the Quality Chicks, boated a 27" brown and a 24" brown today on the Big Hole.  We woke up to thunder and hail at 6:00am, which quickly turned to pouring rain. Expectations were low for the final day of the fishing week.  The hail and rain blew out a bank on Deep Creek, turning the Big Hole into a milk-chocolate color. The rain lasted through the morning and into the early afternoon. Three miles into the float, with Chuck Page at the oars,  Suzanne hooked into a monster.  This 27" male trout is most likely very old and looks to have been in a battle with an eagle or osprey, judging by the missing tail chunk.
Despite the conditions, she hooked into and landed a fat 24" male just a few hours later!  Two fish of a lifetime in one day on the Big Hole River, congrats to Suzanne and Chuck.

24.5"! Quality fish from a Quality Chick!

Happy client, happy guide, beautiful fish! photo: Caroline Khoury

Cheryl, of the Quality Chicks, had been working hard on learning the techniques of fly casting all morning. She was finally turning her leader over consistently by after lunch, when we saw an unassuming rise in an eddy. I rowed closer, and Cheryl made a perfect cast with a salmon fly imitation, executed a perfect mend, and BOOM!  She was soon landing this 24-inch Big Hole brown trout!

A full morning of casting practice paid off when Cheryl went out on the Big Hole and slammed this monstrous brown trout on a dry fly  photo: Caroline Khoury

Quality Chicks, Fishing Together for 19 Years

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It has been one year since twelve women, armed to the teeth with fly rods and fly boxes, took the Big Hole Lodge by storm. For one week, we were lucky enough to host The Quality Chicks’ annual retreat, an event filled with laughter and motivated by a ferocious passion for the sport. This week, their hand-tied patterns, precise casts, and "fish-on" cries return to the Big Hole Valley and it is sure to be an experience not soon forgotten.

The Quality Chicks, established in 1993, are very much an Orvis-sponsored tradition. During the winter of 1992, co-founder Carol Jo found an ad in the back of an Orvis News edition, which listed several casting classes and fly-fishing destinations. Highlighted was a women-only course to be debuted at the Orvis headquarters in Manchester, VT. It was to be led by Lori Ann Murphy, a renowned Orvis guide, and a crew of accomplished female anglers. Carol Jo had always wanted to fly fish, but learning such a difficult and intricate sport alone proved to be a daunting endeavor. Yet, she knew it was something she needed to do. Before even checking her calendar, she picked up the phone and reserved a spot in Orvis’ casting course. To this day, Carol Jo believes that phone call was life changing.

The three-day class was attended by thirty beginners, ranging in age from 20 to 60. Though a handful were there because their husbands had signed them up, the majority of the women were there to recapture childhood memories of fishing with dad or grandpa and to experience the wonders of the outdoors. The instructors were so enthusiastic, many of the women were hooked for life.

The following fall, Carol Jo signed up for a Reel Women trip to the South Fork of the Snake. In the Denver airport, she noticed another woman with a fly rod, Linda Windels. Linda was also embarking on her first all-women’s fishing adventure. The two looked around the terminal and then back to one another, not seeing anyone else in fishing attire; they walked toward each other and said, “Hey, you going fishing on the South Fork?” Thus began a lifelong friendship. Their fishing career began below the Palisades Dam, near Swan Valley, where they immersed themselves in the sport, spending the night in tents on the river and soaking up as much knowledge as possible. They turned six other Reel Women into friends and booked together for several years. “We shared a fascination about fly fishing, and something just clicked,” says Carol Jo.

In the years following the South Fork trip, the group referred to themselves as The Wannabees, because they wanted to fish with the skill of the Reel Women guides. “We each went on other Orvis trips and each time invited other women to join us originals,” says Pat, a Chicks co-founder. As their ability levels grew, the name had to change. Members Pat and Suzanne took charge and printed brightly-colored tee shirts with "Quality Chicks" boldly across the front, and The Quality Chicks were born.

Nineteen years later, their group is up to twenty members, each from diverse regions, ages, and walks of life, dedicated to the enjoyment of fly fishing and being in the wild. Linda now says, “Fly fishing is a physical and mental escape from everyday life. Stress melts away as you become totally focused on the pursuit of trout. I love the fact that no day on the water is ever the same. Catching fish is great, but the education you receive every time you go out to fish is even better. It's my passion and I can't imagine life without it.”

Two women in a boat used to be viewed as an oddity floating down the Snake or the Big Hole, but The Chicks are helping pave the way for women in a big way. “Things have changed a lot in the last 20 years. Not only are women accepted, they are encouraged,” says Linda, a Chicks co-founder. She remembers starting out as a Chick, “I used to drive myself an hour to the South Platte River to fish at least once a week. I wanted to learn all I could as fast as I could and that seemed the best way to do it. I was almost always the only woman on the river, and if I was in a good spot there would be at least one man who would edge in next to me, cast over my line and try to run me off. They could see I didn't know what I was doing and thought they could intimidate me. I always held my ground, but was very uncomfortable. After a while, I improved and they started leaving me alone, but I swore then that if I could ever help another woman who wanted to learn to fish I would do it.” She credits early fly fishing promoters Joan Wulff, Lori Ann Murphy, Rhonda Sapp and Donna Teeny as women who had major influence on her, all of whom she has now had the opportunity to fish with. She hopes that she has been able to encourage and help women in some small way, but she has undoubtedly done both in a big way. Linda is the glue that holds The Quality Chicks together, organizing annual trips, introducing new members, and tirelessly tying gorgeous fly patterns for members throughout the winter.

Today, the Quality Chicks can proudly say they have climbed down canyons and crawled back up them, fished with frozen fingers and ice forming on their rods, and embraced every experience with each other. The thought of fishing together the following year brightens many a winter’s day. “We never expected we would be so lucky to still be fishing with this group, nor did we expect to meet so many women interested in fly fishing who are now fellow Chicks,” says Pat. “I love the Quality Chicks who come in after a full day of fishing and never come in to announce the number they caught but are more focused on the great day they hope you had, regale us with the tales of the fun they had, the one that got away, and the marvelous cast their partner made that produced a beautiful fish that was put back in the water for the next guy or gal to catch.”

Big Hole Lodge is proud to again host such a passionate and engaged group of anglers this season. The rivers of Southwest Montana are finally coming into shape, and the trout are healthy with all of the food and water this spring. But they’d better be careful this week. These gals are here to fish.