Hungry Trout and Cold Stout: Springtime in Montana


Written by: Eric Rickstad

Right about now, we fly fishers are all but frothing to find a bit of water to fish. Though some of us may be lucky enough to live near tailwaters to fish in the winter, the first signs of spring have a different feel to them than fishing in the winter. For one, it’s nice not to have to knock ice out of your rod’s guides after every cast. I spoke with Brandon Boedecker of PRO Outfitters in Montana, and he told me about a new idea they came up with to chase away the winter blues and get out there on some of the best waters in Montana as spring hits. They call it the Pub Crawl…

PRO
On the water with PRO Outfitters guides

“Winters in Montana can start to get a little old this time of year,” Brandon said. “As February comes to an end, I am ready to hang up my skis and start getting my fishing gear organized. Spring fishing in Montana can be some of the most exciting fishing of the season. The fish seem as tired of winter as we anglers, and are ready for some warmer days and the chance to start chomping bugs on the surface again. The main Montana rivers PRO Outfitters targets in the spring are the Missouri, Clark Fork, and Bitterroot. Spring fishing brings with it the opportunity to catch some big fish on big dries. There is a great stonefly hatch known as the Skwalla that comes off on these rivers in March through May and the fish gobble them up. It makes for exciting action and shakes the rust off fast.

“We fish a lot of foam in the spring which makes for easier long drifts and it also gives the angler an opportunity to give the fly some action without fear of sinking it. Early season fishing can also be some of the best streamer fishing of the year as the water temps start to warm up and the fish start to get more aggressive. I never get tired of seeing that flash from a big brown as they thrash after a streamer. So much fun.”

Brandon had my attention, as I love fishing big surface patterns and streamers for aggressive (and big) springtime browns.

Brandon continued… “Over the course of the last few winters, and with a discerning consumption of many pints of fine assorted beers from local breweries, the guides and I came up with what we are calling Pro Outfitters Pub Crawl.”

Now I was really paying attention. Local brews and trout fishing?

brew
One of the pubs along the way

“The concept,” Brandon said, “was to determine the most effective way to put people on fish in the springtime. We decided the most important piece to the puzzle was to stay completely mobile. Weather can be unpredictable this time of year, sunny warm mornings followed by snow, and then warm again. You never know. So we have to be willing to go wherever we think the fishing will be the best. With mobility also comes the opportunity to see some different country as well as experience some Montana culture; and by culture I mean some great small-town Montana pubs, where the beer is always cold and your big brown gets bigger by the pint. So, what we do is we take clients on some of the best water for spring fishing and then, at the end of a great day of fishing, we hit one of the great local pubs for a hearty meal and some good beers. There is no better way to reflect on a day on the water than that. Our clients love it and we do too. Right now, our guides at PRO are dusting off their boats and are ready to hit the water.”

I couldn’t agree more with Brandon.

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