Orvis-Endorsed Fly-Fishing Lodge in Wise River, Montana.

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Craig & Wade Fellin

Big Hole Lodge

Phone icon406-832-3252 Email iconwade@bigholelodge.com Link iconwww.flyfishinglodge.com
36894 Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway
Wise River, MT 59762

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The Story

Big Hole Lodge has been hosting guests since 1984 and is ideally located on the banks of the Wise River in a magnificent wilderness setting. Guests stay in spacious private cabins with modern conveniences, all opening to a panoramic view of the scenic Pioneer Mountains.

The lodge is a place to relax over a glass of wine and enjoy gourmet dining with good friends and family, and also provides the opportunity to meet new friends. To the fly fisher, the Big Hole River of Southwestern Montana needs no introduction. Anglers from the world over come to the Big Hole Lodge to try their luck at catching storied rainbow and brown trout along with brook trout, cutthroat and grayling. Relax under Montana's Big Sky as you fly fish on waters you always dreamed of fishing. Here we celebrate the elegance and precision of the cast. Your guide ties one of his secret patterns on your line, and you prepare to engage in a river dance amidst natures finest. The Big Hole River, nourished by a myriad of trout laden tributaries cascading down wilderness mountainsides, gathers itself in the high meadow hay fields near the treasured ranching community of Wisdom.

On a warm summer evening as a slight breeze interrupts a spinner fall in the Jones Pool, you might hear the distant cries of the great Nez Perce' warrior named Rainbow, who fell at the Battle of the Big Hole fighting the U.S. Seventh Infantry. Early trappers, following on the heels of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, tagged the valley with its present name, the Big Hole. Although Capt. Meriwether Lewis originally named it the Wisdom River, local sentiment favored renaming it the Big Hole River. With its rich aquatic insect life and classic pool and riffle character, the Big Hole drains the Pintlar, Anaconda and Pioneer mountain ranges and is considered one of the most scenic rivers in Montana. Feast your eyes on the beauty that encompasses her as you cast to a wild brown trout sipping mayflies in the foam line on the far bank. This is one river where patience with a dry fly will be richly rewarded. Unplug and allow the river to take you far from the stresses of the modern world. Feel the warm wind at your back and the cold, sparkling water tugging at your waders. As you glance up the pool that your guide has placed you in, you notice a rise in the shadows near the sunken log. It's in front of you like a favorite painting. One cast with all the feeling and timing you can muster, and your trophy will be there to greet you with the subtlety of a morning sunrise. Please come and stay with us for a week- we'd love to have you!

Lodging, Meals, and Accommodations:

Big Hole Lodge has a maximum capacity of 12 guests. There are three cabins accommodating four guests each, one of which is a duplex cabin with two beds and a bathroom/shower on each side of the cabin.

The Pattengail Cabin is a log structure overlooking the Wise River and has two bedrooms with two twin beds in each bedroom and two separate bathrooms with shower. There is a living room area with log furniture and a kitchen with a refrigerator for drinks/ice and a table to play cards. There is also a covered front porch to sit out in the evening and enjoy the sounds of the river.

The Big Hole Cabin is the largest cabin and has four separate bedrooms and two bathrooms with shower. Two of the bedrooms have one queen bed each and the other two have twin beds. There is a spacious living room with a beautiful view and satellite TV. There is also a kitchen with a refrigerator for cold drinks/ice and a table to play cards and an enclosed front porch.

The Beaverhead Cabin is a duplex cabin accommodating two guests on either side for a total of four guests. Each side of the duplex has one queen bed and one twin bed with bathroom/shower and a small refrigerator for cold drinks/ice. This cabin has a shared enclosed front porch and an outside deck with a beautiful view.

The main lodge is a log building accented with river rock where guests come to relax over a glass of wine or beer and enjoy fine dining. There is one large hand made table of white pine and oak that seats twelve guests and the lodge owner and manager with comfortable hickory and leather chairs. There is an elevated outside deck attached to the dining room where guests can enjoy the beautiful panoramic view of the Pioneer Mountains while waiting for dinner to be served.

Our talented chef has prepared gourmet meals for fifteen consecutive seasons at Big Hole Lodge. During your stay, you might have pine-nut crusted halibut with wild rice, white peach salsa in a port wine butter sauce and finish with a ginger crème brulee for dessert. Lunch could be marinated tip roast on a fresh baked roll with Mexican corn, ending with a sweet and tart lemon bar. Fine California wines from the lodge wine cellar are included in the fishing package, along with premium beer. All food is fresh, crisp and vivid to the senses and a culinary delight.

Date Range:

Big Hole Lodge opens the first of May each year and closes the beginning of October. We will be offering a Spey casting clinic each May, led by acclaimed and certified casting instructor Lee Davison.

Sample of Typical Itinerary:

The day of arrival which is usually Saturday is a non-guided fishing day. Our guests who elect to fly into Butte on the 12:30 PM arrival are met at the airport by a lodge employee and transferred to the lodge. Most clients prefer to stop for lunch in Butte, pick up hard liquor if need be and buy a fishing license if they haven't done so at the Stonefly Fly Shop before they leave town. The drive is approximately one hour to the lodge with views of the Big Hole River enroute. After being shown to their cabins and relaxing over a cold beer or a glass of wine with a plate of crackers, hard sausage and cheese, most guests gear up and wade the Wise River for small wild rainbows and brook trout which flows through the lodge property. Novice or lower intermediate guests are invited to attend a casting lesson given by owner Craig Fellin on the lawn in front of the lodge. An orientation is given at 7:00 PM by Craig's son Wade Fellin during cocktails covering the weekly program and fishing reports and answering any questions guests may have related to their stay. A buffet dinner is served immediately after orientation and a good time is had by all.

Next morning after breakfast your guide will meet you in the fly shop in the barn which is located in the parking lot as you drive in the front gate. There is a good assortment of Orvis fly-fishing gear from leaders to Helios rods available including rental waders and rods and reels.

Our most popular fishing package has been the 6 night/5 day fly fishing package but we also offer a 5 night/4 day package and a 4 night/3 day package which are listed on our website (http://bigholelodge.com/) and the accompanying rates.

What is Provided to Customer:

Big Hole Lodge offers rental waders, rods and reels for those guests who prefer to travel light. The Orvis rental waders are $10 per day and the Orvis rod/reel combo is $10 per day. All flies used on the guide trips are included in the package price. If guests wish to purchase flies to bring home, they are available in the fly shop.

What Should Customers Bring?

    The following will help you enjoy your trip. Some of these items are available in the lodge fly shop.
  • Fly rod- 9' 5 or 6 wt. rod will cover most of the fishing situations.
  • Reel - should have a good drag system.
  • Waders - breathable Orvis style waders are best.
  • Fly fishing vest - keep extra leaders and other accessories.
  • Sunglasses - polarized sunglasses are recommended.
  • Dry fly floatant - paste or liquid.
  • Surgical forceps - for releasing trout unharmed.
  • Wading staff - for comfort, stability and safety while wading.
  • Rain jacket - recommended for each guide trip to be prepared.
  • Suntan lotion - the Montana sun is intense; use SPF 50. Lip balm is essential.
  • Fishing hat - a baseball cap is fine but a cowboy hat will protect your face and ears from the harsh sun.
  • Flashlight - for walking to and from the dining room in the evening during the months of August and September.
  • Angler's nippers - essential for trimming the tippet attached to your fly.
  • Insect repellent - mosquitoes are not typically a problem if you "grease up" and are generally gone by mid-July.
  • Leaders - Orvis 9' 4x or 5x leaders are perfect.
  • Clothing - casual wear around the lodge and at dinner; layers for the guide trip including a fleece jacket, a long sleeve fishing shirt and a raincoat.
  • Neoprene wading socks - fit over wading socks and worn inside wading boots; take the place of conventional waders when daytime temperatures get hot.

On-site Activities:

Big Hole Lodge is completely surrounded by National Forest property and there are numerous hiking trails available directly from the lodge which are well marked and maintained by forest service personnel.

The Wise River flows through the lodge property and is the main tributary of the Big Hole River. The "Wise" is full of wild rainbow, brook trout and the odd brown trout. One of the most productive pools on the river is our "Home Pool" which is where we have our western BBQ every Thursday evening, only a stone's throw from the main lodge.

There is also a 100 yd. par three golf hole at the lodge for our guests to enjoy on the day of arrival or before the BBQ on Thursday evening.

Off-site Activities:

We have a tour guide, Jane Baker, available to drive our guests to the different venues and activities in our area. Jane is the wife of Allen Baker who has guided for the lodge for over twenty years. Jane was the former dean of a local college and has a great personality and is very knowledgeable about the history of the area and what it has to offer. Some of the activities are a summer playhouse theater, art galleries, Big Hole Battlefield Museum, one of the best preserved ghost towns in Montana, shopping, a commercial hot springs with water slide and a local mining museum. Jane is also available to do day hikes with our guests. Also, there is a signature Jack Nicklaus public golf course nearby which is a links style course and very reasonable.

Species You Fish for by Season

The Big Hole River holds a wide variety of trout including the brown, rainbow, cutthroat and brook along with the arctic grayling. This is one of the last refuges for the grayling in the lower 48 states. All species of trout and grayling are wild fish and absolutely no stocking has been done in any river or stream in Montana since the 60's.

The Big Hole is a fertile river with good hatches of aquatic insects throughout the season. The well known hatches begin with the salmon fly and golden stone fly hatch in June and accompanied by the pale morning duns, green drakes, yellow sally's and caddis that extend into July. Grasshopper or hopper patterns along with ant and beetle patterns work well starting in mid-July and extend into September until the first big freeze. August brings on the tiny trico hatch which makes for some of the best dry fly fishing of the season. As fall approaches, the baetis hatch or blue winged olives emerge especially on a cloudy day.

Big Hole Lodge guides do their very best to find you fish that will come up on a dry fly and they work hard to accomplish this. Of course there are days when the fish don't cooperate and are reluctant to look up. Generally the guide will tie a nymph off the bend of the dry fly hook as a first option and this usually works but if this fails, as a last resort, he'll tie a weighted nymph and indicator on your line.

Region/Terrain Where You Fish:

A typical week of fishing at Big Hole Lodge may start with a float on the Big Hole River. The Big Hole is a mid-size river for Montana standards with classic pools and riffles. There are approximately six different floats the lodge utilizes on the Big Hole and each one has a different look and feel to it. The elevation can vary from 6,100 ft. on the upper end of the river and approximately 4,500 ft. on the lower.

Day two might find you stalking a trophy rainbow trout on a beautiful spring creek flowing through a working cattle ranch which is leased by the lodge two days each week. The owner has made a large investment in restoring the stream and making an ideal habitat for the trout to thrive in. This is a walk/wade day but extremely easy wading and a pathway is maintained next to the stream for safe walking. Hatches are plentiful on the spring creek and most of the day is spent sight casting to trophy trout. The elevation here is approximately 5,000 ft.

Day three might take you on a guided float trip on the West Fork of the Bitterroot River upstream of Darby. This is a long day and completely optional, but our returning guests enjoy seeing different water and this can be an exceptional day of fishing for westslope cutthroat, rainbows and brown trout. The West Fork is a pristine small river with an abundance of hatches and bright, cold clear water with the majestic Bitterroot mountain range overlooking you all day. The elevation of the river is 4,500 ft.

Day four might take you to the Beaverhead River, elevation 5,100 ft., near Dillon where Big Hole Lodge leases three miles of private access to the river on a working cattle ranch two days each week. This is another walk/wade trip and for the most part, very easy wading. This section of the river receives very little pressure compared to the upper section below the dam and is nourished by flows from Poindexter Slough, a beautiful spring creek owned by the Nature Conservancy which joins the river at the upstream boundary of the ranch. Large wild brown trout inhabit this stretch of river which can make for great sport. There is also a natural channel that breaks off the main stem of the river and meanders through the ranch for approximately a mile and offers superb dry fly fishing, especially during the hopper season. There is also a spring fed 20 acre lake on the ranch which holds trophy rainbow and brown trout. Fishing on the lake is mostly sight casting to these huge trout and can be a lot of fun.

The last day will probably find you back on the Big Hole River floating a different section than the previous float trip and a great way to end your fly fishing trip.

Big Hole Lodge also does walk/wade trips to the nearby upper Clark Fork River and upper Rock Creek outside of Phillipsburg. There is one more private property the lodge has an exclusive right to, which is part spring creek and part freestone. This stream, and we won't mention the name, flows four miles through a working cattle ranch and is primarily a brown trout fishery.

We also offer a horseback trip to the alpine lakes in the Pioneer Mountains near the lodge. Chuck Page and Pioneer Outfitters have been taking our guests to the high country to fish for rainbows and cutthroat since the late 80's and they do a superb job with highly trained horses accustomed to taking novice riders. This is an eight mile trip into the back country that is an incredible experience for those who enjoy an adventure.

Typical Weather by Season:

June weather is anything but consistent. The average high temperature is 71 degrees and the average night time low is 41 degrees. Rainfall average is 2.09 in. for the month. Hours of daylight approximately 13. Average hi water temperature is 60 degrees and average low is 47 degrees.

The month of July is our warmest month. The average hi temperature is 81 degrees and the average low is 46 degrees. Rainfall average is 1.19 in. for the month. Hours of daylight approximately 12 hours. Average high water temperature is 65 degrees and average low is 57 degrees.

The month of August starts to have cooler nights which are welcome. The average high temperature is 80 degrees and the average low is 44 degrees. Rainfall average is 1.24 in. for the month. Hours of daylight approximately 11. Average high water temperature is 62 degrees and the average low is 54 degrees.

September in our area is known for its cool nights and pleasant days. The average high temperature is 69 degrees and the average low is 36 degrees. Rainfall average is 1.01 in. for the month. Hours of daylight approximately 10. The average hi water temperature is 60 degrees and the average low is 45 degrees.

Do you have WiFi?

We do. The Pattengail Cabin is the only building on the property that doesn't have consistently good WiFi because of the greater distance it is from the office Linksys router. The lodge does not have cell service though unfortunately.

Do you accept credit cards?

We do accept credit cards including American Express.

How do gratuities work?

The guides prefer to be tipped directly but if you are not prepared to do so, you can include this in one check at the end of your stay along with the lodge staff gratuities if everyone performed to your expectations.

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