Read Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE. Well it’s been about six months or so since we were in New Zealand and it seems like forever ago. Time is short as we are in the midst of hunting season so there won’t be much words for this final installment but be looking for some content to roll out around the New Year. For now enjoy the photos and be looking for more here on the website and through our Instagram page.
I have always considered the 49th state of the United States to be a mecca for fishing and hunting. It’s a location that has been on my bucket list for many years now, but despite that, I’ve never taken the plunge to buy a plane ticket to, that’s right, you guessed it- Alaska! Who knew that my soon to be wife would be the one to encourage me to finally visit the Last Frontier?After a red eye flight from Montana to Alaska, and many hours in the airport, we were greeted by a small bush plane hanging from the airport ceiling in Fairbanks. After gathering our gear in baggage claim, we departed the Fairbanks Airport for the first leg of our Alaskan adventure. My fiancé, now wife, has family in Alaska and we would spend the first week catching up with relatives, visiting old mining dredges, 4-wheeling in mud bogs, whitewater rafting, and fishing for arctic grayling. The grayling fishing was like nothing I had experienced before.
On a warm, 80 degree day, we loaded up the jet boat and headed out on a small river about the size of the Upper Clark Fork River. Sarah’s (my wife) uncle fired up the engine and we roared up river, gliding over thousands upon thousands of jumbo-sized grayling.
The appetite of these large finned fish was surprising to me. I had assumed grayling were just insect munchers, but soon learned that they are in fact carnivorous water dwellers. The grayling were anxious to eat white streamers; and in just a couple hours the entire boat had reeled in some exceptional grayling.All of the folks from Montana were impressed by the number of grayling in this crystal clear river. We only had a short period time to fish, and the experience left me hungry for more. I would love to get back to this amazing location in the future.Our next fishing outing would leave us chasing sockeye salmon. The goal was to catch our daily limit, for several days in a row, in order to bring lots of fresh salmon back to Montana. We figured fresh AK fish would be a nice addition to the wild Montana game that currently fills our freezers. I have to admit, before this trip, I had not experienced ‘combat fishing’, and Alaska gave me a fine introduction to the sport. Its an interesting experience to say the least- standing side by side, slinging weights and flies at schools of salmon, hoping to ‘force feed’ a pesky sockeye.
Sockeye are explosive when you hook them. It is very entertaining trying to land a buckin’ bronco of a salmon as it wraps itself in every line along the river bank. We were thoroughly entertained by watching our party, and others on the river, try to land the torpedo on the end of their line. At one point, I even watched a hooked salmon burst out of the water and smack a lady right in the face, while at the same time snagging a few fishing lines!
An interesting law in AK is that you must hook a salmon in the mouth in order to legally keep that fish. If you hook a salmon in the back, fin, head, and tail while fishing, you must let them go. As a result, you will consistently see salmon with brightly colored flies hooked in their bodies as they continue to try to swim upriver to their spawning grounds. After several hours of working over a couple good runs, everyone in our party had achieved their daily limit. We did this for a couple of days and felt fortunate that the sockeye run was strong while we were there. Everyone would be going home with a nice little stash of omega 3s.We filleted our prizes, packed them in our bags and took them to be vacuum-sealed and frozen solid back at camp. Our salmon adventure is one I will not soon forget.The next adventure entailed a 24-hour halibut fishing trip out of Homer, AK. The plan was to catch our daily limit one day, sleep on the boat, and then wake up at midnight and attempt to catch our next day’s limit before heading back to port.While attempting to catch halibut is not the most exhilarating fishing I’ve ever done, it definitely had it’s perks. The process involves a fat rod, a 3lb weight, a circle hook and a dead bait fish. From there you drop the weight about 200-300ft to the sea floor, and wait for a halibut to eat it. Most of the time, they are eager to eat and you have instant action. As soon as you feel a tug, you reel hard to get it to the surface. Reeling in a halibut is comparable, I would imagine, to reeling a car hood up from the surface of the ocean-tough!
After catching our ‘chicken’ (halibut under 28”), we moved locations in search of the giants. The new fishing hole supposedly held larger halibut, and we would be able to confirm this after catching a couple later in the evening. During the relocation, the crew cut and filleted the chickens. The white meat looked delicious and there is something to be said for catching what you eat.The new spot produced. I hooked into a what seemed like a much larger halibut than what I had felt earlier in the day. This fish actually ran and pulled line. My forearms burned as I continued to turn the reel handle. After what felt like an extended amount of time, the fish finally surfaced. The crew sent in the boom stick to assist in getting the fish into the boat. KABOOM!! Water flew and the large fish went limp. The halibut weighed in the 50lb-60lb range I would estimate.There were a few others on the boat charter that pulled in some +100lb halibut. Rockfish and pacific cod were also reeled in by a few in our group. We had a gamut of fish filling the boat deck, and we were pretty pleased by the productivity of the last several hours.
Around this time of year Alaska is light almost +20hours of the day. The photo above was taken at 2:04am. My beautiful wife fighting the cold ocean wind while waiting for a bite on the end of her line.After a solid 24 hours of forearm workouts, our halibut charter was complete. We came home with about 33lbs of halibut each, 330lbs between the ten of us.Alaska is an amazing state. After examining a map, I realize I have just scratched the surface of this expansive landscape. If you are on the fence about visiting AK, my recommendation would be go for it and make the trip happen! The hunting and fishing opportunities are endless. As long as you can handle bird size mosquitoes, you will have a great time!
The Simms Shoot Out 2013, our first big splash into mainstream fly fishing media. The film titled “BENT” won the award that year and our friendship with Dan “Rooster” Leavens was just beginning. If you haven’t watched it do yourself and get acquainted with Dave Priebus’ client phone call and Rooster’s prowess with a fly rod.
With $2,000 in cash we quickly re-invested in camera equipment and kept making fishing films.
It wasn’t but a few months later and Rooster called me and said “Get your butt over here with your camera, the salmonfly hatch is stupid good!” Fortunately I believed him and a couple days later I’d witnessed the best of the salmonfly hatch and laid down some amazing footage that would soon become Bearback Rider.
A few more years went by and we talked about making films but it always fell through either from a schedule or funding standpoint. Finally, Rooster wanted to follow up with our first film and make BENT 2. I was all in and a few phone calls later and it was on the books. This would be a short two day film shoot and we hoped the magic would still be there. Dave Priebus showed up in fine form and as always the fishing in SW Montana never disappoints.
We hope you enjoyed the film. If you ever want to book an awesome guided trip in Montana definitely give Rooster and the fine folks at The Stonefly Inn a call (406-684-5648). A special thanks to the great folks at Hatch Outdoors and Simms Fishing for their support of the project!
Read the first part of this series HERE. After a few weeks on the island we had put some great fish in the net but conditions had been tough. The rivers had blown out twice and most of the fishable days had overcast skies which made spotting tough in lots of the water we were fishing. We pushed through and made the best of it. We spent some time fishing the flats for kingfish which was a wild experience. I think we were a few weeks behind on timing and it seems that the locals feel the fishery is getting heavily pressured and there’s some shady tactics being used by guides with boats. We had a good time despite few kingfish sightings and wen’t back to town before being flow deep into the backcountry.
The backcountry was amazing but the fishing was tough! Coming that late in the season meant that the easy to see fish were insanely spooky and picky on flies. We all got into beautiful fish but our hookup to sighting percentage was definitely in the single digits. Finding fast water and taking extra time to try to spot fish in that water made things easier as it seemed these fish hadn’t been pressured as much. Be looking for Part 3 soon.
Summer is starting to taper off and fall will be here before you know it. We just introduced the new Montana PRO T-shirt to help you transition seasons in style. Whether you’re getting that last bit of summer fishing in, hitting the mountains camping, scouting or hunting this shirt has you covered.
A discharge print on a super soft Anvil lightweight tee makes for a shirt you will want to wear for days on end. You can view and shop this shirt HERE.
You can view our full line of apparel under the SHOP section of our website.
If you didn’t catch some of our posts through social media you missed out on the fact that we went to New Zealand this spring in search of big brown trout. It was amazing and we could write a whole book about it, but it’s summer in Montana and we are insanely busy. We also hunted Himalayan tahr which you can read about and watch HERE. With that said New Zealand is almost as amazing as it seems. Some days it’s better and some days worse, but overall a place we were stoked to finally make it to. This had been a bucket list trip for myself and to finally see it realized was something special. For now I’ll leave you with photos from this amazing trip and be looking for two more parts down the road. If time allows we will definitely write more about the trip. Shoot us an email if you’ve got questions or want us to talk about something specific.
Written by Zack Boughton
Although we weren’t able to be on the water today, a few of our good friends took to the river in full force, and got in on some of the most epic skwala fishing that Montana has to offer. While this hatch can be totally hit or miss, the boys hit it hard yesterday, netting a total of almost 60 fish, not to mention a hand full that got away. Wondering what the day looked like? Check out the day’s stats below.
- Water Temperature: 38 – 40 degrees.
- Air Temperature: 40 – 50 degrees.
- Weather Conditions: Overcast.
- Float duration: 8 hours.
- Fish count: 55+
While fishing was productive from noon until 8:00, peak time seemed to be from 2:00 to 5:00, with fish keying in on a variety of skwala stoneflies, and going ballistic on any big bug the boys seemed to float past them. It’s day’s like this that hardcore fly fisherman dream about, and only the ones who are passionate enough to closely watch and chase the hatch will be rewarded. Bugs were found on the surface and on the banks of the river throughout the day, indicating that the hatch is in full swing. Although they boys killed it today, the skwala hatch can be extremely hit or miss, with fish going nuts one day, and shutting off the next. After talking with them for awhile, they explained that they thought the fish were feeding so actively this day due to cold temperatures on 4/3 and forecasted cold temperatures for 4/5 as well. It’s warm windows like these that can commonly provide excellent fishing for the aspiring skwala angler. If you’re looking to get out and start skwala fishing, here’s a list of a few things you’ll need.
- Fly rod and reel (5 or 6WT)
- LOTS of flies (stop into your local fly shop and pick their brain on what to use OR tie you own sick nasty bugs)
- Waders and wading boots (skwala fishing can typically be very cold, and in nasty weather. You’ll definitely want to dress warm and be ready for unexpected weather at any time.)
- Rain jacket.
- Access to a boat (while you most definitely can fish skwalas from shore, you’ll be able to fish a lot more water from a boat, and be more exact with your fly presentation.) Don’t have access to a boat? stop into your local fly shop and ask about rental boats, or hiring a guide for the day.
Last but not least, make sure to get out and have fun on the water! After all, that’s what it’s all about!
Words: Calvin Connor
Photos: Tucker Lehr
Like many of you reading this, we’re tired of frozen guide loops, chilly fingers, and less than ideal days on the water, but that’s all about to change. With warmer weather and spring right around the corner, western Montana’s first hatch of the year is just beginning. This past weekend, we took to the water with a few good friends, in hopes of catching the beginning of the infamous Skwala Stonefly hatch. Not familiar with the hatch? Check out our latest film, SKWALHALLA to get the full scoop. Upon arrival to where we planned on fishing, we were greeted with partly cloudy skies, and mild temperatures (mid 40’s to low 50’s) given the time of year. With reports of skwala stoneflies beginning to show up, we had high hopes that the fish would be keying in on them as the afternoon went on.
Despite a beautiful float, good bug numbers (in isolated locations), and almost perfect spring weather, the fish just didn’t seem to be keying in on the big bug quite yet. After many fly changes, solid drifts, and a lot of persistence, our good buddy Brandon was able to capitalize on the first fish of the day, and his first fish on a skwala for the year. Needless to say, we were stoked. Although this skwala smashing shmedium cutthroat may not be the biggest fish you’ve ever seen, he’s the first of his kind for us this year, and we’re jacked up about it to say the least. Despite the skwala hatch being “epic” status for the year yet, we were able to pick up a handful of other fish on streamers, and nymphs throughout the day. With increasing temperatures in the extended forecast, we’re hoping for better results as the days go by. Have you been out fishing the skwala hatch yet this year? If so, let us know how you did in the comments section below.
Want to see more from our weekend float? Check out the photos below to see a couple highlights from our time on the water. While you’re at it, check out our all new Fly Patch Trucker, and get geared up for spring fishing HERE.
Words & Photos: Calvin Connor
Our latest film, SKWALHALLA has made a big splash in the fly fishing film world, and currently sits in spot #1 of iTunes “New & Noteworthy” sports films, with a five star rating. In other words, you guys rock! So without further ado, we’d like to thank everyone who has supported SKWALHALLA thus far, and look forward to reading more reviews of the film on iTunes in the near future. If you’re reading this and haven’t seen the film yet, click HERE, to view 21 minutes of non stop, action packed, savage dry fly eats, all courtesy of Western Montana’s vast waterways.
Still not quite convinced? Click below to watch the official trailer for SKWALHALLA, and get stoked on spring fly fishing!
As a way of saying thank you for your continued support of Montana Wild and SKWALHALLA, we’re giving away a ton of epic outdoor gear, that’s perfect for your next adventure. Click HERE to find out how YOU could be one of THREE lucky winners that will take home a handful of the new swag shown below, on March 9th.
Looking for some new gear to bring along on your next fishing trip? Look no further. As part of our launch of SKWALHALLA on iTunes, we’re giving away some of the best fishing gear that money can buy. Sounds like a pretty good deal huh? Well it gets better. For just $2.99 you can watch 21 minutes of non stop, action packed, savage dry fly eats AND be entered to win a Simms Slick Jacket ($300 value), two pairs of Smith Dockside Glasses, a Yeti Rambler, and a Good Altitude Trucker. Not a bad deal for less than the cost of a cold one if you ask us…
You’re probably thinking “Ok cool, but how do I get entered to win?”, and the answer is simple. Follow the three steps below, and tune into Montana Wild’s Instagram story on Friday March 9th to watch us pick THREE WINNERS.
Step 1: Watch SKWALHALLA on iTunes.
Step 2: Leave a review on iTunes with your thoughts on the film.
Step 3: Keep your fingers crossed, knock on wood, and patiently wait until March 9th.
Winner #1: Large Simms Slick Jacket.
Winner #2: Smith Dockside Glasses, Yeti Rambler, and a Good Altitude Trucker.
Winner #3: Smith Dockside Glasses.
Still not fully convinced? Check out the official trailer, and get stoked on SKWALHALLA.