Smith River, Montana Wild, Stoke, Fly Fishing, Hunting, Stoked On The Smith, Save Our Smith, Spring fishing, float trip, river trip, outdoor media

For many, getting an opportunity to float down Montana’s threatened, and world renowned Smith River is a once in a lifetime experience. For some, myself included, it’s an opportunity that seems to present itself every couple of years or so. Solely because of all our buddies who are equally obsessed with fishing, floating, and kind enough to send us an invitation when they draw a permit. This year on the other hand, the permit holder is no-one other than yours truly. So, without further ado, lets jump right into All Things Smith River.

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Step 1: Acquiring the permit.

If you’re reading this, you’ve either already got a permit in hand, or you’re wondering how the heck you can get one for next year. The answer is simple, yet complicated. The Smith River is without a doubt a very special place, and one of the handful of rivers in the United States that requires a permit to float. Each year between the beginning of January, and the middle of February, Montana Fish Wildlife And Parks opens their application period to applicants from all over the world who hope to pull a coveted permit. If you’ve never applied before, you can do so HERE. Keep in mind that although drawing a permit isn’t easy, there are dates that are easier to draw than others. Montana FWP considers  “peak season” to run from May 15th – July 15th. Therefore, launch dates in that time period will be the hardest to draw. However if you’re willing to roll the dice, and take a gamble on Spring weather or low water later in the season, you will have a much better chance of drawing a permit. This year I was fortunate enough to draw a permit during peak season, and I’ve got my fingers crossed in hopes of a much warmer float than last time. Remember what I was saying about taking a gamble on Spring Weather? Take a look at the photos below to see what our 2016 launch day looked like.

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Step 2: Getting there.

The launch site (Camp Baker) is located in Central Montana, about 35 miles Northwest of a small town called White Sulphur Springs. Make sure to have all of the essential pieces of gear you’ll need before getting there, as there will be limited opportunities to buy outdoor gear in town. That being said, it’s a great place to get gas, sit down for dinner, and grab a couple cold ones the night before you launch. If you’re already in Montana, driving to Camp Baker is relatively easy. Once you arrive, you’ll want to check in and try to get yourself towards the top of the list for launching the next day, and get your campsites reserved. Before launching, everyone in your party will be required to pay a small launch fee. The fee for Montana residents over the age of 13 is $25.00, and $60.00 for non resident adults. Each group is allowed 15 people per permit. Although you are not required to show up the day prior to your float, I’d highly recommend it. This will allow you to get a good spot in line for launching the following day, and give you a buffer incase you do forget something essential, and need to drive back to Helena to get it. If you do find yourself in that predicament, stop into Cross Currents Fly Shop for anything you may have forgotten. In 2016, we rented two rafts from them, and I would recommend them to anyone.

Picking up the rental rafts from Cross Currents Fly Shop was a breeze. Check them out if you’re in need of rental equipment for your trip down the Smith.

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Things got a little western on the way from White Sulphur Springs to Camp Baker, and we immediately knew we were in for a heck of a day when the sun rose the following morning. As expected, we woke up to 8″ of snow.

Step 3: What you’ll need.

Preparing for a five day float trip can be an incredibly daunting task for someone who’s never done it before, and can still make you feel like you’re forgetting something important no matter how many times you’ve done it. Below is a list of essential items to bring on your trip.

  • Raft(s) – Preferably with a fishing frame attached.
  • Oars – Bring an extra set of oars for each boat in your party, not only is it required, but it’s a smart thing to do.
  • Lifejackets  Under Montana law, you are required to have at least one life jacket on board for each occupant of the boat.
  • Anchor Don’t be the guy that gets 5 miles down river from the put in and realizes he forgot to attach the anchor to the boat. Check, and double check your anchor before putting in at Camp Baker.
  • Camping Gear – Depending on the dates of your float, you’ll want to make sure you have a three or four season tent, with a heavy duty rain fly, especially for those early, or later dates.
  • Dry Bags – Dry bags are a necessity on any float trip, as they keep your belongings dry. I personally like to bring one smaller bag to put camera gear in and keep with me all day, and one larger bag for the rest of my belongings that need to stay dry, but can be packed away.
  • Extra Clothing – If your launch date is during peak season, this could mean bringing a couple of extra pairs of board shorts. If you’re launching earlier in the season, this can mean full on winter gear including gloves, hats, and multiple layers of insulation. Don’t be the guy that shows up unprepared. Take the time to pack well in advance, and keep an eye on the extended weather forecast to make sure you pack accordingly.
  • Camp Shoes – It’s nice to take your wet sandals, or heavy wading boots off after a long day on the river. Bring a pair of Crocks or Chacos to wear around in camp.
  • Fishing Gear Montana’s Smith River is home to a wide variety of species, patiently waiting for you to float a San Juan worm past them. (COUGH COUGH… San Juan Worms do well on the Smith, and pretty much anywhere else for that matter.)
  • Fishing License – You can purchase a fishing license at any certified FWP license provider.
  • Collapsable Camping Stove / grill – You’re on the river for almost a week, live it up, and enjoy nice meals in camp. Nobody wants to eat freeze dried meals the whole time.
  • Collapsable Camping Table – There’s nothing worse than trying to cook on the ground, and getting everything messy. Bring at least one collapsable camping table to cook and clean on, and possibly more depending on the size of your party.
  • Cooking Accessories – Depending on the size of your party, and space available in your boat(s), you’ll want to bring plenty of pots & pans, utensils, plates, bowls, and camp mugs (for coffee, whiskey, or both.)
  • Rain Gear I’ll say it again so you don’t forget, BRING YOUR RAIN GEAR.
  • Food – Depending on the size of your group, you’ll want to make sure you have enough food for the five day float, and then a little extra, just incase.
  • Beverages – Be sure to pack plenty of water, gatorade, and other hydrating beverages, along with a handful of adult beverages (If you are of legal age). That being said, the Smith River is an incredible place, and needs to be respected. If you are indulging in adult beverages, be sure to keep the river clean by disposing of trash properly, and most of all make sure to stay safe and be a responsible floater.
  • Bear Spray / Side Arm – The Smith River is known for it’s abundance of black bears, and while taking the right precautions to deter bears can lower your chance of seeing one, it’s always advised to come prepared. Be sure to bring bear spray, or a side arm of your choice, just incase.
  • Bear Resistant Food Storage – It is required to have all of your food stored in bear resistant containers throughout the duration of your float, take this seriously as it is the law, and something that will be double checked and enforced at the time of your launch / throughout the trip.

Step 4: Bon Voyage!

Waking up on the morning of your launch day can be exhilarating, and full of excitement. Smiles grin from cheek to cheek, as floaters chomp at the bit to get their boats rigged and hit the water. Once the boats are rigged, and everything is in order, you patiently wait your turn to launch in the order that you checked in (this is why checking in the day before can come in handy). Take this time to check your gear list, make sure boats are rigged properly, and rig up rods for an epic five days of floating, fishing, and camping along some of the most beautiful landscapes that Montana has to offer. If I had to describe the Smith in one sentence, I’d call it the “Mini Grand Canyon”, only way cooler because it’s located right in our own backyard. Once you hit the water, you might as well turn your cell phone off, and bury it deep in your bags. Trust me, you won’t need it. Floating through the vast canyons of the Smith is spectacular to say the least, and is something everyone should experience at least once in their life. That being said, the scenery isn’t the only spectacular part about it. Great fishing opportunities can be found throughout the entire 61 mile float, as fish will be keying in on streamers, nymphs (cough… San Juan Worms), and dry flies (depending on the time of year).

rage cage, Montana Wild, fly fishing, stoke, snow day, snow, bad weather, fishing, Stoked On The Smith

 

Final Remarks:

Depending on your experience level and ambition, you’re either thinking “Holy crap I’ve gotta do that!” or “Dang, that sounds like a ton of work.” The short answer is that it’s a lot of both, but 100% worth it in my opinion. The Smith River truly is something spectacular, and an opportunity to float it should not be passed up by anyone in their right mind. Some of the best memories of my life have been made along the walls of the Smith, and I’m ecstatic for round two this June. My final piece of advice to you would be to have fun. Enjoy the company you’re with, the lack of cell service, and the abundance of hungry fish and beautiful landscapes. If we all had a little more of that in our lives, the world would be a better place. Watch Stoked On The Smith, below for a large dose of stoke!

 Words & photos: Calvin Connor.

Cinematography – Stoked On The Smith: Travis Boughton, Zack Boughton, Calvin Connor.

So, you want to get your hands on one of Montana Wild’s Orvis Helios Two 5WT fly rods huh? We don’t blame ya. Did we mention it’s seen a fish or two in it’s day? Used in our world renowned film Bucknasty Browns, this 9 foot 5WT badass piece of fiberglass is no stranger to big fish, but lets be honest, neither are you.

The rules to be entered to win are simple:

1: Order the film HERE.

2: Leave a comment on the Vimeo On Demand Page with your thoughts on the film.

3: Send us a message with proof of purchase – info@montana-wild.com

4: Winner will be drawn on 02/12 at 9:00 AM MST.

 

Once you’ve entered, all you have to do is wait. We’ll be drawing a random winner on Monday, February 12th at 9:00 AM. Yeah, you heard that correctly. For only $3.99, you can be entered to win a fly rod valued at $800 AND get to see 21 minutes of the sickest spring fly fishing that Western Montana has to offer. Want to enter right now? Head over to the SKWALHALLA Vimeo On Demand Page, and get entered to win. Not totally convinced yet? Check out the official trailer for SKWALHALLA below.

 

From 2015 – 2017 we spent many days on the water trying to not only hit the Skwala Stonefly hatch juuuust right, but to also capture the hatch on film in all of it’s glory. Filmed and edited with cutting edge camera equipment and software, and boasting a total of over 75 dry fly eats, you won’t want to miss out on our upcoming film, SKWALHALLA. In addition to the launch of the film, we’re offering a special pre order giveaway, that gives YOU a chance to take home a brand new Simms G4 Pro Tactical Hip Pack. Keep reading to find out how you could be the lucky winner.

 

WIN THIS SIMMS G4 PRO TACTICAL HIP PACK

By now you’re probably wondering, “How in the heck can I get my hands on that sweet looking Simms pack?!”  We don’t blame you, and the answer is simple. To get your name in the hat, you must follow the three simple steps listed below.

Pre order SKWALHALLA, here: SKWALHALLA Vimeo On Demand

DRAWING FOR WINNER will be held on Wednesday, January 31st at 5:00 PM MST, live on the Montana Wild Instagram story.

 

bucknasty, browns, 2, II, kickstarter, fly, fishing, film, video, new, zealand

Our amazing fans have been insistent in asking for a second Bucknasty Browns film and we are here to deliver, but we need your help. This film project will be documenting a Do-It-Yourself trip to one of the greatest brown trout destinations in the world, the South Island of New Zealand. World-renowned for it’s clear backcountry waters, epic spring creeks, and large, trophy sized, AKA Bucknasty, brown trout. The plan is to roadtrip the island in search of adventure and large brown trout. We just launched a Kickstarter for Bucknasty Browns II and we would love if you showed us some support! In order for Bucknasty Browns II to become a reality, we need to reach our goal of $12,000. We are offering a ton of great rewards and you can also pre-order the film (see below). By pre-ordering the film you will be the first to get to download and watch the full film.

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Please click here to support Bucknasty Browns II and/or pre-order the film >>> BUCKNASTY BROWNS II Kickstarter

 

For more info on the film project, click here >>> BUCKNASTY INFO

Our latest fly fishing film, SUMMER HYPE showcases some epic salmonfly fishing, big fish, savage eats, and good times on the water.  Shot by our most recent summer intern Bryant Patterson, this short film captured a few great days on the water.  Pull up a seat, sit back and enjoy SUMMER HYPE!

Shop our hats used in the film, by clicking on the images below.

summer hype, summer, fishing, fly fishing, brown trout, salmonfly, hatchsummer hype, montana wild, hat, apparel

Here is the teaser for our 2015 Fly Fishing Film Tour film submission BUCKNASTY BROWNS. Be looking for the full-length feature this January.

 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bucknastybrowns

Instagram: @bucknastybrowns #bucknastybrowns

fly, fishing, oregon, owyhee, river, brown, trout, june

Travis rifled through the YETI as we sat on the dusty tailgate, consuming the day’s lunch and reliving the morning’s success. Fish after fish had been tackled from the long, complex run and we thought the wise browns had been put down for the day. I walked along the road with a Moose Drool in hand observing and taking in the day. As I glanced down into the current the golden back of a modest brown slowly breached and then disappeared back into the depths. I sat and watched and soon multiple fish emerged, hidden in plain sight feeding on some new hatch that I had no knowledge of.

[vimeo https://vimeo.com/109398135 w=580&h=440]

Sam was up on the sticks and soon casts were made, flies were changed and eventually fish were caught. The size #18 whatever was stuck firmly in the browns lip, right next to a past fisherman’s fly, serving as proof of the tiny flies that dominate this waterway. Calling it a size #18 whatever would be disrespectful though given the time and knowledge put into it’s creation by Nate Brumley.

fly fishing, montana, wild, oregon, brown trout, owyhee, grizzly hackle

Nate is one of the nicest human’s you’ll meet and especially amongst fisherman. Ask many folks about one of their favorite waters and your reception will often be ill. Nate on the other hand bursts with knowledge that pulls from the deepest parts of his vast memory. From flies to hatches to stretches of river it all spills out into a novel of highly diverse yet well woven information. It’s the type of thing where you hear it all but only can store about 10% of the data. He does run a very knowledgeable fly tying business (Dry Fly Innovations) that I’d highly recommend, but his generosity runs deep regardless of any ties to business or personal advancement as we quickly found out. Mr. Brummley’s residence was our first stop on our long trip down to Oregon to search for large brown trout during Montana’s annual runoff. We loaded up on flies, mostly size 18 and 20 and set off for parts unknown brimming with confidence after our time spent with Nate.

dry, fly, innovations, idaho, nate, brumley, dry, flies, brown, trout

The first life form on the river was seen from the edge of the road as we rolled up into the canyon. A small back eddy was filled with carp swirling along the desert colored mud. We contemplated fishing them but given the prospects that lay up the road we ventured on. The river was an oversized slough with small sections of riffles and pocket water followed by long deep runs stretching for hundreds and sometimes thousands of yards. Where the biggest of browns would lurk was anyone’s guess.

owyhee, river, oregon, fly, fishing, trout, brown

We soon couldn’t resist the urge to fish and pulled in under a tree and rigged up. The first afternoon would be simply spent fishing and scouting. We wanted to know we could land a few before the cameras rolled out. We soon diverged from the truck and began fishing our own ways. It was hot and I didn’t see much action unfolding on top of the emerald green waters. I’ll admit I’m a streamer junky and the thought of big browns quickly had me avoiding the microscopic bugs and tying on our buddy Gandalf. He was the tan and white variation and the first cast was immediately chased into the calm water by an angry brown. I threw it back in, letting it slide off the shelf before stripping it in towards the slack water. My line went tight and a fat brown quickly went airborne. The fight was solid with this buck but soon he was within the confines of the net resting from his midday battle.

brown, trout, orvis, fly, fishing, owyhee, river, oregon

As soon as my hook was free I was back to casting, this time a bit further across the seam. A black tank emerged slamming my fly but the line went slack a second later. He couldn’t be enticed a second time and quickly we were distracted by a stock truck dumping hundreds of fingerling rainbows off the bridge behind us. The small fish fought the current before being sucked back downriver into the next pool. We knew some opportunistic browns would be up for this type of treat. Soon we found Sam, working a dry through tasty water but the report was fish 1, Sam 0. We told him of the fish stocking and quickly streamers were tied on. As Travis fished just above me a small rainbow swam between my legs followed by a menacing brown. I’m sure he had his way with the newly transplanted fish.

stocking, fish, oregon, rainbow, trout

The following day we fished hard. We switched bugs and moved locations but hadn’t put up much for numbers. After a long spring with little dry fly action we all had to brush off a little rust and try to remember how to fish a size 18 bug. As we fished a hole just a stones throw from the truck Nate pulled up. We quickly made our way back up to the truck to see how his morning had went. After showing us photo after photo of nice browns I had to ask, “What were you fishing.” “Oh I was using a beetle” he said. Ok then. Of course Nate was quick to supply us with an assortment of free flies and his wife had sent him off with some delicious soup to give us. Did I mention Nate is a pretty likeable guy?

nate, brumley, fly, fishing, dry fly innovations, brown trout, montana wild

We had our eyes on a small side channel containing multiple rising fish and set off with renewed confidence as a Brumley beetle was attached to our line. The fishing was silly and we finally were laying down some great footage. The ball was rolling and we had two days left to keep it that way.

brown, trout, film, video, oregon, owyhee, beetle

Now despite any reports or advice on hatches or patterns I know I can always go to a streamer and turn fish, most often good ones. Considering the bucknasty browns that should be lurking here and after the very first afternoon the streamer was a constant part of the menu we were serving up to these fish. It was consistently the big fish producer. It was mid-day and we stopped to fish a run that had been fished that morning. As my streamer bounced into the river off the bank it was freight trained by a “bucknasty.” This wasn’t the first time this trip and I instantly started thinking one thing, mice. As the day progressed the weather started to roll in. Overcast skies and a light drizzle was all it took for Travis to make the switch. The neon yellow mouse skittered and skated and we all watched with anticipation. Finally a swipe was made, a miss but we knew it would be a go to method for the rest of the day. A short bit later Travis hooked and landed the first of the trip as a brown came arching out of the water attacking the mouse.

fly, fishing, mice, mousing, oregon, montana, wild

We were on cloud 9 at the moment and that afternoon found nothing other than a mouse attached to our lines. Over the next three hours we got over a dozen eats and after a lot of misses I was able to end the day with back-to-back browns from the same run. Sometimes it pays to get risky and fish something not on the fishing report. On this day it sure did.

brown, trout, mousing, mice, fishing, fly, oregon, montana, wild, video, film

The rest of the trip was a success and we were able to stack up some awesome footage, I’ll even go out on a limb and say some of it is our best to date. For the rest of the story you’ll have to catch our film, “Bucknasty Browns” in the 2015 Fly Fishing Film Tour. A special thanks to our project supporters: Simms, Orvis, Scientific Anglers, Grizzly Hackle, YETI, DECKED, and Bozeman Reel Co.

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///Be sure to tune in to our Facebook and Instagram pages this week as we release content culminating in the release of our teaser for Bucknasty Browns coming on Friday!

-Zack

Its often adventure that keeps my fly fishing engine fueled.  The exploration of wild locations drives me to wander areas where many rarely travel.  I am not a fan of overcrowded rivers and would rather sulk in solitude amongst the steep mountains (even if I don’t catch a single fish).

Mexico

I have found that generally speaking, less people equates to better fishing. In some cases this means getting far from any dirt road. Some anglers search for the reasoning behind their fishing addiction and I feel my answer lies somewhere between a passion for exploration and adventure. Most can’t wait to escape their office on Friday evening and forget their overpowering business life. The river is calling. So here are ten ways to finding your own fishing adventure:

1) Pick a location: The more specific the better. Use previous feedback you have heard from family, friends and the local loud mouths at the bar to help narrow down your options. A  little digging will get you a long way. Are you looking for a specific type of fish to catch or are searching for amazing landscapes? My most memorable adventures come from picking a somewhat well known river system and searching the surrounding areas. Study every possible stretch of water that could hold fish. Make a final decision on a location and dive deeper into the planning.

waterfall

2) Choose a timeframe: Are you fishing summer, fall, spring, or winter (yes, I said winter)? Take into account spawning periods, runoff, weather, and where the fish will be located in the local river systems. The worst is having to hike in 10 miles to explore a lake in the mountains only to discover it resembles the arctic circle, but hey thats still an adventure right?

Yeti Coolers hat

3) Research the area: Never been to the location you plan on exploring? No problem. The internet and mainstream fishing magazines are loaded with information. Search everything from online forums to Facebook to get insight on what to expect in the honey hole you will be targeting. You would be surprised how much info people give away through social media. The more prepared, the better your chances of catching fish in that area.

4) Scour a map: Do yourself a favor right now and download Goggle Earth onto your home computer if you haven’t already. Viewing overhead satellite imagery has changed exploring the backcountry. There is no longer the question, “I wonder what’s over the next ridge?” You can literally pinpoint pools, log jams, waterfalls, ponds, lakes, and camp sites all from your computer. Combine Google Earth with a good topo map and you have trailheads, roads, and access points all at your fingertips allowing yourself to make any knook and cranny a possible golden fishing spot.

Hunt GPS

5) Avoid the roads: Google Earth will give you a good idea of how accessible certain river systems are by road. Use this to your advantage. Take into account; river access sites, road access, trailheads, road closures, etc to determine where most fisherman will be. Does the river reconnect with a small trail 8 miles from the nearest road? Go there and explore. The added effort pays big dividends most of the time.

Mexico

6) Know the Flows: Most states have streamflows and water temps available online. Keep close tabs on the rivers you plan to explore year round. If the water has been rising, you might have to deal with water clarity issues and may want to push back your trip another week. The streamflows can tell you a lot about the water you will be fishing.

Simms Guide BOots

7) Create a Gear List: Know beforehand where you will be sleeping and what you will be eating. Make a list of essentials for a successful trip. I have been on trips where the people I am traveling with either A) borrow my food the last couple days of our trip or B) don’t have the supplies for a comforting stay in the mountains. Don’t run low on energy and bring enough food. If you are backpacking into your fishing spot, make sure you pick out appropriate campsites beforehand. On one of my recent adventures, we did not have a topo map before heading into our location. With no foreseeable flat ground close to the river, we had no choice but to camp above a 100ft cliff. In the end it was great, but not the safest camping location. Some other great questions to ask yourself are: Do I need a water filter? Is it grizzly country? Are there going to be sasquatch sized mosquitos? Think beforehand and bring the right gear to handle every possible scenario.

Rock Creek

8) Find a Fishing Buddy: Some adventures are just better when you know a friend is there to help in case something bad happens. Make sure this person is not a loud mouth and can be consistently trusted. You may find the fishing spot of your life, so keeping your adventures low key is a must. There is nothing worst than hearing half the town talking about your fishing spot because your buddy can’t keep his mouth shut when throwing back some cold ones at the local pub. Make a contract with your partner ahead of time, sometimes a pinkie promise is not enough.

Camp Life

9) Pack the Yeti: I’m a firm believer in making my adventure as comfortable as possible.  Car camping? Pack the Yeti with plenty of beer, condiments, snacks, and elk burgers. Floating a secret stretch of river? Bring the appropriate size Yeti to accomadate your needs. There is nothing better than having a cold beverage in the middle of a summer adventure.

Sitka Gear puffy

10) Plan for a Great Adventure: Get your mind right heading into the trip. Be positive and plan for success. Your first day might not be the best fishing, but the next day could uncover an unknown section of river that is stocked full of monster trout eating mice. Who knows, you might even find the next Kamchatka. Pack your fly box accordingly, do one final checklist, and hit the road!  Adventure awaits!

Underwater Grayling

 

-Travis