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All Things Smith River – A step by step guide to making the most of your trip down the Smith River.

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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).

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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.

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SKWALHALLA – Currently ranked #1 on iTunes “New & Noteworthy” sports movies.

SKWLAHALLA, fly fishing, outdoor media, iTunes, Vimeo on demand, stoke, outdoor media, dry fly, fishing film, skwala, Western Montana, skwalla fishing, skwala stonefly, spring fly fishing, fishing movie, outdoor films, fishing films, filmmaking, cinematography, outdoor photography, float fishing

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.

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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.

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Score big on new gear with SKWALHALLA.

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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.

Prize Packages:

Winner #1: Large Simms Slick Jacket.

Winner #2: Smith Dockside Glasses, Yeti Rambler, and a Good Altitude Trucker.

Winner #3: Smith Dockside Glasses.

Watch SKWALHALLA on iTunes

Still not fully convinced? Check out the official trailer, and get stoked on SKWALHALLA.

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SKWALHALLA Simms G4 Pro Tactical Hip Pack Giveaway

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.

 

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FISH REEL 2017 – Fishing Cinema Reel

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It has been a few years since our last FISH REEL. We originally started the “Fish Reel” back in 2011 to showcase some of our favorite shots in one short video. Well we’re back and so are the Fish Reels! These were some of our favorite shots from the past couple years.

Leave us a comment, let us know what you think and don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel for our most recent uploads.

 

Travis

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Simms Shoot Out 2013 – BENT

Early Sunday morning we loaded up the truck, and headed to Bozeman.  The wind gusts pushed us east along I-90, and we sailed through bursts of snow and rain throughout the drive.  It looked like we might be in for a cold couple of days of filming & fishing.  Just before noon we stopped to fish a small stretch of the Clark Fork.  The wind gusts and freezing temperatures made for slow fishing.  We felt a couple tugs and even managed to fool a few small browns on a Parachute Adams before loading back up to finish the roadtrip to Bozeman.

shoot, out, rain, simms, ford, f 150

We finally arrived at the Simms headquarters, and met with the rest of the filmmakers.  All of the filmmakers were super friendly and cold PBRs were spread throughout the room.  After a half an hour of chatting and waiting for the guides to finish piling in, it was time to get to business.  The guides drew names out of a hat to decide who they would be filming with and we were paired up with Dan “Rooster” Leavens.  Zack and I didn’t have the slightest clue who Rooster was, but we would spend the next 3 days filming his every move and learning the ways of the Rooster.

simms, fly fishing, waders, boots, headquarters, bozeman, montana, shoot out, ice out

The next morning our 4:50AM alarm rang out, ducks quacking for me to awake.  Zack and I gathered our gear scattered on the hotel floor and headed out into the cold, windy, snowy weather.  Our destination was Twin Bridges, and we hoped we could get some early morning shots before meeting with the Rooster.

fog, clouds, snow

 

After a bitter cold morning of filming, we threw our frozen boots into the truck to de-thaw and finally made it to our destination, the Stonefly Inn & Outfitters.  Rooster had coffee ready for us, and we sat down and talked for a good hour about hunting and fly fishing.  We soon found out that Rooster had been sick throwing up all night.  He blamed the pizza he ate the evening before and to compound the issue, his wife was also sick.  A bug was going around, and we crossed our fingers that we wouldn’t be hit with the unfriendly sickness.  Rooster was feeling better fortunately, and decided that not the weather nor the sickness would stop him from fishing. We grabbed Willy the chocolate lab, loaded the truck with camera gear, and finally made it to the river.

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The morning consisted of a bunch of small browns and frozen fingers, leading us to move locations.  That afternoon, the sun finally started to peak through the clouds.  We got back onto the river and it wasn’t long before Rooster hooked his first nice brown trout of the trip.  About an hour later and a few fly selection switches and a boss trout was hooked up.  At first we didn’t know what it was, but as the fish came to the net, it was a nice 2-foot rainbow!

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The rest of the day Rooster reeled in multiple nice fish and the vibe quickly began to swing into our favor.  With a couple browns weighing in around the 20″ mark and a rainbow pushing 24 we called it a wrap for the day as Rooster had to go home and take care of his wife and children who had been fighting the sickness.  Family comes first, and we had no objections to Rooster heading home before sundown.  Zack and I spent the rest of the evening filming around town and captured some late afternoon timelapses.

sunset, montana, twin bridges, stonefly, inn, outfitter

Zack and myself stayed up until 2:30AM organizing our clips from Day 1, making sure we were on top of our game and ready to start editing the film the following evening.  We got a few short hours of sleep and immediately were back up and firing up the cameras.  We finalized our storyline with Rooster and moved over to the fly shop.  After a broken fly rod, an obnoxious customer call, a spilled box of flies, and a flat tire, it was finally go time.  Rooster started the morning drive to the river by saying, “can’t show the lions on the first day boys”.  Little did we know he was not lying about “showing the lions”.  Rooster proceeded to catch fish after fish consisting of large browns and chromed out rainbows.  The footage was stacking and the shots were being logged.  Rooster was starting to put on a show that any fisherman would appreciate.  Helping us for the day were Rooster’s guides Gray, Bubba and Dave who added more punch to the fish fight.

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rainbow, fat, montana

With plenty of solid shots stored in the camera, we decided to hit some new water to finish the day.  Rooster made his way below a small bridge and proceeded to catch fish after fish, throwing low, precise casts into the money spot.  It was a truly remarkable sight, with the Stonefly guide peanut gallery watching the show go down from the bridge above.

Dan, leavens, rooster, montana, simms, iceout, shoot, out, montana, wild

We wrapped up the day with dry fly eats on chernobyls, brown trout to the face, and an amazing steak dinner.  From here on out it was coffee, Monsters, and no sleep.  This was a chance that we had to take full advantage of.  You are not given opportunities like the Simms Shoot Out very often and we were here to win.  This was our chance to show that we can run with the best in the biz and we began the long process of crushing two days worth of fish into a 6 minute film.

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Before we knew it the film was in its final stages of production.  The sun was rising and Rooster was waiting to check out the latest cut of video.  Rooster gave us some final input and before we knew it the video was exported and we were driving to the Simm’s headquarters to turn in our film.

 

We relaxed the rest of the day and fished a local river the following morning with our friend Tom Urell.  The streamer fishing was hot, with fish attacking the streamers most of the day.  No monsters were brought to the net, but we had a blast fishing the local Bozeman holes.  Later that evening we watched all four submissions of the Simms Shoot Out at the Ellen theater.

simms, fly fishing, shoot, out, film, ellen, theatre, montana wild, rooster

After the films kicked off it was a nervous half an hour before I saw the Montana Wild logo flash up on the backdrop and the rest is history.  We had won the Shoot Out!!!!

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We spent the rest of the night celebrating with new friends and somehow managed to not spend all $2,000 at the bars.  We woke the next morning, packed our bags and headed back to Missoula.  That evening we found ourselves hiking 6 miles back into the backcountry…. Be looking for our next blog post about Stan’s amazing bear hunt.

 

I wanted to give a big shoutout to Dan “Rooster” Leavens for being such an amazing guide and host, and Dana Leavens for letting us steal Rooster for a couple days and allowing us to sleep at the Stonefly Inn.  Dan  loves to fish and he has a great family and group of guides.  Thanks Bubba, Dave, and Grey for your antics and not so helpful music suggestions.  We hope we can work with Dan in the future and hopefully the friendship we made will last for a very long time.

 

Below is our winning submission to the 2013 Simms Shoot Out!!!

[vimeo https://vimeo.com/65079211 w=580&h=440]

 

-Travis

 

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Simms SHOOT OUT

My first time hearing about the Simms SHOOT OUT was in 2011, where I got my first glimpse at a fly fishing film competition.  I wanted to compete in the SHOOT OUT one day, and the thought stuck in the back of my mind.  In 2012 we were disappointed when we had heard that the 2012 SHOOT OUT filmakers had already been chosen, and once again sat back and watched the videos that were released.  Last year really motivated us to kick some ass and get into the 2013 SHOOT OUT.   Here we are mid-April and the moment we have been waiting for has finally come.  We are stoked to have the opportunity to be one of four film makers competing in the Simms SHOOT OUT!

simms, shoot, out, montana, wild

Zack and I are dedicated to putting together an amazing video.  The competition requires us to film with one Simms guide for 2 days, and then 24 hours to put the video together.  The interesting part is we will not know who we are filming with until the night before our first filming day.  We are excited and cannot wait for the event to start!

We head out for Bozeman this morning.  Make sure to follow our daily behind the scenes SHOOT OUT photos on Instagram @montanawild!  We will be giving our viewers a behind the scenes look at what is going on so everyone can stay in the loop.  Also you will get your chance on Thursday/Friday April 25th & 26th to vote for your favorite SHOOT OUT film via text message.  Stay tuned!!!

 

-Travis

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Rising Waters

I checked the stream flows via the USGS site after a week filled of stressful days in front of my computer.  The past week had been full of blazing warm and sunny conditions that I had failed to take advantage of due to deadlines.  I was now left with only one glorious day to fish.  Regardless of the possible tsunami mud conditions, Zack and I took off in search of some big fish.

As we started our drive, the rain splattered against my windshield consistently reminding me that it was once again spring in Montana.  It was going to be a full blown day of Gore-tex and streamers.  We crossed our fingers as we made our trek to the first hole…. hopefully the chub hatch was going off today.

Brown, trout, tail, montana, fishing, fly fishing

I shook the cobwebs off my fly rod and it wasn’t long before I felt my my line go tight after a couple slow twitches with my streamer.  A little brown ball of fire had latched onto my fly, and I had my first fish of the day.  I continued to hammer the banks, bouncing my streamer off the pale grass on the adjacent bank.  Bam!  I detected another tug, and once again felt that head shake that I have come to love.

brown, trout, streamer, montana, orvis, helios 2

Zack and I hooked into a couple small German browns, before we were hit with a Montana rain storm.  The weather didn’t stop us from dropping streamer bombs.  I found a grassy bank that overlooked a good stretch of deep, calm water.  I made a perfect cast, landing my streamer on the bank and stripping it back into the water.  Three strips and I felt my line stop dead in my hand.  I strip-set and had a beautiful brown running for cover.

brown, trout, montana, wild, orvis, helios, fly tying, black, streamer

This year has really been my break through year with streamers.  I have finally mastered some really productive patterns, and today these patterns were really getting the trout’s attention.  Zack and I continued another 200 yards downriver.  I brushed the drops of water off my pack, only to notice Zack had a sizable fish hooked downriver.  Another beautiful brown trout, hungry for the home-grown streamer.

zonker, streamer, articulated, brown, trout, montana, wild, shoot, out

Sitka, stormfront, brown, trout, montana, wild, seattle, mariners, hatWe moved on, throwing casts into holes that were now deep enough to fish with the rising water.  We managed a couple more nice fish, and finally a rainbow decided to eat.

green, streamer, trailer, hook, montana, wild, rainbow, net, fly fishing

Green, purple, white, black, and tan streamers were producing fish.  The rainbows were finally putting streamers on their list of preferred foods, but the browns were truly on the prowl.  Once again Zack hooked into a flying brown trout.  To see an +18in brown trout jump four times is pretty remarkable.  This fish did just that and did not want to spend any downtime in our Larkin Works net.  Too bad the trout didn’t have a choice.  All this action boosted our confidence, and Zack released this amazing brown, only to call out “I’m going to catch another one out of this same hole”.  I grabbed the camera, and 1st cast Zack had another respectable brown trout.

brown, trout, streamer, eat, water, photo, picture, montana We made the long walk back to the truck.  What an amazing day!  Our spring has been outstanding, and the fishing has been phenomenal.  We have a big week coming up.  We hope to see everyone at the Orvis “Down the Hatch” film event here in Missoula, Montana at the Wilma on Friday.  The films start at 7pm and there are tickets available at Grizzly Hackle.  All of the proceeds will go to Montana Trout Unlimited.  We hope to see you all there!!

-Travis