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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Our latest fly fishing film, SKWALHALLA is now available for rental on iTunes. Say whaaaaat?! Filmed over the course of three years with cutting edge camera equipment, SKWALHALLA showcases Western Montana’s first dry fly hatch of the year, big fish, and good times on the water with the boys. If you’re looking for 21 minutes of non stop stoke and dry fly action, then SKWALHALLA is for you. Still not quite convinced that SKWALHALLA is worth your time and money? Watch the official trailer below, and see for yourself.
Although the temperatures can be cold and the weather can be shifty, when timed just right, the skwala stonefly hatch can be off the charts. Below, Travis shows off one of the many big bug smashing fish featured in SKWALHALLA. Oh, did we forget to mention that the full film has a total of 78 dry fly eats? I sure wouldn’t want to miss out on something like that. Would you?
Alright, after that you’re probably wondering “Where can I watch the full film?” And the answer is: HERE. SKWALHALLA is now available on iTunes for rental ($2.99). Sit back, relax, and enjoy some of the finest spring fishing that the lower 48 has to offer. In addition to the release of SKWALHALLA on iTunes, our most popular elk hunting production The Outlier Film, will be available for purchase or rental on iTunes in the near future.
With spring just around the corner, chances are you’re looking for some dope new outdoor apparel to wear out on the water, and up in the hills. Good news for you, we’ve got everything you need right here. Whether you’re a die hard fly fisherman, or a custom rifle fanatic, we’ve got the perfect piece of gear for you. Want to do some shopping? Click HERE. You can view our full line of apparel under the SHOP section of our website, or scroll down to check out the latest and greatest from Montana Wild. Don’t wait too long, they’ll be gone before you know it!
Topo Trout Trucker
The Topo Trout Trucker simply put is the bees knees. This leather patch hat is clean and simple. Rep your trout addiction with pride.
-Premium Airflow Trucker Mesh
-Premium leather patch
MW Trout Trucker
Montana Wild has teamed up with Simms Fishing for a deadly trout trucker hat combo. Get them before they’re gone!
-Snapback (one size fits most)
-Crown Fit: Low
-Simms Premium Thread Design
Wild State Trucker
Rep your favorite state in style with our new Wild State Trucker. We all know you’re a little wild and that you love the greatest state of all-time…Montana.
– Premium airflow trucker mesh back
– Premium Branded Bills leather patch
Fast Food Pheasant Snapback
Own the most badass pheasant hat on the planet. The Fast Food Pheasant Snapback is a show stopper to say the least. Wear it in the field while you hunt upland birds, or on the water while you slay bucknasty browns. Available in maroon (flat brim) and black (curved brim).
-Snapback (one size fits most)
-Premium Thread Design
-Premium Branded Bills leather patch
Montana PRO Buckle Tee
The rodeo inspired Montana PRO Buckle Tee is the perfect way to show off your Montana pride. This limited edition colorway is only here until its gone!
-Fits true to size
-Soft to touch
Rifle Build Tee
Who isn’t dreaming about their next rifle build? Hit the range, mountains, or night on the town in style in our new Rifle Build Tee. Comfortable, classic fitting, and ready for your next adventure. We love guns, do you?
-Soft to touch
-Fits true to size
-Super Soft Print
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 – email@example.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.
Without further ado, it’s our pleasure to release our latest fly fishing film, SKWALHALLA. Filmed over the past three years, SKWALHALLA is all about big bugs, big eats, and good times on the river with the boys. Sit back, relax, and enjoy 21 minutes of some of the best spring fly fishing that the West has to offer. Available for purchase or rental via Vimeo On Demand HERE.
Still not quite convinced that SKWALHALLA is worth your time or money by now? Check out the official trailer below, and see for yourself.
Shop our selection of Hats, Tee Shirts, and Apparel HERE.
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 our latest fly fishing film, SKWALHALLA on Vimeo On Demand.
- Send us a message with proof of purchase.
- Keep your fingers crossed.
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.