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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).

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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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smith river, montana, fishing, tintina, copper mine

Stoked On The Smith is now live!!!  This spring we had the opportunity to float the Smith River in Central Montana.  We wanted to see this resource for ourselves and document the trip to help raise awareness about the Smith and the current situation with a copper mine proposed for Sheep Creek, one of it’s main tributaries.  To read about the trip you can start with Part 1 right here > Smith River Trip Part 1

Informative links regarding the Smith River:

www.saveoursmith.com
www.tintinaresources.com
www.smithriverwatch.org
www.backcountryhunters.org/sign_smith_river_petition

-Zack

bear hunt, montana, spring

As I approached the start of Montana’s 2016 Spring black bear season I didn’t really know where to start. Growing up in Wisconsin, spot and stalk bear hunting was far from the ordinary. In Wisconsin it’s a waiting game. Ten years of applying for a tag, and you might get lucky. Even then you will have to get even luckier if you plan on killing a bear over five feet. With that being said, your odds of success and a guaranteed tag make Montana a much better option for the aspiring bear hunter. In Montana, Spring bear season runs from April 15th to June 15th (in most units). This gives you two months of time to stop tying flies, forget about your fishing withdrawals, and hit the hills of western Montana in search of a big old black bear.

bear hunting, montana, wild

With short notice, I quickly gathered as much information as I could from reading articles and talking to a few seasoned bear hunters, and prepared to hit the hills come mid April. During opening week of bear season I was fortunate enough to be floating Montana’s famous Smith River. This would not only turn out to be an awesome experience, but it gave me the opportunity to hunt bears on a section of remote National Forest land.

Stars, Bear Hunting, Smith River, River, Hunting

Smith River Stargazing.

After a mild hike from camp to the top of the ridge, we found ourselves in the snow. As we worked our way up the ridge, we cut a set of tracks, and shortly after Sam spotted another bear on the other side of the canyon in some of the gnarliest country imaginable. As we sat and glassed the bear for a few minutes we exchanged a wide range of opinions on the bear’s size and distance. The bear was too far away. We chose not to lob one across the canyon, and returned to camp empty handed, but it was an exciting adventure none the less.

Smith River, Hunting, Bears, Fishing, Bear Hunting

Snow covered cliffs along the Smith River.

As the season continued I went out in search bears in Western Montana. The rugged landscape combined with the green grass made for some of the best scenery my eyes have ever seen, but to my surprise I was having a lot harder of a time finding bears than I thought I would. It quickly became apparent that if I wanted to fill my tag, I was going to have to check out some new country, and gain a lot more elevation than I thought.

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Chance making his way up a gnarly rockslide.

After crossing two creeks and packing into a gnarly canyon, we quickly bumped a bear off of a dead deer, and shortly after we were surrounded by bear sign. We hunted hard the next couple of days, but to my surprise, I still had yet to have a shot opportunity at a bear.

Deer, Bear, Hunting, Conservation, Mountain

Chance checking out a fresh bear kill.

The following Wednesday I texted Zack asking him what he wanted me to work on that day. He quickly responded with “I want you to work on killing a bear today Calvin.” and so I went. Having already missed the prime hours of the morning, I headed into a spot that I was very familiar with, and that I had seen some bears in the past. After glassing a large clear cut for the better part of the morning, I was left scratching my head wondering “Who would have thought I would have this much trouble finding a bear.” Little did I know, that was all about to change. As the afternoon rolled around, I found myself working a logging road to a point where I knew I would be able to glass an entirely new section for the next couple of hours. After glassing and again coming up with nothing, I decided to work my way up the ridge.

Glassing, Hunting, Bear Hunting, Bears

“Where da bears at?”

After hiking a few hundred yards up the ridge, I found myself surrounded in fresh bear sign. Although the wind was blowing my scent directly uphill, I decided to get settled in a patch of timber, and start calling. Not 30 seconds into my call sequence and I spotted a bear no more than 300 yards away standing on a log looking directly at me. Before I could get my rifle settled for a shot, the bear started running directly towards me as I kept screeching on the call.

Rifle, Gun, Hunting, Bears, Montana

Ready to roll.

With my heart racing, I quickly realized that this bear was going to get a lot closer to me than I had hoped. As the bear got to 50 yards at a dead run, I screeched one last time, stopping the bear. I settled my crosshairs, squeezed the trigger, and just like that I had harvested my first black bear.

Hunting, Brass, Guns, Bears, Montana

Bear, Hunting, Bear Hunting, Mountains, Montana

Bear Down!

A quick phone call later and I had help on the way to get my bear off the mountain in one trip. Gus and Tex quickly made their way up the mountain, and the work began. We made quick work of the bear, quartering out the meat, skinning the hide, and heading back to the truck with full packs.

Bear, Hunting, Meat, Conservation, Montana, Spring

The work begins.

The best kind of text message to send after a day on the mountain.

Hunting, Bears, Stoked, Bear Hunting, Montana, Mountains

 

– Calvin

 

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If you missed Part 2 you can read it here > Smith River, Montana – Part 2

Part 3 – The Trip Days 4&5 and Our Thoughts

The last two days of our trip were blessed with more sun and gradually warmer weather.  The only decent fishing we saw the last two days was mid-afternoon on Day 4 when a gray drake hatch came off for a few hours.  Fish were stacked in pods along a few banks and in some foam lines where a dropped anchor and a few casts through the right zone resulted in fish.  Again the views were stellar to finish out the trip.  Enjoy the photos from the last two days and I’ll wrap up below with my thoughts on the current state of the Smith River.

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Each morning brought about a battle with frozen gear but slowly warmed with a good meal and sun finally peaking over the horizon.

smith river, fishing, copper mine, black butte, tintina, conservation, fishing

Hey guys, it’s another sick cliff wall. Weird.

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Brandon with a nice rainbow caught along an overhanging rock wall.

smith river, montana, fishing, party, traffic jam, rafting

Solitude? The eddy to hike to the main pictograph cave was a zoo!

smith river, montana, pictographs, cave, fishing, skull, film, video, 2016

Moments from Day 4.

smith river, mine, montana, copper, rainbow, trout, fishing, maddie sieler

Maddie with another parachute sipping rainbow. This one caught inches off a rock face after a dozen casts to get the right drift.

smith river, fishing, montana, mine, copper, save the smith, tintina

Fishing hard despite the tough water conditions.

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‘Merica

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Awesome to see the ladies crushing it with the fly rod!

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Final night on the Smith River.

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Keeping things fresh on the last night.

Thoughts on the current State of the Smith

First off I strongly feel that the Smith River Drainage is a resource and area that we need to preserve for generations to come.  Whether it’s fisherman, campers, recreational floaters, mountain bikers, hunters, ranchers, etc we need to make sure this valley continues to thrive naturally as it has since it was settled by early cattle and sheep ranchers.  I have my own personal thoughts on the proposed mine and those are constantly evolving as the process and situation continues to progress.  I think right now given what I’ve read and seen that the mine is a bad deal for Montanan’s and the Smith River Valley.  Our historic track record with mines has only resulted in mine companies making their money extracting resources and then the waste and damage is left with the people of Montana and public taxpayers.  Mining is a subject that is a double edged sword in my head though.  Our society relies on mining in almost all aspects of our lives.  Is it right to be ok with mines in South America and Asia that tarnish their environments because we never have to live with the consequences or eye sores of those mines?  Do we really care about conservation and the environment or do we only care when it’s in our own backyard and effects our happiness? I think there are ways to responsibly mine and have minimal impacts on the surrounding areas.  We just need to be active in making sure all parties are accountable and that we have good forward vision with each project that comes up.  Most importantly though, we all need to be involved in these subjects and do our own research.  Don’t believe what Trout Unlimited or Tintina Resources tells you just because they sent you an email or postcard with some fancy facts and info on it.  Don’t let a social media post sway your opinion.  Go read, talk to people about it, experience it first hand, dig a little deeper, gain an understanding and most importantly BE ENGAGED!!!  That process is so, so important on so many issues we currently face as sportsmen and as people who love wild places and public lands and waters.

-Written by Zack Boughton

-Photos by Travis Boughton, Zack Boughton, Calvin Connor

smith river, montana, copper mine, fishing, trout

If you missed Part 1 you can read it here > Smith River, Montana – Part 1

Part 2 – The Trip Days 1-3

Day 1 broke under a fresh couple inches of snow.  A light snow filtered through a soft glow steadily growing over the eastern horizon.  The diesel turned over and we pulled the boats over towards the launch.  After a few minutes of playful jabbing about the weather we took it upon ourselves to unload the snowy boats and begin our day.

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And the adventure begins…

smith river, montana, camp baker, fishing, spring, 2016, crosscurrents

The fleet for the week.

A little over an hour later and we had our three rafts in the water and loaded with our gear for the next 5 days.  Despite the frozen hands and a bitter edge on the day the overall moral was high and everyone was eager to start our push downriver.  One thing we had been concerned with over the past week was the condition of the river.  A long week of warm and sunny weather had sent a push of water downriver from the mountains and had bumped the river.  The water clarity wasn’t ideal but from all reports it seemed that the river would give up fish in all but the dirtiest of flows.  After the group shotgunned a beer we split up and pushed off.  The next few hours went off without a hitch and the weather had yet to unleash more than a light snow and a gentle breeze.

montana, smith river, fishing, snow

Beautiful although cold.

Montana quickly showed her teeth though.  A brutal wind out of the West whipped up the canyon and fired the wet snow in a horizontal pattern that had us wishing we had brought ski goggles.  The fishing was slow for those willing to freeze their hands working a streamer or nymphs along the fishy water which was hard to find with clarity that was all but nonexistent.  As we pushed into the afternoon we switched gears from fishing to just making it to camp so we could attempt to build a fire.

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Battling the elements on Day 1.

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Sam hooking up during a warm-up break.

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The snow breaks as we finally make camp on Day 1.

After finding some wet wood along the float we finally rounded our last bend of the day and anchored up to set up our first camp of the trip.  Everyone was feeling cold and wet despite plenty of Gore-Tex and warm layers.  The first order of business was to build a fire.  A strong group effort resulted in a fire finally gaining some strength and we began the process of piecing together camp and a warm meal.  (Tip #1 – although you can find wood along the float, I’d recommend bringing fire wood with you for each night.  Wet wood sucks and most campsites have very little in terms of firewood near camp)

smith river, montana, camping, fishing, cooking

A sick view, fishable water, a hot meal, and a fire. Life is good.

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Elk steak and potatoes for dinner.

With a belly full of elk meat and potatoes we all huddled tight to the fire until the urge to sleep overcame any warmth the dwindling fire could provide.  With calculated promptness we all found our ways into our sleeping bags and tents hoping the next morning would break with clear skies and a touch of Montana sun.  A quick peek from the tent in the morning revealed blue skies.  That short moment of happiness was quickly humbled by taking one look at the frozen waders and boots littered around camp.  A team effort set in motion a small fire and a breakfast of bacon and eggs and a warm cup of coffee.  As the sun finally rose high enough to throw it’s warm rays on our camp Sam hooked into the first fish of the day, a nice golden brown who wanted a red worm breakfast.

smith river, brown, trout, montana, spring, copper mine

Always good to hook a good one before you even push off for the day.

With the storm gone and the sun out we finally could enjoy some warmth and some of the most stunning river views found in Montana.  With each bend of the river a new view seared it’s spot in our memories as we casually rowed and fished our way downriver.

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A favorite headwall along Day 2.

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Sam hooks another with Travis capturing the action.

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Smith River whiskey warm-up.

smith river, montana, fishing, floating, rafting, camping, 2016

A view worth saving.

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A short wade session resulted in a few fish and few shots on film.

A few things were apparent by the end of Day 2.  The fishing was tough.  Our best fishing came when we pulled in and worked inside bends hard with nymphs.  It seemed a guys could pull a half dozen fish out of each good run if he wanted to put in the time.  Unfortunately with a good chunk of water to cover each day we couldn’t spend time in all the spots we wanted.  We also found good fishing at the low ends of the tributaries which were all open this year due to a new regulation change.  Again with little time to spare these moments were kept short and sweet but kept everyone in the game and catching fish.  The more obvious take-away from the day was that the Smith River is easy on the eyes.  The grandeur of the mighty rock walls and faces almost lose a bit of meaning since each bend reveals a new epic view.  As we floated beneath these towering giants I was surprised no one has died from falling rock.  With some cliff walls easily pushing a hundred feet or more, even a small rock would be life-threatening if it dislodged and found you at the bottom of its fall.  After a long day we pushed into camp and began the process of unloading the rafts and assembling camp.  With the forecast calling for more sun we hit the hay and got some much needed rest in anticipation of another long day starting early in the morning.

camping, smith river, montana, spring, hunting, rifles, camp, 2016

Pancakes and a couple rifles set on seeing a bear.

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Streamer fishing under savage towers of limestone.

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Montana proving again that it’s “The Last Best Place”.

Our goal for the afternoon was to go bear hunt on some public land near our camp.  A moderate hike put us up on a ridge we hoped held good grass.  Unfortunately the snow from our first day had stacked up and covered the hillside and ridge we were hunting.  We saw one set of bear tracks and a bunch of elk and deer tracks as we slowly climbed up above the Smith River canyon.  With little for options given the snow, we sat down and glassed the hill across the canyon to the north.  A few minutes in and Sam spotted a nice black bear traveling across the opposite hill.  The bear fed his way down into the timber as he dropped out of sight into the canyon looking for anything green.  With a precarious snow covered canyon below the decision was made to work back to camp and cook up dinner for the evening.

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The beauty of the area extends far beyond the Smith River Canyon.

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There be bears in them hills!

To read about the rest of our trip and hear our thoughts on the current state of the Smith River read Part 3 which will be live on our site tomorrow!

-Written by Zack Boughton

-Photos by Travis Boughton, Zack Boughton, Calvin Connor

 

SMITH RIVER, MONTANA

To protect a place or thing, you must appreciate and understand the value of it.  The greater the number of individuals that have that appreciation and value residing in their souls, the more support you have and the stronger the voice when a call to action is needed.  Although the Smith River is the only permitted recreational river in Montana and is enjoyed by thousands of outdoor enthusiasts each year, it continues to seemingly fly under the radar as a Montana destination in comparison to some of our other wildly famous resources.  That all has slowly been changing over the last year as a proposed copper mine has brought the beloved Smith River front and center.  Some cringe at the idea of more people knowing of their beloved spots and diluting their chances at drawing a permit yearly, but others see the necessity of a wider awareness and hope more people can become personally acquainted and educated on this beautiful river system and the overall majesty of the larger landscape of which the Smith River calls home.

smith river, montana, copper, mine, fly fishing, tintina

A classic look at Montana’s Smith River.

The Smith River is what I would call the Grand Canyon of Montana.  Flowing north out of the Big Belt, Little Belt and Castle Mountains it picks up size as it winds its way through windswept cattle country near White Sulfur Springs, Montana.  As it passes Camp Baker, where floaters put in on their 59 mile float, it dives into a deep limestone canyon that provides some of the most stunning river vistas Montana has to offer.  Cliff walls soar over corner after corner of this epic river and the beauty often distracts the fisherman from an eat of their fly by a hungry brown or rainbow trout.

fly, fishing, smith, river, montana, copper, mine, tintina, conservation, wild

This dynamic river is considered a red-ribbon trout fishery with trout densities back in 2011 averaging about 250 brown trout and 250 rainbow per mile in the upper stretches.  Angler-days averaged about 14,200 between 1982 and 2009.  The primary species to be hooked under these limestone walls are brown trout and rainbow trout, but cutthroat and brook trout do exist in lesser numbers as well.  Given the nature of the upper 100 miles of river it often runs a varying hue of brown for much of the first half of the float season.  Fishing a nymph will produce your best numbers but the Smith offers some exceptional dry fly fishing and great structure and pockets for the streamer junkie to target the larger fish in the river.

smith river, montana, brown, trout, wild, copper, mine, fishing

A nice Smith River brown trout.

Why the Smith is the #4 most Endangered River in America for 2015

Currently Tintina Resources is going through the permit process with Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality for an underground copper and related minerals mine in the Sheep Creek area.  Sheep Creek is a tributary to the Smith River and prime spawning habitat for native fish populations from as far away as the Missouri River hundreds of miles downstream.  The proposed mine has many worried.  A few of the concerns revolve around acid mine drainage and it’s potential effect on fish and other aquatic life, the potential for a lowered water table that could effect adjacent stream flows in a river system that already has to deal with low flows during the summer months, as well as groundwater contamination issues.  (More about the risks of the mine can be found in the links at the end of this post).  Now it’s a fact that our society and most all of us rely on mining in our daily lives.  I’m surely not anti-mining, but given Montana’s poor history with mines heavily polluting waterways it’s hard to not be highly concerned that we eventually will see many negative environmental effects from a mine such as this.  The Upper Clark Fork basin is currently one of the largest Super Fund sites in the nation due to a flood in 1908 that caused an open-pit copper mine in Butte to spill millions of tons of contaminated sediment downstream along the river for hundreds of miles (https://www.hcn.org/articles/clarkfork_superfund).

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Over hanging cliffs line a large portion of the Smith River.

With the debate raging on it was easy to see how both sides had valid points regarding their stance on the project.  One side wanted to protect the environment and recreational value of the resource and the other wanted to mine a valuable raw material our society demands while providing jobs to the local economy which currently has few to offer.  I figured the best way to feel out the subject was to actually get a first hand experience on the river.  Both my brother Travis and I had drawn permits for mid-April, and we knew that after 5 days on the river we’d have a much stronger opinion on the matter at hand.  As we spent time researching more about the river, I found that there was not much to be read or seen about the fishing on the river or the experience in general.  A quick Google search of “fly fishing the Smith River” led to the first page being dominated by outfitters and fly shops offering guided trips.  A read through these pages did provide some insight into the river but left more questions than it could answer.  A quick look at Youtube revealed an assortment of poor quality, handicam style videos that didn’t seem to showcase the grandeur of a place that was seemingly so epic and suddenly so threatened.  With little high quality content it seemed it would be hard for someone to understand the amazing value the resource had to offer without going on a trip firsthand.  Given the nature of our work we felt documenting our trip would be a great way to raise awareness for a resource that seemed to desperately need it.  It seemed that if thousands enjoyed the trip each year and our state was comprised of tens of thousands who enjoy fishing we could do better than only 8,022 signatures on a petition that needed 10,000 as of writing this.

smith river, montana, fly fishing, wild, copper mine, conservation

Looking for risers in the foam.

filming, smith river, montana, wild, video

Filming a nice cuttbow.

After a few weeks of quick planning we had arrived at Camp Baker with rafts, camping gear and a handful of cameras in tow.  Our group totaled only six people and only Sam had been here before.  Our goal was to see this resource firsthand and capture the trip through photo and video.  We had no big production crew, no big sponsors, no shot lists or scripts and no expectations, just a group of good friends, a beautiful river and five days of wild experience before us.  (Part 2 is now up on the site.  You can read it HERE > Part 2)

camp baker, smith river, montana, wild, gnar

Launch Day

To learn more about the Smith River Mine please see the following links:

Save Our Smith – (www.saveoursmith.com)

Tintina Resources – (www.tintinaresources.com)

Montana Environmental Information Center (www.meic.org/issues/smithriver)

Black Butte Copper – (www.blackbuttecopper.com)

Smith River Watch – (www.smithriverwatch.org)

Tintina’s mine proposal – (deq.mt.gov/Land/hardrock/tintinamines)

News Articles:

NY Times – (www.nytimes.com/smithriver)

Montana Kaimin – (www.montanakaimin.com/news/smith-river-mine)

Bozeman Chronicle 10/17/15 – (http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/opinions/guest_columnists/why-gamble-on-the-future-of-montana-s-smith-river)

Helena News 2/11/16 – (http://www.ktvh.com/2016/02/black-butte-copper-project-tintinas-technologies-part-3/)

 

-Written by Zack Boughton

-Photos by Travis Boughton, Zack Boughton, Calvin Connor, Maddie Sieler