Pro Tips: An Angler’s Guide to Argentina

Written by: Jeremy Kehrein, Sporting Travel Program Manager for Orvis Adventures


An angler casts on Rio Malleo, as the volcano Lanin looms in the background.
Photo courtesy San Huberto Lodge

Asked to create a hierarchy of fly-fishing dream destinations, many anglers would put Argentina up at the top. Since the late 1950s, when Joe Brooks first wrote about the rivers of Patagonia in. . .

Written by: Jeremy Kehrein, Sporting Travel Program Manager for Orvis Adventures


An angler casts on Rio Malleo, as the volcano Lanin looms in the background.
Photo courtesy San Huberto Lodge

Asked to create a hierarchy of fly-fishing dream destinations, many anglers would put Argentina up at the top. Since the late 1950s, when Joe Brooks first wrote about the rivers of Patagonia in the pages of Outdoor Life, American anglers have dreamed of making a pilgrimage to the bottom of the hemisphere to cast for giant, sea-run  brown trout.

There are three main fishing regions in Argentina: Patagonia in the west, Tierra Del Fuego in the south, and the warmwater river systems  from Buenos Aires north to  Corrientes and west to Salta.

Patagonia is so large and its waters so varied that anglers can find any kind of trout fishing they desire, from mountain lakes to small streams, and from spring creeks to powerful rivers. Tierra Del Fuego is home to giant sea-run brown trout up to 20 pounds. In addition, the warmwater rivers of the northern mountains and the eastern rivers and marsh systems hold freshwater dorado and pacu.

Patagonia Times Three
Western Argentina bears a striking resemblance to the western U.S., but without all the development. It feels as if you are in Montana of 50 or 100 years ago. There is no way that an angler can visit all the great trout rivers of Patagonia in a single trip, and the region can be easily divided into three destinations.


Another gorgeous, wild trout comes to the net on Rio Manso.
Photo courtesy Rio Manso Lodge and John Bleh

In the northern part of the Neuquen province, the small towns of Junin de los Andes and San Martin de los Andes are within striking distance of the rivers that first made Argentina famous–the Chimehuin, Malleo, Filo Hua Hum, Alluminé, and Collón-Curá, among others. (In Argentine Spanish, the ll is pronounced like the zh sound in azure, so Malleo is pronounced ma-ZHAY-o and Collón-Curá is pronounced KO-zhon KOO-ra.) There are many hosterias, lodges, and estancias in the region that cater to traveling fly fishermen.

In southern Neuquen is the city of San Carlos de Bariloche, located on the shore of Lago Nahuel Huapi in a mountainous region so striking that it’s known as the “Switzerland of the South.” The main attractions for anglers are rivers such as the Traful, Limay, and Pichi Leufu, Rio Manso and the many lakes of Nahuel Huapi National Park.

The Chubut Province is where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid made their final stand. The country is more rural and has many large ranches or “estancias,” so amenities and public access points to the rivers are fewer and far between than other places in the north.  Fly fishermen head to Esquel to fish the Arroyo Pescado, the country’s premier spring creek, as well as the Rios Corcovado, Rivadavia , and Pico. Nearby Los Alerces National Park is the headwaters of the Rio Grande, which flows west into Chile.


Argentina’s wild rainbows are known for their acrobatic displays.
Photo courtesy Carrileufu River Lodge

The Bottom of the World
If you enjoy fishing for anadromous fish or for large brown trout,  Tierra Del Fuego is paradise. Other than the best sea-run brown trout fishing in the world, there’s very little else (aside from penguin watching and sheep herding) to attract visitors to windswept southern Argentina. The British planted brown trout in the rivers during the early 1900s, and with no dams or intrusions, the fish instinctively ran to the Atlantic Ocean each year and grew to monstrous proportions. Each season, anglers head to these rivers to fight the strong winds and hopefully catch their largest brown trout on a fly.  Unfortunately for frugal anglers, most of the Rio Grande–the most famous of the region’s rivers–flows through private land, so the only way to get on the water is to book a spot at one of the several lodges and estancias along the river. Some charge as much as US$1,000 per day for lodging, meals, and guided fishing, although there are a few less-expensive alternatives.

The New Quarry
At the opposite end of the country—along Argentina’s borders with Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia—are the relatively new warmwater fisheries for dorado, pacu, and other species.  The Corrientes, Salta, Santa Fe, and Entre Rios provinces hold a handful of lodges and outfitting services for these new sought-after warmwater species. Most often compared to tarpon in the way they jump once they are hooked,  the golden dorado can reach upwards of 60 pounds in some tailwaters, and can top to 30 pounds in free-flowing river or marsh systems. The rivers that feed the marshlands, Esteros del Ibera and Esteros de Santa Lucia, have established lodges, while other northern jungles and mountainous rivers also hold good numbers of dorado and pacu, but are home to less established lodges, due to lack of infrastructure and their remote locations.


Whitney McDowell displays a monster golden dorado she caught with guide
Pablo Orfeo on the Juramento River in northern Argentina

Photo courtesy Whitney McDowell

The Country
On a trip to Argentina, there’s lots to get excited about, aside from the fishing. The country has everything an adventurous traveler wants: the cosmopolitan city of Buenos Aires, quaint small towns, deserts, glaciers, the pampa grasslands, mountains, jungles, and beaches.  The countryside itself is miraculous and varied, and there’s very little sprawl, as most of the land outside of the towns is wilderness or ranchland.  Half of the population of Argentina lives in the four largest cities, so there are many little “pueblos” and nothing between the Andes and the Atlantic.

And then there’s the food. Argentina is famous for its beef and wine, and that’s no coincidence. The local diet could best be described as “all meat, all the time,” but you can also count on an assortment of organic or locally sourced vegetables and fruits, as well.  Most meats are cooked on a special grill called a parilla over coals at low heat.  The process of this barbeque is called an asado, and I’ve enjoyed beef and lamb cooked this way several times. Expect to have a variety of empanadas as accompaniments to any asado or as appetizers before dinner.

I am always surprised by how easy it is to get around and by how conveniently located the towns are in relation to the rivers. Everywhere I go, the people are friendly and helpful. The rural people are exceptionally welcoming. Though very few speak English,  they are very accustomed to dealing with travelers. The expense of getting there aside, there really is nothing about Argentina that should deter any American who wants to experience this gorgeous part of the world.


The author with a fine rainbow caught at Estancia Tecka.
Photo courtesy Jeremy Kehrein

Jeremy Kehrein is Sporting Travel Program Manager for Orvis Adventures. He has guided and lived in Argentina and Montana. If you have questions about travel and fishing in Argentina, contact Jeremy at 800-547-4322 (Mon-Fri, 9am – 5pm (ET)) or orvistravel@orvis.com.


From the dorado along the northern border to sea-run browns in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina has lots to offer.
Map via wikipedia commons

Travel Tips: Where to Go for Your First Flats-Fishing Trip


A Grand Bahama Island bonefish.

My younger brother recently asked me where he should go for his first flats-fishing trip. He’s a longtime trout, bass, and striper fisherman, but he’s never tried the tropics. As far as I’m . . .


A Grand Bahama Island bonefish.

As summer starts to wind down, many of us anticipate all the great things that fall brings. But now is also time to start thinking of that winter getaway, when you leave the cold and snow behind. My younger brother recently asked me where he should go for his first flats-fishing trip. He’s a longtime trout, bass, and striper fisherman, but he’s never tried the tropics. As far as I’m concerned, this one’s a no-brainer: go to the Bahamas or Belize for bonefish. There are several reasons these destinations are the best place to start your saltwater angling career.

1. Bahamians and Belizians speak English and are very accustomed to hosting Americans. This is not to suggest that other destinations in Central or South America aren’t as welcoming—most are—but if you’re on your very first international fly-fishing trip, it will help if there’s no communication gap between you and your guide. The Bahamas are only 50 miles off the coast of Florida, so traveling to the islands is extremely easy from the East Coast; Belize is a bit farther for Easterners, but still an easy trip from most parts of the country. The less travel-related stress, the more you can focus on fishing.

2. Bonefish should be your first saltwater flats fish. Casting for bones offers everything that makes saltwater flats angling so exciting. You’re casting to fish you can see, you have to make a pretty good presentation, you can watch the fish eat (or not), and once hooked they make reel-screaming runs. There are bigger species, such as tarpon, and more difficult species, such as permit, but bonefish are more forgiving for beginning anglers.

3. Bonefish are plentiful and (usually) willing to eat. Unlike the well-educated bonefish in the Keys, Bahamian and Belizian bones are not nearly as finicky or wary. You won’t need to cast 90 feet to catch a bonefish, and if things get really tough, you can usually find schools of “mudding” fish that are eager to put a bend in your rod. (In the late 1990s, I caught my first bone from a “mud” while staying at El Pescador.) If you’re starting on a long fascination with saltwater species, it’s good to start on a successful trip.

4. Sight-fishing is a blast, and no other combination of species and destinations offer you so many shots at fish. While you’re chasing bones, you can also get shots at barracuda, permit, or even tarpon.

5. Both places offer every kind of lodge, too. There are lots of bonefish lodges in the Bahamas and Belize, and they range wildly in amenities, location, and available water. Want to be close to civilization or way out in the boonies? Want to be surrounded by lots of other anglers or have a more intimate experience? Are you looking for huge numbers of fish or just really big ones? Do a little bit of research, and you can find an operation that fits your needs, your skill level, and your budget.

Given all this, don’t forget to do your homework to make sure you get exactly what you’re looking for. You can start your research at the Orvis Travel pages for The Bahamas and Belize.

Keep in mind that this article is about a first flats-fishing trip. There are dozens of other wonderful destinations that offer unique experiences, bigger fish, etc. From Christmas Island to Key West, there are challenges to keep any angler busy for a lifetime.

Norway’s River of Gold: The Atlantic Salmon of the Gaula


The salmon caught on the Gaula are often just hours out of the salt, sporting sea lice on their gill plates.
Photo by Sandy Hays

As we all know, but may be loath to admit, luck is a vital component of success in nearly every fly-fishing situation. The concept is so ingrained in the consciousness of every angler, in fact, that. . .


The salmon caught on the Gaula are often just hours out of the salt, sporting sea lice on their gill plates.
Photo by Sandy Hays

As we all know, but may be loath to admit, luck is a vital component of success in nearly every fly-fishing situation. The concept is so ingrained in the consciousness of every angler, in fact, that it’s part of our standard on-the-river greeting.

“Have any luck?”

We’d all like to think that our skills and cunning are enough to ensure a hook-up, but that moment when a fish eats a fly is really dependent on so many things that are out of our control—weather, water levels, the inscrutable whims of the piscine brain, and even the very presence of fish, to name just a few.


The midnight sun colors the sky on a gorgeous June night in the Gaula Valley.
Photo by Sandy Hays

I know from my time as a guide in Alaska that luck is an even bigger factor when you’re pursuing anadromous fish, which enter fresh water in fits and starts, according to no set schedule, and are almost constantly on the move. The same pool or run that was full of fish the day before, allowing novice fly fishers to hook coho after coho, on this day can yield nothing for a seasoned angler. You can’t catch fish that simply aren’t there. At times like those, as the saying goes, it’s better to be lucky than good.

So I was aware that I was going to need a few good spins of Fortuna’s Wheel when I traveled to Norway’s famed Gaula River during the last week of June to try to catch a large Atlantic salmon. Since I had very little experience fishing for the species or casting Spey rods, I certainly wouldn’t be able to rely on skill. But what I discovered during my stay at the Norwegian Flyfishers Club (NFC) was that the very capriciousness of the fishery created an atmosphere of camaraderie and solidarity among the disparate group of anglers at the lodge that was unlike anything I’d experienced before. Atlantic-salmon anglers are accustomed to fishless days—and they’ll eagerly commiserate with others in the same situation—but the long hours of fruitless casting seem only to increase the majesty of the quarry in their eyes. One of the things that make the “Fish of Kings” special is that it doesn’t come easily; except when it does.


Alessio’s example (top) and my pale imitation (bottom) show how far I had to go toward perfecting the cast.
Photos by Sandy Hays

Facing Reality
As usual, I was accompanied by my friend and photographer, Sandy Hays, whom I’ve known since high school, and we caught an overnight flight from Newark to Trondheim on June 20. At the airport, we picked up a rental car, and the hour-long drive to the lodge took us first along the shores of the dramatic Trondheimsfjord and then into the gorgeous, verdant Gaula Valley, which narrows dramatically as one travels upriver. Perched on a high bank above the Gaula, the majestic NFC lodge, with its turf roof and imposing façade, is just outside the small town of Støren.
After a much needed nap and a fine dinner of reindeer stew, we met our guide, Alessio Falorni, and got ready to fish the final session of the day at our assigned beat on the lower Gaula. Because there are nearly 24 hours of sunlight in June, it’s possible to fish at any time, and the angling day is divided into four sessions: midnight to six, six to noon, noon to six, and six to midnight. Alessio, a fanatical angler from Florence, Italy, was bullish about our chances, since several fish had been hooked on the lower beats in recent days. But as we drove downriver and I anticipated breaking out the Spey rod, trepidation began to set in.

When I’d booked the trip to Norway last winter, I promised myself that in the intervening months, I’d practice a lot with the two-hander, so that I’d be at least semi-proficient the first time I waded into the Gaula. But once spring arrived, it was difficult to trade my limited fishing time for casting practice. And once the Hendricksons started popping on the Battenkill, all thoughts of the 14-footer flew out the window. Thus, I was about to be exposed as a rank novice, something I was not accustomed to.


The Gaula Valley is green and gorgeous in Late June.
Photo by Sandy Hays

Beat E1, a.k.a. the Horse Pool, is considered one of the best early-season beats because it is a good resting place for fish that recently entered the river. It starts with a riffle below an island and then transitions into a flat run with a few submerged, but visible rocks. The wide gravel riverbed makes for easy wading. We started at the top, and Alessio set me up with his rod and gave me a five-minute lesson in “Scandi” casting, which relies on precise body movements and timing. As I practiced, he calmly offered corrections while I made a total hash of things. After 20 minutes, I was able to get the orange tube fly out to a fishable distance. However, I was abashed every time I looked downstream and saw my friend, Taylor Edrington–the owner of Colorado’s Royal Gorge Anglers–who happened to be at the lodge that week, booming out long cast after long cast on the beat below us.

No one hooked up that first night, but a few hours of casting practice helped immensely, and we were treated to a spectacular sky at about midnight, as the sun dipped briefly below the horizon and lit up the clouds with a brilliant display of red and orange.


John Hoagland fights the first salmon, while his guide, Thies, stands at the ready.
Photo by Sandy Hays

Cheering on the Team
During his introductory talk to us new guests, NFC general manager Enrico Cristiani described fly-fishing for Atlantic salmon as a “team sport.” When a group of anglers is at the lodge, he explained, they are all fishing different beats on the river, and you never know which beat will produce fish on a given day. Luck and timing play such important roles that everyone should celebrate each fish caught, no matter who caught it.

Our international group—six Americans, three Canadians, and an Englishman—took this to heart, especially when day two was the first day of the season in which not a single fish was caught. Alessio, Sandy, and I worked hard on two separate beats before we got washed out by a mountain rainstorm that sent a slug of muddy water down the river. Back at the lodge, no one complained about getting skunked, but you got the sense that everyone was anticipating that first fish—caught by anyone—which would give us all hope that our hundreds or thousands of casts would soon produce success.


The first Guala salmon we laid eyes on was a beauty.
Photo by Sandy Hays

The next morning, I made the executive decision to switch from the rod with the Scandi line to a 14-foot, 9-weight Spey rod with a Skagit line that I had brought. This allowed me to employ the snap-T, snap-C, and double-Spey casts, which I found easier and more natural, and I was able to focus on covering water (i.e. fishing) instead of on trying to perfect the challenging cast. Even though he didn’t agree with it, Alessio supported my decision, as long as I was willing to attach 15 feet of T-14 lead-core line to the end of my Skagit line, to ensure the fly dropped down in the water column to where the fish would be holding.

I was chucking all this weight pretty well on beat L2, when Alessio’s cell phone “rang” (His ringtone is actually a screaming salmon reel). An angler had hooked a fish on the beat below us! I reeled up, and we all headed down to watch the action. John Hoagland, of Salt Lake City, was engaged in battle; his rod bent double, as his guide, Thies, talked him through the process. We cheered him on as he brought the fish close twice, only to have it race away across the current again. Finally, Thies got the net under the fish, John’s shoulders relaxed in relief, and there was much rejoicing.


My Spey rod is bent, as the samon heads downstream. . .
Photo by Sandy Hays

The bright-chrome salmon was just hours from the sea, with sea lice still attached to its gill plates, and its body streamlined and muscular. Although it was on the small side for the Gaula, at around 10 pounds, it was still astonishingly gorgeous. Just laying eyes on the magnificent fish made me both more excited to catch one and filled with hope that such a thing would occur—emotions bolstered when we returned to the lodge and heard that two other anglers, Californian Justin Miller and Canadian Paul Wiebe, also landed salmon. Our “team” was suddenly on the board in a big way, and the midnight bonfire and cookout on the riverside gravel was awash with an air of real optimism.

First Cast
After breakfast on day four, we headed upstream from the lodge, to a beat known as Bogen Søndre. (The beats are often named after the farms from which they are leased.) I was so eager to get my fly in the water that I waded in at the top of the beat while Alessio and Sandy still geared up in a small hut on the shore. I stripped off some line, executed my first cast of the day (a passable double Spey), and guided the tube fly through the seam between the main current and softer water closer to me. About halfway through the swing, the fly simply stopped, so I did what Alessio had trained me to do: nothing. Then, as the belly of line bulged downstream, a big, silver slab rolled on the surface, and I set the hook.


My 22-pound Atlantic salmon was a dream fulfilled.
Photo by Sandy Hays

After thousands of casts over three days, I had finally hooked into an Atlantic salmon, and my brain was flooded by a rush of emotions—excitement, relief, and a fear that I would somehow screw it up. Alessio and Sandy heard my shout and jumped into action. The fish immediately peeled off all my line and about 100 feet of backing as it headed for the deep water on the other side of the main current. Lucky for me, the pool contained no major obstacles that the fish could wrap me around, and after a 15-minute fight, during which I almost brought the fish to Alessio three times, he finally made a dramatic scoop to net the fish.

Suddenly, all that casting and frustration of learning to handle the two-handed rod and heavy tips seemed but a trifle. The fish was gorgeous: deep-bodied, chrome-bright, and a bit over 20 pounds. Its profile was perfect, from the sloping head to the fat caudal peduncle, which I could just barely get my hand around. This was the fish I had come to Norway to catch, and I was buzzing with adrenaline. After a few photos, we released it to complete the journey upstream. As it swam away, my mix of emotions modulated to include elation and awe, and I was overcome by the desire to catch another.


My fish’s powerful tail would propel it upstream to spawn.
Photo by Sandy Hays

Buying into the Culture
My first-cast salmon turned out to be just the opening act of a great day in which guests of NFC brought five salmon to hand. The atmosphere at the lodge that evening was festive, and even those anglers who hadn’t yet caught a fish shared in the excitement. Although I didn’t end up landing another salmon on the trip, the team scored another five salmon the next day—including a remarkable sequence in which my fellow Vermonter John Bleh caught two fish in an hour. By the end of the week, the tally was impressive: John was top rod with three salmon, three anglers landed two fish, three of us caught one, and three were shut out. Of course, there were also plenty of bumps, tugs, missed strikes, and lost fish in the mix, as well.

As expected, the hand of fate had not necessarily touched those with the greatest angling skill. Canadian Paul Wiebe had never even held a two-hander, yet he brought two salmon to the net. In contrast, another angler who had guided fly fishers for steelhead in British Columbia scored just one brief hook-up for the week. In our discussions about the role of luck, lodge owner Per Arneberg argued angling skill—better casting and presentation technique—helps to get the fly “fishing” quicker and produces a longer swing in the strike zone. This gives the angler more opportunity to be lucky, but it’s no guarantee of success.


A celebratory cup of coffee was in order after landing my first big Atlantic.
Photo by Sandy Hays

In the end, I succeeded in my goal of landing a large salmon, but the joys of the trip went far beyond that single event. The Gaula itself is a beautiful river, as well as one of Norway’s most productive salmon fisheries, and the beats we fished offered many different kinds of water, making each session a new challenge. My affinity for and comfort with the Spey rod grew immensely over the week, and I will always prize a photo that Alessio took of me booming out a long cast on our last evening together. His expertise as an instructor, as well as his enthusiasm and storytelling ability, made him an excellent guide for my entry into Atlantic-salmon-fishing culture. And it was that culture, with its sense of camaraderie and shared victories, which will stick with me the most.

Click here for more information on the Norwegian Flyfishers Club.

This article first appeared in American Angler magazine.


On the final evening of the trip, I finally figured out the casting stroke.
Photo by Alessio Falorni

Meet the Winners of the 2018 Orvis-Endorsed Awards!


This is the easy part of being a guide: Josh Duchateau of Firehole Ranch shares in success on the Madison River. But there is so much more work, behind the scenes and on the water, that makes for a magical day.
Photo by Phil Monahan

Each year, for thirty-two years, the Orvis Company has recognized excellence in sporting experiences through its Endorsed Lodges, Outfitters, and Guides Program (ELOG). These . . .


This is the easy part of being a guide: Josh Duchateau of Firehole Ranch shares in success on the Madison River. But there is so much more work, behind the scenes and on the water, that makes for a magical day.
Photo by Phil Monahan

Each year, for thirty-two years, the Orvis Company has recognized excellence in sporting experiences through its Endorsed Lodges, Outfitters, and Guides Program (ELOG). These awards are based on a number of criteria, the most important of which is customer feedback: the reviews from the customers who have experienced these operations are the ultimate arbiters of success. Also taken into consideration are the operation’s environmental commitment to and stewardship of their resource, and their partnership with Orvis in providing the finest sporting experience possible.

The winners of this year’s awards were announced at a ceremony last night, during the 2018 Orvis Guide Rendezvous in Asheville, North Carolina. Click here to see the lists of nominees for each category.

Here are this year’s winners, along with one of the customer comments that caught the judges’ eyes:


2018 Endorsed Freshwater Fly-Fishing Guide of the Year

Jenny Mayrell-Woodruff—Fly Fish Beavers Bend, Broken Bow, Oklahoma


Photo courtesy Kip Vieth

Jenny-Mayrell Woodruff has been fly-fishing the Lower Mountain Fork River for over 15 years, and she averages over 200 days a year on the water. She strives to ensure that her clients have a good time on the river and walk away knowing more about catching trout on the fly. This season, Jenny and her husband–fellow endorsed guide Rob Woodruff–will begin a new adventure, managing Blue Damsel Lodge on Montana’s Rock Creek. Here’s what one Orvis customer had to say about fishing with Jenny:

“My husband and I hired Jenny for a half-day guided fly fishing trip, and we could not have chosen a better guide. Prior to this trip, I read books and researched online about the art of fly fishing– Jenny was better than any book that I could place my hands on. She has an extensive knowledge of this sport that really impressed us. Not only was she friendly, outgoing, patient, cautious and smart, she was so eager to make our experience a first class experience. I also believe that she is the perfect guide to get more and more women involved in the sport of fly fishing because of her demeanor and grace. We are booking our next trip with Jenny today because we had such a wonderful time.”


2018 Endorsed Saltwater Fly-Fishing Guide of the Year

Capt. Jason Sullivan—Rising Tide Charters, Everglades National Park, Florida


Photo courtesy Capt. Jason Sullivan

Capt. Jason Sullivan offers year round sight fishing opportunities in one of the most diverse ecosystems in the country. Here’s what one guest had to say about a day on Captain Sullivan’s boat:

“Fly Fishing the Everglades was one thing that was on my husband’s and my bucket list. We have read and seen videos on the Everglades and wanted to experience it first-hand. The most important thing was hiring the right guide for the job. Capt. Jason is a true pro and was an excellent guide. He put us on fish all day long and really improved both of our casting. Safe to say he is a great representation of Orvis!”


2018 Endorsed Fly-Fishing Lodge of the Year

Wollaston Lake Lodge , Saskatchewan, Canada


Photo courtesy Wollaston Lake Lodge

In the remote reaches of Canada’s serene northern wilderness lies one of the best freshwater fisheries in the entire world–the incomparable Wollaston Lake. And the magnificence of the fishery is matched only by the beauty and comfort of its premier destination, Wollaston Lake Lodge. Situated at the mouth of the Umpherville River, the Lodge is a spectacular retreat. One recent customer wrote:

“This was my second trip and my father’s third. We brought my two sons, ages 18 and 15. It had been over 10 years since we had been there, and we were afraid our stories had been exaggerated over the years. We were all blown away once again by the friendly service, the quality of the fishing, great amenities, superb food. There were also little touches like being personally greeted by the owners at the dock after a day of fishing, coffee delivered to cabin every 5:30 AM, free laundry and a video in our cabin scrolling pictures from my trip 12 years ago. They have a customer service culture that rivals the best of the 5 star hotels.

The highlight of the trip was without a doubt the guides, Tyler and Dan. They adapted the days to our level of experience and never stopped trying to make each moment enjoyable. We had a lot of fun even when we weren’t catching fish but we caught a lot of fish. Each guest we spoke to had the same to say about their guides so I don’t think we got lucky…its just how everyone operates. We will be back!”


2018 Endorsed Fly-Fishing Outfitter of the Year

Wild Waters Fly Fishing, Mt. Shasta, California


Photo by Val Atkinson

Wild Waters is dedicated to the education, conservation and enjoyment of fly fishing. They guide for trout, salmon, and steelhead in Northern California and Southern Oregon. This reviewer certainly felt the staff’s commitment to their customers and their resources:

“Thanks to Wild Waters, I am forever haunted by waters. From my first day on the river with my dad, I’ve always felt a profound and deep connection to rivers. Wild Waters has not only taught me the art and magic of angling, but also share the same spiritual connection between land, water, fish and people. The skills I have built and continue to build are because of Wild Waters incredible talent and beyond excellent customer service. They fully embrace all group sizes, provide fun for the whole family, and accommodate personal preferences like no other, while also offering delicious, well-founded food and snacks (critical to river life). Wild Waters has expanded who I am and who I wish to be, both on and off the river.”


2018 Fly Shop of the Year

Unicoi Outfitters , Helen, Georgia

Unicoi Outfitters has been North Georgia’s number one fly shop and guide service since they opened on the banks of the Chattahoochee River in 1994. A long-time Orvis dealer and proud to now be an Orvis-Endorsed Fly-Fishing Outfitter, Unicoi offers both a full range of fly fishing tackle and extensive guided fishing opportunities that aren’t available anywhere else. Here’s one of their great reviews from last year:

“I have been a customer of Unicoi and I can say that they are a great resource for fly fishermen all over the south. The shop is well stocked with everything you need for a trip, and the staff is knowledgeable and willing to help. I highly recommend taking one of their guided trips, as I have learned more in a few hours with one of their guides than I have picked up on several trips by myself. Everyone at this business fishes and it shows; they always know the best places to fish and what flies are hot. We are truly fortunate to have them in our region.”


2018 International Destination of the Year

Salvelinus, Spanish Pyrenees


Photo courtesy Salvelinus

Salvelinus offers a variety of tours to Spain for fly anglers and their non-angling travel companions, including heli fly-outs, guided cultural tours, and food and wine tours. Ivan Tarin has built a unique fly-fishing business that covers more than a dozen valleys across 200 miles of mountain terrain, two high-quality lodges, and local, expert guides. You will be introduced to a new world of fly fishing as you travel back in time to explore remote mountain streams in one of the most picturesque regions of Spain. Here’s a customer review that captures the experience:

“I have fished all over the world and stayed at many lodges Salvelinus is just in a class of its own. An Incredibly warm welcome from a team of fantasticly knowledgeable people who open up all the secrets of this wonderful country. Salvelinus runs like a Swiss watch. My passion is dry fly fishing for wild trout and the fishing offered in the Spanish Pyrenees is just exceptional. To top all this off sensational food and wine served with so much attention to detail. Cannot recommend Salvelinus enough. I will be back for sure.”


2018 Endorsed Wingshooting Lodge of the Year

Joshua Creek Ranch, Boerne, Texas


Photo by Kevin Welborn

Joshua Creek Ranch, located in the beautiful Texas Hill Country, is nestled on an isolated stretch of the pristine Guadalupe River and Joshua Creek, just 45 minutes northwest of San Antonio’s International Airport. The Ranch’s diverse terrain is a perfect habitat for the best upland bird hunting in Texas, as well as decoyed mallard duck hunting and dove hunting excursions in season. Sports enthusiasts also enjoy gunning on the scenic 15-station sporting clays course, and fly-fishing on Joshua Creek. This reviewer obviously found the ranch to his liking:

“My brother-in-law and I chose Joshua Creek and arrived with very high expectations. As we approached the main Lodge and drove alongside rows of trees and well-maintained fields, we felt the stress of our busy lives leave us. The ranch is organized and thoughtfully designed. The service is warm and personal, yet professional. The guides are incredibly friendly and tremendously knowledgeable. After a long day of enjoying hunting, we came back to the Lodge to find the fireplace aglow! We highly recommend! We are definitely coming back with our families!””


2018 Endorsed Wingshooting Guide  of the Year

Mark Nissen, Classic Bird Hunts, Glendale, Wisconsin


Photo courtesy Mark Nissen

Catering to the foot hunter in pursuit of wild game birds over classic pointing dogs, Mark Nissen focuses on ruffed grouse and woodcock in the forests of Wisconsin. Here’s an evaluation from one satisfied customer:

“I’ve hunted with guides across the globe. Some have been great, some have been ok, some I won’t see again. It’s hard to say exactly what makes a perfect guide, but I think Mark sets the bar. You want a guide that enjoys the hunt, loves the thrill of the chase, could spend all day afield with you and the dogs… but also a person that realizes he and his team have a job to do. Have fun, keep you safe, find you birds, respect the land and the kill. Mark is that guy.”

Photos: Business-Trip Bones in The Bahamas

Written by: Dan Davala, Orvis Travel


Conditions on South Andros look pretty perfect for Dan’s pre-conference check-in.
Photos courtesy Dan Davala

I had to be in Nassau, The Bahamas, for a conference today, so I flew in a few days early to swing by a couple of our Orvis Endorsed Lodges on South Andros Island. I managed a nice DIY . . .

Written by: Dan Davala, Orvis Travel


Conditions on South Andros look pretty perfect for Dan’s pre-conference check-in.
Photos courtesy Dan Davala

I had to be in Nassau, The Bahamas, for a conference today, so I flew in a few days early to swing by a couple of our Orvis Endorsed Lodges on South Andros Island. I managed a nice DIY bonefish on Saturday evening at Tiamo under a setting sun, then gave the 8-weight Helios 3F a nice workout on Sunday and Monday while visiting Bair’s Lodge. Shout out to Leslie Johnson and Chris Bain for putting me on a ton of tailing fish under pretty perfect conditions!

Dan Davala is an Orvis Fly Fishing Travel Specialist. He is the former the Fishing Manager at Orvis Arlington (VA).


The quarry and the tools of capture.

Sunsets over the flats can be glorious.

Sunny days on the flats make for great sight-fishing to these ghosts.

This beautiful bone was cruising along the mangroves, looking for lunch.

Video: Hang Tight in Slovenia

Here’s a great trailer for an upcoming film–from Brothers on the Fly, a German/Swedish filmmaking team, and Matt Calderaro of Soca Cowboy–about one man’s Quixotic quest to catch a marble . . .


Here’s a great trailer for an upcoming film–from Brothers on the Fly, a German/Swedish filmmaking team, and Matt Calderaro of Soca Cowboy–about one man’s Quixotic quest to catch a marble trout. Having fished the region with Matt a few years ago, I know how easy it is to become obsessed with these beautiful fish, and I can only imagine how a series of failures could make an angler crazy. With spectacular scenery, a true fishing philosopher-guide, and a compelling story, this looks like one to watch for.

5 Things You Need to Know about Travel to Cuba

Written by: Sarah Thies, Manager of Orvis Travel


Cuba’s pristine flats, stunning fish, and experienced guides are still welcoming American visitors.

If you’ve been thinking about visiting Cuba, you’re probably aware that the federal government has just announced a new policy that features tougher restrictions on American travelers. This has . . .

Written by: Sarah Thies, Manager of Orvis Travel


Cuba’s pristine flats, stunning fish, and experienced guides are still welcoming American visitors.

If you’ve been thinking about visiting Cuba, you’re probably aware that the federal government has just announced a new policy that features tougher restrictions on American travelers. This has left many people confused about whether anyone can still travel legally. But rest assured that any trip with Orvis is fully compliant with U.S. government regulations. Here are answers to the top questions that folks have been asking following the Cuba sanctions issued yesterday by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

1. Is it legal for me to travel to Cuba with Orvis?

Yes, you can confidently travel to Cuba with Orvis, knowing that our trips are fully compliant with the latest OFAC regulations issued on November 8, 2017. While individual people-to-people travel to Cuba will be restricted by the new Cuba sanctions, you can still travel to the island with Orvis through our sponsored people-to-people trips in the company of an Orvis representative.

Orvis remains your trusted resource for a unique, authentic trip that combines world-class fly fishing for bonefish and tarpon with unforgettable interactions with the local Cuban people. When you travel in the company of an Orvis trip leader, you’ll see and experience Cuba like few people do. The historic charm of Old Havana, wildly creative Cuban artists and musicians, and a pristine saltwater fishery make Cuba one of the most enriching destinations you’ll ever visit.


Cuba’s bonefish have not seen many flies, and angling pressure is minimal.

2. How can I book flights to Cuba if individual travel is restricted?

It’s easy to book commercial flights to Cuba, with airfare ranging from just $300-$500 per person, roundtrip from most U.S. cities. The U.S. Department of Transportation has approved commercial flights to Havana from multiple U.S. cities, including New York, Newark, Houston, Atlanta, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa, Charlotte and Los Angeles. Check-in and baggage policies may differ from domestic flights because travel to Cuba is still restricted.

The airline will require you to certify that your travel to Cuba falls into one of the approved categories of travel authorized by OFAC. Your trip qualifies as authorized travel as part of an educational people-to-people exchange sponsored by Orvis. When you book a trip to Cuba with Orvis, we’ll send you more details about flights and arrival and departure information in your trip confirmation package. If you have any questions about booking your commercial flight to Havana, please call us at 800-547-4322.


Travel to Cuba is a wonderful immersion in a unique culture.

3. What travel documents do I need for entry to Cuba?

All U.S. citizens and permanent residents will need a passport with a minimum of two blank pages that is valid for at least six months after the scheduled date of return from Cuba. The Cuban government requires all travelers to obtain a Cuban visa (also known as a tourist card) prior to arrival into Cuba. Orvis can arrange for your tourism visa, as well as required Cuban health insurance.

Orvis also maintains stringent record-keeping for all our travelers so that they don’t need to. We provide our guests with all of the necessary paperwork for the trip and keep records for a minimum of five years, as required by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

4. Will the new Cuba sanctions impact where I can stay in Cuba?

No. Happily, none of the hotels that Orvis uses are on the restricted list issued by the U.S. State Department. This means that a trip with Orvis is fully compliant with U.S. regulations and our experience won’t be negatively impacted in any way. We spend two nights at one of the top historic hotels in Havana and five nights at Enridan Lodge at Playa Larga Hotel in the sleepy fishing village of Playa Larga.


Cuban food and hospitality are a memorable part of any trip to the island.

5. How will the new Cuba policy changes affect the restaurants and other places Orvis visits?

Orvis spent over two years conducting extensive research to offer customers a unique, authentic experience that is still fully compliant with U.S. government regulations. To provide you with the most authentic experience possible, Orvis has handpicked some of the best family-run restaurants, called paladares, where you’ll enjoy delicious home-cooked meals and learn more about life in Cuba today.

We’ve also arranged a diverse selection of unforgettable interactions with local Cubans–from a private musical performance with a renowned singer/songwriter, a visit to a garage that restores classic automobiles and a meeting with the owner of the first privately-owned fly shop in Cuba. Travelers are sure to leave with a deeper understanding of Cuba and its people.

For more information about our Orvis-exclusive trip to Cuba or to read the answers to all of our frequently asked questions, please visit the Orvis Travel Cuba page. Multiple departures are available and space is limited to only 10 anglers per trip.

Finding Solitude, and Trout, on Yellowstone’s “Less-Fished” Waters

Written by: Brian La Rue


The Lewis River below the falls offers fine fishing, but with quite a few spectators.
All photos courtesy brain LaRue

I love Yellowstone and all it offers. Before starting a family, my wife and I would go to the park early and late in the season. Now with a couple school-age kids, vacation windows are more limited, so we find ourselves joining the herds of summer vacations each year. But you. . .

Written by: Brian La Rue


The Lewis River below the falls offers fine fishing, but with quite a few spectators.
All photos courtesy brain LaRue

I love Yellowstone and all it offers. Before starting a family, my wife and I would go to the park early and late in the season. Now with a couple school-age kids, vacation windows are more limited, so we find ourselves joining the herds of summer vacations each year. But you can still find plenty of “less-fished” waters if you think out of the box and put on a pair of hiking boots.

After eleven days in the park, I found myself on numerous out-of-the-way or even popular waters, but I put a little tread between myself and the campsites and pullouts and found myself alone on some of the park’s best waters.


Pebble Creek is not far from the oft-crowded Lamar River.

My family and I camped a couple nights at Pebble Creek on the northeastern end of the Lamar Valley. I passed the Lamar and Soda Butte and saw numerous anglers trying their luck, but the smaller, more secluded Pebble Creek turned out to be a great alternative, allowing me and my 8-year-old more than 30 fish in about two hours of fishing. They couldn’t pass up a Yellow Rubber-legged Crystal Stimulator or a tan Elk-Wing Caddis. Nothing was very big, but fishing from the Pebble Creek Campground to the junction with Soda Butte was entertaining, to say the least.

Another spot a lot of folks target is Slough Creek. Again, we passed the trailhead loaded with about 20 cars, whose occupants surely hiked over the hill to the first or second meadow. I like to fish the campground stretch to the boulder-filled valley to not only put my youngster on fish, but to have the place to ourselves. Same story here, lots of smaller fish on the Stimulator, including a 17-incher and a few 12- to 14-inch cutthroats. There was no shortage of takes, with 30-plus fish hitting in a matter of a couple hours.


Yellowstone cutthroats are usually willing to hit a Stimulator or Elk Wing Caddis.

One day, we planned to go swimming at the Boiling River along the Gardner near Mammoth. Same thing: tons of cars and a river full of swimmers. So we simply decided to have lunch below some Rocky Mountain sheep and I threw the big yellow Stimmie for about an hour. I managed numerous grabs, including a couple 14- to 15-inch browns.

Finally, my son joked about being in everybody’s vacation photos because I took him to the Lewis River. We managed lots of little trout there, as well. They couldn’t pass up the Elk Wing Caddis, with fish hitting multiple times in every pool that was deeper than your knees. As we fished under the bridge and up to the waterfall, we felt like all eyes were on us, as numerous spectators had a bird’s eye view of each strike on the proven pattern.


A big cutthroat eats a stonefly at LaHardy Rapids on the Yellowstone.

To round out the fun, we also looked for huge cutthroats at LeHardy Rapids. There is no fishing in that stretch, but we always hope to see running cutthroats going up the rapids. Though I’ve seen plenty of pictures, I had personally never seen one jumping up river here. But from the boardwalk, we saw about six 22- to 25-inch cutts eating stoneflies. What a treat to watch them eat!

Brian La Rue is the former Store Manager of Orvis Reno and Sales and Marketing Manager for High Country Angler Magazine. He now does social media for Outdoor Sportsman Group.

Check Out the Winners of the 2017 Orvis-Endorsed Awards!


A guide’s work is never done. Here, Ivan Tarin of Salvelinus Lodge prepares to net a big rainbow trout.
Photo by Sandy Hays

Each year, the Orvis Company recognizes excellence in sporting experiences through its Endorsed Lodges, Outfitters, and Guides Program (ELOG). Representatives from several categories . . .


A guide’s work is never done. Here, Ivan Tarin of Salvelinus Lodge prepares to net a big rainbow trout.
Photo by Sandy Hays

Each year, the Orvis Company recognizes excellence in sporting experiences through its Endorsed Lodges, Outfitters, and Guides Program (ELOG). Representatives from several categories are nominated, and ultimately one is chosen as the best of the year.

These awards are based on a number of criteria, the most important being customer feedback; the reviews from the customers who have experienced these operations are the ultimate arbiters of success. Also taken into consideration are the operation’s environmental commitment to and stewardship of their resource, and their partnership with Orvis in providing the finest sporting experience possible for the Orvis customer.

The winners of this year’s awards were announced at a ceremony on April 28, during the 2017 Orvis Guide Rendezvous in Missoula, Montana. Click here to see the lists of nominees for each category.

Here are this year’s winners, along with one of the customer comments that caught the judges’ eyes:


2017 Endorsed Freshwater Fly-Fishing Guide of the Year

Kip Vieth—Wildwood Float Trips, Monticello, Minnesota


Photo courtesy Kip Vieth

Wildwood Float Trips is located on the banks of the Upper Mississippi River. They offer guided float trips in the Upper Midwest, on the Upper Mississippi, St.Croix, Rum, Kettle, and St. Louis Rivers. Here’s what one Orvis customer had to say about fishing with Kip:

“One of the best……period! I’ve had the opportunity to fish with several guides over the years and there isn’t anyone more experienced or more fun to fish with. I have done at least one trip with him a year for the last 10 years and plan on continuing for at least another 10. I can’t recommend anyone more than Kip.”


2017 Endorsed Saltwater Fly-Fishing Guide of the Year

Capt. Lucas Bissett—Low Tide Charters, Slidell, Luoisiana


Photo courtesy Capt. Lucas Bissett

Capt. Luca Bissett fishes out of the Hopedale and Delacroix areas, which are both located a short distance to the southeast of New Orleans. Here’s what one guest had to say about a day on Captain Bissett’s boat:

“Despite poor fishing conditions and my even poorer casting skills, it turned out to be, thanks to Lucas, the trip of a lifetime! As a teacher and guide, he was simply exemplary in every way. Patient, positive, and professional, he put me on many fish throughout the trip. If you are thinking of chasing redfish in the New Orleans-area, you must hire Capt. Lucas Bissett as your guide – a game changer!”


2017 Endorsed Fly-Fishing Lodge of the Year

Big Hole Lodge, Wise River, Montana


Photo courtesy Big Hole Lodge

Big Hole Lodge has been hosting guests since 1984 and is ideally located on the banks of the Wise River in a magnificent wilderness setting. Guests stay in spacious private cabins with modern conveniences, all opening to a panoramic view of the scenic Pioneer Mountains. One recent customer wrote:

“I spent 5 days at the lodge this summer, it was my third year in a row.  The food and lodging is truly first rate.  They even bring a pop up table with table cloth for shore lunch!  Dinner conversations with our hosts/guides are always lively and engaging.  I believe this family and their guides fish not for business but because they are deeply driven to do so by inner desires.  Their love of the sport and of the rivers they fish is not only evident but infectious.  No matter our level of angling experience, they showed us techniques and tips to help make for a successful day.  We enjoyed fishing different waters and using different methods each and every day.  The fish were plentiful and I caught several once in a life time trophies. It was a fantastic experience and I can’t wait to get back. The solitude that they offer is simply good for the soul.  This is the real deal – sparse, rugged, expansive and silent.”


2017 Endorsed Fly-Fishing Outfitter of the Year

The Tackle Shop Outfitters, Ennis, Montana


The Tackle Shop Outfitters’ John Way poses with a client.
Photo courtesy The Tackle Shop

Located in Ennis, on the banks of the famous Madison River, only an hour from Yellowstone National Park, and set between the Big Hole, Beaverhead, and Yellowstone Rivers, The Tackle Shop has been the leader in fly-fishing and guided-fishing trips on the Madison since 1937. This reviewer certainly felt the staff’s commitment:

“John Way showed his extensive knowledge, passion, completeness of experience and obvious love of fly fishing. He inspired the same love and passion for the sport in us. This commitment is also obvious through his with work within the local community and his service on the Montana Board of Outfitters representing the sport of fly-fishing.”


2017 Fly Shop of the Year

The Beaverkill Angler, Roscoe, New York


Photo courtesy The Beaverkill Angler

Located in Roscoe New York, the Beaverkill Angler has been proudly serving Catskill area fly fishermen since 1979. Affectionately known as “Trout Town, USA”, Roscoe sits near the conjunction of two world famous fisheries: the Beaverkill River and Willowemoc Creek. With the Main Stem, West Branch, and East Branches of the Delaware River nearby, the Beaverkill Angler is a trusted source of area information, flies, and services for people fishing some of the most historic rivers in the country.


2017 International Destination of the Year

El Pescador Lodge, Ambergris Caye, Belize


Photo courtesy El Pescador Lodge

El Pescador is the only lodge in Belize endorsed by Orvis that offers such a wide variety of fly fishing. Bonefish, tarpon and permit are all present and you don’t have to go far to get them. Bonefish are the main quarry, but permit and tarpon are regularly caught within a short boat trip of the lodge. The lodge specializes in fly fishing, but light tackle fishing and reef fishing are available, with the guides and boats are on hand to make it happen.

“Each time I visit is a more special experience. The owner, lodge managers, fishing director and the entire staff go above and beyond to make you feel welcome. They are amazing! You also can’t beat the location. The beachside accommodations are very nice and the food is a delight, with each meal a great experience. The fishing was fantastic – one of my best trips ever! I strongly recommend this as an outstanding fishing lodge and eagerly await my next visit.”


2017 Endorsed Wingshooting Lodge of the Year

Southwind Plantation, Attapulgis, Georgia


Photo courtesy Southwind Plantation

SouthWind Plantation is South Georgia’s premier, reservation-only outdoor adventure plantation. From blue-ribbon hunting to trophy fishing, they offer distinctive outdoor adventures for the discerning sportsman with all of the grace and heritage of a traditional Southern plantation. This reviewer obviously agrees:

“From the moment that I arrived at Southwind Plantation I was treated like a member of the family. The entire staff made sure that I had everything I needed to make my first trip an unforgettable experience. The word “no” is not in the vocabulary of anyone there. The guides have an expansive knowledge of quail habitat and they all have a love for the outdoor experience. Dog work is unsurpassed, and the birds fly better than I have ever seen. I am already counting the days to my return.”


2017 Endorsed Wingshooting Guide  of the Year

Eric Harrison, Joshua Creek Ranch, Boeme, Texas


Photo courtesy Joshua Creek Ranch

Eric Harrison grew up in Kentucky along the Ohio River. He shared a passion for hunting with his father, who would regularly take Eric on his hunting trips. He graduated from South East Illinois in 2002 and moved to Texas to pursue a career as a hunting guide and started working at Joshua Creek Ranch in 2007. He’s a Texan at heart and defines “Texas Hospitality.”. Here’s an evaluation from one satisfied customer:

“We have hunted all over the world, and Eric at Joshua Creek Ranch ranks among the highest! His passion for what he does is unparalleled. Eric has a commitment to providing a unique, special customer experience every time we hunt with him. Outstanding.”


Orvis-Endorsed Guide Lifetime Achievement Award

Matt P. Libby—Libby Camps, Ashland, Maine


Photo courtesy Matt P. Libby

Matt P. Libby, this year’s Orvis Fly Fishing Lifetime Achievement Award winner, became a guide at 18 and a lodge owner 41 years ago. But in reality, he has been in the business since the day he was born. For three generations before him, his family had operated one of the most renowned hunting and fishing lodges in the East, Libby Sporting Camps. He carried on a family tradition that is now in its 127th year. Looking back at this history, Matt said, “It seems that we just can’t get the camps out of our blood.” Click here to read more about Matt;s incredible career.

Pro Tips: My Top 5 Montana Rivers for Spring Fishing

Written by: Brian McGeehan, Montana Angler Fly Fishing


The nymph fishing on the Missouri River can be spectacular in spring.
Photo by Todd Everts

Early Spring (late March thru early May) is the most underrated time of year to fish in Montana. The trout are hungry after a long winter and have not seen a fly in months. Low water levels . . .

Written by: Brian McGeehan, Montana Angler Fly Fishing


The nymph fishing on the Missouri River can be spectacular in spring.
Photo by Todd Everts

Early Spring (late March thru early May) is the most underrated time of year to fish in Montana. The trout are hungry after a long winter and have not seen a fly in months. Low water levels have fish concentrated in specific areas, and crowds are sparse. While visiting anglers have discovered our fabulous fall fishing, spring remains very quiet and presents a great opportunity for anglers. The weather is certainly a crap-shoot, but it can be absolutely gorgeous, and the fishing is usually good enough that putting up with a little bad weather is completely worth it.

The nice thing about early spring in Montana is that we have a myriad of options. Freestone rivers will be on fire as they begin to warm, but can mud up for a few days as the low elevation snowpack begins to melt. If this happens, we have tailwaters and spring creeks to turn to, so there will always be something that is fishing great. Let’s take a look at five of my favorite options for early spring fishing.


When clear, the Yellowstone can be a dynamite spring option.
Photo courtesy Montana Angler

1. Yellowstone River
The Yellowstone is a prime option during spring, when water and weather conditions cooperate. My favorite thing about the Yellowstone this time of year is the opportunity to fish streamers, nymphs, and dry flies all on the same float. Nymphing with stoneflies and small beadheads seems to always produce, and hatches of blue-winged olives and March browns can draw fish to the surface. Spring is also a prime time to tie on a big streamer and swing for the fences. While the fall is thought of as the time to target big fish, as many if not more trophies are landed each spring. I like to slow down my retrieve and use a heavier sinking-tip line in the spring, as water temperatures are still cold, limiting the trout’s willingness to chase a fly.

During the spring, most fishing on the Yellowstone takes place around the town of Livingston and in the lower reaches of Paradise Valley. The Shields River is muddy for most of the spring, impacting the river downstream of Livingston. The upper reaches of Paradise Valley can be very slow-going at such low water levels, so most anglers target the lower part of the valley where the current picks up a bit. Expect to catch plenty of rainbows in the 13- to 16-inch range, with a few cutthroats and whitefish thrown in. The prize on the Yellowstone is a big brown trout, and fish north of 25 inches are taken each year. On a freestone river like the ‘Stone, this is a true trophy, and it is comforting to know that you have a shot at such a magnificent fish.


With consistent flows 365 days a year, the spring creeks around Livingston are always a good bet.
Photo courtesy Montana Angler

2. Paradise Valley Spring Creeks
If the Yellowstone River is muddy or you want to do some wade fishing, then the world-famous spring creeks just south of Livingston are a great bet. Depuy’s, Armstrong’s, and Nelson’s all offer red-hot fishing during the spring. While these spring creeks are packed with fish year round, rainbows and cutthroats move in from the Yellowstone to spawn during the spring. Fish that are actively spawning should be left alone, but pre- and post-spawn fish take flies readily, giving the angler a shot at large trout that spend most of the year out in the big river. These spring creeks are subject to daily rod fees, which are at the lowest rate before April 15th, another reason to visit Montana in the early spring.

The spring creeks offer good opportunities for both nymphing and dry-fly fishing. Blue-winged olives and midges are the predominant hatches, and come off best on cloudy days. There will be a window in the afternoon for dry flies, even on sunny days. Come prepared with a variety of midge imitations and Baetis patterns for each stage of the hatch. I find that emergers often out-fish dun patterns, and I usually set up my rig with a BWO emerger trailing about 14 inches behind a Parachute BWO.

Nymphing will be the mainstay when there are no bugs hatching and is most effective in the riffles and choppy runs. I like to use a Scud, Sowbug, or San Juan Worm as my point fly and a midge or Baetis nymph as the dropper. Drab, generic patterns, like a Zebra Midge or RS-2, will take fish 365 days a year on the creeks. Small yarn indicators work well here, as the takes are often very subtle. These fish live in a food factory and do not need to move very far to have a meal. Carry split shot in a variety of small sizes and adjust often, as each run is different and your presentation needs to be precise.


Wade fishing is very productive during spring, when many fish are still stacked up in deeper holes.
Photo courtesy Montana Angler

3. Lower Madison River
In local parlance, the “Lower” refers to the section of the Madison River below Ennis Dam. The most popular float is between Warm Springs and Blacks Ford, and this is a excellent spring option. While lake turnover will put the Lower out of commission for a few days each year, this is a very reliable option. The Lower is an interesting piece of water. It is a wide, shallow river with an abundance of sand bars and weed beds. The holding water is less obvious than in many other rivers, and the nuances of the Lower take time to understand. There is a good population of rainbows in the 12- to 16-inch range, and some real bruiser browns as well. While it’s mostly a nymphing game, both streamers and dry flies have their moments.

One of the defining characteristics of the Lower Madison is its abundance of crayfish, and this is a very popular choice here. The San Juan Worm is another good bet for a lead fly. For your dropper, most folks prefer small, bright nymphs like a Lightning Bug, Copper John, or Psycho Prince. The predominant hatches during spring are midges and blue-winged olives, so make sure to pack both dry flies and nymphs to match.


The Gallatin Canyon offers great access and lots of fish.
Photo courtesy Montana Angler

4. Gallatin River
The Gallatin is a great option for wade-fishing during the spring, and it offers miles of easily accessible water throughout Gallatin Canyon. This stretch of river was made world famous by the movie A River Runs Through It, of which a great deal was filmed in the canyon. The water here runs clear most of the spring. A major tributary, the Taylor’s Fork, contributes most of the mud, so fishing above this confluence is an option if the rest of the river happens to blow out, though that is not common in early spring. The river parallels US 191 throughout the canyon, so access is simple and easy.

The Gallatin is primarily a nymph fishery in early spring, though the angler should be prepared with the usual assortment of midges and especially blue-winged olives, just in case. I typically choose a stonefly nymph as the point fly on my nymph rig, and I tend to go with darker shades of black and brown during the spring. For your dropper, any generic attractor nymph—like a Prince Nymph, Copper John, or Pheasant Tail Nymph—will work fine. Gallatin River fish are not known for being picky, so stick with a fly that you have confidence in.

The Gallatin is a swift river, and the cold water temps of early spring will have the fish stacked in the deeper, slower buckets. If you catch a fish, you should slow down and work that area very thoroughly because chances are there will be more trout holding in the same spot. Adjust your split shot for each run to make sure that you are getting deep enough. The fish will not be motivated to move very far to eat your fly, so you need to get your presentation right down into their face.


Spring can be the best time to target big browns on the Mo.
Photo courtesy Montana Angler

5. Missouri River
The Missouri is a large tailwater fishery that offers clear, cold water 365 days a year. At over 2,300 miles in length, it is certainly difficult for the uninitiated to pinpoint where to trout fish on the Missouri River. The prime fishing lies below Holter Dam, centered around the town of Craig, Montana. This is a major fly-fishing destination due to the sheer quantity of fish present, currently estimated at about 6,000 trout over 10 inches per mile. The real kicker is that almost 90 percent of these fish are over 15 inches. These fish are by no means pushovers, but you have a great chance to land some quality fish on a Missouri River float.

Like the other fisheries discussed above, nymphing will be the most successful technique, but dry flies and streamers have their place. When streamer fishing the Mo, a deep, slow retrieve is your best bet. This is a bit different that the fast, shallow retrieve that most of us are used to fishing on the Yellowstone or Madison. Midges and blue-winged olives hatch here in the spring, as they do elsewhere, and the Missouri ‘bows love to pod up and eat dries.

When nymphing the Missouri, the key is the length of your leader between the indicator and split shot. I like to fish a good bit of weight and change my leader length before I start changing flies. Six feet from indicator to shot is a good place to start, and make adjustments as necessary. For flies, choose your typical tailwater fare: a scud, sowbug, worm, or crayfish on the point, with some sort of small mayfly as the dropper.

Brian McGeehan is owner and outfitter of Montana Angler Fly Fishing, an Orvis-Endorsed Fly-Fishing Expedition in Bozeman, Montana.