Big Sky Montana


We survived another trip to the Big Sky state of Montana but not without a few hold ups in the beginning. Flying just isn’t fun anymore but it’s by far the fastest way to get there. We were supposed to fly out bright and early on Thursday morning until we found out that flight was cancelled on Wednesday night.

After spending an hour and half on the phone listening to elevator music I finally got to talk to a United representative that proceeded to tell me all the flights were full for Thursday. Our only other option was to wait until Friday and that’s what we did.

So on Friday morning we arrived bright and early to Yeager airport in Charleston hoping to make it to Idaho Falls on time. Joining Tara and I were fishing buddies Andy and J.C., who have never been to the Rocky Mountains before. Thankfully our flights went well although we had an hour delay on one of our layovers which only allowed 15 minutes for our second layover at Denver.

When we landed in the B concourse we arrived at the south end and our next plane departed on the north end, go figure. With only 15 minutes to spare, I took off and ran as fast as I could dodging people the whole way. When I made it to the gate I could barely breathe but I made it as the plane hadn’t started boarding yet. The man and woman behind the counter laughed at me when they told me that luckily for me, the plane was delayed 15 minutes. Tara, Andy, and J.C. came into view and I gave them the ole’ fist pump that we made it. We thought for sure we missed that flight.

Plans were set in stone well in advance back in February for this trip so missing that first day threw us off a bit. After arriving in Idaho Falls we got our rental vehicles, hit the store, and were on our way to finally go fishing. We had to drive by the famous Henry’s Fork River where we were supposed to fish and stay the first evening on Thursday which stung a little as we were all eager to get our lines in the water.

By late afternoon we drove into Montana up the Madison River Valley and reached our destination for the next two nights. We wasted no time checking into Kelly Galloups Slide Inn which is situated right on the banks of the Madison River. After briefly talking to Kelly Galloup, who is well known in the fly fishing community, we took his advice on where to fish the rest of the evening.

While we were getting our fly rods rigged up and admiring the scenery I noticed a group of big horn sheep feeding on the mountain. The Caddisflies were thick along the river and the anticipation grew even more as we approached the “fifty mile riffle,” as it’s also known as. The Madison River is a big river by our standards but Kelly told us to fish close to the banks. He said to treat it as a river within a river which made sense. “If you can’t wade to it, pretend it isn’t there,” he said.

The fish were rising sporadically at first and picked up as the light faded over the Rocky Mountains. We all managed to catch a few rainbow and brown trout but nothing big that first night. I saw some really nice browns and missed a couple. After a good nights rest we awoke early and fished the 1

½ mile section of the Madison River between Hebgen and Quake Lakes.

This section of river is known for big trout and we were hoping to find one. Hebgen Lake is a man made lake with a dam but Quake Lake isn’t. Quake Lake got its name and was formed by a large 7.5 earthquake in 1959. The earthquake caused a massive 80 million ton landslide which formed a natural landslide dam. To this day water flows out of Quake Lake threw a narrow channel and after a mile of rough turbulent water, it starts the “fifty mile riffle” the Madison River is famous for.

Fishing between the lakes has an eerie feel to it as there are old log cabins scattered throughout a meadow and beside the river. This area is known as “Ghost Village”. When the river backed up from the earthquake slide these cabins were lifted off their foundations and drifted around until the water started flowing out of Quake Lake. Once the water level dropped they were deposited in the meadow where they sit today. The earthquake killed 28 people.

J.C. caught a nice 17-inch rainbow in this section. We fished for a couple of hours and caught mainly whitefish and a few trout before heading into Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone on a Saturday proved to be a crowded, slow going affair. We saw some elk including a couple of nice bulls and buffalo, but more people and cars than anything.

A highlight of the trip was having Kelly Galloup give us a deer hair tying seminar in his fly shop. He sure does know his stuff and even has a few DVDs out on streamer fishing that I recommend if you haven’t watched them. We spent another relaxing evening on the Madison with similar results as the night before. Tara had the big fish of the evening with a long, skinny 17-inch rainbow. We also got to witness a beautiful rainbow over the Madison as a small rain storm moved through.

It looks like I’ve ran out of room this week. Stay tuned for the second part of our trip where we venture into Dillon and float/fish the Beaverhead River, home of monster trout. You’ll have to wait until next week for the big fish story and Tara’s biggest trout ever!

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