NOTE: I'm doing this in the order I met each guide. Order does not reflect anything other than that!
JIM FRANCIS - YELLOWSTONE, MADISON, BURNS/STORY/JONES LAKES AND MORE!
While my first trip to Montana in was in 2007, my trip in 2011 was the one that solidified the fact I needed to live here. My friend Meg Konkel had been visiting with her family since she was a young girl. Paradise Valley, outside of Livingston, was where she, her parents, and two brothers would spend their summers.
Meg and I met for lunch one day and shared with me that her and her husband's dream of moving to Bozeman was very close coming true. I was SO excited for them and certainly understood their excitement at the prospect. At that lunch we noodled around the idea of heading out for a week. Needless to say, we both figured out a way to make it happen. Off we went!
I had never floated a river so was excited to do so. Meg suggested with fish with a man that has been guiding them for decades and one that has become a family friend, Jim Francis. Meg has deep affection for Jim and by the way he pokes fun at her, can see that the affection is returned. He even had a special name for Meg, Princess Many Misses. Sadly, I became Dutchess Many Misses. I have fished both the Yellowstone (2x) and Burns Lake with Jim and are some of the best memories I have.
If you want a really fun day with a really fun guy who has deep knowledge of he rivers and ponds in the Bozeman/Livingston/Paradise Valley Jim is your guy. If you want a guide who has decades of experience on the Yellowstone, you cannot go wrong with Jim Francis. OH..and his lunches..second to none. Yes, they are amazing, but what put it over the top, his wife Bonnie's homemade pie!!
4284 U.S. Highway 89 South
Livingston, MT 59047
MONTANA HUNTING AND FISHING ADVENTURES - BITTERROOT, BLACKFOOT, CLARK FORK, MADISON AND MORE!!
I met Jim Mitchell one day while 'working' in the Bitterroot. Well..kind of working. I did actually need to do some work, but since I had not yet spent any real time there, thought I would take my rod and explore this new area.
After my work chore was complete, headed towards the Bitterroot River. I had never fished this area so had no idea where to go so I drove until something just felt right. I geared up and walked to the river.
I wasn't having a great deal of success so moved up river and continued my quest for Just One Fish. Finally, I got one one..hooray! Just as I was reeling (this tiny fish) in, a raft was coming in to take out and I heard 'Good for you!' I replied about it's lack of stature when he replied 'better than nothing'..he was absolutely correct and I knew I liked him already.
I had to head up to my vehicle to retrieve something and he was still there so we chatted for a bit about what I did and what he does..small talk. We soon discovered that we had a shared interest in Casting for Recovery. Now..I really liked him! What I also learned is that is fishes Tenkara. This Japanese form of fishing has become quite popular in the past few years and I have yet to touch a rod. We vowed to fish together and he would get me boned up on Tenkara.
Since that day, I have fished with Jim, and his wife Bonnie, twice. Once on the upper Bitterroot and once on the Blackfoot. Both days were successful and loads of fun. Jim is easy going, funny and and a brilliant guide. If ever he asks me if I want to fish with him, I would answer 'YES!' before he could finish the sentence. A day with Jim is a real treat.
Montana Hunting and Fishing Adventures
870 Sleeping Child Road
Hamilton, Montana 59840
BLACKFOOT RIVER OUTFITTERS - BLACKFOOT/BITTERROOT/CLARK FORK/MISSOURI AND MORE!
A family owned shop in Missoula, they have been fishing the rivers of Montana for 20 years. It is stated on the website that they treat their clients like family..and they do. John and Terri Herzer has created a deep and loyal clientele and now I know why.
I first has the chance to fish with them in September of 2014 when my family visited from Florida, Illinois, and Colorado. I'm not even sure I had been in the shop before this point, but knew of John and Terri from friends and acquaintances in town. When I found out we were floating with their outfit, I was really excited.
Our family had a great day fishing the Bitterroot with Kurt (John's brother) and Shawn. So-much-so that when one of my brothers was coming to town (so we could celebrate his 50th this year!) I called Blackfoot River Outfitters for one of the floats. Since we had such a great time with Kurt previously, Terri was going to try to make it happen again..and she did! This time we decided to float the Blackfoot and it was pretty amazing.
Kurt is the Real Deal. He knows these waters like the back of his hand. Each bend and hole on the river is a feature he knows intimately. Regardless of the time or year or which river, we had success. This time around, on the Blackfoot, my brother, Jesse, was lights out! Me..I did okay, but this trip was all about the bro and getting him on some fish. Kurt was successful and decided that my brother should be deemed 'Hoover' for the amount of fish he sucked in. It was awesome.
If you're in the Missoula area and want a solid team to fish with, call Blackfoot River Outfitters. If you get Kurt consider yourself very fortunate. However, I'm pretty confident regardless of who you are partnered with, the experience will be one that will not disappoint. Oh..bonus..Kurt is a laugh-riot!
Blackfoot River Outfitters
3055 North Reserve Street, Suite A-1
Missoula, Montana 59808
KEN STOCK - THE RIVER'S EDGE FLY SHOP - GALLITAN, MADISON, SPRING CREEKS AND MORE!
Ah, Facebook. You meet the most interesting people on Facebook. One of those people in my life has been Ken Stock. I met him on a private group and watch from my couch the Big Fat Fish this guy was catching on the Missouri. I have NEVER caught anything like he was showing. The man is dialed in!
In the previous recommendation, you learned my brother was coming to town and he wanted to float two days and an iconic river in Montana. After much discussion, we decided that the Big Hole River would be the winner for our second float. I had never been on that river and hear it was spectacularly beautiful. And...I wanted (badly) to get in a boat with Ken Stock. So, we contacted River's Edge shop in Bozeman and requested Ken. I was super excited!!
We met Ken that morning and drove to the put in. What..a beautiful area of the state..which can be both a blessing and a curse for me. See, I spend so much time looking at the beauty around me, I end up constantly missing takes! Yeah, Dutchess Many Misses strikes again! While the Queen of the Whitefish struck again, my brother had some luck catching a few big Browns and missing some hogs..mostly by Long Distance Release. Regardless, it was an amazing day and one of the most beautiful floats I have experienced. And Ken...seriously...if you want to be shown a good time..this is your guy. The last picture below...Ken's way of congratulating my brother on his Big Catch and his Big Birthday. What..a hoot!!
The River's Edge Fly Shop
2012 N 7th Avenue
Bozeman, Montana 59715
NOTE: It has been severely hot in Montana lately and with no rain, the rivers have become so warm that 'hoot-owl' closures have been put into place. Montana Fish and Wildlife's drought policy provides for angling closures when flows drop below critical levels for fish, when water quality is diminished, or when maximum daily water temperatures reach at least 73 degrees for three consecutive days. What that means to those who wish to float rivers is that all fishing will close daily from 2 p.m. to midnight until conditions.
This in no way should stop you from making plans to visit the area and fish the amazing waters of Montana. Speak with your guide about getting out earlier or fishing a local lake.
RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THIS POST
Jim Francis 406-222-3637
Jim Mitchell's Montana Hunting and Fishing Adventures
Blackfoot River Outfitters
Ken Stock at The River's Edge Fly Shop