Invest in good gear. Waders and boots and outerwear. Three magical things for winter enjoyment. For winter angling I go without felt-soled boots. Felt and snow love each other, so if I have to walk in snow for a few hundred yards I use my non-felt boots with cleats. If I have to tell you why good waders and outerwear are important, then, well you might want to take-up another sport.
Bring a net and hook-removal tool. A net can keep your hands dry, and with a hook-removal tool, such a hemostats or a Ketchum Release, you can release a netted fish without getting your hands wet or touching the fish. Both tools are win-wins.
Simplify your fly selection. Trout feed sporadically in winter. Gone is the need to match a hatch, as hatches are minimal. Most local guides fish a handful of patterns this time of year. Be sure to have some 8-12-sized Pats’ Rubberlegs in brown/tan, and a few 16-20-sized bead head midge patterns. Our guides love Broughton’s Root Beer or red or black Zebra midges. This winter a gold- or fire-bead San Juan Worm in size 10 has been catching fish, as well. If you are fortunate enough to see rising fish on the Gallatin in winter, cast an 18-20-sized Parachute Adams or any midge cluster pattern, and the hungry trout should be fooled.
You are now armed with enough winter fly fishing advice to feel comfortable about dropping a grand on new waders and new outerwear. Your local fly shop thanks you. But now you need a place to “hang” for the winter. To be the envy of most people outside of these towns, here are my favorite Montana winter fishing and skiing locales. To avoid any throw-downs, the listing is alphabetical.
The life of a fishing guide has to be one of envy. If it isn’t, then little motivation exists to survive the summer season—being a phantom to your family and friends for months; finding a thousand ways to remain positive about anglers missing hook-sets; the list is potentially endless. However, I’m a firm believer in cosmic karma, you know the whole what-comes-around-goes-around goodness. And, for fishing guides our retaliation against the summer onslaught comes in winter when we get to dork-around for months truly being the masters of our immediate domain, living within the five feet right in front of our face and nowhere else.