Big rainbows abound on the "Land of Giants" section of the Missouri. In an average day, we often see 20+ trout in this size bracket, though this one was extra pretty. May 2015.
While walk & wade fishing and fishing from oar-powered drift boats will always be the core of Parks' Fly Shop's business, sometimes a power boat makes it possible to access water that's very difficult or even impossible to reach by other means. Not many outfitters in Montana can boast of having access to power boats, especially power boats set up with oars and an anchor system so that they offer a similar experience to the classic drift boat, but with much greater flexibility. We're proud to be one of the exceptions.
The vast majority of our power boat trips take place on the "Land of the Giants" stretch of the Missouri River near Helena, Montana, but we also offer trips on the upper Missouri near Toston and are working on developing some additional options. For information on the "Land of the Giants" trips, read on past the rates. Give us a call to discuss other, super-secret options...
Please note that power boat trips are operated through PFS Head Guide Walter Wiese's side business Yellowstone Country Fly Fishing and utilizes permits and licenses associated with this business.
Big "LoG" rainbow starting to put on weight after the spawn, mid-June 2015.
Does the name Land of the Giants sound captivating? It should. This four-mile section of the Missouri River below Hauser Dam near Helena, Montana is home to probably the largest rainbow trout anywhere in Montana, on average. In our experience, most fish caught here range from 14-20 inches regardless of the time of year, and from March through mid-May many fish will be even bigger. Our best in 2016 was a rainbow of around 25 inches that weighed close to seven pounds. There are also some brown trout, a few streamer-eating walleye, and even the odd kokanee salmon.
Even better than the fish size, access to this section of river is difficult. There's no boat ramp at the upstream end and the river is constrained by a roadless canyon, so except for the first mile or so below Hauser Dam and one other access where walking in to reach small sections of river is feasible, the only access is by motoring up from Holter Lake via a boat powered by a jet outboard. Why isn't every guide in Montana rushing out to buy a power boat? Guiding on this water via motorboat requires a US Coast Guard captain's license, which less than 1% of Montana fly fishing guides possess. PFS Head Guide Walter Wiese is now one of these guides, and we're VERY EAGER to offer trips on this exceptional piece of water.
You should be seeing a pattern as regard to how big a fish is needed for it to be worth a picture... Spring 2015.
While it can fish well all season, the Land of Giants section of the Missouri is at its best from March through early July. From March through the middle of May, trout from Holter Reservoir downstream run up into the river on their spawning runs, increasing fish numbers into the stratosphere, while from mid-May until early July these same fish hang around gorging on the smorgasbord of aquatic food available here to recover from their spawn. Fishing gets tougher for the remainder of the season. It can still be good, and crowds actually drop in late summer and early fall rather than increasing as they do elsewhere, but there are better options closer to home.
While there's some dry fly fishing here, with BWO bringing fish up in late April and May and PMD and caddisflies good choices in late June and July, the bulk of the fishing here is subsurface. In early spring, when the fish are fixated on eggs, nymphing with egg patterns and nymphs that resemble mayflies, midges, or scuds but also push the egg "button" are the top tickets. As the fish begin to shift off eggs, sowbugs, scuds, and BWO and PMD nymphs are better bets, and if the river is high, large San Juan Worms are also excellent choices. By mid-June, PMD nymphs and caddis larvae and pupae are the tickets. They remain the best options until fall, when BWO nymphs take over again. Streamers can work throughout the season and typically produce the largest fish, but also fewer of them than nymphs.
Regardless of time of year, fishing Land of the Giants is quite different from standard river float trips. The trip begins with a beautiful run upstream from Holter Lake, at the upstream end of the famous Gates of the Mountains, a canyon first seen by people of European decent during the Lewis & Clark Expedition. The river enters the southern side of the lake and is often slow and lazy, so much of the time we will anchor and fish a run thoroughly, something that seldom works well on the Yellowstone. In addition, the motor makes it possible to repeatedly run upriver, so even when drift-fishing, we may jump upstream several times to hit the best water again and again. In regards to flies and tackle: while the fish are bigger here than anywhere else Parks' Fly Shop guides, most of the flies these big fish like to eat are smaller than most we use, so you can expect plenty of breakoffs and long, epic fights on light tippets.
Suffice it to say, this isn't a place for the faint-of-heart or for rookies. For intermediate to expert anglers who are interested in doing something different and catching some seriously large trout, it's a great bet.
Unfortunately, it's a heck of a long way from Gardiner. If it weren't so good, we wouldn't even think of guiding here due to the distance involved. It's more than a three hour drive from our shop just to put the boat in the water. For this reason, we give significant discounts for multi-day bookings to the Land of Giants, planning to stay overnight in Helena. We realize the overall price of fishing here is high, but it needs to be due to the specialized boat and licensing required; our rates are very competitive with those of our competitors, especially early and late in the season and when we fish for multiple days.
This big (she had to be pushing 6lbs, just look at that head) hen was so nickel-bright (almost like a steelhead) that she tricked the camera sensor into blowing the highlights of the photo. May or June 2015.
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