Off season training begins the moment the last goodbyes are said to guests for the year and the lights are out at the lodge. Tying better patterns, hitting the rowing machine so you can hold the boat that extra few seconds during high flows on Rock Creek in June; we are preparing now for your success next season. We also utilize the down time to allow our minds to ruminate over the lessons the rivers taught, and how to incorporate earned knowledge into an improved angler experience.

Our guides partially hone their skill set by cross training on non-local waters, looking for the challenge of reading and rowing a new piece of river. When we can capitalize on gaps in Missoula’s winter weather it is an opportunity to stay focused on our craft on our area rivers. In either circumstance, attention is paid to improving boat work, and creating a smooth fishing experience for anglers.

When you watch exceptional steelhead guides of the Pacific Northwest they are focused on exact locations of the river. No casual rowing, looking at eagles, wondering what they are going to eat for dinner. Pushing their boat for the prime water to have their anglers swing their fly right past rocks in the middle of the tail out steelhead congregate behind after running the rapid below.  Due to diligent time spent on the water during the extreme low flows of summer the guides know about those rocks, and have it marked in their mind even in the high, murky flows of winter. That lesson carries forward to trout, and the down time is an opportunity to memorize the substrate and shelf lines of the river. A detailed mental map gives an edge to the rower that pays dividends down the road. We use the low, clear flows of late winter to scout the rivers and stay in tune with changes to the area. We walk side channels to look for new paths of least resistance down the river, and perhaps a sneaky trout holding zone.

We are extremely fortunate to be afforded the opportunity to work in one of the top dry fly focused trout fisheries in the world, and we look forward to sharing our deep knowledge of Missoula’s rivers with you in 2021.

-Caleb Garrett