Montana’s fly-fishing industry on the rise

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) – Fly-fishing guides in
Montana say the season on the state’s blue-ribbon trout streams got
off to a slow start this summer due to high water levels from a
heavy spring runoff, but the lucrative industry is starting to pick
up as flows decrease.

“I’d say everything was a month behind,” Jim Cox, co-owner of
Missoula’s Kingfisher Fly Shop, told the Missoulian. “Even the
hatches were delayed. It was just cold and nasty. But now things
are definitely happening.”

Cox said he canceled every guided outing in June after telling
clients at the end of May it wasn’t worth the trip because of the
high, turbid flow in rivers _ the result of a deep snowpack melting
in the mountains.

“We basically thought June was a throwaway month,” Cox
said.

A University of Montana study in 2006 found that out-of-state
visitors spent $34.2 million just on outfitted fishing trips, which
doesn’t include money spent on hotels or gear. The study also found
that 33 percent of anglers came to Montana specifically for an
outfitted trip. Another 43 percent said that was just one reason
for traveling to Montana.

“We are definitely trying to keep our eyes on this as much as
possible to see how things rebound,” said Christine Oschell,
assistant director of school’s Institute for Tourism and Recreation
Research.

Outfitters are hoping the additional water will extend the
season into September so businesses that rely on fly-fishing can
recoup losses.

Ryan Thompson of Glacier Anglers said that during June and July
the shop lost about 50 percent of its business taking anglers on
the Middle Fork and North Fork of the Flathead River.

“This June we were experiencing river levels that we usually
see in May, so the season was definitely pushed back,” Thompson
said. “The water clarity was cloudy if not full-blown chocolate
milk, so we turned away a lot of business.”

Even now, water flows in many major rivers are twice normal. But
that could help extend the season.

“In the last week to 10 days the levels have dropped and I
think that the fish were as anxious as we were because the fishing
has just been gangbusters,” Thompson said. “It bodes well that as
our whitewater season has extended further into summer, our fishing
season will be extended further into fall.”

Cox agreed.

“We are anticipating smooth sailing right into the frosty
nights of September,” he said.

 

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