A Kiwi in the USA - Impressions of a New Zealander fishing Montana

A couple fantastical coincidences, a handful of conscious choices and a very cheap plane ticket saw my life take a slightly unexpected turn in March of this year: I moved to Montana. Not for good but for a whole year
A Kiwi in the USA - Impressions of a New Zealander fishing Montana

Fly Fishing Montana

A couple fantastical coincidences, a handful of conscious choices and a very cheap plane ticket saw my life take a slightly unexpected turn in March of this year: I moved to Montana. Not for good but for a whole year.  I’d submitted my PhD on the introduction of brown trout to New Zealand just before Christmas, and spent the remainder of the summer getting my fill of New Zealand’s backcountry; hiking, fishing and roaming about the country like a bona fide dirt-bag. Showers were weekly, beer was frequent and happiness was at an all time high. It was the perfect way to say goodbye to New Zealand for the time being. 


Missoula was my destination in the U.S., where my girlfriend, Morgan, is partway through a Masters program at the University of Montana. Packing my life into two bags (7 fly rods and 4 kilograms of fly tying kit…), I bade farewell to my folks and hopped on a plane.  The transition between summer in New Zealand and the tail-end of winter in Missoula was stark and I arrived to a foot of snow in the middle of town and temperatures in the negatives (Celsius that is). This was going to be a bit different…

 Fly Fishing Montana

On my third day in Missoula I heard of a fly tying event… hosted at a brewery…with free pizza… Nothing could keep me away. Through this event I quickly made a couple of solid connections, first with David Detrick of IFlyFishMontana (who hosted the event) and later with the guys at the Missoulian Angler (it is never a bad idea to walk into a fly shop with a 6 pack in hand). After picking up a license, a few flies and a copy of the regulations I was ready to hit the river. My inaugural fish, a Bitterroot River brown trout, was celebrated with a fine IPA (and the obligatory splash poured out to the river gods). Over the following weeks I proceeded to borrow Morgan’s car whilst she was studying and familiarise myself with the local rivers. I had no job, no commitments and I threw myself at the fishing.


Surface action was minimal to begin with and I primarily fished a double-hander, catching good sized rainbow trout on the Clark Fork and native cutthroat trout on the Flathead River. After bumping into a local angler, Zach, first at the fly shop and then a brewery he invited me out on a float trip of the Clark Fork and we spent the day picking off side braids, drinking beer and catching rainbows. I insisted on learning to row, and let me just say I quickly gained a lot of respect for the guys and gals that manoeuvre these boats so nimbly. Success in float fishing is not so much about the skill of the angler, but the man on the oars who positions the boat and sets the drift. 

 Fly Fishing Montana

As the temperature rose so too did the fish. Midges and small baetis mayflies led the charge, followed shortly thereafter by the famous Skwala hatch. For a Kiwi the large-scale stonefly hatches of the American West, such as the Skwala and Salmonfly, are a true spectacle to behold. Skwalas, specifically, brought about a totally unique experience for me: fishing dry flies in snow-storms. Twice I fished in what seemed to me a blizzard (although to locals was probably little more than a light dusting) and enjoyed superb hatches. At one point on the Snake River, just out of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Morgan and I could count upwards of a hundred fish rising along a slack edge as wind and snow buffeted any exposed skin. The snow became less frequent, and March browns (a larger mayfly) joined the party. I soon put the nymphs away and simply prospected with a larger Skwala pattern or fished to rising fish with small mayflies.  

 Fly Fishing Montana

I was quickly getting an impression that the fishing was a little different to back home. The sheer volume of both fish and insect life necessitated subtle changes to my approach and I was grateful to the local anglers that shared their knowledge with me. Particularly fascinating was a day spent on a local creek with Missoula guide Jeff Heiskell, who gave me a lesson in entomology and showed me how to correctly fish cripples (another new experience for a Kiwi). And yet some aspects remained consistent with back home – they are, after all, still trout. I found that because of the way I fished, slowly, focusing on the edges and picking off small side channels, I caught a higher proportion of brown trout than was typical. Similarly, I was able to sight fish a number of smaller water, leading to some extremely fun encounters. Techniques and approaches from back home were aiding my success in Montana; just as I have no doubt that what I learn here will help in New Zealand. 

 Fly Fishing Montana

As I write this, run-off (another novelty for Kiwis) has well and truly hit Montana and as the snow melts and the rivers flood to enormous proportions the trout will be getting a well deserved break from this itinerant Kiwi. Soon we head down to Wyoming, where we’ll spend the summer in the small town of Dubois. I’m already planning adventures – golden trout in the Wind River Range, nipping across the Idaho border to fish the Henry’s Fork and hopefully taking a trip up to Alaska and road-tripping back down through British Columbia. Seems like there’s always a trout to catch, somewhere…


Fly Fishing new Zealand

~ Jack Kós is an Epic Ambassador, writer, photographer, filmmaker and mad keen fisher of flies.



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Backcountry Fly Tying Kit $199.00
Backcountry Fly Tying Kit Equally at home on a trip or on your fly tying bench, our Backcountry Fly Tying kit features the very best Italian made tools by Stonfo and a pair of remarkable hand crafted fly tying scissors by Renomed of Poland. There are no finer fly tying tools made. We've taken the best of the best and presented them in a thoughtful waxed cotton canvas tool roll featuring genuine leather trim and straps fastened with classic brass catches. The hand stitched waterproof tool roll houses & protects these high quality tools and features two additional pouches to tuck away fly tying materials and hooks. The Renomed "Fly Tier" scissors feature a 'super cut' finely serrated blade that makes cutting deer hair and fur a breeze, and the larger scissor handles afford comfort and extraordinary durability and functionality. Tool Collection  Renomed Fly Tier Super Cut scissors (retail US$45) Stonfo Dubbing Twister Stonfo Hackle pliers Stonfo Elite Bodkin (Stainless Steel) Stonfo Dubbing Brush Stonfo Bobtec1  Adjustable Bobbin With Ceramic Insert (Stainless Steel) Stonfo Elite Bodkin (Stainless steel) Stonfo Elite Whip Finisher (Stainless Steel)
Streamer wallet fly wallet Streamer wallet fly wallet
Backcountry Streamer Wallet $69.95
Back Country Streamer Wallet Carry and show off your streamers in style in our cotton canvas fly wallet Handcrafted and waterproof in waxed cotton Canvas, genuine sheepskin and hand tooled leather. Each wallet is hand cut and stitched from waxed cotton canvas and lined with lambswool. Measuring  12cm wide by 17 cm closed (4.5" x 7") Big enough to house and protect even the biggest lures and streamers. Streamer wallets have a few advantages over dropping your expensive streamers in a fly box. The open ended design and fine lambswool liner drys flies and lets them breath Flies are kept separated - No more tangled flies and hooks Easy to see and easy to grab - particularly if you have stinger hooks on your streamers They look sensational and big fish love them! Measuring 11cm wide by 17 cm long closed (4.5" x 7") Waterproof, small enough to fit in a wader pocket but capable of holding a large collection of flies
Skeleton Pocket Knife Skeleton Pocket Knife
Skeleton Pocket Knife $49.95
Stainless Steel Skeleton Utility Knife Our paired back skeleton knife features a locking blade and belt clip. Easy to clean, and at just over 2 inches folded (55mm) and pocket knife size, it's the perfect everyday carry or the ideal addition to your fly fishing kit. Sheeps-foot Blade A sheepsfoot blade is shaped with one flat edge that meets the opposing edge at a curved tip; one edge is flat to the tip while the other edge runs parallel, curving at the sharp end to provide a curved tip. The dull flat edge is ideal for providing the user with lots of control over the blade and is favoured for whittling, trimming and cutting where a high degree of control is required.   Blade material: 3CR13 s/s Handle material: 2cr13 Blade length: 55mm Blade thickness: 2.5MM Blade finished: steel Knife length: 140mm A great quality handy utility knife
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Stroft Cutter and Carry System - 3 spool Set $27.95
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Stainless steel Hip Flask Hip Flask
Good Libations Stainless Hip Flask $24.95
The Good Libations Stainless Steel Hip Flask  Carry your favourite adult beverage in style with our Good Libations Stainless Steel Hip flask. About the size of a small fly box it's the perfect addition to your fly vest or bag. Smooth rounded corners make for quick extraction in times of celebration. Stainless steel and about as tough as they come, at a hearty 9oz ( 28 ml) there's plenty to share! Stainless Steel Silicon cap retainer Easy sippin' ergo design Bigger than most Cheers! Capacity: 9oz ( 266 ml) Dimensions: 127mm x 83mm x 29ml Material: Stainless Steel Positive Mood Adjustment

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