Blog Posts In Orvis

2016 Orvis Guide Rendezvous Keynote Delivered by Wade Fellin

Last weekend, Wade Fellin had the honor of delivering the keynote address at the annual Orvis Guide Rendezvous in Missoula, MT.  

As many of you know, in addition to managing the Big Hole Lodge with his father, Craig, and guiding the Big Hole, Beaverhead, Bitterroot, and Missouri, Wade is program director of Upper Missouri Waterkeeper, a water quality advocacy NGO based in Bozeman, MT. 

Wade's message was simple yet important: fly fishers must all work together to protect the clean water future of our fisheries.  We'd like to share his speech here and encourage you all to join and support your local watershed groups!

2016 Orvis Guide Rendezvous Awards Banquet Keynote 

Taking the Oars 
by: Wade Fellin

Before my father ran a fly fishing lodge, he enlisted in the Marine Corps to fight in Vietnam.  We’ve never talked about his experience, but his two best friends from his platoon found our Lodge online 10 years ago and randomly showed up with their own 17-year-old sons.

One of these men had a bushy gray mustache, curly gray hair and went by “Night-train.” After two days of calling him this, I finally gathered the courage to ask why.  He explained that in Vietnam, he was assigned to mortars, and it was his duty to light the night by firing illumination over the jungle. One time he slipped as he fired, toppling the cannon and sending a white, fiery ball horizontally at his team.  The commanding officer dove out of the way just in time. He later exclaimed that he thought he was surely getting run over by a goddamn night-train! The name stuck.

After the war, Dad pursued his passion for the outdoors, and Night-train moved to Lake Tahoe to pursue his passion for reading Mark Twain. He took to the water like Huck and Jim and became the Ghost of Twain reciting stories on Tahoe’s river boat, the M.S. Dixie. 

Now in his early seventies, Night-train has come to look like Twain, he is full of wisdom, and he’s a hell of a lot better speaking in front of a crowd than I am! When Orvis called me and asked me to speak tonight, I called Night-train the next day.

He said, “Just last weekend I was invited to speak to a bunch of fly fishermen in Redondo Beach. I am not a fly fisherman. But of course, as the Ghost of Mark Twain, I’m able to speak on the subject at length.”

The fly fishermen and women were everything I expected them to be: cordial but formidable, jovial but refined, and downright fly-fisherman-friendly. Show me a fly fisherman and I’ll show you a gentleman. Might be the river, the fish, the company, or the heavens above, but the recipe seems to attract and produce noblemen and women of the blood roy-al!

But, I’ve never been to an Orvis guide rendezvous. nor have I interacted with many guides. Good luck – I doubt they’ll want to hear fish stories!”

I don’t dare tell you all any fish stories. I can only tell you what I’ve learned, about the rivers I’ve fallen in love with, and what I think we need to do to protect them. 

But first, thank you all for being here. Thank you Orvis for hosting this wonderful event.  Thank you to the Perkins Family and the Orvis staff for fostering these friendships, facilitating these business meetings and creating a learning environment that has proven to be so helpful to each of our operations.

Not to mention, this weekend is a blast, and to that end, I want to thank Missoula for putting up with this beard and Carhart convention!

What I’d like to share with you tonight is my perspective on our world of fly fishing: where the sport was almost thirty years ago and where I think it’s going. My perspective has largely been shaped on the Big Hole River, which is why preserving my father’s legacy means so much to me. And the lifeblood of that legacy is the river.

My father moved here to Missoula from Pennsylvania in 1974. He working as a security guard at the airport and on his lunch breaks he hung out at the Streamside Angler, then owned by Frank Johnson and Rich Anderson.  They gave him all the advice he needed to hone his kills as a fly fisher and he fished between shifts in a white shirt, tie, and black slacks on these Missoula rivers.

He headed to Aspen in 1978 and guided for Chuck Fothergil along with George Odier. Both were famous for nymphing without an indicator and swore by the Western Coachman. While in Aspen, Dad met my mom, a Bozeman native, and they decided to start a fly fishing lodge. In 1983, with Fothergil’s blessing they headed north through Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, searching for their perfect spot and founded their business on the banks of the Wise River, just up from the Big Hole River. 

At that time there were very few lodges in the mountain west: Lonnie’s Three Rivers Ranch in Idaho, (congratulations to Lonnie for her lifetime achievement nomination tonight!) The Firehole Ranch near West Yellowstone, the Crescent H near Jackson, Wyoming and The Complete Fly Fisher just down the river on the Big Hole. 

Mom and Dad spoke with Phil and Joan Wright, the owners of the Fly Fisher to explain their intentions of starting another lodge just 8 miles upstream.  Phil responded by taking Dad down the river to teach him how he fished it.

Back then the caddis hatches looked like snow storms. The salmon fly hatches were so thick cars would slide driving through the canyon.  There were very few people on the water.

I came along in 1988. Mom and Dad used to strap my bassinette to the fourteen foot avon.  I spent my childhood fishing the Wise River and my teens learning to row the Big Hole and West Fork of the Bitterroot. Now, after 10 years of guiding, I’m partnering with my father in a business he has spent 33 years nurturing, a business that has brought so much joy and knowledge and fulfillment to so many clients and employees and to both of us over the course of more than three decades.  Orvis once wrote in a Trout Bum of the Week article that my life was a charmed one as fly fishing goes and they were absolutely right. I’m almost embarrassed talking about how lucky and spoiled I am.

But I am immensely grateful for this incredible opportunity.  And I realize that with it comes a significant set of challenges. My generation, the majority of us now in this room, is inheriting a very different world of fly fishing.  Though each generation before us has had a responsibility to protect fisheries for succeeding generations and many in this room have done great work, we are now facing a much more urgent call to act.

Moving forward we are all going to have to work together.  I realize we guide and operate in a much more competitive business environment and throughout the industry many of us work in rather isolated spheres. But camaraderie exists in this room more so than anywhere else I’ve experienced in the fly fishing world. It’s similar to the camaraderie Phil Wright and my father shared. 

We have to work together now because our fisheries are on a slippery slope. Our climate is warming, our population is growing, and our rivers are suffering.

Bozeman, where I spend my off season, is booming as tech companies move in; many of these new residents spend little to no time on the water. Wisdom, Montana, where my mother’s family homesteaded, used to be full of multi-generation ranch families. Fewer and fewer of my generation are staying home to run the ranch. These family ranches are then being bought by corporate cattle companies who don’t have the same connection or appreciation of the unique landscape or know how to be good stewards of our special river valleys. 

The landscapes of the West are changing, and changing quickly, and though trout are often resilient to change, their ecosystems are not. There are no longer snowstorms of caddis on the Big Hole or the Jefferson. You’d be lucky to catch the salmon fly hatch for more than two weeks in June.  Moving forward, we must be proactive in protecting the quality of water that sustains these organisms. 

Over 40 years ago our nation’s leaders recognized that the waters of the United States were in trouble, and they set forth a strong system of rules based on science to reverse the degradation and pollution of our waterways.  That system has largely been viewed as red tape and in many cases, ignored all together.

To make this more concrete, here in Montana, less than half of our rivers get surveyed to assess their health every 10 years, as is required by law.  If a river is found to be unhealthy or hurting from some type of pollution, it can take up to 15 years for a clean water improvement plan to be created, much less implemented.

The reality is, although Montana is widely regarded as one of the Last, Best Places for fishing, its prize blue ribbon streams are at risk from the change we talked about.  It took a Montanan suing the state over 15 years ago to get the state to take the business of protecting–and restoring–rivers seriously.

Some of you know my dirty secret—I spend my off-season working with…gasp…hippie lawyers.

But they’re not as bad as they’re cracked-up to be—they’re worse!

I work for a Montana-based water advocacy organization called Upper Missouri Waterkeeper.  We’re focused on protecting and improving river and community health in the headwaters of the Missouri River Basin. For those of you not familiar with the area, I’m talking about the Big Hole, Beaverhead, Ruby, Jefferson, Madison, Gallatin, Dearborn, Smith, and Sun, and the main-stem Missouri out to Fort Benton.

I truly believe we can protect our rivers, our fisheries, our businesses—before it’s too late. Local advocacy provides the catalyst for change that I believe every western river deserves. There’s a distinct need in the West for all of us who care about our rivers and fisheries to take the steps necessary to protect our most vital resource.  We can do this.

Here’s a tangible example of a small act going a long way:

Last summer, a fellow Big Hole River guide floated a new landowner past his property. The guide pointed at the eroding bank and said, “So now that you own this ground, what do you think about a fence?

“Why?”

“Keep the river from ripping away your property every year when the ice comes out.”

“How’s that?”

“The cattle that run on that property in the spring took out all the willows. Now the ice takes out the bank, making the river wider, shallower, warmer, more prone to algae and less conducive to insect life.”

Based on this conversation, the Big Hole River Foundation is temporarily fencing this mile-long section of river with grant money, and with a little willow planting, that section will stop getting wider, shallower, and warmer. Those willows will suck up a lot of nutrients that algae would otherwise flourish on, leading to a healthier, colder, cleaner river for fish and bugs.

We fishermen and women are lucky enough to be on the front lines of these issues with the opportunity to effect the most positive change for our rivers.  Rather than sitting back and using the resource while our home states ignore the problems and continue to rely on largely unsuccessful traditional practices in the face of a changing environment, we need to be steering the boat. This means not only educating ourselves on the issues in our watersheds, but also communicating our knowledge and suggesting solutions from the fly fishing community to the government decision-makers.  It’s too late to rely on slow moving bureaucracy.

And the future of our fisheries needs us to do more than “keep fish wet and clean up our tippets.”  We all need to get involved, and get our clients involved, in protecting our rivers. We don’t have to fight these battles alone.  One of the best ways to do this is by joining and supporting the local watershed groups working on the rivers we love.  The Clark Fork Coalition does incredible work, and the fruits of their labor benefit the entire Columbia Basin. And if you don’t have a local watershed group, form one. Guides in this room have and I’m sure would be more than willing to offer advice. Derek Young started a Trout Unlimited (TU) Chapter on his home waters in Washington. Mike Geary resurrected a TU Chapter on the Ruby and Beaverhead. 

In closing, we have the best job in the world and an incredible opportunity to spend our days on rivers, teaching people how important tuning out and connecting with nature truly is. We can turn a New York minute into ten minutes seated on a bank studying a rising trout. That transformation makes every day guiding worthwhile for me. As the boots in the water, we have the duty to raise awareness about threats to these fisheries. We are the voice for the voiceless.

Just as my father built Big Hole Lodge by hand and has shaped it into what it has become today, many of you in this room have spent your lives on rivers helping shape the fly fishing world into what it is today—a world exactly like Night-train described, a community of classy people who are deeply connected to the sacredness of nature.

Many generations before us have been forced to answer a call to action in protecting our country. We aren’t being sent to war. We have a choice to fight this battle. I’m going to do my best to help protect these fisheries so that our fly fishing community can flourish and I’m honored to do so alongside all of you.

Thank you Orvis for your proud commitment to protecting our rivers and clean water! And thank you. Thank you all for your time.

 

Orvis commits 5% of pre-tax profits to protecting nature.
Upper Missouri Waterkeeper is exclusively focused on protecting and improving waterways and community health throughout Montana's Upper Missouri River Basin. 
 

 

Wildlife Showcase of a Healthy Southwest Montana

The most spectacular and rewarding aspect of fly-fishing in Montana is knowing each time you step into the river there is a chance to intimately interact with the wildest and most beautiful creatures in the Rocky Mountains.  This summer has been particularly spectacular and we at Big Hole Lodge want to close our season by sharing a few of our favorite moments from our untamed backyard. Southwest Montana is healthy and flourishing!

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unnamed-1_MG_410210460262_10152404138197620_515361497023343886_n 10368215_10152475696012620_2520147587230546517_n   10653332_10152475693327620_8187220504057801051_n 10675521_980314399959_3255294140442966892_n 10696162_980001716579_5080249296106258490_nThank you to all who joined us this summer! We are deflating the rafts, battening down the hatches for the coming snow, and eagerly awaiting an even more incredible year in 2015. We hope to spend it with you!

Tight lines,

Craig, Wade, Lanette, and the entire Big Hole Lodge staff.

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Fall Fishing Report: Streamers in the Shallows

Tom Murphy strayed from his beloved Missouri to investigate the state of the browns on the Big Hole.  Using an articulated Christmas ornament, he has determined they are hungry, mean, and preparing to spawn!

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This skinny old brown ate in still water in front of the boat ramp before we had the anchor up!

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Soon after, the below pictured fish hit "harder than a northern pike!"

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We knew it would be nothing short of greedy to continue fishing after landing a hog like that, but after a summer on the oars.....it was just too much fun to stop!

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The sky was dark, the wind was up, and the temps were chilly, but the fishing was HOT!

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Orvis Friday Fly-Fishing Film Festival 05.16.14

FriFilm

This week, we’ve got another collection of killer videos—17 of them, including a few from rare locations, such as Malaysia and Arctic Alaska.

Friday Fly Fishing Film Festival

FriFilm

Click the photo to view videos

Video: Stormy Streamer Fishing on the Big Hole

http://vimeo.com/bigholelodge/bigholelodge14seasonkickoff

Click HD, "watch in HD now," and crank the volume!
Lanette Evener, our trusty chef and trout head, stretched her casting arm before opening the kitchen for season '14. Check out some highlights and stay tuned throughout the summer.

Final Dress Rehearsal for Season 2014

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Big Hole Lodge opens this week for the 31st time under the same ownership and we can't wait to get back on the water.  Our beloved chef and trout bum, Lanette, returned this week after trading her shorts and t-shirts in Redding, CA for long underwear and wool caps here in Wise River, but she held onto her smile.  In fact, it grew substantially when she climbed into the raft on the Big Hole amid sleet and snow showers.  

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The upper valley experienced heavy snow and rain Friday evening and the Big Hole rose quickly throughout the day Saturday.  A rising river always makes for tough fishing, but Lanette didn't let that stop her from getting reacquainted with her pals.  She tirelessly banged the banks with a weighted size 4 yellow streamer and was rewarded with a handful of fish, the nicest of which are pictured here.  

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Despite the conditions, we had a great day filled with laughs and are now eagerly awaiting our first guests of the season.  Montana had a spectacular snowy winter and the rivers are in great shape.  2014 is going to be fantastic and we look forward to sharing it with you!

Best,

Craig & Wade Fellin and the Big Hole Lodge Staff

Chef Lanette Drops in on Orvis Flyfishing 101 in Santa Clara

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Our good friend, Laurie Kirk, learned to fly fish behind the lodge on the Wise River over ten years ago and has since become an avid fisher and an integral member of the Flycasters of San Jose, near her hometown.  The Flycasters Club is an organization dedicated to help protect, enhance and restore local, state and national fisheries of all species of fish and types of waters and related habitat through education, volunteer efforts and contributions; with a focus on those waters and fish most important to the Flycasters membership, with a mission to pass on these magnificent resources to future generations.

For the past two years, Big Hole Lodge has supported the organization and last February, our very own chef, Lanette Evener, joined Laurie in Santa Clara, CA for the Flycaster's annual fundraising dinner.  Image
Last Sunday, Lanette and Laurie assisted the Orvis instructor at Fly Fishing 101, teaching basic casting and knot tying skills.  The Orvis instructor caught a beautiful cast out of the corner of his eye and asked Laurie if she knew who this particular, "beginner fly fisher" was.  In fact, it was Lanette, who has spent the last 20 summers honing her expertise, graciously offering advice to the next generation of anglers.

We wish Lanette safe travels as she heads back to Montana this week and look forward to Laurie's return later this summer!

 

 

Orvis 101 Fly Fishing Schools

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUV-V_EY5Ok

Learn fly-fishing basics in one of our free Fly Fishing 101 classes. Perfect for beginners of all ages. Fly Fishing 101 will provide you with free lessons on fly casting and outfit rigging.

If you're looking for a great way to get the family together outside, our FF101 class is the perfect event to get started. Fly fishing is a sport the whole family can participate in. All ages are welcome to attend the event, but those under 16 years of age must be accompanied by an adult. Bring the whole family and learn what this great sport is all about.

OrvisNews Photos of the Day: Snow and Rainbows on the Missouri

Written by: Wade Fellin,  Big Hole Lodge for OrvisNews

Sleep in or get on the water/ Snow be damned. The boat was already hooked up and ready to go.

All photos by Wade Fellin

Tom Murphy and I picked the boat up at Big Hole Lodge and hopped over to his parents house in Great Falls. We woke up to two inches of snow on the boat and a strong Great Falls wind.

Tom Murphy battles snow and wind to get his fly in the right spot.

Knowing full well we were crazy, the decision to float had been made days before, and we were committed come hell or high water. By the time we got the boat in the water It was 25 degrees, snowing sideways and without rowing the boat was going up river!

Tom’s big rainbow made the frozen fingers and all the difficult casting and rowing worth it.

It took us four hours to get from Wolf Creek to Craig, but the rainbow Tom boated made numb hands and feet all worthwhile.

Wade Fellin is Manager at Craig Fellin Outfitters & Big Hole Lodge.

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