It’s no secret that Montana is one of the best places in the world to trout fish. We sat down with Garrett Munson of Montana Fishing Outfitters, who arranges trips all over the state, to hear his story and find out more about the opportunities Montana has to offer.
How did you get into guiding in Montana?
Fishing has been a focus my whole life, mostly in the Florida Keys and the midwest, but when I moved to Montana in 1995 the addiction to flyfishing took hold. By 2000 I was fishing 100-150 days a year while running a wilderness adventure program for troubled teenagers, and I realized it was time to go pro. A trip to New Zealand and encouragement there from legendary guide Tony Entwistle sealed the deal. I did an interview float with Paul Roos, another flyfishing legend, served him grilled elk tenderloin steak sandwiches, managed to not dump him out of my boat, and at the end of the day over a couple Budweisers he said “Garrett, you are a very good angler, and a decent non-professional oarsman. You’ll need to work on that, but consider yourself a Paul Roos Outfitters guide from here on out.” It’s been all downhill ever since.
You guys guide on a lot of Montana’s most famous water. Is it possible to pick a favorite river or creek?
I get asked this quite often and it is a difficult one to answer. There are so many variables – conditions, hatches, angling pressure, trout populations. But at the end of the day I have to say it’s the Smith River, because it’s such a gamble; five days, 60 miles, top-shelf scenery, highly variable water and fishing conditions. I like to fish big dries tight to cliff walls, and the Smith River has too many of these to count.
You can fish in a lot of states. You can guide in them too. Why Montana?
I have had the good fortune of fishing around the western US a good bit, and I must say there are many wonderful places to fish outside of Montana. The reason I have stayed in Montana is the people – they are authentic, outgoing and kind – and so I married one. The trout are a bonus.
Tell us about one of your stranger days on the water.
Well, there have been a few over the years. I’ve seem grand mal seizures, epic rain, wind, hail and snow events, marriages go bad and the love of fishing be born. But the strangest day I can recall involved a hat that we had lost the day before and watched it sink to the bottom of the river. The next day, 3 miles downstream and 24 hours later, the same hat floated up to my anchored boat and I leaned over and netted it. It was very strange!
What advice would you offer other fly-fishermen who want to come fish in Montana?
Do your homework if you have high expectations for your fishing experience. If you have time this is easy to do with the advent of the internet, there is plenty of info out there on Montana fishing options. But if you don’t have time, that’s where a guy like me comes in. I am your cheat sheet for a great Montana angling adventure. I know the what’s, where’s, when’s, why’s, and how’s of setting up a custom fishing trip for every type of angler. Being honest about you abilities, realistic about your desires and open to the adventure are the key components to a stellar Montana fishing trip.
There are tons of other things to do in Montana apart from fishing. What would you recommend for a more adventurous tourist?
There are a seemingly limitless number of other fun activities to do while visiting Montana, but here area few our anglers’ favorites: take a Gates of the Mountains boat tour, visit Yellowstone National Park, check out the Montana Historical Society Museum, explore Lewis and Clark Caverns, or go on an upland bird hunting trip.
Would you say there is a best time to fish in Montana?
We get asked this question A LOT – and it’s tricky to answer because every river is different, every season is different, and every angler wants something different from their fishing trip. All that being said, we like mid-April to mid-May for the spring season, mid-June to mid-July for the summer season, and mid-September to mid-October for the fall season.
A lot of people look at guides and think, wow, what a great lifestyle. Should they be jealous?
Yes they should be jealous, especially if they think that fresh mountain air, postcard scenery and hunting for wily, wild trout are good for the soul. They should also know that guiding is a lifestyle job that requires a lot of long days, excessive grunt work, and not much for a retirement plan.
What’s next for Montana Fishing Outfitters?
We have a lot in the hopper right now – our 18th season of guided fishing is coming right up, and the 5th year of our Montana Fishing Guide School is also on the docket with 8 sessions on the calendar. We also just launched our Trout Spey trip program and we’re working on a new promo video. But really what’s next is more of the same – sharing our passion and giving our anglers a great experience when they come to visit us and our trout friends.