Fly Fishing in Southwest Montana

For Whom the Bell Tolls
by John Donne

No man is an island,

Entire of itself

Each is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thine own

Or of thine friend’s were.

Each man’s death diminishes me,

For I am involved in mankind.

Therefore, send not to know

For whom the bell tolls,

It tolls for thee.

April 15 – I couldn’t watch the news reports about the burning of the Notre Dame Cathedral.

My first trip to Europe was ten years ago and the exchange rate was unfavorable for Americans along with being undecipherable for my brain.  In Zurich, we stopped in a MacDonald’s trying to gauge the exchange. A Big Mac was $15 bucks, I was going to go broke on this continent.

A few days later I was inside Notre Dame along with a long procession of people from all over the planet.  This was pilgrimage and I not knowing it became a pilgrim.

Inside Notre Dame, money was no longer an issue, my regret was why wasn’t I here when I was in my 50’s, 40’s, 30’s ….  The French understood Notre Dame belongs to everyone and we are all lessened by its injury. I applaud their stewardship for over 800 years. This is a victory for angels that reside on our better half.

Montana doesn’t have a building over 200 years old but we do have rivers and mountains that need to be defended. The Notre Dame Cathedral reminds us that we have a responsibility to protect something greater than ourselves. I am a true believer in the integrity and purpose of the following organizations.

Montana Land Reliance is making a difference in keeping Montana’s Land intact.

Ruby Habitat Foundation is a local organization that makes a significant difference for conservation in our valley.

Montana Trout Unlimited the best voice in our state for clean water and healthy fisheries.

April 16 – Actor Matthew McConaughey has a new Lincoln Nautilus commercial. He has an over affected air of cool that tortures my serenity. I believe he feigns playing bongos on his dashboard of the Lincoln. This will come up in December when we have our annual Festivus “Airing of Grievances” family dinner.

April 19 – We have six gentlemen from California that open Healing Waters Lodge annually.  They gamble on the weather and the fishing. This year they batted .500 with two good days of fishing and two not so good.  Seated in the photo below are (l-r) Bryan, Gary, Bob, me, Mike A., Steve, and Mike M. Our good friend, Nick Pipinich wrapped the dining table in copper. I figure if things go bad, I can take pieces out and melt it down for a couple of bucks. Since the table is completely intact at Healing Waters Lodge please interpret this as a sign of continued prosperity.

April 22 – Healing Waters Lodge is one of three finalists for the 2019 Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing Lodge of the Year. Honored to be a finalist, in my head, I am working on my acceptance speech. I need a mixture of humility sprinkled with effusive praise.  I am warm, lovable and generous to all.

April 26 – We didn’t win the 2019 Orvis Endorsed Fly-fishing Lodge of the Year. The title went to Crystal Creek Lodge in Alaska. And now, I am wounded becoming pusillanimous (I waited 43 years to use this word it fits perfectly to my condition) I read Othello.  Iago is misunderstood. I do believe Trump advisor, Stephen Miller, played him perfectly in high school.

April 29 – Our “Fish Like a Guide, But, Live Like a Client” fly-fishing school is in full swing.  Our guides/teachers (r-l): Butch Wicks, TJ Migneault, Eli Mcintosh, Terry Throckmorton, and Tim Flynn take enormous pride in conducting the schools.

They are earnestly striving to make each student a better angler by the week’s end. They acutely listen to their needs while addressing each students concerns whether it be casting, entomology or reading water.

They possess a real depth of knowledge which they are conveying without being overly pedantic. They also purport the simple, honest joy of fishing which keeps us all forever young.

May 2 – The second fly fishing school starts and the weather has changed for the better.  The last week of April was raw and cold with more winter than spring. Today, it is in the 60’s and you feel yourself shrugging off winter with your face towards the sun thinking of dry fly fishing.  This is still pre-runoff with snow in the mountains, the sky perfectly blue along with a few billowy clouds, the grass is greening, sandhill cranes lumbering in the fields and everything the breathes, sings, flies says, “Yes” to life.

May 5 – The Big Hole is fishing well.  If you want to catch fish in the West you need to embrace the San Juan worm.  I believe this is the single most effective fly there is in Montana. You can pick your colors red, pink, purple they all work.  You can use a single beaded worm or a double beaded worm and they will work. You don’t even need a bead and they work. San Juan worms are effective in the spring, summer, fall and winter.    They are lithe, the skinnies of the fly world, sparse but if you want to catch fish do not leave home without them.

May 10 – Seven guests from Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing arrive to go down the Smith River. Six are guests and one is volunteering as a guide. This is our 15th year taking service members downstream in conjunction with Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing.  We use the 60 miles of the Smith River as a rehabilitative tool for Veterans. The Smith River is a place that is literally unplugged – no cell phone service, no internet and no breaking news.  In the canyon, wind is whispering through pine trees, the flowing water seems eternal, the subtle sound of rising trout and you retreat into a different century. The five days on the river have just as much to do with your soul as fishing.

May 15 – The veterans from Project Healing Waters all got off the Smith River.  They had two good days of fishing but had five days of great weather. Our work with Project Healing Waters is more than just taking soldiers downstream.  They have enabled us to bring our community closer together. On the second night of the Smith, Nick and Darcy Pipinich open up their cabins on the Smith for the Vets.  They put on a great dinner and define hospitality. The third day we stop for lunch at the Heaven on Earth Guest Ranch. Vic Anderson serves a wonderful lunch and has been feeding Vets now for 15 years.

For this trip, Smith River Shuttles donated all of the shuttles fees for moving vehicles from Camp Baker to their final destination at the Eden Bridge.  This year the shuttle drivers added $200 to assist us with expenses.

We have clients that have been donating to Project Healing Waters since we started.

May 15 – Why we don’t like politicians? It is pretty simple we are just better than they are.  We pay our bills, go to work every day and raise our families without a lot of bluster and fanfare.  The Veterans from the Smith River came from Ohio, Montana, Georgia, Texas and New Jersey; a pretty good cross section of America.  They are concerned about their country have their political opinions but life dominates their agenda not politics. They can express their views without attacking the person across from them.  They listen more than speak and they are more concerned about moving forward than standing still. They believe in our past as well as our future. They have hope and he that has hope has everything.


We offer gift certificates for every fishing venue we have. Nothing says “I love you DAD!” more than six nights and five days of fly fishing in Montana.

Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter.

Sincerely, Mike Geary