A Week on the Big Horn – Fins and Feathers Bozeman
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A Week on the Big Horn

Last week, I had the good fortune of attending Sweetwater Travel’s “Fly Fishing Guide” School. In total, there were 9 of us from all different parts of the country with completely different backgrounds (sounds a little bit like Lord of the Rings) under the tutelage of 3 individuals that actively guide out of Livingston and all of whom attended the same Guide School in the past. Some of the students attended the school with the hopes of immediately getting placed in a lodge as a guide while others (like myself), just wanted to get better at fly fishing and broaden their understanding. No matter your interest, the instructors approached the course as though each student may eventually become a guide and did their best to instruct and coach each of us so that we could walk away feeling like we had the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful as a guide.

The weeklong course started on Sunday morning and lasted through noon on Saturday and took place at Cottonwood Camp just outside of Ft. Smith, MT. Any guide and fisherperson will tell you that a week is not nearly long enough to master the skills necessary, but it is long enough to correct a lot of bad habits and teach the foundation for new skills so that someone can practice on their own. Sunday was a pretty intensive day at the condo with CPR/AED/First Aid certification, Fly Tying (your basic zebra midges, Griffith’s, wooly buggers, San Juan worms, etc), and a very dry rowing video. Monday through Friday had a pretty consistent schedule of:
6:00am – Get up and go fish (optional, but the dry flies were best at this time, so why wouldn’t you?)
7:00am – Back to the condo to get ready for the day (rig up rod, pack lunch, etc)
8:30am – Head out to the river on either a drift or jet boat and spend the day fishing, practicing guiding skills, wading, seining, etc
6:00pm – Get off of the water and head back to camp
7:00pm – Instructors make supper for everyone!
7:30pm – Hang out, drink beer, tie flies, talk about fishing (just imagine, you’re surrounded by people who love it as much as you for 24 hours a day for a week straight….you have to take advantage of the fact that you’re not going to have people roll their eyes at you).
8:30pm – Back to the river for the sunset dry fly fishing

And lights out whenever you want so that you may wash, rinse, repeat and do the whole thing over again the next day.

At the end of the week, I left feeling like my brain was saturated with new information about fishing along with at least a few new friends that I hope to go fishing with on their home waters in the future. I learned a ton from the instructors, but even more from my colleagues in the course as we each brought different abilities to share with each other. The atmosphere around the camp and in the boats were completely supportive and never belittling or competitive (unless you wanted to be competitive). I truly enjoyed my experience with Sweetwater and would recommend it to anyone looking to better their skills as a fly fisher or potentially as a guide.