My Itchy Travel Feet | The Baby Boomer's Guide To Travel

A new boomer travel experience: fly fishing in Montana

2012/07/26by Donna Hull

Updated 07.01.2013

Trout caught in Missouri River

Alan catches another rainbow trout while fly fishing in Montana

Blame it on A River Runs Through It, the movie (and novella by Norman Maclean)  that romanticized fly fishing in Montana. Or at least that’s the way this boomer traveler sees it. Ever since I watched golden-haired Robert Redford casting his line into the Blackfoot River against the backdrop of Montana mountain beauty, I’ve wanted to learn to fly fish. Listen! Can you hear the riffles in the river and the sloshing as Redford nets a trout? Who wouldn’t want to learn to fly fish after seeing that movie? And, the best part—no icky worm to put on the hook—remember, I’m a travel princess.

boomer-travel-cross-currents-craig-montana

Cross Currents Fly Shop in Craig, Montana

On a visit to Helena, Montana, Alan and I had the opportunity to learn how to fly fish when the good folks at Helena Tourism Improvement District  arranged a lesson and trip on the Missouri River with Chris Strainer of CrossCurrents Flyshop. After enjoying an early breakfast at The Sanders Bed & Breakfast in Helena, we drove north on I-15 for the 45-minute scenic journey to to meet Chris at his shop in Craig, Montana, a speck in the road that’s become fly fishing central on the Missouri River. After purchasing a fishing license ($25 for a two-day license—the shortest license that we could purchase), we hopped in Chris’s van for the short ride to the boat ramp near the Forrest H. Anderson Bridge.

chris-fly-fishing-craig-montana

Chris positions the boat in the water

While Chris maneuvered his drift boat into the Missouri River, Alan and I lathered on sunscreen since we’ve both experienced skin cancers. The safari clothes that we purchased for a South African safari gave us just the right sun protection without making us too hot on a very warm Montana day. And, of course, we wore our wide-brim hats.

But, Alan and I weren’t going to be the only ones on the river. I watched another guide put his boat into the water as a mother and her young daughter prepared for a morning of fly fishing. And, a father and son were already in the middle of the Missouri taking their first fly casting lesson of the day.

boomer-travel-fly-fishing-lesson

Donna learns to cast

And that’s exactly where we headed once Alan and I were safely in the boat. Chris rowed us out to a shallow place in the middle of the Missouri River to begin fly casting lessons. And so it began.

“Start with the lure in the water. Raise the rod until it’s perpendicular, sending the line behind you. Snap. Cast your line forward out into the water.”

Chris’s instructions sounded so easy.

“No, you’re sending the rod too far backwards. Remember, snap the line.”

This was going to be much harder than Robert Redford made it look in A River Runs Through It. But we had a patient teacher in Chris, who didn’t flinch when both Alan and I accidentally hooked him in the back on errant casts.

boomer-travel-fly-fishing-montana

Missouri River near Craig, Montana

Satisfied that we were ready for a day on the river, Chris gave us two choices as to where we would fish. He could take us to the dam area of Holter Reservoir where we would catch lots of fish, or we could drift 8 miles down the Missouri combining a scenic ride with trout fishing and a bit more challenging conditions. You know us, we chose the scenic option.

net-trout-boomer-travel-montana

Chris nets another rainbow trout that Alan caught

As Chris rowed the drift boat along the Missouri, he read the nuances of the river the way our tracker read animal tracks in the South African bush. Ripples and currents told Chris where we should fish. We’d drift along and suddenly Chris would call out, “Cast.”

“Cast, again,”

“Now, mend your line.” A maneuver I never quite got the hang of.

We also talked—about the number of women who fly fish (it’s more than you think) and the popularity of the sport with baby boomers.

boomer-travel-montana-cross-currents

Chris prepares to pull in the boat.

My shoulder grew tired and my back stiffened. Chris had been right when he siad, “Loosen up, your arm is too stiff.” I opted for scenery watching over fly fishing long before the Missouri River journey ended.

Besides, there were bald eagles to observe as they flew overhead calling to each other with a sound unrepresentative of their majesty. In other words, bald eagles (and hawks) have squeaky calls to be such large, beautiful birds. And, I watched for baby osprey peeping out of nests that were piled onto poles, which the power company had erected right next to power poles—a sort of decoy to keep the ospreys from crashing into power lines and disrupting power, not to mention electrocuting themselves.

I marveled at the Missouri River landscape the same way Lewis and Clark must have done when they floated up the river on their way to the Pacific Ocean. Knowing that your drift boat is following in their historic wake gives special meaning to fly fishing in Montana.

Do you fly fish? Post a comment to recommend your favorite fly fishing river. Alan and I will definitely be trying this boomer adventure again. But first, we’ll take those casting lessons that Chris recommends.

Disclosure: This travel experience was provided by Helena Tourism Improvement District and CrossCurrent Fly Shop. As always, the opinons are our own.

I have included Amazon Links for your convenience; however, My Itchy Travel Feet does receive a small percentage for purchases made at Amazon.com.



A boomer travel and lifestyle authority who is exploring the world one activity at a time. Besides writing and publishing My Itchy Travel Feet, she also writes about boomer travel for My Well-Being Powered by Humana, Make It Missoula and is the author of My Itchy Travel Feet: Breathtaking Adventure Vacation Ideas.

Previous post:

Next post:

About Us

We're Donna & Alan Hull. We KNOW boomer travel.

Since 2008, we've published articles and photographs focusing solely on boomer travel: where to go, what to do and how to do it.

Partner with us

Did you know that baby boomers purchase 80% of luxury vacations and adults aged 55 + account for one-third of all trips in the U.S.? We can help you to reach an audience of active boomer travelers.

Learn more:


Have questions? Get in touch.

The fine print:

Media Mentions

We're the undeniable experts on boomer travel.


Need a boomer expert for your publication? Get in touch.