If April showers bring May flowers, then maybe April blizzards bring May hatches? Sometimes cabin fever wins and, when spring is late in coming, the show must go on. Guides, anglers, and industry folk mingle at an Orvis-hosted event in late April in downtown Craig, Montana.
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The Missouri River is known the world ‘round for its large brown trout, feisty rainbows, and cowboy attitude. This is where the cool kids come to play, fishing under the endless big sky and basking in legendary hatches thick enough to coat vehicles and determined enough to survive the Great Plains wind.
The rhythm of the river replaces the 9-to-5 of a normal workday; hours can be kept by the daily ebb and flow of guides in and out of Craig, the epicenter of fishing in central Montana. A small town of thirty-odd year round residents, Craig consists solely of three fly shops, one bar, one seasonal restaurant and one mechanic. This is the land of trout, where flies and tippet are the talk of the town, and a new drift boat is worthy of an honorary round at the bar.
While some people come and go, fluxing with the seasons like migrating birds, a select few remain throughout the Montana winter, trading dry flies for articulated streamers and five-weights for switch rods. Flip flops disappear, replaced by waders and an endless supply of long underwear. For those who choose to make their home on the Missouri River front, living by the seasons and the river, trout fishing is both a language and a lifestyle.
Headhunters Fly Shop has become the “go zone” in Craig. Home to an A-Team of guides, a fly bar well-stocked enough to make any angler drool, and free coffee, the shop has championed the trout-bum lifestyle. Saturday bar-be-ques, a perennially-stocked beer cooler and a surfboard table complete the island vibe, a vibe that translates directly into the people that live and work around the shop.
Jessica McGlothlin (a.k.a. Fire Girl Photography) is a freelance photojournalist and writer. She considers Montana home but is a wanderer at heart. She is currently based out of Vermont, working as the outdoor copywriter for Orvis, and continuing to grow her freelance work full-throttle. More of her work can be found at www.FireGirlPhotography.com.