I’ve heard it from people all over, the internet has ruined fly fishing. To some extent I would have to agree. With all the online sources for information available anyone with a little tech ambition can dredge up information on almost any place imaginable…….almost.

I found myself with 2 days off in a row in June, something of very rare occurrence. I got to thinking of all the places I used to go that were “secrets” and realized that due to the internet were no longer that. I have been out of the loop so to speak because of my intense guide schedule that I didn’t even realize the increase in angling pressure on a few of my lesser known spots. After talking to a few select friends about the increase in pressure they all concluded that there were no secrets left in Montana.

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I took that as a challenge. Fifteen years ago, when I was in college, there were endless angling opportunities that had little to zero human interactions. Every free day I had was spent exploring. These were the days before Google Earth, internet blogs, and before magazines were spot burning in every issue. The only way to find a new fishing spot was to go yourself and knock on a door. Now days there will be detailed instructions for accessing almost any stretch of water. On top of that, Google Earth can provide all the information needed for floating and navigating obstacles. The adventure is gone. Diversion dams, fences, low bridges, and irrigation ditches are no longer surprises that could only be found by experience. With all of this technology and information now easily accessible, there are no more secrets left in Montana……almost.

My buddy and I left Bozeman on a mission to find a secret fishing spot. Instead of using the internet, I went old-school and started looking at maps. I also contacted some old ranchers I had met in my college days. With a little bit of legwork and some help from one of my cousins, I made a hit list. The next two days were spent exploring some untouched water. We knocked on one ranchers door asking for permission to fish and he laughed at us remarking “sure, but you won’t catch anything. Only thing in that ditch is carp”, to which I replied “I like catching carp”.

After several failed micro missions we struck gold….or yellow depending on how you want to look at it.  We started fishing in this stagnant, muddy ditch. After fishing up it for a few hundred yards we were about convinced nothing lived in it, not even carp.  I came to the best looking piece of water we had seen and threw my streamer in one last time. If there wasn’t a fish in here there weren’t fish in this ditch.  My line came tight and a super pissed off butterball brown trout came cartwheeling out from under the sagging barbed wire fence blob.  It was on.

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Brown Drakes started hatching and we started picking out noses through the muddy water.  What followed next was nothing short of amazing.  After the hatch died down we continued pitching streamers and pulling out respectable trout out of every decent piece of water.  I felt relieved.

Day 2 was spent chasing down some more spots. This time via boat. It’s amazing what being polite and courteous can do for you when asking for permission to fish.  Most of Montana is still Montana. Not all of the state is Bozeman and Missoula, there is still a good part of Montana left where a handshake and a little respect will get you access.  A bottle of whiskey doesn’t hurt either.

Matney Field

We gained access and directions to a place to get our boat launched.  “Mother Nature had made the perfect boat launch” the rancher told us, “You can’t miss it. It looks man made but it’s been like that forever, it’s just flat rocks”.  We found the spot without a problem.

Matney Truck and Raft

We embarked on our voyage and found decent fishing throughout the float. The browns we found were sitting in super shallow slow water and were eager to eat any fly that passed. Clearly they were not used to being picked on. The day was a success.

Matney Brown Trout ECHO Hat

Completely exhausted we returned back to Bozeman.  We packed 5 days of exploring into 2 and had the bruises to prove it. I knew that the next 100 plus days would be spent guiding the famous waters of southwest Montana and I couldn’t help but smile.  There are no secrets left in Montana……almost.

Rick Matney is an Echo and Airflo Ambassador. He guides for wild steelhead in SE Alaska and anything that swims in Montana. When Rick isn’t guiding, he spends his time on the water, perfecting his skills at home, or traveling to new fishy locales.