Seeking Pristine Environments: My Favorite Places to Visit
Montana: The Treasure State
The Last Best Place is my backyard. Fly fishing has also indirectly contributed to where our family lives (Bozeman Montana) and the name of our youngest daughter – Christine “Madison” Olivo, named after my favorite river that originates in Yellowstone National Park and meanders north through the Northern Rocky Mountains of Montana. The fish species that we target are dominantly in the Trout family including Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, Cutthroat Trout and Brook Trout. The scenery photos that I've been able to capture over the past 20 years are stunning (including many drone photos) and the wildlife in Yellowstone National Park are world class.
Within 90 minutes of Bozeman, there are just endless diverse locations to fish. We have the convergence of the major rivers (the Gallatin, Madison, Jefferson), as will as the Yellowstone that flows Northeast through Paradise Valley out of the Park. The locations that I most like to target are actually the smaller, more intimate streams and spring creeks that all drain into the major river tributaries out of the State towards the East.
To the West, on the other side of the Continental Divide we have a completely different drainage system that ultimately flows to the Northwest into the Pacific Ocean. In total, within a two hour drive - there are probably more "first-class places to fly-fish for Trout in Montana than any part of the Lower 48 in the US.
When people visit Montana for the first time, they immediately appreciate why it's referred to as "The Big Sky State." Our home in Bozeman (sitting at exactly 5,000 Ft in elevation), located within the foothills of the Bridger Mountains has a 360 degree commanding view of the entire Gallatin Valley that includes five mountain ranges. Therefore, my portfolio of photos disproportionately represents the best that "The Last Best Place" has on display (especially those taken inside of Yellowstone National Park).
When home, I find myself taking some photos virtually every day of either scenery, wildlife or some natural feature - like a weather feature or cold-front moving across the valley. If you're looking for a scenic photo of Yellowstone, any of the wildlife or a special scene from another location in Montana, please let me know as I probably have something special that may not be represented on this site.
Alaska: The Last Frontier
I've now had the privilidge of fishing in Alaska on 9 separate trips. Most have been to the remote Alaska West camp located on the Kenektok river. The Kanektok (also known as “the Chosen River”), consists of approximately 90 miles of pure, unadulterated, amazingly fabulous fly fishing in southwest Alaska. The river begins in the Ahklun Mountains and flows westward into Kuskokwim Bay on the Bering Sea at the village of Quinhagak. I've also experienced a total of 21 full days fishing on the Arolik river (not far from the Alaska West Camp), which probably is considered to be the finest rainbow trout fishery in North America. For the adventurous angler, there are all 5 species of Pacific Salmon as well as huge leopard Rainbow Trout (up to 16 pounds), Dolly Varden and Grayling. The guides are the best in the business and the accommodations (while rugged and remote) are excellent.
On a special day on the Arolik, Katie and I landed over 100 Rainbows with our favorite guide Trevor Covich. I' also had the finest single day ever fly fishing where with my great friend and HS Coach Rod Mergardt where I landed 50 Coho, 3 kings, 2 sockeye and a Dolly. I was so exhilarated that I had to stop fishing with 30 minutes left on the clock (which I've never done) to just sit on the bank of the river and take in the entire experience.
But I must say... something that is equally special as fishing at the Alaska West camp, is fishing for Chinook Salmon on the Sandy River in the middle of the Aleutian Islands during the prolific runs that occur in June. The efficient sensation of roll-casting and swinging a fly with a spey rod and having a 50 pound King hit hard enough to virtually yank the fly rod out of your hands is a degree of excitement that is hard to match - in any fishery. In addition to the fishing (which is why we go), the scenery and wildlife is nothing short of extraordinary.
Costa Rica: The Finest Inshore Fishing on the Planet
In the spring of 2018, Katie and I began to write a new chapter in our lives. Following a week of fishing with Captain Cory Craig in the Gulf of Dulce near Puerto Jimenez in Costa Rica, we decided that our search for the ideal vacation home in a unique tropical pristine environment had concluded. After one of the best inshore weeks of fishing that an angler can experience, we found an incredible home to purchase that was ideal for us.
The Osa Peninsula is considered to the the single most bio-diverse wildlife habitat on God's Green Earth. This unique diversity naturally extends from the Corcovado National Park (which consists of 75% of the peninsula's land mass) to the Gulf connecting to the Pacific Ocean (considered an tropical fiord). From a fishing perspective, Katie and I have now landed 62 different species of gamefish. In addition to the incredible fishing, I've also managed to capture stunning Drone phots of the Rainforest as well as incredible close-up photos of the wildlife (especially the birds).
The other unique photography perspective that captures the raw-wildness of the Osa Peninsula includes photos taken from my small fleet of DJI Drones. The colors of the water contrasting with the ruggedness of the rainforest and pristine beaches is truly spectacular. It can be a little unnerving to fly when out on a moving boat but thus far, I've managed to have no accidents and have a huge portfolio of scenic shots featuring the diverse landscape.
Another series of photos that I've taken include those captured while Kayak fishing. Being virtually level with the water and hooked up to a 50 pound Roosterfish as it tows you around the Gulf at about 6 knots is a thrill and angling challenge that every serious fisherman need to experience. I Kayak Fish with Tosh Talbot (the son of Cory Craig my go-to guide in Puerto Jimenez) and I've been able to check one major goal off the bucket-list by hooking, fighting and landing several 40 and 50 pound class RoosterZillas and getting in the shallow water to photograph them.
Tony Reyman: The Osa Artist
I've also partnered with an extremely talented artist on the Osa Peninsula (Tony Reyman) to produce a whole series of drawings, paintings and carvings of gamefish, animals, birds and scenery that is on full display throughout Costa Rica. Tony has actually created all the wonderful mural paintings, wood door carvings and other artwork that is on display in our home. As he produces more artwork, I will feature many of these products that can be purchased on this site. If you're interested in anything unique that may not be represented in the Gallery section of this site, please reach out to me to explore what can be customized just for you.
There will be a special section of this web site that is dedicated to Tony Reyman's artwork.
The Amazon: Put Agua Boa Lodge on your Bucket list
I've now experienced two trips to the most remote areas of the Amazon river. The first was on a "River X" expedition to explore remote tributaries feeding the Rio Negro in Northern Brazil just a few miles from the Venezuela border. This trip involved camping on the river in high-end "aluminum tents" that moved approximately 5 miles up river every day. The trip was very intimate, including only 5 fisherman under ideal weather and water-level conditions. On just one day, my trusty friend Charlie Conn and I landed 125 Peacock bass on a fly with the fish of the day exceeding 16 pounds.
The second trip that I made was with my wife Katie and good friend Tony Thompson. We traveled to the Agua Boa Lodge on an upper tributary of the Rio Negro and had another spectacular week of fishing and fun hunting all five species of Peacock Bass, Monster Red Tail Catfish and Arowana, The Lodge is really well done and is located right on the river (on a bluff high enough to avoid major flooding). It has a really large pool, a private paved airstrip and excellent cuisine. Charlie Conn (one of our favorite guides), has been working there for over 17 years and he's acquired the specialized knowledge of the Fishery to assure guests an extraordinary fishing experience.
Bolivia: The Most Remote area of South America
Since reading an article in Field and Stream magazine in 1975 about the Golden Dorado, It has been a life-long ambition of mine to travel there and catch a trophy Dorado on a fly. I was fortunate to travel with my good friend Tom Hansch and lifelong coach Rod Mergardt. We stayed at the Tismane lodges (two locations) and had incredible fishing and accommodations for our week long expedition. Quite simply, the Golden Dorado is considered to be the second baddest freshwater fish on the planet and with its' incredible golden yellow color - it's also one of the most beautiful. In Bolivia, the natives call these incredibly fierce, powerful migratory predators, "los tigres del rio." They resemble radiant yellow King Salmon on steroids, with terrible orthodontia and a bad attitude. They are so aggressive that they tend to hunt in packs (similar to wolves).
It is extraordinarily hard to hook on a fly (mouth of bone), fight (it goes airborne as often as a Tarpon and clocks screaming runs like a barracuda), and land (with jaws and teeth powerful enough to remove digits). The river systems are similar to fishing the Gallatin river in Montana (boulders, deep water holes, riffle runs) but obviously there is a huge water temperature difference.
On a good day, you will hook as many as 20 fish but only land 4-5 due to the river hazards (submerged trees, rocks and current) as well as the power and physical attributes of the fish (you need a 60 Lb. wire leader because of their teeth and powerful jaws). In addition to the Golden Dorado, anglers can target Pacu and a variety of catfish (all on a fly).
Canada: British Columbia and Scott Lake Lodge
I’ve made many trips to fish in Canada over the past 30
years and two of my favorite places to fish are in British Columbia for wild
Steelhead and in the Northwest Territories for monster Northern Pike and Lake
BC has arguably the finest river fishing for wild steelhead
and my favorite rivers are both the Skeena and the Sustut. Whereas the total
number of fish that an angler may actually land in a week can be small (depending
upon the water conditions and the timing of the migratory run), the quality of
the overall experience is unequaled.
The opportunity to travel to some of the
most remote parts of the river systems via helicopter is also an over-the-top
experience. In September, the pockets of Aspen trees are a brilliant yellow and
the contrast with the dominant evergreens throughout the region is striking.
If the timing is right, fly fisherman also have the
opportunity to catch Steelhead while skating flies on the surface. There’s nothing quite like the violent strike
on a fly that is skimming the surface and the anticipation of “the take”
followed by the long rhythmic casts with a Spey rod is what keeps everyone
going to perform “just one more cast.”
I highly recommend the Valhalla Lodge managed by Sweetwater travel.
You can access both the Skeena and Sustut rivers from the one lodge.
Scott Lake Lodge: A True Five Star Wilderness Experience
Scott Lake Lodge is a true fly-in fishing experience. Located on the border of the Northwest Territories and Saskatchewan, the main lodge sits only a stone’s throw from the 60th parallel. No lodge in Canada offers the extent and variety of Scott’s fishing territory. With Scott Lake, its adjacent lakes and the flyout lakes used exclusively by their guides, anglers have a half a million acres of productive water – more than a lifetime of fishing opportunities.
Unlike many lakes where you have to choose either good
action (numbers) or trophy FishZillas, Scott Lake offers both. It’s not uncommon here to land
50 to 100 fish a day for a single boat and you don’t have to spend hours
getting to the fish. In fact, a number of the best lake trout spots on Scott
Lake are within sight of the Lodge. My wife Katie landed a 35 pound Laker and a 49.75" Northern within a mile of the lodge (note that even the "Measurement Guy" couldn't quite stretch Katie's Monster Pike to equal the 50 inch mark). On one particular day, Katie and I landed over 50 Pike with 30 landed on a fly.
The "Lower 48"
Upstate New York: The Salmon River and Little Sandy Creek
Little Sandy Creek: The Golden Tributary
After traveling half way around the world to fish, I just want to state up front that I believe that the finest Brown Trout fishery in the world flows through in a little town in Upstate New Your called Hamlin (located on the edge of Lake Ontario. Well, how does it compare to New Zealand, Iceland or Tierra del Fuego you ask? Well, those are also special places (especially because of their remoteness and spectacular scenery) but if you want to catch multiple fish of a lifetime on a fly, the odds are much more in your favor on the Little Sandy Creek - Just outside of Rochester New York. I've now fished in this region for 12 straight years (over 100 days on the water), with many fishing partners and my good friend and guide Jay Peck. The results of our outings are somewhat hard to believe but they are true (and I have the photos to prove it).
Just one look at my good friend and fishing partner Dan Larson's face in the photo to the right says it all. I basically told him that I could "guarantee" that he catches a Brown Trout in the Mid-Teen class and he didn't believe me. After just 20 minutes on the river, he slid a 15 pounder into Jay's net and at the 90 minute mark, he managed to fool this 17.5 pound male that displayed classic "deep pumpkin-brown" spawning colors.
I've actually had three separate days on the water over three consecutive years that I landed 30+ Browns that all were at 10 pounds or greater. My PR's stand at 16 fish greater than 15 pounds with the largest Hen tipping the scale at 24 pounds and the largest Buck at 18 pounds. There is the rare male fish that can hit the 20 pound mark and whereas I've seen a few, I've still never managed to fool one.
The growth rates of the fish inhabiting Lake Ontario are extraordinary. After being released into the lake as fingerlings, these gamefish can actually put on an additional 3.5 pounds during the next 12 months of life as they gorge themselves on the abundant invasive bait fish (the alewives and the Gobi). if you want the chance to catch a Brown Trout of a lifetime and cannot travel halfway around the world and spend $10,000 dollars, give Jay Peck a call and visit Upstate NY from September thru Mid-November.
The Salmon River: Pulaski NY
OK -OK, I know what people say... It can be really crowded. While this is a true statement, I've also had several late afternoons each season where Jay Peck and I are the only people on large sections of river having the fishery all to ourselves. Similar to Little Sandy Creek in Hamlin, there are very few places that fly fisherman can easily travel to have the opportunity to catch several 20 pound, 30 pound and even 40 pound salmon on a fly.
On my greatest day fishing with Jay on September 19th in 2012, I managed to land 24 Chinook, 3 Coho, 2 rainbow trout and a brown trout (I easily hooked over 50 fish but many of them break off with only a 15 pound tippet). On that day, the unprecedented happened when I managed to fool the fish of a lifetime - a 34 pound Coho which turned out to be an unofficial word record fish (it was unofficial because whereas we weighed the fish on an IGFA certified scale, we didn't kill the fish and instead elected to release it).
This fish will probably go down as the single most impressive fish I will ever connect with as the remote probability of hooking and landing the largest fish of any species has odds so low that they are impossible to calculate. I've documented the complete story of the battle in an attached paper (posted in the section: What's it's like to catch a fish of a lifetime - twice), and if you are passionate about fly fishing for salmon you will love this story.
The Steelhead fishing on the Salmon river can be equally as spectacular but be prepared as you will often encounter full-on winter conditions. If you are lucky enough to time the "lake-weather effects" right in April or May, you can have it all with amazing steelhead in the 10 to 20 pound class. Be sure to fish on the lower Douglaston property to have the best opportunity for privacy at the end of the day. I've been back to the Salmon river virtually every year since and have been able to share the experience with my wife Katie, many of my close friends, business clients and other fishing guides.
Florida: Mosquito Lagoon, Stuart and The Keys
Mosquito Lagoon: The Miracle Estuary for Monster Redfish
I first began targeting Redfish in Mosquito Lagoon in 2011 as a result of a guide referral from a client of mine (Keith Sofiak from Halifax Health), When I was introduced to Captain Billy Rotne, Little did I realize at the time that this would turn out to be a relationship that would intimately grow over a lifetime.
At the time, Mosquito Lagoon was still somewhat environmentally pristine. It covers an immense wetlands area that is approximately 25 miles long, 1 to 2 miles wide and about 2 Ft deep on average. In 2011, the Lagoon's bottom was predominantly sand with large sections of emerald green sea grass (as seen in the photo with me releasing a large Bull Drum to the right). The water was clear, the redfish were healthy and happy and the recreational fishing was prolific.
Today (in 2021), ten years later the habitat has essentially been poisoned by annual algae blooms that threaten all life within the estuary - especially the Redfish. Unfortunately, the same harmful environmental conditions effecting Mosquito Lagoon on the edge of the Kennedy Space Center are present and continuously threatening all the freshwater and brackish river systems in FL especially the Indian River system that connects Ft Pierce to the north and Stewart to the South.
I won't take the time here to discuss the political and environmental challenges that have combined to create the negative feedback loop of destruction that has occurred but rather I would like to talk about how fantastic the fishing in the lagoon was with the hope of it returning to it's previous state sometime in the near future.
Captain Billy and I have probably landed more double digit redfish than any other guide and client that still fishes in the area. It's not the numbers that are impressive, it's the number of fish over 30 pounds that is. Clearly it's not because of me but it's because Billy has figured out the fishery and intimately knows the seasonal behavior and feeding patterns of the fish. The unique thing about the giant Reds in the lagoon is that historically they've been resident fish. The habitat was so good and the food sources were so plentifully that they didn't want to migrate anywhere even to spawn.
My PR redfish just so happens to be the unofficial FL State record at 54 inches long (to the fork), 30 inches in girth and weighing 64.24 pounds (exceeding the existing record by over 9 pounds). That fish (story featured in another section) caught in 2013, was a true test on 12 pound test tippet and whereas we've actually seen the same fish - not too far from where we landed it about a year later, it's doubtful that it still resides in the Lagoon due to the recurring algae blooms.
Whereas there are also giant sea trout (exceeding 10 pounds) in the fishery as well as Tarpon and Snook, the Lagoon will forever be known as the special place where the giant Bull Red Drum reside.
Stuart Florida: The Best Snook Fishery in FL
Stuart FL, must have more artificial cover for Snook than any place on earth. The Indian River Lagoon system is actually 121 miles long and spans from New Smyrna Beach in the north to Jupiter in the South. The multiple River systems that converge at this location in the Tropical Atlantic consists of inlets, tributaries, sand bars and beaches that are all are perfectly designed for fish to move in and out of the ocean and have the protection of thousands of boats, docks, bridges and mangroves. The prolific baitfish living in this system also create the perfect food web to produce plentiful numbers of really large Snook (many in the 40+ pound class).
The Florida Keys: The Most Diverse Fishery in the US
The Florida Keys offer the single most diverse fishery in North America. Depending upon the weather (mostly the wind intensity and direction), you can fish at the edge of the everglades for Redfish, Snook, Bonefish and Permit, or you can hunt the King of fish - The Tarpon. There is equal diversity of species that can be targeted off-shore as well with Yellowfin Tuna, Multiple species of Snapper, Grouper, Barracuda, Wahoo, Sailfish, Marlin, Swordfish, multiple species of Jacks as well as about 6 different species of sharks. An angler can never really get tired of fishing in the FL Keys because every day offers the opportunity to do something different.
Louisiana: Houma and the Remoteness of the Marsh
I was introduced to fishing the remote marshes of Louisiana through Captain Marty “The Montajun” Authement a life long Cajun who spends half the year guiding in Southwest Montana (mostly on the Madison River) and out of Houma, LA.
The city of Houma is located in the Southcentral area of the State in the Terrebonne Parish (which means "the good earth" in French), where the total area of the community is nearly 50 percent water. The vast marsh area we fish on the edge of the Gulf and the Mississippi Delta is one of the world's richest seafood estuaries. The abundance of bait (including human seafood) provides the fuel to create one of the greatest recreational fisheries in the US.
The weather can be equally diverse and variable in the late Fall and Winter with dead-calm hot humid conditions followed the next day by an intense cold front that drops temperatures below freezing with the wind chill. The water is almost always "off-color" brownish green but sight fishing for monster Bull Red and Black Drum is not often a problem because most of the time the water is so shallow and the fish are so large that a portion of their back is actually out of the water.
What I enjoy most about fly fishing for Bull Red Drum is the remoteness of the fishery and the relative willingness of the fish to take a fly. I've now been fishing every year for the past decade - in virtually the same locations with Marty and not only is it rare to see another fishing boat, the marsh itself is so vast that it would be a significant challenge for anyone to navigate back to the dock at the end of the day without our Guides "built in GPS" sense of direction - a skill developed after spending a lifetime on the water.
The drone photo below taken at the edge of the Gulf is a prime example of what anglers experience in a seemingly endless shallow water maze of the marshland. When "the lights are on" so to speak, with the sun shining intensely overhead, the giant Red and black drum stand out like large orange school busses against the sediment colored water that averages only a few feet in depth. The Reds can vary in color between deep copper to silver and the Blacks range from mirror bright to darker black depending upon their size. If you want to catch a 40 pound class "RedZilla" and possibly a 60 pound class Black Drum on a fly, Captain Marty is your guide.
North Carolina: The Inner Banks (the Largest Red Drum)
The "inner-banks" of North Carolina offers another incredible habitat for giant Bull Red Drum. Whereas the tactics are a little different, the results are the same with the average Redfish being in the 20 to 30 pound range and an occasional 50 pounder that can make it to the boat.
Washington: The Olympic Peninsula Steelhead
If you're looking to catch a wild Steelhead of a lifetime, you don't have to leave the lower 48, you just have to navigate your way to Forks, Washington on the rugged Olympic Peninsula. There are five rivers there that I regularly fish (once again with one of my favorite guides - Trevor Covich) and each offers a slightly different habitat and wilderness experience.
The best river systems include the Hoh, the Bogachiel, the Sol-Duc, the Calawah and the Queets. Since the mid - 70's, most Olympic Peninsula wild steelhead populations have been in long-term decline and some are near their lowest numbers on record. Whereas it's still possible to have an incredible fishing experience, the challenge is to time all the variables right to have the ideal weather, waterflows and timing of the migratory runs. This is not a location where an angler is going to have 10+ hook ups a day but the fish that do reach the net are extraordinary.
The Bahamas: A Bonefish and Cuda Paradise
I know many good friends that choose to target Bonefish in the Bahamas over any other species. It's clearly not because of their size because it's extraordinarily rare to catch a Bonefish over 10 pounds but rather it's their pound - for - pound reputation for being the strongest and fastest saltwater fish to catch on a fly.
Whereas I love to target Bonefish and they can be a challenge on light tackle, I really enjoy the hunt more than anything else because it's essentially 100% sight fishing in very shallow water with the partnering of your trusty guide.
The solitude of wading in the vast - remote environment is spectacular with miles and miles of shallow flats to hunt bonefish that are so silver that they reflect light as well as a mirror. What's also special is the ever changing water colors that range from deep blue to emerald green. Drone photos in this environment are special and if you ever get tired of hunting bonefish in the 2 to 4 pound range 9which actually can happen), there's always the savage Atlantic Barracuda (the ultimate saltwater predator) to try and fool on a fly.