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Fly shops are busier than ever in Montana

Number of out-of-state licenses are up
Busy Rivers
Posted at 3:42 PM, Jul 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-16 19:20:07-04

BOZEMAN — Fly shops across western Montana are busier than ever. So much so, that many shops are struggling to keep shelves stocked with some of the basics to fly fishing.

Daniel Uter’s fly shop, The River’s Edge West in Four Corners is a prime example. While their shelves are not bare, they have holes that are begging to be filled. “Every day is a different story” Uter said to MTN. “We may not have everything, but we have something this year.” Uter was referring to items that are usually not difficult to come by like leader, tippet, or fly line for example. Your favorite brand may not be on the shelf and you may have to look to a brand you normally do not buy.

“We tell people to be flexible. We have something.”

“Normally when you would just call up the company and say, you know I need to get some new fly line and leader and tippet for the store. They don't have it this year” Uter explained. There are plenty of shops dealing with the same problem. “We tell people to be flexible. We have something.”

And the rivers are seeing plenty of traffic as well. Guides and casual anglers are looking for opportunities to float or wade, and often in the same spots with Hoot Owl restrictions slowing traffic on some of the region’s favorite destinations.

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While business is up for fishing, it may take a little extra planning for your next fishing adventure. You may need to do a little extra checking around to get specific gear and you may need to go the extra mile to find a more remote spot to hook the next big fish.

According to Uter, his guides are running into that same issue.

“You know, we are having to adjust to a lot more people in Montana, and you have to think outside the box a little bit, especially on the weekends,” Uter said. It is good business for fly shops and guides.

When asked about out-of-state anglers, Uter explained that yes, they always see a big influx of out-of-state anglers.

Out of state fishing licenses

But the numbers for out-of-state licenses are not staggering. In fact, numbers provided by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks on out-of-state licenses show the peak numbers are in 2016 with 222,627 out-of-state licenses issued.

The 2020 numbers were a little over 3,000 of 2016’s numbers. So far this year, there have been 142,827 licenses issued with more to come. In 2017, the drop-off of numbers may have been due to the active wildfire season, and we could easily see that again in 2021.

The uptick in sales and guide trips is good for business, obviously, Uter says that his shop is always happy to see people trickling in and that it is important to a lot of businesses in Montana. “That’s what keeps a lot of people going in Bozeman, with that tourism and recreation,” Uter explained.

While business is up for fishing, it may take a little extra planning for your next fishing adventure. You may need to do a little extra checking around to get specific gear and you may need to go the extra mile to find a more remote spot to hook the next big fish.

Fly shops are busier than ever in Montana