The Flathead Valley has a roster of fly shops that all offer expertise and their own niches, whether you’re a newbie needing to be set up with gear and guided down the river or you’re a serious local angler seeking a little advice and a few new flies. There are also a number of other outfitters without brick-and-mortar fly shops not mentioned here.
Lary’s Fly & Supply
604 Nucleus Ave., Columbia Falls
Lary’s, founded and owned by Hilary Hutcheson, is the newest fly shop in the valley, opening in downtown Columbia Falls in 2016. The shop bills itself as “a unique one-stop-shop for the expert angler and the fly-curious alike.”
Hutcheson, a nationally known guide and fly-fishing personality, said the shop operates from a core philosophy of caring for and sharing the region’s rare fishery and ecosystem, in which native species are the draw as opposed to browns and rainbows as is typically the case elsewhere throughout Montana.
“We have a lot of destination clients coming from all over the world looking for what we believe is our area’s competitive edge, which is fishing in a fully intact ecosystem for wild and native cutthroat trout that they can’t find anywhere else,” Hutcheson said.
“This is a really unique fishery,” she continued. “We like people to know where they are and why that’s important. That’s first and foremost what we try to drive home.”
Hutcheson guides full-time, for Glacier Anglers in the Wild and Scenic River corridor and for Lary’s on the main stem of the Flathead. Lary’s also books hosted trips across the world, in tropical areas, the Louisiana Bayou for redfish, the East Coast for striped bass, and the Midwest, to name a few examples.
“If you travel around a lot you know there’s that super secret spot you have to stop at,” Hutcheson said. “It’s that kind of a shop.”
Lakestream Fly Shop
669 Spokane Ave., Whitefish
A longtime staple of the local fly-fishing community established in 1984, this shop moved in 2017 from Central Avenue to its new prominently visible location on Spokane Avenue. The new shop is spacious with ample selections of flies, waders, rods, vests, nets, tippet and all the gear you’ll need for either a day trip on the river or to stock up for a summer of fishing.
Owner Justin Lawrence and his knowledgeable staff will help you with any fishing needs you have, including lining you out with a guided trip.
405 Bridge St., Bigfork
This family-run operation is owned by Jason Lanier, a longtime Montana guide and skilled fly tyer with a list of his own patterns in the Montana Fly Company lineup. Lanier and his staff know the area’s waters well, and can dispense insight or take you down the river on a guided trip. The shop also has an inventory that will settle your gear needs.
Mystique Fly Shop
149 S. Main St., Kalispell
Another family-operated shop, Mystique opened a decade ago in a south Kalispell location before moving downtown in 2016. Tim Braun and his wife Kasee run the operation. Mystique offers a wide variety of fly-tying materials, flies and gear, including rentals, as well as guide services.
Arends Fly Shop
1510 9th St. W., Columbia Falls
Yet another family-run operation, Arends Fly Shop was founded by Bob Arends in the 1980s. The shop, which moved into a new location last year, offers an expansive selection of fly-tying material and flies, as well as guide services. Arends is a nationally renowned fly tyer. In addition to the Flathead River system, Arends and his guides are well-versed in the big rainbows of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.
Great Northern Whitewater Raft & Resort
12127 U.S. Highway 2, West Glacier
Glacier Guides and Montana Raft
11970 U.S. Highway 2, West Glacier
Glacier Raft Company
106 Going-to-the-Sun Road, West Glacier
While these three West Glacier companies are known most widely for their guided whitewater trips, they also all offer full-service guided fly-fishing trips.
Northern Rockies Outfitters (purchased Stumptown Anglers)
(877) 906-9949 or (406) 261-7424
Rich Birdsell, owner of Northern Rockies Outfitters, purchased Stumptown Anglers and no longer operates the fly shop south of Whitefish, although he offers guided trips with a wealth of knowledge. Many people would recognize Birdsell, a longtime guide, as the co-host of now defunct Trout TV along with Hilary Hutcheson of Lary’s Fly & Supply. Birdsell still manages an active Stumptown Anglers website (www.stumptownanglers.com), through which trips can also be booked.