Category Archives: Gear
The stuff we use at Headhunters Fly Shop
Our featured brand this week is Montana Fly Co. (MFC). MFC makes a lot of… flies. As one of the premier fly ting companies in the greater Flathead Lake region, MFC has been tying quality flies for over a decade (I couldn’t find how long on their website, but I know it’s over a decade).
The flies are great, and they tie some of our favorites like the Coffey’s Sparkle Minnow – sculpin (aka Ramp to Ramp, SS Minnow), the true Skwala and Gould’s Western Lady. MFC is the master of “foamies”, in fact. They have one of the largest “large foam attractor” selections in the world, and they seem to bring a few new and effective patterns every year. They also have an excellent selection of nymphs, and dries, and a huge selection of Montana streamer patterns.
Flies are the bread and butter at MFC, but that’s not where the meal ends. In recent years, MFC has come out with a variety of products, and have become leaders in un-fishing/fishing stuff technology. Many of the products from MFC feature artwork from noted outdoors painters AD Maddox, Bern Sundell, Travis Sylvester, Jeff Currier, Josh Udesen and Bob White. Cool stuff, and the “artist series” price is one you can afford. If you’ve ever been dreaming of one of those super cool fly reels with brown trout artwork on it – but can’t afford it – check out what MFC has to offer.
Here’s a few of the most popular MFC items at Headhunters:
MFC iPhone & iPad Case
All the cool kids have an iPhone, and if you want to be accepted by the bro-bra’s at the bar, you need to have some kind of fly fishing art on your iPhone case. These cases seem to fit better than some others I’ve tried, and I like the brightly colored art. Important when you have a habit of leaving your phone on the seat of the boat, bar, rear bumper or boat bag.
If you’re such a tech junkie that you roll iPad style, MFC has you covered as well. It’s a great folding cover and the art looks fantastic on the faux leather cover. Look at that Tarpon. Nice. Now you can watch videos on your iPad while you text on your iPhone and never stop looking fishy. Saaaweeet!
MFC Boat Box
We’ve sold a ton of these this year. These huge, waterproof and well made boat boxes have very high quality slit foam and available center swing leaves. The MFC Boat Box is currently the most requested boat box in the shop, and we have a bunch of boat boxes. They also make “saltwater” versions for larger flies. I’ve used them, and they are legit. They also keep your flies dry, which is nice.
MFC Madison IIa Fly Reels
A very popular reel at Headhunters. These are precision made (overseas) reels that are light and smooth. We’ve used the trout sizes a lot on the Missouri River, and we can attest that the startup inertia and power of this disc drag is great for big fish and long, sudden runs. The price is fantastic, and a wide variety of artwork is available that will match just about any fly rod. You can also get them “un-painted”. The Madison IIa reel is the best bang for your buck reel in the shop.
If you fish, you need alcohol. At the campfire you have 2 choices. a) break out that silly silver flask you got in the fraternity in college. Probably has your fratboy nickname on it with duct tape over it. Lame. Or b) you can bust our your new MFC flask with sweet Jeff Currier Permit art on it. Your bro’s may even assume you’ve caught a Permit! Salut!
MFC Artist Series Fly Boxes
The MFC Artist series fly boxes come in both aluminum and plastic versions. They both come equipped with quality high density slit foam inserts. The price of the aluminum boxes is outstanding, and even a better deal when you check out the high quality artwork and finish. These are one of our most popular gift items.
So, Montana Fly Company produces a bunch of great stuff you need. While the above stuff is super cool, fun and great for gift time, remember that the great fly selection at MFC is still the heart of the company. Flies. We like flies.
One of our flagship brands at Headhunters is RIO Products. I suspect we’re not the only fly shop who says that. RIO is #1 when it comes to fly line, tippet and leader sales. That’s right. Numero Uno. In the world, not just here. More anglers use these terminal products than any other.
While sales may reflect quality, we’re more impressed with RIO’s constant development of new fly line tapers, leader designs and tippet material. When you hear mention of a new technique or home-brew line or leader design, it seems RIO magically produces it. It seems like things are constantly evolving at RIO. And that we like.
The number one item most angler will associate with the RIO name is tippet. Look in a boat bag, chestpack or vest (does anyone still use a vest?), and you’ll most likely find at least a few spools of RIO tippet, if not a giant stack. Look in fly shops and you’d be hard pressed not to find it. It’s the standard.
I don’t believe that RIO was the first to bring flourocarbon tippet to the market, but they certainly dialed in the right diameter/stiffness/strength formula first. Most guides and experienced anglers I meet on the river use RIO fluoroflex plus tippet for nymphing and streamer fishing. Some use it for dry fly fishing as well, though we prefer the copolymer nylon Powerflex – or Suppleflex – for that application. Alongside Flouroflex and Powerflex, RIO makes a wide range of tippet and leader material for Saltwater, Steelhead and toothy critters. In fact RIO makes material for every size and shape of fish and every type of angling.
RIO fly lines reflect the same diversity. They are constantly developing new tapers, rethinking existing ones, and creating new cores, coatings and additives for their fly lines. RIO has made it exciting to try a new fly line. Some of the situation specific tapers (think Outbound Short) actually make it funner to cast your rod.
When it comes to two-handed, or “Spey” lines, RIO pretty much invented it all. The original Windcutter and Accelerator lines have grown into a complete line of two-handed lines for every rod length and application. Spey guru Simon Gawesworth actually works at RIO. He’s not just an advoisory “pro”. RIO has always been on the front lines when it comes to Spey.
Our Favorite Rio Products
RIO Outbound Short floating/intermediate
The RIO Outbound Short F/I is our favorite and best selling streamer line for the Missouri River. Makes incredibly easy “one shot” long casts to the bank, and the 15 foot intermediate tip is perfect for 90% of our streamer situations. All the cool kids have one.
RIO Leaders and 3 Packs
RIO leaders have been top sellers for years, but I had a problem with them. I never liked the taper, finding it difficult to turn over long tippets or big flies on windy days. I mentioned it to the crew at RIO a few times. Others must have (though I doubt it was many) and RIO actually changed the taper. The standard Powerflex Trout leader now has a much longer butt and more aggressive front taper, perfect for places like the Missouri River.
Who would buy a single leader? That’s why the folks at RIO make 3-packs. We like 3-packs, except Sara, who prefers 6-packs. Both kinds.
Many Montana guides use the 7.5′ 3X leader as a general purpose leader. It’s the perfect starting point to add tippet for nymph fishing, and can quickly be used as an all-purpose 9′ dry fly leader with the addition of some tippet.
We are huge fans of “straight” nymphing leaders, and the RIO Indicator leader has been very popular on the Missouri River for the last 4 years. Easy to add or subtract tippet to change the length/depth of your rig. Wish they made a 3 pack.
RIO Trout LT WF
For long casts and technical dry fly fishing, we prefer a “delta” or continuous long, front taper. Two years ago RIO came out with the Trout LT WF (there is also a DT version) to fill this void. It transfers energy better, you can aerialize more line, and accuracy is spot on. This is one of our favorite lines for the Sage ONE and all dry fly fishing. Great mending line as well.
RIO Line Cleaning Towlettes
If you’re obsessed with a clean fly line – and you should be – these new Fly Line Cleaning Towlettes are for you. Keep them in your boat bag, chest pack, truck or vest (does anybody use vests anymore?), and you can clean your line off in a pinch anywhere. A life changing product for Squeeky.
RIO Steelhead Scandi Heads
We do a ton of two handed fishing during the fall and winter, an the RIO Steelhead Scandi shooting head is our most popular line. Floaters are all you need fo most of our work, and this lines throws powerful, tight loops across the big Missouri. If we’re chasing Walleye below Holter, odds are we’re using one of the RIO Skagit heads with a MOW tip. SPEY PRIDE!
In 1990, Jim and Kitty Vincent founded RIO in the mountains of Idaho on the idea that exceptional fly fishing products should be built by anglers for anglers. More than twenty years later, we’re still in Idaho and driven by that same ethos.
Most of us here are your basic passionate fly fishing bums, wading all day in cold, clear Idaho trout streams, lighting delicate dries and heaving huge streamers – hooking, landing, turning loose fish after fish… what a grind. We won’t even mention the horror of having to battle tarpon after bonefish after permit in the balmy turquoise tropics, or braving the wrath of angry chrome in BC.
It’s true, RIO’s cast members donate literally thousands and thousands of hours on the water researching, designing and refining our products, so that when the boss or spouse pushes you out the door to go fishing – yet again – at least you’ll have the pleasure of throwing the highest performance fly lines out there.
And even after all these years of selfless devotion to creating the industry’s most comprehensive and technically advanced fly line tapers (designed for just about every finned creature out there) RIO’s passion remains as strong as when we first began this journey.
Some might smirk and say we’re just fanatics, using our selfish needs to create the most sophisticated, strenuously tested products available… but we call it pride… pride in the promise to give you the absolute, hands-down, best of fly fishing excellence on your rod.
Product development like that won’t happen all by itself – that level of commitment is going to require thousands more hours on the water – but somebody’s got to do it, and that somebody is RIO.
Essential as Beer
This weeks BRAND is Loon Outdoors. We have decided to assign a new catchphrase to Loon, whether they like it or not. ”Loon OUtdoors: As Essential As Beer”. We think it’s the truth. It may catch on like “Just do it.”. Or not. We’ll see.
Everyone uses products from Loon Outdoors. Everyone. We’d wager that the Loon brand may be in more fly shops, box stores and streamside gas stations than any other brand in the industry. That’s because Loon products are “must have” products. Imagine opening a fly shop and not carrying any Loon stuff. Would you make it to lunch the first day before someone asks for Aquel or UV Knot Sense? Doubt it. You probably wouldn’t make it through your first cup of joe.
Loon has been at the forefront of environmentally conscious manufacturing, making water soluble and non polluting products for many years. Ahead of their time. We like that. Loon definitely doesn’t get the credit they deserve for being “green”. They’ve been “green” since the word for “green” was “hippie”.
Some of our favorite Loon products:
UV Knot Sense
I remember when this first came out. You were supposed to use it on your knots. Some did. I tried it. Pretty cool the way it cured instantly in the sun, but I didn’t really make a habit of using it on my knots. It wasn’t too long until someone tried it for on-stream wader repairs, then as a replacement for epoxy when fly tying.
Now, UV Knot Sense is used for many applications. It has also spawned a whole slew of “UV” products from Loon. Using the UV light allows you to use Loon UV products in the rain, your tent at night, or ion board the Space Shuttle. Cool.
UV Knot Sense is the Shoe Goo of the 21st century. It is always in my kit when backcountry Steelhead fishing, chasing saltwater fish, or guiding on the Mo’. I keep it in my truck, my fly tying desk, my boat, and anywhere else I might need it. Which is everywhere. You’ve probably seen us rigging backing to line connections with triple nail knots and UV Knot sense in the shop. You can’t even feel it go through the guides.
UV Mini Lamp
This product used to only be a tool for curing UV Knot Sense on cloudy days or at night. It still works for that of course. Just hit your fly, knot, wader repair or whatever with the UV Mini Lamp and you’re ready to fish again.
There’s a new use for the Mini Lamp, however. More and more fly tying materials are incorporating UV technology. You will even find commercially tied flies using UV materials (Spirit River, Hareline) in the bins at Headhunters. But how do you know?
This spring, some trout bums were in the shop looking at flies. One asked for a UV lamp. Really? They started going through the bins and shining the light into each bin until they found what they were looking for. Now, I see anglers bringing in their own UV lights and cruising the fly bins. Good idea. Super fly nerdy. We like that.
The Mini Lamp has gone from novelty to an item most anglers have in the gear bag. And it’s small enough that you can keep it on you at all times. Handy if you get invited to a last minute Rave in Melrose.
Nip ‘n Sip
What can you say. Headhunters guide and micro-brew connoisseur Brett Matula probably thinks the folks at Loon should win a Nobel Prize for this one. It is perfect. One less tool around your neck. A quality nipper to boot. A great gift item for Mother’s Day? It is if you’re mom likes to huck streamers and pound Alaskan Amber’s!
For many years, floatant meant “Gink” (many use that name generically, like “Coke”). Then along came Loon Aquel. It worked a little better for sure, but it possessed one huge advantage over other products. It was fairly stable in a wide range of temperatures. It didn’t solidify when cold or run out through the cap when hot.
In an era when fly fishing during winter months is no longer considered “crazy”, Loon Aquel has become the floatant of choice for many anglers. Aquel keeps running when the thermometer drops below 10 degrees. It’s the new standard for sure. It was the first Loon product most of us ever purchased, and most haven’t changed since.
Loon’s quality products that address just about every terminal tackle and fly tying need – while being environmentally responsible – have become benchmarks. Check out there very cool and easy to navigate website (good job Loon) and see everything that they make. We are huge fans at Headhunters.
GO TO LOON
About Loon Outdoors
Every angler puts a lot of thought into what he or she brings to the water. We believe it is equally important to think about what is left there.
That is what fishing with a conscience is all about; ascribing value to the health of the water we fish. We develop our products with these values in mind and make sure they are safe for fish, fisheries, and fishermen, without ever compromising quality or performance.
By offering reusable and biodegradable weights and indicators we make sure lost tackle doesn’t harm wildlife. Our floatants, sinkets and cleaners are solvent-free and consist of water-soluble components that perform without polluting the water. And our tying paints, cements and wax are non-toxic and odorless, to keep tying benches free from harmful fumes.
We will continue to develop products that help anglers protect the water they love while they are doing what they love.
Our products will always allow anglers to fish with a (clear) conscience.
Loon Outdoors’ owners, Alan Peterson and Brett Zundel have dedicated themselves to ensuring that Loon remains true to its roots while continuing to innovate. Natives of the Northwest, Alan and Brett have a passion for the outdoors and the pursuits that take them there, whether that be fishing, skiing, hiking or surfing. This passion grows with every adventure, especially the adventure of introducing their families to the places and sports they love.
This passion grounds their belief in the importance of Loon’s mission, and serves as the bedrock of Loon’s company culture.
If you quickly made a list of your favorite fly fishing brands, odds are that NRS would not be on it. NRS (Northwest River Supplies) is the unsung hero of fly shop brands. You don’t really need many NRS products for fly fishing, but you definitely need them for boating and general outdoors activities. Though they don’t always portray themselves as fly fisherman, they are. Our regional NRS sales rep Jim MacAllister is hardcore trout and Steelhead angler, and is one of the people at NRS pushing for more fishing products.
NRS makes some of the best inflatable rafts in the industry. Everyone knows that. I’ve used NRS rafts all over western North America and they perform flawlessly. When a customer asks me what kind of raft to buy, I recomend NRS. You simply won’t find any owners who have anything but good to say about them.
Few people remember that NRS developed the “fishing frame” for rafts, and in my opinion they still make the best one. Custom frame makers in Missoula make some incredibly tricked out frames that virtually turn your raft into a drift boat. They have all the bells and whistles, but are heavy and don’t break down. I prefer the versatility of NRS frames. I can add or subtract parts depending on my needs. If I’m guiding clients on the Dearborn or Blackfoot, I use both front and rear angler seats, anchor system, drink holders, etc. If I’m packing it into a helicopter in norther BC, I’ll take the minimum number of pipes I can get away with. From a performance and weight perspective they win as well. Versatile, and I like that.
NRS HD tie down straps (commonly referred to as “river straps”) have been around forever and are used for so much more than just strapping frames to rafts that they should get thrown in the “duct-tape” category. I don’t know any guide or serious angler that doesn’t have a few floating around in the back of the pickup truck. If you’ve ever bought any other brand of river straps, you know why NRS are the best.
Dry bags are another one of the core products from NRS, and they have been selling tuff-sacks and Bill’s Bags for longer than most of you have been fly fishing. They now have an incredible assortment of dry sacks, and we carry some of the originals and some the new ultra-light bags that work great for storage in the raft or drift boat.
NRS is constantly developing new products. Last year, Headhunters staffer Travis Whitfield wrote a great review on the Tailwater boat bag. No, it doesn’t have waterproof zipper and it ain’t submersible. But it’s big, functional and carries what you need. It also fits perfectly on SOT Kayaks, an ever increasing form of fly fishing transportation.
We use soft coolers from NRS as well. Mark and I have always been big fans of soft coolers and have used a number of them. These are the best, and the price is right.
NRS is based in Moscow, ID, and it’s employees spend a lot of time on rivers. They’re the kind of folks who listen closely to professional river runners and guides, and take that info and incorporate it into their products. While you don’t think of them as a “fly-fishing” company, they are. NRS provides anglers and outdoorsmen and women with staple products that get you down the river safely and comfortably. Where would we be without them?
Established in 1972; 2000 Dollars, a Garage, and a Dream
In the early 70′s Bill Parks had two passions: paddling and business. So with $2000 in savings, he started NRS (Northwest River Supplies). As well as an opportunity to provide fellow enthusiasts with products, this gave him the chance to prove his teaching wasn’t just talk. To learn more about Bill Park’s story read on…
I first fell in love with whitewater in the 1960′s. As a business teacher, it was a natural step to combine my passion for paddling with my “day job”: I could test some of my ideas about small business in the real world and go boating at the same time. In 1972, while on the faculty of the University of Oregon, I started NRS with an initial $2000 investment. Thanks to lots of luck and some hard work, NRS (which soon relocated to Moscow, Idaho) grew into a thriving business.
Today, we are still putting into practice my original, perhaps somewhat naive, belief that a business enterprise can provide purpose and enjoyment in our lives, rather than just a way of making money. At NRS, our purpose is to treat you, the customer, in the way we like to be treated. In many ways the company feels to us like a family, and we hope that you, too, get a bit of this feeling when doing business with us.
I’ve always been a budget boater, and NRS was founded to provide quality equipment without wiping out the wallet. We haven’t lost that edge, although some people sometimes ask why we don’t charge more for our products. The answer is simple: we didn’t get into this business to get rich or to satisfy investors — we’re here because we love running rivers. You’ll find our best efforts in your local paddling shop as well as in this catalog*.
See you on the water!
Stop by Headhunters and check out our NRS gear. If you’re interested in ordering a raft, frame or frame parts, or any other NRS gear, please let us know. We will be happy to place a specil order for you, and shipping from NRS is very speedy.
New for 2013 we had our buddy Tanner Sutton at Freefly Apparel make us up some “Team Headhunters” sun masks. Very cool – no pun intended – and they feature our new “team” logo on one side. Color is Ivory to keep you cool. All of the hardcore buff/sun mask wearers we know like to keep the color light. Keeps you cool and reflects the sun better, whether you are in Montana or South Andros.
If you’ve been in our shop, you know that we are HUGE Buff fans. We have a ginormous selection. One of the biggest in the Rockies. The Freefly sun masks are a little bit different than “Buff’s”. Made out of a natural bamboo material, they are very soft and comfortable. More stretchier as well. Here’s Freefly’s Bamboo Advantage bullet list:
- Moisture wicking = a light yet strong material that keeps skin dry
- Thermal regulating fabric = keeps body temperature a few degrees warmer in winter and cooler in summer
- Antibacterial/Anti-odor = bamboo fibers naturally resists trapping odors, due to a unique bacteriostatis agent found in bamboo called “bamboo kun” (which means NO more worrying about smelling like campfire smoke the morning after)
- Anti-itch = bamboo material is soft and non-irritating (even to sensitive skin!) due to the smooth structure of its fibers
- Antistatic = bamboo material naturally eliminate the buildup of static electricity
- Biodegradable = bamboo material can be broken down in a reasonable amount of time, decomposing back into a natural element
- Environmentally Sustainable = bamboo is grown without using pesticides, thus does not pollute ground water or air (also, bamboo forests serve as carbon sinks, a very useful tool with climate change)
- Breathable = the structure of bamboo fibers make bamboo fabrics more breathable than cotton, hemp, wool or synthetic fabrics
So come by the shop and check out these great new products in our “sun protection” department on the 4th floor in aisle 12. Don’t get burned.
We don’t carry Gun Scrubber @ Headhunters Fly Shop in Craig MT…but we use it.
Scumliner suggested guide Peter Skidmore, one of the wizards, pick us up a can in Great Falls last week to do some reel cleaning here at the shop.
We often see real dirty reels
take that spellchecker here at the shop while spinning up new fly lines. Do you folks ever clean your reels?
Gun Scrubber @ Headhunters Fly Shop
Yah, I don’t clean my fly fishing reels either. A fly fishing reel can be with you much longer than any rod. A reel may have several, many, lots of fly lines circling the spool during its life. I do clean my fly line regularly. That’s another story for another blog.
Reels are just glorified line holders. One speed. Few moving parts. It did not take a genius to invent this tool. Now those spinning reels are a different story. Genius status for sure.
Just point and spray and watch as the dirt, grime, gunk, and grease are removed from the reel surfaces.
Keep in mind you may have to lube your fly reel depending on the manufacturers recommendations. Remember, there are some that do not need any reel lube, so make sure you are sure.
A good thing to have around the workshop, the office, or if you need a torch for some tack. I’m sure the stuff is flammable.
Brett’s new Adipose Flow.
Sharp. Love the blue.
When is yours coming?
Check them out on the Adipose site.
Not a fishing weekend, more of a family weekend. So, Memorial Day is reserved for you and your fishing Continue Reading→
Missouri River Flows
Great Falls Intl Airport, MT
Last Updated on May 25 2013, 12:53 am MDT
Current Conditions: Overcast
Wind: SW at 8mph
Used Drift Boat For Sale
Used 2005 EMR with trailer, Cataract Oars, anchor, new rope, new NRS rowers seat. Trailer just rewired and hubs packed. Used hard but still in good shape. $4000 OBO. Call the shop.
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