COVID-19/Coronavirus Operations Update

edited 3/26/20


Montana now has nearly 100 COVID-19 cases, with a potential hotspot in Bozeman/Gallatin County. We have not had any cases reported in the Wolf Creek/Craig area, but there have been a few cases reported in Great Falls and Helena. Last weekend saw a hug influx of Montana’s enjoying the river, campsites and some nice weather, so who knows where it actually is. Internal discussions have turned into actions in the past week, as has happened all over the country try. Step by step we have implemented changes to our operation intended to protect both customers and our staff from COVID-19.

You can count on us being honest about the prevalence of COVID-19 at our shop, among our staff and in Craiglandia. We will not be allowing any of our staff or guides to come to work if they are symptomatic of COVID-19.


The shop is now running has a “takeaway” operation, using the side window by the point-of-sale to allow customers to purchase flies, indicators, tippet, etc. The front door is locked, but we will allow you in if there is something in particular that you would like check out (rods, reels, etc.). In general, however, we are trying to keep folks out.

Please try to buy your fishing license on-line instead of the shop.

There will likely be only one or two of us around as we run this light crew. Hours will also be reduced from 8am until 3 or 4pm depending on traffic.


Many of our customers have rescheduled their guided fishing trips for later in the year. We have made our deposit policy as flexible as possible to accommodate any changes – no matter how last minute – that you need to make.

We have had some trips out this week, and fishing has been excellent. We will still be offering our guided trips/spring special, but ate this point it is more of a day trip for those local to Craig. We have closed the Craig Trout Camp (see more below) so out of area anglers will have to find lodging in Helena or Great Falls, unless you can find someone in the Canyon willing to rent you a room.

If you do go on a guided trip, expect to make meet time arrangements, etc. directly with your guide.


We are closing our lodging operations until April 1, at which time we will re-assess. If you have lodging booked with us in the near future, Julie will be giving you a call about rescheduling or other options. Many not you will have already taken care of this along with guided trips.


We have already communicated to our guests who have trips booked prior to June 1 that we will be altering our cancellation policy for guided trips and lodging. From now until the end of May, you can alter your reservation inside of 30 days (without forfeiting your deposit), as long as you use the deposit to book another trip in 2020/21. You can do this right up to the last day before your trip. This will allow you to keep your reservations in place, and if illness or COVID-19 travel restrictions prevent you from coming at the last minute, you won’t be out of pocket. Most of the customers we’ve talked to are concerned about travel restrictions, not illness, but we feel this addresses both issues. Feedback so far has been very positive.

This would also apply to any trips in that time frame booked in the future. And yes, it may surprise you too hear that we are taking new bookings every day!

For trips after June 1, we will address that when the time comes. If COVID-19 is still prevalent and interfering with peoples health and travel, we will continue the “bump it forward” policy. Whatever happens in the future, we will try to be as flexible and sympathetic as possible.


As I write this, I just finished doing the last shuttle we will do for awhile. This has been a tough call. We know that no matter what, there will be a demand for shuttles, and we certainly want people to be out enjoying the river, not stuck at home. But how to protect drivers and customers? Impossible.


If you’re not doing shuttles, your not renting boats. Unfortunately we are suspending all rental boats until this passes.


There’s a couple of things you can do to help us. If you’re going on a guided trip, plan on bringing your own water bottle, and keep it clean while you’re here. And please don’t be offended if you don’t get a big hug (or handshake) from our staff when you arrive. Practice social distancing around Craig, and if you feel ill and don’t know what to do, contact a member of our staff and they will help you out (likely from a distance!). We do have a couple of high-risk members of our staff, so please be sensitive to that.


We will try and keep up with this as quickly as possible, but as you are all aware, things are changing quickly.

Thanks for your patience.

John Arnold & Mark Raisler

Headhunters LLC



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14 Comments. Leave new

  • Only actions produce results. Clearly, Headhunters is acting on our behalf as guests and their behalf as staff/guides. Excellent post. Thanks for being a proactive leader and keeping our community informed.

  • Just a suggestion. You should put your checkout counter in front of the entrance. Customers can walk up, “order” what they need, pay, and then go enjoy the river. You can practically see the whole store from the entrance. Smart to be proactive about this.

    • Thanks for the suggestion Aaron, it’s a good one. That has occurred to me, in fact if I wrote down every discussion and idea we’ve talked about in the last week, you’d still be reading the post! And remember that window behind our register? Almost close enough for drive through. And we will be encouraging people to order ahead and we run flies, tippet, etc. out to your car. As usual we try to be as flexible as possible, and I expect to make further changes. Thanks for the input and concerns. – JA

  • dan from ohio
    March 17, 2020 9:08 am

    John, Mark- I love you guys and all that you do, I admire your talents, and share your enthusiasm for our beautiful avocation. I’m reading this last blog entry, however, and- I’m sorry, but I’m just not there. Let me just go ahead and be “that guy”: Tearing up the side deck at your shop and putting in a drive through? Seriously? I”ll tell you this: I’ve been in the shop a bunch, and I live at the campground there for 6 weeks every summer; If I’m now considered too “dangerous” to encounter in normal human terms, or if you are going to wear a mask and gloves and toss stuff out a window to me, then great- I’ll spare everybody the risk and just won’t come around anymore…What’s next- Don’t go to Joe’s anymore? I’d wonder how Joe feels about that? Don’t go crowding into Isaacs anymore? I’d wonder if he could stay viable by switching to a “toss it out a window” model…Wondering if housekeeping sterilized this refrigerator handle, wiping down any horizontal surface on the boats with clorox every night, standing 6 feet away from the guy at the ramp who wants to chat? Guys- it’s a flu virus. Fifty thousand people die from a flu every single year; NIH says that three hundred thousand (go ahead- look it up) people die from obesity every single year. Yes we are told corona is easy to transmit, but it also seems to have limited impact on most healthy people. Yes it can kill people with compromised health, but so will a hundred other things.
    Here in Ohio they’ve put off an election, limited our right to assemble, shut down churches, shut the schools down, the restaurants are shut down, there’s a run on groceries by frightened people, and when you go into a hardware store now everybody looks at each other suspiciously. For the flu. Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t like it guys, and something about this whole thing stinks. Just one man’s opinion.

    • We’re not “switching models”, but trying to make people feel comfortable coming in the shop (or not if they’re not comfortable coming in). We’re definitely not tearing up the deck, but may make it available for walk up, if that makes you more comfortable. We may implement other small changes to protect our customers and staff, but nothing that will be that noticeable.

      I have worked in the service industry my entire life as a fly fishing guide and in the ski industry (Sun Valley). In those environments, you are waking up every morning and spending the day greeting new people who have traveled from all over the world. It is nearly impossible to stay healthy. When the H1N1 virus rolled through here in 2009, every single employee and guide got it except me, my wife and daughter (for some reason, and I’m hoping that happens this year). Our guides and shop staff know that if they get sick they will miss 2-4 weeks of work. If we all get sick, you won’t need to worry about how we operate the shop. We won’t be able to.

      I apologize for trying to take measures that will make our customers more comfortable, and protect our staff so we can operate as normal as possible.

      • dan from ohio
        March 17, 2020 11:43 am

        Please Brother no apology necessary, and I do understand your concerns as a business owner, I do. In fact- I should apologize to you- my rant (it was a rant…) was not meant to be as specific or personal, but more a general outcry about being told how to conduct our lives now- not just recommendations, mandates…Maybe I’m wrong, I hope I am wrong, but I just have a bad feeling about this, a feeling that we (as a nation) are setting a precedent for the future and for the next time something like this rolls through, and you know in time something else Will roll through… I have no smart solutions or suggestions to offer, other than what Mom taught us- cover your cough, wash your hands, be mindful of those around you. It is just very unsettling to me to see what this mandated “social distancing” stuff is doing to us, and the ripple effect- intended and unintended, it is having now and most certainly will have in the future. I’m just not there man…just my opinion. All the best to you, dan

        • Johnny Reachcast
          March 23, 2020 2:50 pm

          Honestly… If you’re that skeptical and unwilling to change your habits in regards to transmitting this virus; please stay away from Craig. Those of us that live and work here absolutely cannot risk being casual about this. Our lives and livelihoods are on the line.

  • “When we don’t fish, the terrorists win”.

  • Thanks guys!

  • Dan in Ohio, thank you for speaking out. Today I was riding bikes with my children and I noticed that there were placards posted all over the local city parks, playgrounds, basketball courts and tennis courts, these reading to the effect that all would be closed until further notice. Of all the things we as a society could benefit from right now, outdoor activity is high on the list. No long term benefits will be derived from total isolation and increased “screen time”. The entire pandemic and the Subsequent social responses is likely completely disproportionate with the severity of this illness. With the caveat that as time progresses, possibly some statistics will prove that this over reaching social distancing and the entire host of economical ramifications it has caused will be to some benefit. But I seriously doubt it. The statistics that are being used for Covid-19 mortality have an inherent bias, in that only those who are presenting to a hospital acutely ill and with respiratory distress are being tested. This therefore eliminates the presumably tens if not hundred of thousands that potentially have already been going about our daily lives while thinking that we have a mild cold. I do certainly empathize with those who are immunocompromised and are at higher risk, but let us be clear, there are dozens of other highly contagious illnesses that can be contracted , not the least of which is influenza which kills tens of thousands annually in the U.S alone. Our governments response and that of community leaders and business leaders has set a precedent that will be difficult to avoid when the next viral illness comes around. I feel an alternative solution would have been for the elderly and immunocompromised ( at their discretion ) to seek their own social isolation and the rest of the world can go about business. We all should have been practicing better hygiene and limiting contact when sick and perhaps the silver lining in this will be a greater social consciousness as to how we can limit passing contagions to each other on a daily basis.

    • Johnny Reachcast
      March 23, 2020 3:53 pm

      Over 6000 people of all ages are already dead in Italy. Tell them and their families our reaction is “disproportionate”. In my opinion it’s not nearly drastic enough.

      If you are still “going about your daily lives as if you have a mild cold”,” please stay the heck away from Craig. Bringing this virus into a small rural community like ours could devastate our local population and economy.

  • With the above in mind, John and Mark and the rest of Headhunters staff, I can certainly empathize with you and can only imagine the pressure you must feel as business owners and employees to operate in tandem with the new norm and change your business practices. I thank you for your diligence in striving to keep yourselves and your customers healthy. I wish you the best during this social and economic crisis and I hope and strongly believe that Headhunters will continue to serve as the premier fly shop for the “Mo for years to come.

  • Take a chill Dan from Ohio. You don’t run that shop bro. HH will do as they feel needed. Meanwhile, the action here in Michigan is getting good – blessed with some great water.

  • I just want to wish all the HH crew well and to stay safe during a pretty stressful situation that is ever changing, unpredictable and most likely getting more sketchy as the days pass, not less. These are challenging times for all of us and from what i can see the HH crew are being proactive in keeping both their staff and their customers as safe as they can.

    For me that can only be a good thing, but if others have a different opinion then there’s always the Madison. Or the irrigation dyke just outside Dillon.

    Stay safe folks.

    Simon (crazy English dude who does not – and cannot – cast from a boat)