Tip of the Hat 2019 set for July 13

One day each year, Montana Guides and Outfitters donate their tips to Montana Trout Unlimited for on-the-ground conservation projects in their backyards.  If you guide and want to give back or fish with a guide and want to pad your tip – Saturday, July 13th is the day.  With your help and LOTS of strong arming encouragement from event founders Tim Linehan and Brian Neilsen, this 4th year will take us over $10k in donations. For more information about participating in Tip of the Hat, contact MTU’s development director, Kelley Willett.

MTU awards $26,000 in Chapter Mini-Grants in Spring of 2019

Thanks to the generosity of the Michael J. Connell Family Foundation, Montana Trout Unlimited was able grant to $26,000 of funding during its Spring Chapter Mini-Grant cycle.

The Bitterroot Chapter (Hamilton) applied for funds to help support the installation of a self-cleaning, passive fish screen and diversion upgrade to eliminate native trout entrainment in a ditch that diverts water from some of the highest quality bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout habitat in the Bitterroot watershed.  It will also reconnect 39 miles of bull trout and westslope trout stream within the watershed.  The chapter will match the mini-grant contribution with $5,000 of chapter funding.  Christine Brissette of Trout Unlimited will manage the project.

The Flathead Valley Chapter (Kalispell) applied for a grant to contribute to a conservation easement purchase of 155 acres of critical land along the Flathead River southeast of Kalispell.  The conservation easement is being purchased by Flathead Land Trust.  It is part of a 12,000 acre conservation network that protects key bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout habitat.  The project will add to a 12,000-acre conservation network which safeguards 30% of the river bank, 50% of the high quality riparian areas, 53% of the wetlands, 42% of the 100-year floodplain, and 45% of the lands overlying shallow groundwater.  Lots of other partners, including $1,000 chapter contribution, will help leverage over $635,000.

The Joe Brooks Chapter (Livingston) applied for funds to continue the Watershed Warriors program at Gardiner, Arrowhead, and Shields Valley schools.  This project is an ongoing conservation education program run by Matt Wilhelm that puts conservation educators and professionals in fifth-grade classrooms to teach a series of 34 lessons on watershed science.  Students in the program have opportunities to connect their classroom studies to local watershed issues and fly fishing.  Instructors use fly tying, casting, and fishing as means to introduce aquatic entomology, reading water, invasive and native species, cold water restoration, riparian ecology etc.  MTU mini-grants have contributed to this program the past two years.

Missouri River Fly Fishers (Great Falls) applied for money to provide matching funds for a larger grant being pursued by the Sun River Watershed Group.  The larger grant will allow SRWG to hire environmental engineers to design three possible solutions to permanently keep the Sun River connected to an important trout spawning tributary in its lower reach near Fort Shaw. It will also address long-term water quality/sediment issues in this stretch of river that have hindered trout spawning, rearing and survival.  Habitat and water quality are recognized as limiting factors to the Sun River trout fishery.

The Pat Barnes Chapter (Helena) applied for funds to help transport Trout in the Classroom (TIC) students to Spring Meadow State Park to release their trout and test water quality to ensure the lake provides healthy trout habitat.  This effort instills in students the importance of caring for natural habitat for a healthy fish population.  The $1,000 would fully cover this element of the chapter TIC program for the year.  The chapter provides the rest of the annual funding for the program.

The WestSlope Chapter (Missoula)applied for funds to help install a telemetered stream gauge on Rock Creek tributary of the Clark Fork River to monitor daily stream temperatures and flow.  In spite of its renowned status as a native and wild trout fishery, Rock Creek has no stream gauge.  The goal of this project is to sustain the Rock Creek fishery and local agricultural economy through increased education and understanding of the water resource.  Data will be available via the WestSlope chapter website. The chapter is contributing $5,000. Tess Scanlon of Trout Unlimited will manage this project.

MTU hires Jefferson Watershed Project Manager

Chris Edgington grew up in the flatlands of Nebraska, where his pursuit of fish started at a young age, and led to chasing bass and bluegill with a fly rod in his early teens. He found his way to Missoula Montana in 2002 after pursuing a degree in Wildlife Biology-Fisheries Management at the University of Nebraska Lincoln. While at UNL, Chris started cooking to put himself through school and developed a deep passion for local food and community built around the dinner table. He spent several years as a chef bouncing around Montana, learning the rivers of western and southwest Montana. The currents of the rivers were strong and pulled him to Dillon to reignite his desire for conservation. Chris graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Environmental Science-Wetlands Management from The University of Montana-Western. Over the course of his recent education, he worked as a seasonal fisheries tech with Chris Clancy at Fish, Wildlife and Parks, a sage grouse range tech with NRCS, and a hydro-tech with Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. He was a board member of the George Grant Chapter Trout Unlimited for the last couple of years, as well as being involved with the Chuck Robbins Chapter in Dillon. He will continue to serve these two chapters in his new role as Jefferson Watershed Project Manager. Chris brings a breadth of experience and knowledge to Montana Trout Unlimited and a passion for Montana’s rivers and trout.

Why the Jefferson Watershed?

Southwest Montana is known for its iconic rivers and quality fisheries, but chronic dewatering and critical water temperatures during late summer are a persistent issue. MTU realized a need in the region and, by creating the Jefferson Watershed Project Manager position, aims to continue the good work by Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks and partner organizations that has been helping maintain and restore healthy flows in this watershed. Based out of Dillon, Chris will work collaboratively with multiple stakeholders to find solutions for overall watershed health.

2018 Conservation & Fly Fishing Camp

Montana Trout Unlimited once again hosted 20 campers, aged 11-14, at Camp Watanopa on Georgetown Lake.  Early concerns regarding high stream flows where quickly set aside as the fishing was excellent both on surrounding streams and on the lake.

Students successfully learned the basics of fly tying and fly fishing thanks to the expertise of our volunteers.  We had the additional opportunity to meet with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service field staff to complete hands on stream restoration in critical bull trout habitat.  Campers where able to learn about the characteristics of healthy streams and rivers and their importance to wild and native trout by getting into

(a very cold) tributary to build pools and remove obstructions to improve habitat that provides both coldwater refuge and spawning habitat for bull trout. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks generously sent an education program intern to stay at camp for a few days.

It is our goal to continue a program that provides a foundation for coldwater conservation through fly fishing. Youth leave our camp understanding that excellent fishing doesn’t happen without a dedication to protecting the resource.  Email [email protected] for more information on supporting or participating in camp.