Joe Moore is living a trout angler’s dream as a co-owner and guide at Big Sky Anglers in West Yellowstone, Montana. Based on the outskirts of Yellowstone National Park and surrounded by some of the best trout water in the world, we are pleased that Joe took time to interview with The Venturing Angler:
Why do you guide where you do?
The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is such an amazing place to fish and guide. I started fishing around here as a little kid and still haven’t scratched the surface of the fishing opportunities. From the tiny streams in YNP, to chasing hatches on the Madison and Henry’s Fork, it’s just endless. Then toss in a few lakes and one will never tire of fishing the same old run. Variety is the name of the game for me.
What is your favorite fish specie?
Tough one really. Brown trout, especially big ones, are a huge favorite of mine. No secret there as most anglers in the world love big brown trout. I recently fished for and caught golden dorado for the first time, what a bad ass fish they are! I also caught my first permit this spring while in Belize and they too are a fun fish to chase. But of all the fish I have caught, I would have to say that tarpon take the top of the list. Their sheer power, a face any mother could love and the fact that catching them in shallow water is absolutely the best time ever had in a boat is what makes them my favorite.
What is your favorite thing about guiding?
The progression an angler makes when you start them out for their first time ever and over the course of the day the light goes on and everything starts to click for them – that is my favorite thing about guiding. And being outside all day doesn’t suck either.
What is the most memorable trip you’ve guided and why?
Years ago I guided an elderly man by the name of the Sterling. He was getting up there in years but at one time was one hell of an angler. His reach cast was second to none and his unique ability to catch fish in the shallowest of water was uncanny. He had gone through a stroke but could still fish pretty well. We fished dry flies from Lyons to Palisades on the Madison River. Sterling had trouble with stripping line so I would ship the oars and strip for him, then jump back in the rowers seat and guide the boat to the bank. We landed over a dozen big trout that day on dry flies; his smile and laughter was infectious. I didn’t want that day to end but at one point Sterling reeled up, sat down and we floated out in silence for the last mile soaking up the day. That was the last float trip Sterling took as he passed away later in the year – I miss him dearly.
What is the funniest thing you’ve experienced while guiding?
There was a black bear down on the Madison that everybody had been seeing. While floating one summer day, I spotted the bear soaking in the river, in a foot of water. Its head was propped on a rock and its belly was facing the sun shine. The bear was sound asleep and when we floated by about 50 yards away it hardly noticed we were there. I am sure there are more stories out there that are lost in my mind, but that one sticks out.
What makes your guide service great?
We are teaching guides; there are no stupid questions to ask us. We strive to make everyone feel comfortable no matter what their experience level is. When you take the time to break it down for a new angler or teach someone the reach cast until they get it right, it does make a difference at the end of the day.
If you had only one day off all year, where would you fish and what fish would you target?
Tarpon in the Florida Keys. Or big brown trout on the Limay River in Argentina.
What are your favorite three flies?
A rusty spinner will catch fish anytime mayflies are hatching, my personal favorite is Rick Welle’s Rusty Spinner with calf tail wings and a moose tail. That pattern is hard to find and when Rick gives me a couple that he tied, I cherish them.
The micro chubby variations are super fishy flies, we have four or five of these in the shop bins and they are a guide favorite for sure.
Jojo’s Royal Ant, which I came up with some 15 years ago late one night living at Howard Creek Ranch, is a fly to carry anywhere trout live in the world. Trout love ants.
You asked for three, but I’ve got four. BFE (Best Fly Ever) is a streamer pattern that gets it done every single time. John Barr’s Bouface in any color also kills it….sorry that makes five.
What is the one piece of gear you couldn’t bear to leave at home?
We all bring rods, reels and flies…obviously you can’t leave home without that! Binoculars are one piece of gear that I take with me every single day. I use them in the boat to scan for rising fishing on the Missouri River and Hebgen Lake. While in the back country of YNP, binos are useful for spotting wildlife and looking for other anglers as to not disturb their day.
Do you have any other passions?
Tying flies. Whether I’m trying to solve a problem on the river or just tying a Parachute Adams, tying flies allows my mind to slip away for just a little while.
Bird hunting behind Stella, or any pointing dog for that matter. But hunting in the fall with Stella, my 7 year old Drahthaar, takes the cake for me. Most of the places we hunt don’t have cell service and that alone helps me relax and forget about life for a while.
I also really love to back pack with my wife Molly. We take off a couple times a year with a house on our backs and reconnect with each other. Sometimes there are fish involved and sometimes we head to the desert southwest in search of quiet places without people.