Billings chapter of Trout Unlimited

Magic City Fly Fishers

Annual Banquet Tickets Available

Call:  +1 316-06-42

Who are We?

The Magic City Fly Fishers chapter of Trout Unlimited was officially organized on January 9, 1990 in Billings, Montana. It is one of thirteen Trout Unlimited chapters in Montana, serving south central and southeastern Montana, and currently has over 600 members. MCFF is a non-profit organization, governed by the Chapter By Laws that were approved when it was first organized. A Board of Directors establishes the policies of the Chapter and oversees the conduct of business and activities on behalf of the members. MCFF holds monthly membership meetings, September though June, with each meeting featuring a guest program. MCFF also publishes a monthly newsletter, The Hackle Bender.

Who are we?

October 6, 2019

May 2022 Newsletter


  • MCFF Summer Kickoff Barbecue
  • Tuesday, May 31, 2022
  • Billings Rod and Gun Club
  • 5:00 Casting Clinics, 5:30 Greg Payton's famous MCFF Barbecue, 6:30 fresh start round table discussions
  • After two years of inactivity, help us decide on future MCFF goals and projects. Learn about existing projects.
  • "Empty the shed" free stuff sale, pay supporter
  • Youth Fly Fishing Camp for Middle School youth
Rocky Camp June 2019 (3).jpg
Rocky Camp June 2019 (8).jpg

  • Join in on two new conservation projects
    • Stillwater - Rosebud Water Quality Initiative
    • MCFF joined with Montana Trout Unlimited to partner with the Stillwater Valley Watershed Council (SVWC) initiative to monitor water quality.
    • Thus far, the Initiative has set up 9 sampling sites. MCFF could "adopt" a new site or volunteer to help carry out sampling at an existing site.
    • Take a look at Tom Osborne, the volunteer project hydrologist, attached report on the initiative. It has details and photos of the project.
    Monitoring Photo.png

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    September 18, 2019

    September 2019 Newsletter

    This Tuesday, September 3, Kickoff meeting at Last Chance Pub and Cider Mill. 5 m - 8 pm.

    No set agenda. Stop by anytime. You can have dinner off the Last Chance Pub menu. Enjoy Red Lodge Ales draft beer and the Cider Mill's unique ciders, including non-alcoholic varieties. This meeting is set up for you to catch up with old friends, meet new ones, socialize, stop by the knot and casting workshop tables. Last Chance Pub donates $1.00 from each draft drink purchased to Magic City Fly Fishers youth program.

    Pay your $35 Supporter Dues at the Pint Night and receive a FREE Magic City Fly Fishers mug, one of our new stickers, and a free fly from our grab bag of flies.


    Did you get a grab bag at the May meeting? Remember how much fun they were - and what a bargain they were? They are back for the Pint Night. $15 gets you a bunch of cool stuff. You just don't know how cool until you open it up.

    Door Prizes. Everyone gets a free raffle ticket to win either an entry-level fly rod, great for Christmas gift or a cool Magic City Fly Fishers Cap.

    The fundraising banquet and auction is almost here as well. Tuesday, November 5, 2019, Billings Depot. Check the link below to order tickets. We always have a great time. Fabulous meal and auctions. Plus, you can start your Christmas shopping early. Just think, you could be done by November 6! The live auction will feature very cool art, high-quality fishing equipment, and flies, plus some of the best fly fishing trips available anywhere. The silent auction gift baskets are definitely Christmas worthy. You can also enter a basket. Great prizes.

    Click Here to Purchase Tickets

    Volunteer to help:

    2019 Pink Pookie Event at the Zoo, Saturday, October 5th, 2019, 10:00 am - 2:30

    New Pink Pookie this year, fun day at the zoo includes fly casting competition, fly casting workshop, food trucks, raffle boards, and more.

    We need some MCFF/TU Volunteers for this event. Email Help with the fly casting competitions or workshops.

    Don't miss the October 1 meeting at the Rod and Gun Club. Doug Swift brings a special presentation on fishing the famous Bow River at Calgary, Alberta. Doug also is tying two of the best flies to catch fish on the Bow. More information in this month's Hacklebender - attached.

    Girl Scout Fly Fishing Camp at Wild Bill August 10th. We had a great time helping the girls learn to fish, cast, and tie flies. It was really fun. They caught lots of fish. Here are some photos:

    Rocky Camp June 2019, another amazing adventure in learning and fun. Thanks to the many volunteers who make these events happen!

    Just a couple examples of where your investment in Magic City Fly Fishers Trout Unlimited youth activities pays off big time. Go back up and click on Purchase Tickets for the banquet - auction. You can see the ROI from this fun event.

    Tight lines and looking forward to great fall fishing.



    Lyle Courtnage, PresidentMagic City Fly Fishers Trout Unlimited 582

    Attachments area

    August 14, 2019

    Important Dates

    1. Do you want to know more about "Catching Yellowstone's Wild Trout?" Drive over to the Montana Audubon Center tonight, Wednesday, 7:00 pm,  to visit with Chris Hunt, the author of this book. "Catching Yellowstone's Wild Trout" explores the history of fly fishing in Yellowstone as well as a guide to some of the well known and secluded locations. Here is a description:

    Fly-fishing has its sacred waters the world over. Yellowstone National Park claims some of the craft's most storied destinations. Casting in the Firehole River is like going back in time to when bison roamed nearly every meadow in the West. Restored to their natal streams after near extinction, native Arctic grayling can once again be plucked from icy water at the foot of breathtaking waterfalls. Meanwhile, a daylong hike into true wild country rewards an angler with a chance to catch trophy native cutthroat trout on a lonely mountain lake. Local journalist and experienced angler Chris Hunt crafts both a guide and homage to Yellowstone's iconic and wild trout.

    2. Tuesday, November 5th, 2019. Put this date on your calendar. Magic City Fly Fishers/Trout Unlimited 582 will hold their fundraising banquet and auction that evening at the Billings Depot. Tickets go on sale soon. You will have the opportunity to do some early Christmas shopping for great items in the silent and live auctions. You should plan on entering the Christmas gift basket competition. Great prizes for the winners. Plus art, gear, and clothes. More info to come.

    3. Tuesday, September 3, 2019. Magic City Fly Fishers Trout Unlimited 582 kicks off its fall season with a pint night at the Last Chance Pub and Cider Mill.  We had a great time at Last Chance Pub and Cider Mill last winter and will have more as we end the Labor Day Weekend. Plan on good conversation, plenty of fishing stories, great drinks (both non-alcoholic and alcoholic, and some casting tune-up. As always, Last Chance Pub donates a dollar from every draft drink sold to the Magic City Fly Fishers youth education fund. You will have a great time. Mark it down.

    I'm looking for three people to help out with the program committee. Not too much work. Just help plan the meeting programs, follow up on program leads, or contact folks you think our members would enjoy hearing. Email at or text me at 406-671-0572. We have a program or event on the first Tuesday, September through May.

    Have a great time this summer. Streams are coming down - great fishing ahead.

    Save your photos. We'll start collecting them at our website.


    May 5, 2019

    May 2019 Newsletter


    • Matt Wilhelm Tuesday, May 7, Fly Fishing Yellowstone National Park in June, premier presentation by Matt plus two of his favorite Yellowstone Flies, Billings Rod and Gun Club, Social at 6:00
    • Fly Fishing International Fly Fishing Expo Bozeman (July 23 - 27) discussion preceding Matt
    • Brown bag surprise - only $10 - just as fun as when you fished for grab bags as a kid
    • The financial report summarized and attached
    • Next fall, starts out Tuesday, September 3, 2019
    • Banquet coming in the fall
    • Let me know if you can help with any of these activities

    Matt Wilhelm Tuesday night - fishing Yellowstone National Park

    Yes, on April 7 we announced there would not be a May meeting. However, now there is a meeting. That was a hectic week for members of your board. We found out that there was a fly fishing film festival in town scheduled for the same night as our banquet. Then we learned that because of a communication error we really did not have that date. With that short notice, we decided that the best course of action was to look at a fall, Tuesday banquet. Maybe November 5 or December 3. What do you think? Too close to the holidays? Or just right to pick up some cool Christmas presents. Wouldn't you like to pick up a new Carol Hagan print? Or win a great new fly rod to give to your special someone?  Let me know by replying to this email.

    As luck would have it, this week is when Matt Wilhelm settles into Billings for a week of "Fishing Is Fun" in which Matt and many of our MCFF/TU members volunteer to help kids learn to tie flies. A different school every day - it is a blast. Think about helping out in the future. This is where Matt thrills the kids by tying a fly blindfolded. Very cool.

    Anyway, Matt happened to mention he was preparing a brand new presentation on fishing Yellowstone National Park in June when most every Montana stream is flowing wild and crazy. It just happens that the Firehole, Madison, and Gibbon present some great fishing in June, soon after the park opens its fishing season. Originally he was going to premiere it in Bozeman. Now, it is premiering in Billings on Tuesday, May 7 at our newly scheduled May meeting. You do not want to miss it. First, you know Matt's presentations on fishing Montana waters are excellent, and you learn about great places to fish, and how to fish them. So, consider fishing YNP this June and learning how Tuesday night - details in the attached Hacklebender.

    Brown Bag Grab Bag Raffle

    Plus a new, pretty neat, raffle type event. Do you remember when you were a kid and you could win a grab bag of cheap, plastic toys by tossing a yarn rod over a curtain and reeling in a brown, paper bag of goodies -

    Tuesday night you have a chance to relive this form of excitement. We don't have the curtain and yarn rod, but we do have brown bag grab bags. Instead of bucket raffles, you can buy a grab bag for $10, guaranteed $20 worth of stuff in it - probably more - up to $50 maybe - higher? A lot of fun anyway.

    And why are we doing this?  Recently MCFF has received several, mammoth donations of high-quality fly tying supplies, flies, and fishing supplies. Generally, we have agreed to whatever we can do with these donations to support MCFF/TU's youth mission. There is more than enough to support some of the key flies the kids' tie, but there are other needs as well - vices, reels, rods, grizzly, etc. So, we are testing the grab bag idea. Limited supply. Buy a couple and have fun.

    Fly Fishing International Fly Fishing Expo

    Fly Fishers International is hosting their annual Fly Fishing Fair in Bozeman, July 23 - July 27 at the MSU Bozeman campus. Click Here for detailed information of the FFI Expo

    We are going to take 15 - 20 minutes or so, starting at 6:45 to talk about the show and FFI. Kit Seaton, a former leader of the FFI fly tyers group will stop by as will Kevin Davis, Ed Knight, and myself, plus anyone else who is interested. This event is spending more time in other states, so we should take advantage of it. There is simply no other event, anywhere, in my opinion, that matches this for a diverse combination of learning and fun. There is a women's program, a youth program, beginning/expert fly tying, fly casting, demo fly tyers everywhere, a great trade show, and my favorite, free seminars for three days.

    Financial Report  + May 2018 - April 2017

    May is a good time to report on the MCFF/TU 582 financial condition. The report is attached. It tracks the 12 months starting in May 2018, which includes the fund-raising banquet and goes through April 2019. This gives a good picture of funds flow. What it does not present are the hours and hours of volunteer time that go into supporting conservation activities, working with our local young people to ensure that they grow up with the conservation and outdoor ethics, searching and producing great monthly programs that reflect our conservation values as well as our desire to learn about new places and techniques to fly fish. Gee, just the hours several members spend at the storage shed keeping track of materials for youth programs and meetings are phenomenal. Last May's banquet required many hours from many volunteers, and I'm sure you will help us out next fall. Look at that Expo number - $20,012. Hard to cover those other numbers without it. The hard copy Hacklebender runs a little over $200 for each month we send it out - roughly 350 copies. We send out another 500 electronic copies - cost other than time is quite reasonable for it.

    Next fall

    Next year should be great as well. We kick off the year on Tuesday, September 3. Not sure of the format yet, maybe a pint night or BBQ/Fish Fry. The October 1 meeting features fly fishing in Canada and the Bow River. We'll bring back Mike Ruggles Big Horn Report - many of you have asked about it. Trying to finalize programs with a South Dakota fly shop, a Casper guide on the North Platte, a Cody guide would like to come up. Now just need to find some good Montana ideas - any suggestions?

    See you Tuesday, Matt Wilhelm will be great.

    April 2, 2019

    April 2019 Newsletter

    What a great conclusion to our 2018 - 2019 TU MCFF year this Tuesday evening at the Billings Rod and Gun Club. Kevin Croff headlines the evening with a new presentation, Fishing New Waters. I'm looking forward to Kevin's latest installment of ways we can improve our fishing experience. Everyone should benefit from this presentation, folks new to fly fishing, the kids, even all of us crusty old fly fishermen.

    Have you ever fished the Blackfoot in northwest Montana? I have. What a beautiful, fun fishing adventure. This is the location of Norman Mclean's book A River Runs Through It (even though the movie was filmed elsewhere). A lot of people think the Blackfoot and its tributary the Clearwater are special and important. In fact, for over 10 years various groups including timber, agriculture, fishermen, conservationists, snowmobilers and others have been trying to find a way to protect this area for everyone's best interests. Senator Tester introduced legislation in 2017, The Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act. Now the Montana Wilderness Association is taking the lead to move this act forward. Eastern Chapter Executive Director Aubrey Bertram will introduce us to their effort by showing the new short film "Hallowed Waters."

    Check it out here

    Social at 6:30. Aubrey at 7:00 and Kevin 7:30. Free and open to the public.

    Fly Fishing Class:

    I'm always getting questions on where can I learn to fly fish? Or improve? Here is a great opportunity coming up April 27 at Stillwater Anglers in Columbus. Chris Fleck is bringing back Matt Wilhelm for a full day of "Introduction to Fly Fishing." Click here more info on Matt's class  Chis and Stillwater Anglers are a proud member of Trout Unlimited's business group and give MCFF and TU members a discount on shop purchases and services.

    Volunteers Needed for Rocky Camp, Girl Scout Stream Girls, VOWS Retreat

    1. Rocky Camp, June 3 - 7, young campers spend the week learning to be independent fly fishers from entomology, fly tying, casting and a trip to Wild Bill Lake near Red Lodge. Wonderful experience for both the kids and everyone helping. Contact Kevin Davis or send email to

    2. Girl Scout Stream Girls, Saturday, May 18, young girls spend the day learning to tie flies, casting and fish the popular Wild Bill Lake.

    3. The VOWS retreat, June 11th at Beartooth Basin Bunkhouse. Mike Casey coordinated the MCFF portion of this day to support wounded/disabled law enforcement, officers. Contact Mike if you can help teach some fly tying or work with the retreat participants on their fly fishing, Click here to learn more about how important this program is

    East Rosebud has a couple of cool classes coming up, Introductory Fly Tying class, April 6 and 13th plus a Ladies Fly Fishing class on April 13th. Call Rich or stop by and see Rich at the store or check out the East Rosebud  Facebook Page.

    Annual Fundraising Banquet

    We ran into some scheduling problems with May 7 that we did not anticipate. Consequently, we are looking to reschedule the event. We will keep you up to date.

    Looking forward to seeing you on Tuesday.

    March 7, 2019

    March 2019 Newsletter

    Jason Rhoten, Region V FWP Fisheries Biologist, and Brian Ertel, Yellowstone National Park Fisheries Restoration Biologist have prepared a presentation that lays out the background of conservation issues and an update of the Lamar River drainage. Of course, wrapped around the Lamar (also a tributary to the Yellowstone, is the preservation and restoration of wild, native Yellowstone cutthroat trout. Plus if you have ever fished Yellowstone, you must have stopped by the Lamar, or its tributaries Slough Creek and the Buffalo Fork of Slough Creek. In fact, click here for good background, history and fishing the Lamar

    Tomorrow night, Brian and Jason will include in the discussion of the Lamar and its importance to Yellowstone cutthroat, the role of Slough Creek and Buffalo Fork, which runs into Slough Creek close to Slough Creek campground. These two streams head up in Montana, just north of Yellowstone National Park. Consequently, both are important in terms of helping assure the survival of wild Yellowstone cutthroat. Brian and Jason include joint projects that, along with the National Forest Service, the organizations are working on to enhance these fisheries.

    In addition to Brian and Jason's presentation, Bob Short and Patrick McNelley will open the meeting at 7:00 with a review of last year's Missouri River trip, and an overview of this year's trip. The trip is scheduled for June 12 - 15. Beau McFadyean has agreed to supply guides at a slight discount. The group is staying at the 7R Guest Ranch with rooms available for $50 a night or an RV site for $25. Hey, you can bring your own boat, or wade (assuming less water than last year) or just show up for some of the fun activities that Patrick and Bob are planning. If you can not make the meeting, send an email to and we will get you in touch with Bob to help you plan the trip. Montana Trout Unlimited is doing a great job tracking the 2019 Montana legislative session in Helena. Now at the halfway point, there is still a lot to accomplish. MTU hired a new Government Affairs Coordinator this year, Clayton Elliot. Click here to learn more about Clayton: Background Summary of Clayton Elliott, new MTU Government Affairs Coordinator  Clayton has extensive experience lobbying and the legislative process. You can track, or learn more about the key issues Montana Trout Unlimited is following here: MTU Montana Legislation Tracker

    Progress is moving ahead on the new Blue Creek fishing access. I joined up with the folks from Yellowstone River Parks Association, Our Montana, FWP, and several other groups to help clear the way for construction by burning old Russian olive trees. Great fun. Billings Gazette story on Blue Creek Fishing Access Site.  The goal is to have the access site ready to go by spring. We'll see how the cold weather affects the timing. YRPA and Our Montana helped secure the funding for the project and FWP will maintain the site. One goal of the project is to establish enough access sites between Duck Creek and the new Dover Memorial Park to allow for a series of two-hour floats. Here is a photo of Mike Ruggles and myself at the site. No, really we were tugging on Russian olive branches before and after the Gazette reporter snapped this photo.


    Look forward to these events:

    • Kevin Croff joins MCFF TU on Tuesday, April 2 at the Billings Rod and Gun Club with a discussion on how to fish new waters. For some of us, we need this instruction for waters we fish all the time. In any case, Kevin is always fun and informative.
    • The annual fundraising banquet is set for Tuesday, May 7 at the Billings Depot. This is a fun event so order your tickets early. The ticket information will be released in the next couple of weeks. One of the popular portions of this event is the gift basket competition. You can enter this coming year by preparing and donating your best creation of a gift basket. Last year the Casting for Recovery ladies and Patrick McNelly won the competition, each receiving a $75 gift certificate to Levity Wine Shop and Bistro (Levity now has music on the weekends as well).
    • The Fly Fishers International (formerly the Federation of Fly Fishers) annual fly fishing expo (once known as the conclave) comes back to Montana this year - Bozeman, July 23 - 27. Click here: Fly Fishers International Fly Fishing Expo  The expo is a great time and includes more workshop and seminars than almost anywhere else in the country. Plus, spend some time on FFI new website. Lot's of great information.     


    Congratulations to Curt Jensen for getting the Project Healing Waters set up through a new Fly Fishers International chapter in Roundup . The initial meeting was February 12th at East Rosebud Fly Shop.

    Plus, do not forget, we can always use more volunteers to help kids learn to tie flies. And Kevin will even teach you how to tie the flies we teach the kids. In March we are working with students from Central Heights and Burlington.

    See you Tuesday night.

    February 4, 2019

    Febuary 2019 Newsleter

    Great program tomorrow - Tuesday - night. TU members Sharon Scharosch and Terri Hogan relate their adventures on a five-day fly fishing trip to Fernie, British Columbia.  Along with three other women, Terri and Sharon fished for westslope cutthroat, bull trout, and whitefish on several rivers including the Elk, Michel, Bull, and St Mary's. The ladies share not only fun stories and wonderful photographs but talk about how women can plan and participate in adventurous fly fishing trips like Fernie, or just get together on the Stillwater or Bighorn.

    In addition to learning about Fernie, BC, Jeremy Gilbertson, Bighorn River fishing guide, kicks of the evening with a demonstration of how to tie some great flies for the season ahead.

    This meeting is at Scheels second-floor conference room - north side of the building. Next month we are back at the Rod and Gun Club.

    Adding to the fun are some cool door prizes. Everyone attending receives a free dry fly and an entry for these prizes: the grand prize is a guided trip with Alice Owsley of Riverside Anglers in West Yellowstone on either the Madison or in Yellowstone National Park. In addition, you could win a new fly rod or one of Ken Beck's Black Sheep lanyards. These are really neat lanyards. You'll love one if you win.

    You can also reserve space or find out more information on the third annual Missouri River fly fishing trip - scheduled for June 12 - 14. Patrick McNelly and Bob Short are organizing the trip again. Lodging ($50/night or RV space ($20/night) is available at the 7R guest ranch. A continental breakfast is included in the price.  You can reserve a guide and boat for $225/day per person from Beau McFadyean. Patrick and Bob will be at the meeting, showing some slides of last year's trip, taking reservations or just visiting about the trip.


    Take a look at the coming events in the Hacklebender. Next month, March 5, at the Rod and Gun Club, we'll have an FWP report plus a presentation by Region V biologist Jason Rhoten on their project in the Buffalo Fork region, just north of the Slough Creek region of Yellowstone National Park. Then on April 2, we welcome back Kenin Croff for an in-depth look at fishing new waters. The annual fundraising banquet is scheduled for May 7 at the downtown Billings Depot. Tickets available soon.

    One last note. A couple of weeks ago I was able to join the Yellowstone River Parks Association and Our Montana folks in cutting and burning Russian olive trees at the new Blue Creek fishing access. Construction begins soon with a goal of opening the access late spring. One of the goals of YRPA and Our Montana is to help create enough Yellowstone River access points that you can float from the Duck Creek access to the new Dover Memorial Park in two hour segments. Plus, fishing is a lot better than a lot of folks think. In fact, that will be a topic in next years line up of programs, urban fishing in Billings including the Yellowstone River.

     Stay warm and join us for a fun evening at Scheels. Doors open at 6:00. Patrick and Bob will be there to talk about the Missouri River trip. We'll put up some of the photos. Jerremy ties around 7:00 and Sharon and Terri should get going around 7:45. The store closes at 9:00 so we'll be out by 8:45.

    January 6, 2019

    January 2019 Newsletter

    And, January is already off to a cold, stormy start with lots of snow to shovel. Magic City Fly Fishers is shifting its Tuesday, January 8th meeting to a nice, warm, fun and friendly location, a Pint Night at the Last Chance Pub and Cider Mill. Join us for a casual, fun evening. Ed Knight will offer you a chance to check out your cast with yarn rods and hoops - harder than you think. Yellowstone River Parks Association (YRPA) will have some updates on the new fishing access off Blue Creek, the eastern branch of the Montana Wilderness is stopping by to promote the Public Lands rally coming up on Friday, and maybe even a demo tyer. The main thing is to have fun and meet up with old friends and make new ones. Plus, Last Chance Pub and Cider Mill is donating $1 for each draft of Red Lodge Ales beer or Cider Mill cider. Note: this not your typical sweet ole apple cider. It's great.

    February's meeting is one you will not want to miss. TU members Sharon Scharosch and Terri Hogan had a marvelous trip to the Fernie BC and Elk River region of British Columbia last summer. This is a cool area to visit and fish. Now you can learn all about how to plan a trip to southeast BC and what the fishing is like. Tuesday, February 5. One time location change - we are at Scheels Conference room - north end, second floor.

    TU Magic City Fly Fishers members have always supported the strong public lands ethic in Montana - one reason Montanans enjoy some of the best local access to fishing. Now you can support public lands by attending the Public Lands rally Friday, January 11, Helena, the state capital, noon. Can't attend? Let your legislators know you support public lands. Attending? The Montana wilderness association is taking RSVP and coordinating transportation if you need it. RSVP here for Public Lands Rally 

    Here is Sharon and just one of those BC trout she caught!

    See you on Tuesday.



    Lyle Courtnage, PresidentMagic City Fly Fishers Trout Unlimited 582

    Where we meet

    Billings Rod and Gun Club
    2931 Rod and Gun Club Rd.
    Billings, MT 59106