All posts by RBO

Mark Slayden is a fly fishing outfitter residing in Bonner, Montana. I offer full and half day guided fly fishing trips on the Blackfoot, Bitterroot, Clark Fork, and Missouri Rivers.


Argentina. I won’t pretend that I know a lot about it, and I won’t BS you with some lifelong dream I had to experience a piece of Patagonia. I stumbled across the opportunity to go there. A winters-long discussion with my south American doppelganger culminated in a trip that I won’t soon forget, nor can hardly wait to do again.

The fall & winter of 2021 found me with a lot of time and space on my hands. The circumstances of which are all mid-life ya-da, ya-da, ya-da…. I had just made my annual pilgrimage to the accounting firm where I’m seasonally employed and right about then a good friend called and suggested I strike up a conversation with “the Argentinian version of yourself.” My friend had fished with Diego before, and insisted that he was my long lost south American brother from another mother. And so a 9-month chat with Diego ensued. The plan was to bring a group to Cholila, Argentina to fish for 4 days in the Chubut Province of Patagonia, Argentina. We talked about dates, we talked about locations, we talked about everything…except how to get there.

And by there, I mean the airport in Esquel, Argentina. A logical mind would then go about finding the best way to get there and back. Licked y-split. Maybe start at point A, and find out how to get to point B. And then back to point A. Instead, I went ahead and booked a round-trip ticket from Buenos Aires to Esquel, Argentina. There’s one flight a day into and out of Esquel, and it’s make-it or break-it. The next flight I booked was…logically…San Jose Costa Rica to Missoula. I knew I wanted to fold a trip back to Costa Rica in there, and I knew when I needed to be back to Missoula, so it seemed to make sense to book that flight next. Next leg…San Jose to Buenos Aires and back. And then my flight from Missoula to San Jose. Oh, and there was also a round-trip flight from San Jose to Quepos, as well as a rental car from San Jose to Jaco. In total, it was 14 flights on 14 planes. I seriously do not recommend you do it this way. But somehow it all worked out. A few delays, an emergency landing due to a non-functional toilet, an airport dash in Houston…but not a single missed flight. Amazing. Even more so that this all took place during the Southwest Airlines meltdown around Christmas in 2022.

Diego figured out the fishing and lodging part of things, and I pulled together a group of adventurous souls to arrive in Esquel on January 7th, 2023. Everybody and everything arrived on-time and as planned…. Yeah right! There was a lot that didn’t go as planned, but in the end we all made it there with all our stuff. Which wasn’t much. A bag, a coat, a fly rod…the basics for a short, lodge-based trip.

Diego arranged to pick us up at the Esquel airport and transport us to the Hosteria el Trebol in Cholila, which was base camp for the 5 nights of lodging. I loved this place. Super modest, yet all the creature comforts of a well-maintained lodge. The staff and food were excellent. I wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again.

After settling in and mixing a cocktail, we sat down to plot our week. As a fishing guide and outfitter, I fully understand the mental massage and stress that goes into planning several days of fishing for a group. You have to factor into it such things as the weather, angler experience and expectations, pressure on the river, timing of the hatches, moon phase, celestial alignment…you get the point. Diego was concerned mostly about the weather. Our bright and sunny forecast for the week all of a sudden switched to cool and rainy. Which you might think is ideal for fishing. It is the ideal scenario in Montana for mid-summer fishing. But this wasn’t Montana. Far from it. This was Argentina, home of flightless birds, and all sorts of other unfamiliar fauna and flora. It became clear to me that all my typical concerns did not necessarily translate to the fishing here. There’s a little saying among experienced anglers. “Trust your guide.” So I sat back, poured another drink, and let Diego fret about the details.

Day one found us traveling into Parque Nacional Los Alerces to fish the river Rivadavia. The Rivadavia is a stretch of river below Lake Rivadavia, which is a lake in Chubut Province, Argentina. Lake Rivadavia is the second lake, after Lake Cholila, in the chain of lakes in the Futaleufú River system of Argentina which via Yelcho Lake and the Yelcho River flows into the Pacific Ocean in Chile. That geographical piece of information blew my mind. I was under the impression that the Andes formed a natural continental divide and that all the water in the Patagonia region of Argentina flowed naturally to the Atlantic. Wrong.

This was the only day of bright/sunny and very warm conditions. The water was gin clear, and the fish were easy to spot. I stood over a run of fish that were no more than 10 feet away from me and sight fished for an hour. Fish like that would scatter in an instant on my home waters on the Blackfoot River in Montana. Their lack of concern about my intentions were overshadowed by their lack of concern about taking my fly. Several rounds of changing nymphs finally yielded a couple nice rainbows, and the skunk was finally off the boat. My first trout in Argentina.

Argentina is often compared to Montana, but 60 years in the past. By and large this seems like a pretty accurate depiction. But not necessarily where the fishing is concerned. These fish aren’t 1960’s, never-been-pressured dumb. I found the fishing to be rather technical and challenging. Tight casts to the bank and sight fishing to picky trout was normal. And when that wasn’t working we ripped streamers and skated big/bushy dry flies. What impressed me the most was the trout’s willingness to chase a streamer for ten, sometimes twenty or more feet. The takes were explosive and exhilarating. When it comes to streamer fishing, line control and repetitiveness are key. You can’t settle for one good presentation every five minutes or so and expect to hang a lot of fish. You have to be spot-on, every time, and do it over, and over, and over until your fingers bleed. And then you do it some more.

That first day of fishing on the Rivadavia was amazing. Not necessarily for the numbers or the size of fish, but rather for the scenery and the novelty of fishing in a foreign land. I was, quite simply, in love with the whole experience. I tried to bring to it the attitude that I hope that most of my clients possess. The day, the experience, the company, the scenery, take precedence over the fishing. Catching fish is a bonus. Sometimes the fish are willing and easy. And then there are all the other days, so you’d better have an appreciation that goes beyond just “catching.”

One of the little things that help make a trip is food. And the food on this whole trip was amazing! Two hour lunches comprising several courses and exceptional Argentinian wine was standard fare. It was nice to enjoy such a relaxed pace on the river. There’s still a relative lack of pressure on the rivers in Argentina. And based on the logistics of getting there, I don’t see that changing all that much. I sincerely hope this region in Argentina can find a way to stay like sixty-year-ago Montana.

The following days we fished the Carrileufu and Arrayanes Rivers. Both equally as impressive and interesting as the Rivadavia, but completely different. Most of these rivers in this system begin and end at a lake. So don’t be surprised if you find yourself with some sinking line and a deep streamer trolling for large trout at the beginning and end of your day. I particularly enjoyed fishing on the Carrileufu river. It has a sandy-like bottom, and is heavily lined with willows that create opportunities to swing streamers through brown trout laden hide y holes. Fish chase streamers out from underneath the willows and appear out of nowhere among the mid-river weed-mats. The rainbows were almost chrome and put on the fight of a lifetime.

We didn’t move a lot of fish on the short, but wide and very deep Arrayanes. I experienced two aggressive dry fly takes on a skating dry and could see the massive potential for the woody structure and rock shelves to give up giant brown trout. Our inauspicious start to the day didn’t help much. That whole “Argentinian version of yourself” thing was starting to become evident. We discovered that Diego’s boat trailer had yielded to the punishment of the dirt road. A quick tire change and we’re on our way. Nope. The spare tire had a different bolt pattern and would not fit on the hub. (Same kind of dumb bad luck I often experience). So I stayed back with Diego and we sent the rest of the group along the way to get started on Lake Verde. It took not one, not two, but three trips back to Cholila to get the thing fixed. And so we spent a considerable amount of time talking philosophy-of-life type stuff, which transcended the usual blah, blah, blah that accompanies a day of fishing. I think we both quickly realized why our mutual friend thought it important that we meet…we could solve most of the world’s problems together I am sure!

After catching up with the group and receiving the rather anemic morning fishing report, we switched up boats and plied more of the waters of Lake Verde before descending into the Arrayanes. I don’t know what they were talking about, as I quickly hooked and landed two nice rainbows. Sometimes it’s the wizard and not the wand…and sometimes it’s just plain dumb luck.

I’m going with wizard.

My hope is that you are interested enough in fishing the Patagonia region of Argentina to consider venturing there with me in 2024. I am organizing two trips back to this pristine region. January 2-5 (4 day/5 nights) for $3,100. And January 9-14 (6 day/7 nights) for $4,500. The 4 day trip is going to look a lot like last years trip to Cholila. And the 6 day trip will have many of those same details, and includes a change of location for the last two days to fish the Rio Grande. The price includes all your fishing, lodging, food, beverages, and transportation to/from the Esquel airport and the lodge. It does not include your travel and expenses getting to and from Esquel. Nor does it include guide or lodge & staff gratuities, fishing licenses, or park fees.

I did learn a few lessons along the way and want to briefly share them here.

Give yourself plenty of time to travel. You’re flying out of the north in arguably the least predictable time of year. Delays happen. Cancellations happen. Don’t let a tight connection or a stingy budget hinder your trip of a lifetime.

Spend some time in Buenos Aires. This is a beautiful and vibrant city that’s worth visiting. While it’s possible to take a red-eye out of the states and arrive in Buenos Aires in the morning, and then catch a flight to Esquel the same day, I don’t recommend it. As previously mentioned, there’s only one flight a day into Esquel, and it’s often from the smaller regional airport in Buenos Aires. I wouldn’t take a chance on trying to get a cab and making another flight after traveling all night. So you might as well explore this “Paris of South America.” I don’t think you will regret it.

You may already know this but I found out the hard way…not all airlines consider your fly rod tube an innocent carry on. Sure, flying out of Montana is no problem. But god forbid you haul that thing through security in the Buenos Aires regional airport. Of all other places aside from Montana where you’d think a fly rod tube would be no problem, it’s Buenos Aires flying to the Argentina mecca of trout fishing. My advice is to just leave it at home and trust that your guide will have the equipment you need. Or invest in a rectangular-shaped, soft fly rod case. Also, those 1/0 streamer hooks are likely not making it through the x-ray machine. Check your bag, or don’t bother bringing that stuff with you.

I’m happy to share all the knowledge and information I gathered planning and executing my trip. So don’t hesitate to call or drop me an email. Or let’s just go fishing!!!

Cheers! Mark

Vacation Rental

The Trout Bungalow on the Blackfoot River is available for nightly rental. Please visit my listing on VRBO for more information.

World class trout fishing out your back door. Access to thousands of acres of public land. Rafting, fishing, hiking, hunting, snowmobiling, skiing, are just a few of the activities you can literally do without getting in a car. Yet the house is only a 20 minute drive to downtown Missoula. Where you’ll find great dining, shopping, music, and the University of Montana.

Booking Montana Fly Fishing Trips For 2023

Now booking 2023 guided fly fishing trips on western Montana’s beautiful Blackfoot River, the Bitterroot River, and the Clark Fork River.

The summer and fall calendars are starting to fill up!  So don’t hesitate to book your trip earlier rather than later.

The snow is really stacking up early this year.  What does that mean?   Anybody guess at this point.  But if it continues, we’re going to have one heck of a water year.   I will keep you posted….

Call or email to book your fly fishing trip today!

Cheers! Mark Slayden

(406) 370-9882

Fly Fishing on the Blackfoot River

Fly Fishing Outfitters

Book a guided fly fishing trip today on one of western Montana’s beautiful rivers! The Blackfoot, Clark Fork, Bitterroot, and Missouri rivers are waiting for you!

Blackfoot River, Brown TroutMark Slayden has been guiding fly fishing trips on the rivers of western Montana since 2009. After a successful career as owner and co-founder of Eclipse Engineering, Inc., Mark left the confines of the office to live out his dream on the river. In 2014 he took that one step further and purchased his dream home on the bank of the famous Blackfoot River, where he offers full and half day guided fly fishing trips. In the off-season, Mark fulfills his boyhood fantasy to be a bean counter and is employed January through April by Langel and Associates, a local CPA firm that specializes in tax accounting.

Call today to book your fly fishing trip. From the single angler to groups, we are here to provide you with the information you need to make your next trip to Montana memorable.

Cell Phone: (406) 370-9882
Home Phone: (406) 244-2038


Mailing address: 4032 Rainbow Bend Drive, Bonner, MT 59823

Outfitter License #16348

Missoula Montana Rivers

Western Montana boasts hundreds of miles of floatable water on three major rivers, the Bitterroot River, Blackfoot River, and Clark Fork River.  Rock Creek, which provides float fish opportunities up until the end of June is also a major attraction.  The combination of these rivers and creeks make western Montana one of the least crowded places to fly fish in Montana.

Fly fishing in Montana usually begins around mid-March, with the gradually warming temps and the appearance of a  smorgasbord of mayflies. Not to mention the skwala stoneflies that really come into play around the first of April. Beginning in early May the water conditions will vary wildly based on runoff. Fortunately, the Missouri River is a beautiful two-hour drive away and typically provides steady flows and predictable angling throughout the year.  Once runoff has subsided anything and everything goes.  There’s no need to venture more than about an hour out of Missoula, because some of the finest water is right in our very own backyard. Fly fishing in Montana usually lasts right up until the end of October, but if you’re hardcore (and most of us Montana guides are), you can usually find open water in every month of the year. Some guides head south for the winter. But most Montana fly fishing guides and outfitters are family people, and have deep roots in the Montana communities that they live in and support, and will continue to fish the frozen waters of Montana in search of fish in all seasons.

Bitterroot River

The Bitterroot River begins at the confluence of the east and west forks near the town of Conner, Montana and flows approximately 80 miles north to join the Clark Fork River in Missoula. The Selway-Bitterroot mountain range provides stunning scenery along the entire river, especially on the upper river above Hamilton where jagged 9,000 foot tall granite peaks slice through the sky.

The Bitterroot’s south to north orientation helps warm the river in the spring and fall which makes it one of the first good dry fly options in the spring and probably the last and best option for floating in the late fall and early winter. Hoards of anglers flock to the Bitterroot River in the spring for the Skwala stonefly hatch which produces one of the seasons first hatch of flies you can fish without squinting your eyes. The Upper Bitterroot along with the East and West forks has a prolific salmonfly hatch which makes it a great option in the early summer before the rest of the river comes into shape. I am particularly fond of the golden stonefly hatch which begins in late June and carries on through July. By mid-August much of the mid river is dewatered due to heavy irrigation demands, making it a less viable option. But, by the end of August and into September and October the river picks up once again and the fall trico fishing, although challenging, will reward patient anglers who are willing to fish small flies and light tippets.

Blackfoot River

The Big Blackfoot River is probably one of my favorite rivers in the state to fish and guide.  Outstanding scenery and exceptional dry fly fishing make this river a must for any angler.  Our new house is located on the banks of the Blackfoot River, and with direct access to the river it’s my go-to option when folks come to visit Montana.

The Blackfoot is a freestone river that originates from springs and snowmelt along the continental divide near Rogers pass and flows westerly for approximately 130 miles toward the town of Bonner where it dumps into the Clark Fork River.  The canyons and valleys of the Blackfoot River were formed by the glacial lake Missoula outburst floods that occurred during the end of the last ice age.  The scenery is as diverse as the wildlife, and a float along any section of the Blackfoot will leave a lasting impression.

The Blackfoot River is well known for its eager West Slope Cutthroat trout who will take dry flies from spring to late fall. Large, predatory bull trout are extremely aggressive at certain times of the year and really add to the excitement.  It’s not uncommon to be reeling in a cutthroat and have a big bull trout come out from nowhere and devour your fish.  For that reason, the Blackfoot offers a legitimate chance at a trout grand slam.

The upper sections of the Blackfoot and the North Fork of the Blackfoot offer the best wade fish opportunities.  The most popular sections for floating begin at the River Junction campground and numerous day float opportunities exist. You’ll need a boat if you want to experience the Box Canyon section of the Blackfoot or other less accessible sections of the river.

Clark Fork River

The Clark Fork River originates near the town of Warm Springs Montana where the recently restored Silver Bow Creek joins up with Warms Springs Creek. It is one of the longest rivers in Montana, nearly 280 miles from the confluence to the Idaho border, and drains more volume of water than any other river in Montana.

The rich mining history of the Butte/Anaconda area led to widespread pollution of the Clark Fork River. However, its distinction as a superfund site has aided in the restoration of the river and the continuing efforts to clean up a century’s worth of damage has created a respectable fishery.

The Clark Fork is commonly referred to as either the Upper Clark Fork or the Lower Clark Fork and from 1908 until 2008 the division was created by the Milltown Dam approximately 8 miles east of Missoula. Toxic sediments from upstream gathered behind the Milltown Dam which prompted the decision to remove the dam in 2008. The addition of water from the Blackfoot River and the Bitterroot River add significant volume to the Clark Fork, further distinguishing the lower river from the upper river.

Since the removal of the Milltown Dam I have witnessed a surge in the cutthroat population on the upper river and have encountered many more bull trout than before the dam was removed. There are good numbers of brown trout on the upper river as well, and you can always find decent rainbows and cutbows throughout. The lower river holds some real beasts and when you get on a pod of feeders it’s game on for 18”+ rainbows and cutbows.

Rock Creek

There are several creeks in the state of Montana with the name Rock attached to it. However, there is only one Rock Creek that is also a blue ribbon trout fishery. The Rock Creek I’m referring to flows through portions of Granite and Missoula counties, and roughly parallels the Sapphire mountain range on its 50 plus mile journey to join the Clark Fork river just above the town of Clinton.

Rock Creek has been a long time favorite of mine and was the first body of water I explored with a fly rod when I moved to the Missoula area in 1986. It’s probably best known for the epic Salmonfly hatch that occurs each year in late May and June. It’s also well known as a bull trout fishery, and like the Blackfoot River, Rock Creek offers a great chance at hitting the trout grand slam. Bull trout are endangered, so targeting them is illegal. However, streamer and nymph fishing often result in catching a bull trout, so if you do get one on the line be sure to land it quickly and release it immediately. The creek is also chock full of rainbows, cutthroat, brown trout, and the occasional brook trout.

Rock Creek is generally divided into three sections….upper, middle and lower. The upper sections of Rock Creek are easily accessed via the town of Phillipsburg and if you’re planning on just fishing the upper sections then save the wear and tear on your rig and make the drive. Flint Creek is along the way and is worth a look if you have the time. If you’re planning on fishing the middle or lower sections of Rock Creek then you may just as well make the drive up Rock Creek road.

The road mostly parallels the creek so access to the creek is abundant. You can float and fish Rock Creek from a boat only up until the end of June. After that, it’s wade fish only. Some of my favorite access sites include Valley of the Moon, Sawmill, Welcome Creek swinging bridge, the Microburst, and the old Puyear ranch (now know as the Morgan-Case homestead). I highly recommend you hire a guide if you want to float Rock Creek. The current is swift and numerous hazards exist. Likewise, if you plan on wade fishing Rock Creek use caution, as the river rock is very slippery.

My favorite time of year to fish Rock Creek is in the fall when the brown trout start to make their way out of the Clark Fork and up into the creek to spawn. Fishing a deep, slow moving streamer will produce some very nice fish. Rock Creek is also a decent winter fishery and I usually venture up there at least a half dozen times between December and March.

If you are interested in booking a Montana fly fishing vacation, please call me directly or send an email and I will promptly get back to you.

Phone: (406) 370-9882


Fly Fishing Rates

If you’re looking to do some fly fishing in Montana, I offer guided float and wade fly fishing trips primarily on the Blackfoot River, Bitterroot River, Clark Fork River, and Missouri River.  The following information will help you plan your fly fishing vacation.

Full Day: $575 (2 anglers per boat)

  • Transportation, shuttle, lunch, and non-alcoholic beverages are provided.
  • All trips include flies, leaders, tippets, and all other terminal tackle.

What to bring:

  • I recommend a 5 or 6 weight rod for most of our rivers. If you don’t have a fly rod or if you are unable to travel with your fly rod then one will be provided for you at no extra cost.
  • Waders and wading boots. I do have a limited supply of extra waders and every effort will be made to fit you in a pair of waders if you don’t have them. At the very least, you should bring rain pants and water-resistant shoes.
  • Rain jacket: This is VERY important…. even in the middle of August.
  • Warm cloths and extra layers: This is also very important, especially for trips in the spring and fall. If you’re here for the spring skwala stonefly hatch you’d better bring your ski parka too!
  • Polarized sunglasses
  • Sunscreen

Other information:

  • Most full day trips will begin around 8:00 a.m. and we’ll usually have you back no later than 6:30 p.m. We’ll pick you up and drop you off at your hotel or other predetermined location.  The entire day can be tailored to meet your needs.
  • You will need to purchase a Montana fishing license prior to fishing. You can purchase a license at any local fly shop or purchase one online prior to your arrival. Visit for online licensing.
  • Gratuities are not included in the quoted rates.
  • All fly fishing trips will be booked through Mark Slaydens outfitter license number 16348, 4032 Rainbow Bend Drive, Bonner, MT 59823.  406-370-9882.
  • If you are an outfitter and want my independent contractor info (insurance, icec, et. al.) please contact me via email or on the phone and I would be happy to furnish that information.

Deposit and Cancellation Information:

  • A $150 deposit per day per boat is required to secure your trip.  All deposits will be applied toward your balance and the balance of your trip is due on the first day of your trip.
  • Cancellations made at least 30 days before  your trip will receive a full refund of your deposit.  If you cancel within 30 days of your trip, your deposit will be applied toward another trip booked within one year of your original booking.  Or, if we are able to re-book your days to another group we will gladly refund your deposit.

Phone: (406) 370-9882