It’s pretty amazing when you stop and look at all the things the Flathead Valley is known for. Whether it is destinations like the “Crown of the Continent” that Glacier National Park has become known as, to Flathead Lake, Flathead River, the Jewel Basin and so many more places. Or perhaps it is products like Flathead cherries and huckleberries, microbreweries and distilleries or even the firearms industry that has been making waves, from parts and pieces to complete rifles manufactured here. Even more, perhaps it’s the activities like skiing on Big Mountain, snowmobiling on the Flathead National Forest or fishing on Flathead Lake or the dozens of other lakes in the region.
One of the things that the valley has been known for for quite some time is the variety of fishing tackle produced here. From way back in the ‘50s when homemade plugs, flies and lures were being made for the big bull trout in the river, to cutthroat trout in the streams, to today with several companies making everything from custom plastics to hand carved wooden plugs. From custom paints on off the shelf lures, to full on, made-to-order jigs, lures and flies. There is an entire industry growing quickly in the Flathead Valley, from new guys just breaking in, to others that have been around for decades.
On June 22, Snappy Sport Senter will be hosting an expo that will feature many of these local companies and individuals, so put that on your calendar and join me as I name a few of them in this and future columns.
I will start off with several that have been around a long time, and in two weeks I will look at a couple newer upstarts. If you are an angler and have been around the valley for a while, you have most likely heard of Dick Zimmer, AKA The Mac Man and his Zimmer Tackle Shop in Pablo. Dick has been specializing in jigging gear for Mackinaw (lake trout) for most of his time, although he also makes some specialized perch, kokanee and witefish gear. His green Rattle-D-Zastor has been one of the most popular whitefish jigs over the last couple of years and his line of Mackinaw jigs are legendary. Check them out at zimmertackle.com
Pete Jellar of Petes Tackle Shop is another who has been making lures for close to 30 years, and plastics now for close to 10. Pete was the first one I knew of to begin to make custom poured plastics here in the valley and was ahead of the curve of many major tackle manufactures across the U.S., and his products have sold well across the nation and beyond. While trolling flies, kokanee gear and then ice fishing jigs were Pete’s early specialties, his expansion into custom crank baits and painting has brought him an entirely new clientele. Visit www.petstackleshop.com
Next is the Montana Fly Company in Columbia Falls. While many individuals tie flies and sell to retailers, the Montana Fly Company sells to retailers all across the world and have been for decades. Unless you are tying for yourself, you can’t go wrong with any of their products. They have expanded into a full service company in the industry. Visit www.Montanafly.com
Glacier Tackle Company began making sinkers and jigs, expanded into lures and upon purchasing Captain Andy’s fly business a few years ago now makes a large selection of tackle for just about any target species and type of fishing. You can find their tackle in just about any store in the valley that sells tackle, and although Ron Anderson retired from making flies about five or six years ago, his Captain Andy’s fly series lives on with still one of the best line of trolling flies out there.
In my next column, we will look at a couple of the newer businesses supplying incredible tackle to very fortunate local (and beyond) anglers. I’ll see you on the water.
— Howe is the owner/outfitter at Howe’s Fishing, A Able and Mo Fisch Charters. Call 406-257-5214 or at www.howesfishing.com