What is The Land of the Giants?
The Land of the Giants is a short three-mile section of river that flows from Hauser Reservoir dam to Upper Holter lake. This section of the Missouri river is just outside of Helena, which puts it roughly half an hour from the town of Craig and just less than two hours from Ennis or Bozeman. The river flows through a stunning canyon with steep walls, which has no boat ramps to allow for drift boat access. Consequently we are forced to access the Land of the Giants by jet boat from upper Holter lake and power up stream to the fishing. As one might suspect The Land of the Giants is named for the size of the trout that live there. This location has some of the largest trout that Montana fly fishing has to offer. An average fish here is often in the same class as a "fish of the day" on our other rivers. We don't have fish count data for the Land of the Giants but the numbers seem to be among the highest of the rivers we fish. The scenery is no slouch either. The cliffs along the river are steep with colorful rocks and large ponderosa pines line the river. Eagles are a frequent sight and if you look hard enough and it is possible to see mountain goats climbing the cliff wall. Lewis and Clark traveled through this area and noted its beauty in their journals.
The Land of the Giants is only accessible by jet boat, which on guided trips must be operated by a US Coast Guard licensed captain. Captain Garrett Blackburn is one of the few guides in Montana that has the licensing, equipment and experience to offer this trip safely and legally. Garrett has 12 years of jet boat guiding experience on rivers in Alaska, Chile and Montana. We use a custom rigged 16 foot G3 skiff with a Yamaha outboard jet, casting braces, oarlocks, an anchor system and seating. The boat rows and fishes just like a drift boat!
The Land of the Giants is a large deep piece of river so we do most of our fishing from the boat. The boat is rigged to be as comfortable to fish out of as a drift boat. Casting braces, a 52 inch width and floor boards make it stable to stand and fish from. The motor allows us to run up river and float fish various runs and banks from the boat. If a piece of water is producing well we just motor back to the top and fish it again.
The Land of the Giants is one of the most fertile fisheries we have found in all of Montana. The fact that this fishery begins at the base of a dam makes it very similar to some of the other tail water fisheries around Montana. Like the Bighorn, Beaverhead and Missouri river below Holter lake near Craig, the presence of a bottom release dam creates an environment full of nutrients with stable water temperatures. This situation yields large numbers of trout with plenty of food to pack on weight throughout the summer and a very long feeding season due to the consistency in water temperatures and levels. The two things that separate the Land of the Giants from other major tail waters around Montana are difficult accessibility and the fact that this tail water empties into an extremely fertile lake.
Upper Holter lake holds large numbers of trophy class browns and rainbows that move in and out of the Land of the Giants freely. The lake also produces whitefish, suckers and land locked salmon. During spawning season these species swim into the Land of the Giants to lay their eggs, which creates an Alaska like environment of trout gorging behind the spawning beds of other fish. Likewise, some time before their own spawning time, huge nonresident rainbows and browns migrate from the depths of Holter lake and into the Land of the Giants. When these fish are in the river there is always a feeling that the next hookup could produce a fish of a lifetime. The combination of food and stability make for an environment with large numbers of trout that range from big to huge.
Times of Year:
The Land of the Giants is a great area to fish from April through June and from September through November. The Land of the Giants holds big fish all year but these are the best times to fish because of the added opportunity the even larger lake run fish offer. The weather can get cold but the water temperatures remain stable and the fish don’t seem to mind.