When a River Runs Through It

flyfishinginsideAmong sport fishing experts, fly fishing is in a class by itself. Few other kinds of sport fishing require the same mix of patience, precision and know-how, skills not dissimilar from those required in planning and conducting effective strategic planning meetings.

It’s no surprise then that luxury Montana resorts and lodges in the Big Sky area promote fly fishing as one of the recreational options available to small, senior-level corporate groups.

Montana rivers and lakes have long been famous for their wild trout—some as large as 20 pounds–and whitefish. The Gallatin River, in fact, runs through 320 Guest Ranch in Big Sky and Rainbow Ranch Lodge in Gallatin Gateway. Four rivers (the Blackfoot, Bitterroot, Missouri and Clark Fort) are either on—or in close proximity to—The Resort at Paws Up in Greenough. Meanwhile, The Lodge at Whitefish Lake sits directly on (what else?) Whitefish Lake.

Planners can set aside a full day of their meeting for fly fishing or, more likely, will schedule a half day of meeting (either morning or afternoon) with the remainder of the day set aside for time on the water. Given the intensity of strategic planning sessions, a break for fly fishing can give participants the welcome opportunity to decompress, sort out their thoughts and be ready with their best thinking, when the group next convenes. Solitude has its merits, if only in small doses.

The Big Sky area of Montana is so associated with the sport that the fly fishing sequences in Robert Redford’s 1992 movie, “A River Runs Through It,” were filmed there.

Planners shouldn’t assume all participants in the group know their way around a fly fishing rod. These facilities don’t assume any such thing. Accordingly, beginners at Rainbow Ranch Lodge and 320 Guest Ranch, among others) can get casting instruction on the properties’ own trout-stocked ponds. Fishing on the ponds doesn’t require a license since they’re privately owned.

Fishing on a state-owned river, on the other hand, does require a license. Planners shouldn’t panic, however, at the thought of a bureaucratic nightmare angling to get a handful of licenses. Licenses can be purchased online and the meeting venue can help facilitate on the planner’s behalf.

Likewise, for experienced anglers eager to get on the river, the ranch can refer planners to professional guides based in the different communities, who can be hired to assist. As in any destination, they’re likely to know the best and most reliable DMCs.

Guides arranged through the Lodge at Whitefish Lodge will know the best, most secretive spots on the north end of the lake (secret to everyone but the trout). The Rainbow Ranch Lodge offers what it calls a half-day “walk and wade” trip on the river. Planners can also book a “drift boat” that floats along, allowing anglers a different perspective of the river.

Meeting facilities at these group venues range from a rustic banquet hall and dining room to a fully professional conference center with distinct meeting spaces that would be comfortably at home in Bozeman, no less Boston. Ample outdoor space, given the abundant natural beauty of the setting, can make for a breathtaking reception.

Fly fishing aside, these venues also offer horseback riding, hiking and trail riding in summer and sleigh rides and, of course, skiing in winter.

Photos: Shutterstock

Bruce Serlen

Bruce Serlen

Bruce Serlen is a veteran travel writer, based in New Jersey, who has written extensively on meetings management and hotel operations. Most recently, he was executive editor at Hotel Business.

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