Rock Creek Now Offering Outfitter Tours

January 3, 2008

By Mark Eisenbeil
Reporter for the Silver State Post, Deer Lodge, Montana
May 7, 2008

The Rock Creek Cattle Company (RCCC), once just a ranching operation and now also a subdivision, offers some extra perks for its homeowners and club members. Experienced outfitters are on staff and are more than happy to cater to the needs of their customers. There are two men who run the outdoor experience for RCCC; Joel Thompson and Ron Snow. Thompson is the head fly fishing guide and the director of outdoor activities and Snow is a fly fishing guide and the assistant director of outdoor activities.

Thompson grew up in Deer Lodge and is a fifth-generation Montanan. He has family in Deer Lodge, but he resides most of the year in Missoula with his wife, although the two of them spend much of the summer in Deer Lodge. He works out of the ranch and his home, depending on the workload.

Snow grew up in a small town in New Mexico, similar to Deer Lodge. He was in the music industry in Nashville, TN and also guided fishing expeditions there. He spends around six months of the year guiding at RCCC and then goes home to his wife in Tennessee to spend the remaining six months of the year. He says that he loves the community here and is in the process of purchasing a home; a true sign that he is here to stay and be an integral part of Deer Lodge.

Snow and Thompson developed a friendship through a fly fishing website on the Internet called the Itinerant Angler. The two had been corresponding for some time when Thompson ended up asking Snow if he’d like to work for him at RCCC. Snow said that he had been doing research on the company and discovered that he and RCCC shared the same ideals and commitment to the environment. He said that many decisions that are made by the company are made with the environment in mind.

Snow says that to be a licensed guide in the state of Montana, you must have all of the proper training, insurance, credentials, and you must work through an outfitter. Thompson, whose outfitting company is called Montana Troutaholic Outfitters, is the company used by RCCC for its members and guests.

Thompson said that guides are usually independent contractors that work for the outfitters and are responsible for ensuring that customers in the parties show good etiquette and act responsibly on the rivers. The guides charge for their services, but try to keep their prices around 10% lower than the standard industry charges for outfitting. The men take customers fly fishing at many of the waterways in the region such as the Clark Fork River, Blackfoot River, Bitteroot River, Missouri River, Rock Creek, Flint Creek, Warm Springs Creek, and Rock Creek Lake.

The fishing parties can either wade or fish from rafts. One concept that the fishing guides stress is to catch and release, instead of catching and keeping. “All of our fishing is catch and release. That’s a deal that we make with our member’s clients that we take out. They understand that a healthy release is paramount to conserving our fisheries,” said Snow about RCCC’s fisheries management program. Both men feel that the region around Deer Lodge show a lot of promise for fishermen; virtually it is an untapped resource.

They say the removal at the Milltown Dam is going to impact the Upper Clark Fork in a positive way. They say that the numbers will definitely increase as the years go by and the trout find their way further up river.

The outdoor activities at the club are not just limited to fly fishing; there is also horseback riding, ATV rides (on trails only), hiking, mountain biking, and varmint and clay pigeon shooting. Thompson said that that they just hired another guide named Gabe Millar, who specializes in equestrian activities. The two men work part-time out of the Fly Shop which is a fully stocked fly fi shing shop that is located in the Cattlemen’s Club. The fly shop has all of the needed equipment to enjoy the true Montana experience on the region’s streams and rivers, from flies, waders and fly rods to quick-dry clothing and accompanying footwear.

“We carry a lot of Montana products in the shop,” said Snow, mentioning that the inventory features top-of-the-line goods from manufacturers like Simms Fishing Products, Montana Fly Company, and R.L. Winston Fly Rods; along with other manufacturers outside of the state like Sage, Fishpond, and Patagonia.

Some outfitters have the philosophy that everything is on a time table. A day consists of eight hours and then you’re done. This is not the case with Thompson and Snow. They say that they want to be instrumental with helping the customers be “at one with the river” and that time is not an issue with them. They want to enhance the customer’s experience in the best ways possible. “We’re finished when you’re finished fishing,” said Snow.