Our Guides

J.D. Bingman has been a resident in Big Sky and fishing Montana for over 45 years. He found a passion for fly fishing for trout, and has mastered his skills to teach you to do the same. J.D and his crew have the skills and area knowledge to show you the tricks of our trade. We will get you hooked on catching your own Montana Wild Trout with a fly rod in your hand. For fly fishing at is best choose us (Wild Trout Outfitters) as your local Big Sky connection, it is never too late, for your appointment with Mr. Fish.

Dave Williamson grew up trout fishing the waters of Colorado with his father and grandfather. He headed north in 1993, relocating to Big Sky and commenced the burdensome task of extensively fishing the local rivers and lakes. He has been guiding southwest Montana for many years and resides with his family in Bozeman. If you would like to fish the Madison, Gallatin, Yellowstone rivers or smaller, lesser known options, he can get you on the fish while providing witty repertoire and scintillating conversation!

Nick Lawton has been a year round fishing guide for the last ten years. Nick guides in Patagonia Chile in our winters, Steelhead in California in the fall, and his favorite time of the year is spent guiding the legendary rivers around the Big Sky area. The Gallatin, Madison, and Yellowstone rivers are where you will find him throughout our summer. Professional and very fishy best sum up this year rounder. Armed with a custom fly fishing raft and also a drift boat this man can put you on em at anytime throughout the season. Whether you are looking for a nice walk wade trip, a whitewater fly fishing adventure, or a nice drift boat float down one of our premier rivers this is the guide to call.

Sam Geppert I grew up in Pittsburgh PA where my father instilled my love of fishing at an early age. We spent summers fishing for bass and walleye on all of the rivers and lakes in the region but what really got me hooked where the springs we spent fishing for native brook trout on a small tributary in northern PA named Baily Brooke. My great uncle Avery taught my father to fish there and he passed on the family knowledge to my brother and I. In 2000 I moved to Big Sky and was lucky enough to meet JD. He took my love of fishing and properly directed it to the wild trout of southwest Montana. I learned more in the next two years losing to JD in a little game we like to call “you miss I fish” than most anglers learn in a lifetime. In 2002 JD proclaimed that I was ready to guide. Since then I have been teaching clients to fish the waters of southwest Montana every season, and have been blessed to meet many great people and many great fish!

Matt Ruuhela divides his time between skiing and fly fishing. He is also an avid fly-tier and many local shops have his flies in their bins.The only thing Matt likes to do more than fly fishing is spinning up custom bug’s for Wild Trout Outfitters. With his background in ski school he is a natural fly fishing instructor and can get you casting like a pro in no time at all.

Tom Gardner is originally from the coast of North Carolina Tom moved to southwest Montana in the early 90’s. Having spent many years fishing the west Tom has developed a passion for the”big rivers” and loves to float fish. Whether you are a true beginner or seasoned die-hard Tom can put you on the fish.

Luke (Luke)
Hailing from Northern Michigan, Luke’s fly fishing career started at the age of seven. In 2006 he left the “Mit” for the wild rivers of the Rocky Mountain West. Living in Colorado, Wyoming, and Southwest Montana allowed him to tune his life’s rhythm to Trout, Steelhead, Salmon, and skiing deep powder. Teaching outdoor sports is his life’s passion… and so are analogies. When not guiding the Madison, Yellowstone, or Gallatin Rivers he is probably chasing the androgynous fish of the Pacific in Idaho, Oregon, or Washington. As fall weather begins to freeze the guides of the fly rod he trades the cold waters of the mountains for the tropical saltwater flats of the Caribbean to chase Bonefish, Permit, and Tarpon. He spends the heart of
the winter teaching Alpine Skiing & Snowboarding at our local ski resort. An ideal day on the river with Luke would be drifting in his skiff, learning how to get big fish to the “Happy Place” and the subtle tactics of “Cast, Drift, Set, Get’em in the Net”! Very laid back, patient, and passionate about sharing his love for the outdoor lifestyle, it is not just about the fish when you spend a day on the river with Luke; it’s about getting to the “Happy Place” and spending “All day, every day, for the rest of your life” right there where you belong.

Mike Merchant

CEO & Founder of The Happy Place. Not sure what that is? Come fish with Mike. From his roots fishing the Hex Hatch of Northern Michigan, Mike made his way to Big Sky in 2015.  He leads a pretty great life, teaching skiing in the winters at Big Sky Resort and guiding fishing trips in the summers.

Ian Secrest grew up 45 miles off the grid on the North Fork of the Flathead River adjacent to Glacier National Park. Learning to fish and hunt from his dad he established a solid foundation and appreciation for the great outdoors.

Shortly after high school Ian moved to Bozeman, earning his first degree in business management from Montana State University, and a second, unofficial degree in fishing and floating on the waters of the Madison, Gallatin, and Yellowstone. For seven seasons he also whitewater raft guided on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho’s Frank Church Wilderness. It is here where he gained a full appreciation for all things related to rivers; fish, scenery, wild rapids, and the satisfaction of sharing these remarkable places with others.

Ian spends his winter months tying flies, working as a timber framer, and fishing his favorite places with his black lab named Streamer. Join him on the water and spend a great day learning about local fly fishing, hear a few far off whitewater tales, and gain an appreciation for Montana’s great outdoors.

Brenden Birkholz

Grew up in a fishing family somewhere in Minnesota eating only Hot dish . He moved to Montana to follow his passion of Fly Fishing and Skiing. Brenden spends his winter teaching skiing in the Snow sports School at Big Sky, and his summers on the rivers of southwest Montana guiding for Wild Trout Outfitters. Brenden enjoys the teaching aspect of guiding fly fishermen and can add as little or as much instruction as you desire. Brenden is equally thrilled with a trout rising to your dry fly or the fish launching out of the river with your streamer in it’s jaw! Whether it be a dry fly, or some subsurface offering he can adapt to the most productive method of bringing the fish to the end of your line.

Justin Akins…

Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest in a family that enjoyed all outdoor pursuits. If you can ride it, race it or catch it he was exposed to it at an early age. Making his way to Big Sky in 2018 to ski the most challenging in bounds terrain in North America now it is the Rivers of southwest Montana that has his full attention. Fishing 300 days a year no matter the conditions.“I’d fish through a tornado if I can keep my flies in the water”Bad weather has never been an excuse for this angler. His patience pays off in his pursuit of trout and his style of teaching his passion for angling to others.“Don’t forget to stop and take in the beauty of where you’re at. I know I am”