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Best of Montana in Spring: Shopping

Check out these stores for one-of-a-kind Montana-made gifts for spring travelers.

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Dan Bailey's is a one-stop shop for fly-fishing enthusiasts and beginners in Livingston, Montana.

Dan Bailey's, Livingston

For novice fly fishermen and old pros alike, the late conservationist and fly-fishing expert Dan Bailey is considered Montana’s “lord of the flies.” After Bailey moved from New York City to Montana and opened his Dan Bailey fly-fishing shop in 1938, some publicity from his East Coast friends—including a mention in the first issue of Sports Illustrated—led legions of anglers to Livingston. A mail-order, and now online, catalog expanded the reach of Bailey’s hand-tied flies (artificial lures crafted from thread, feathers, fur, and other materials). Although he died in 1982, Dan Bailey’s shop continues to reel in new anglers. The store stocks rods, reels, waders, tackle, and hundreds of hand-tied flies, including the Marabou Muddler and other intricate patterns designed by Bailey. If fly-fishing is on your Montana bucket list, stop in the shop to see how flies are tied, check the local fishing reports, or hire an expert guide. “Livingston is not a tourist town like a lot of others in Montana,” says John Bailey, who runs the legendary store established by his father. “It’s a fishing town, and there’s always somewhere good to fish around here.”

The Base Camp, Helena and Billings

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Playing and staying safe in the great outdoors requires the right gear and, often, a bit of expert instruction. Both are available at the Base Camp, a Montana-owned outfitter with locations in Helena and Billings. All sorts of essential gear is available for daily or multiday rentals, including backpacks, climbing shoes, kayaks, tents, sleeping bags, and stand-up paddle boards. Or browse the extensive selection of rugged mountain and casual urban clothing and footwear. And before you hit the trail or water, check out the Base Camp website to see instructional videos and a schedule of upcoming classes in such disciplines as rock climbing, kayaking, canoeing, and skiing. Better yet, visit the store to ask for suggestions on where to hike, kayak, camp, or climb. “The real treasure at the Base Camp is its staff,” says frequent customer and Helena resident Bruce Newell. “The folks who work there are invariably friendly, knowledgeable, and have good advice to offer.” Newell was particularly impressed by a store-sponsored rock-climbing workshop he took with his daughter. He adds: "There are literally thousands of Helena residents whose enjoyment of the outdoors has been elevated by participating in a Base Camp class.”

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