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Burgers - The perfect meal for fly fishing guides and fly shop rats

by Mike Loebl January 27, 2020 4 Comments

Burgers - The perfect meal for fly fishing guides and shop rats

Mike Loebl - Professional Fly Fishing Guide and BBQ Master


While I am normally writing overly nerdy, ultra-technical fishing rants, I thought I’d write about something very dear to the heart.  Burgers.

Burgers are a staple of fly fishing guides and fly shop rat existence.  

You can go into any bar/restaurant/diner in the West (that doesn’t annoyingly just have a fryer or a microwave) and order a Burger.  It will be OK. It may not be great, it may not be good but it will be acceptable sustenance and it will for sure be better than 75 percent of the other stuff on the menu.  More than likely it will be the best thing on the menu, as the person making it has doubtlessly cooked 100 times more burgers in his/her time behind a flat top than smoked pork chop with a demi-glace that sits above it on the menu.  Things like this are important when trying to feed yourself in places like Wisdom, Mt after a day of fishing the Salmonfly hatch on the Big Hole.  

If eating out with clients, the burger is always a safe bet and will be one of the cheapest things on the menu that actually makes up for the calories you burned pulling the oars all day.  That way your people aren’t put out and you get a solid meal that 99 percent of the time will be perfectly edible.

The town of West Yellowstone itself has lots of places to get a burger, and like most of West Yellowstone’s food options, the burgers are equally mediocre.  In the town itself, the Gusher probably has the best burger. It’s big, very consistent, toppings are good (lettuce, tomato, pickles, red onion on the side) and cheap by West Yellowstone’s inflated standards.  Several other places in town serve perfectly acceptable burgers as well. 

West Yellowstone has a plethora of places that give you the choice of up selling yourself on a Bison Burger for a few more bucks.  If you like dried out, less juicy burgers, go right ahead and jump on that. Bison is lean meat. Fat makes burgers taste good. Do the math.  People get sold on the idea that they are eating the Bison that they drove by in Yellowstone (you know, the one that caused the massive traffic jam that made you miss most of the PMD hatch on the Firehole that morning).  These Bison burgers come from a farm in the Dakotas, not from Hayden Valley. And don’t get me started on the “Wild” Rainbow Trout on the menu.

Some great burger places have recently closed, or changed hands in West Yellowstone.  Kiwi, The Firehole when Swanny owned it and was cooking and Arrowleaf, which delivered the greasiest burger in town for a while for when you wanted to lubricate/clog your heart valves, all have sadly gone away.

Outside of West, there are several great options that beat any burger in town hands down.  If you are fishing Hebgen Lake and the stomach starts to rumble, head straight to the Happy Hour.  The standard burger is excellent. The Garlic Burger is delicious and serves the added bonus of giving you plenty of room from the poor person trapped next to you on your flight home the next day.  If fishing around Ennis, the Gravel Bar serves a tasty burger. In the Gallatin Canyon, the Riverhouse BBQ has a mean burger on the menu, though they are best known for their excellent smoked meats. Fishing The Fork? The Frostop in Ashton is fantastic, as you will shorten your lifespan with a deliciously greasy burger.  Tots and shakes are awesome as well. Corral Burger in Gardiner has put an exclamation point on a few days of floating the Yellowstone.


Burgers also have a great deal of utility for the guide/shop rat cooking at home.  Again, they are CHEAP. For a guy spending half his paycheck on tippet, flies, and floatant while saving for a new trout spey outfit, this is a VERY important consideration. Ground meat is ground meat, but try buying a good ribeye in the grocery stores in West Yellowstone……(save yourself the trouble and pick steaks up at Clark’s Butcher shop in Bozeman or Deemo’s meats in Ennis).

Firing up the grill is a great way to wind down after a day on the river and enjoying the evening with friends.  When you are in a hurry, waiting for a steak to come to temp doing a reverse sear on the grill after fishing the Brown Drake spinner fall on the Ranch until after 11 at night isn’t an option.  Light the grill and smash those burgers out thin…. Yes, I will have a triple. Add toppings like lettuce and tomato and you cover all the salad bases for a healthy balanced meal that you can eat several times a week.

Of course, the very best burger in West Yellowstone comes from a secluded location.  It starts with organic ground beef made into thick 1/2 lb patties. These are slowly smoked over a charcoal fire with a few Pecan chunks thrown in for good measure.  Once up to temp, they are quickly seared in direct flames and given a thick slice of smoked Gouda to melt on top. A grilled bun topped with Mayo, sliced Kosher dills and tomato fills out the meal.  Come to think of it, I’m getting hungry. I might have to make a burger.


Mike Loebl, Professional Fly Fishing Guide

Mike began fly fishing at the age of 7 in his home state of Michigan, where he would later start his career in the industry at a fly shop in Northville. Fast forward to the present and Mike has been with MRO for the better part of the past two decades.  Mike has been instructing both single hand and two-handed fly casting throughout his time at MRO.  He spends an excessive amount of time on the water trying new techniques and refining his approach to the river.  As a guide, Mike loves to help his anglers hone their skills and teach folks how to be more effective fly fishers.  When not fishing, Mike can be found spending time with his wife Alice Owsley (also a fly fishing guide in the area) and their dog Norman.

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Mike Loebl
Mike Loebl


4 Responses

Mike Loebl
Mike Loebl

February 27, 2020

John and Jack, great to hear from you guys, miss both of you! Steve, I’ve eaten a lot of burgers at TroutHunter and they are great but if I get a chance to eat at the Frostop, I’m there every time.

Steve Whisler
Steve Whisler

February 26, 2020

It’s interesting that you omitted the upper Henry’s Fork. Trouthunter and Pond’s both sell a lot of burgers for to anglers and guides.

Jack Cummings
Jack Cummings

February 26, 2020

Miss you bud. Smart move for MRO to hired a kid who schooled Dick Pobst on caddis.
I hardly ever see the gang since moving to NC and when we are around that Al guy hogs you all to himself. I still bug Johnny B on FB but straightening that critter out just impossible.
Keep the faith and keep on rowing and sharing dude. Glad you found a home that suits you to a T.
Be well,
Your old pal Jack

John A. Bayerl
John A. Bayerl

February 10, 2020

Nice bit of writing, Mike. Good to hear from you and know that you are doing so well.

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