Re: Need MT trip advise!
You have tons of different options for Montana. The Bighorn will be one of your nearest locations to Minnesota and it does offer some great fishing, however it does not offer a lot of solitude and the wade fishing opportunities are limited in comparison to many other areas in Montana. If you know how to row a boat at all you can rent boats on the Bighorn and it will open up many more opportunities for fishing. There is public camping on the river and most likely you will be fine pitching a tent at either the Bighorn access or the camp sites at the Afterbay dam. Keep in mind though that the river is on the Crow Indian Reservation, if you want a camp site that is patroled and looked after 24/7 you may want to look into Cottonwood Camp which has nice campsites as well as bathrooms and shower facilities for about the same price as the public camping areas.
If you want more solitude or options for fishing more than one river on your three day trip you may want to keep driving West. The Stillwater area near Redlodge/Absorkee is a nice area that offers a couple of smaller creeks as well as access to some nice hiking to creeks and lakes on the Beartooth Plateau, which also is home to the Beartooth Highway that Charles Kuralt calls the best drive in America. Red Lodge is a very fun town and there is camping in the National Forest above town.
Further west you will come to Livingston which is a great fishing town and it is on the banks of the Yellowstone River. There are lots of great camping sites along the Yellowstone, with some of the most scenic ones being South of Livingston in the Paradise Valley. Mallard's Rest, Loch Leven and Paradise fishing access sites all have very nice established campsites right along the river. Many people float the Yellowstone but for a large river it does have some good wade fishing opportunities as well. If you choose the Livingston area let me know and I can give you some hints on where and how to fish the Yellowstone on foot. Using one of these sites as your base camp you can venture to several tribs of the Yellowstone as well as test your skills on one of the famous spring creeks in the valley if you want to pony up the extra bucks. You are also within a short drive to the north entrance to Yellowstone which has lots of options for fishing. From Mallards Rest you are about an hour and 15 to one and half hours drive to Slough Creek, Soda Butte and the Lamar inside the park. Early Fall is a great time to fish these famous park waters and it can be easily done from your central camping area. Livingston offers some great night life, restaurants and plenty of fly shops to get advice. Chico Hot Springs is also in the Valley and a soak in the pool with a cocktail in hand and live music in the bar make for an end to a great day. You can also make a day trip to either the Madison (60 miles to the lower river, 90 to the upper river), the Gallatin (45 miles) as well as many smaller creeks and lakes. Of course this is my home waters so I may be a bit biased to this area of the state since I choose to live smack dab in the middle of all this fishing.
You can keep traveling south, west or north from Livingston and have many other options. North of the area you have the Missouri which is a great tailwater fishery that is pretty friendly to wade even though it is a large river. West of Livingston you can choose the Dillion area which will give you the Bighole, Beaverhead and Ruby rivers. Further west is Missoula which offers up some great rivers as well. Rock Creek, Clark's Fork, Black Foot and the Bitteroot are all fishable in the Missoula area. Missoula would be the furthest away but they do have some of the best dry fly fishing opportunities in the fall.
There are lots of choices and many places to go for a great vacation. With your time constraints of only three days as well as my assumption that you will be driving from MN you may want to look at the Bighorn, Red Lodge area or Livingston. Dillion is another two hours from Livingston and Missoula is about 3 1/2 more hours of driving.
If you narrow down a specific area you want to try send me and IM and I will give you some more specific details to areas to camp and wade fish. Good luck with your trip planning and I am sure you will have a great time where ever you choose to fish.