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Old 02-13-2011, 03:06 PM
 
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Default Fishing trip to Montana from UK

Hi,
I'm a keen fly fisherman from the UK and have been browsing this forum, Great info on here guys/gals.

I'm planning a trip to Montana in late-April or early-May this year. I fancy fishing some of the great rivers I've read about (Madison, Missouri, etc) I was hoping I could get some advice from forum members in here.....

1) Am thinking of basing myself in Bozeman, I'll just get a hotel for the duration. Having never been to Montana before, is this a good place to base a fly fishing holiday?

2) I'll probably arrive around the 27th April for 2 weeks.......whats the fishing like at this time?

3) I'll get a guide for a couple of days, does anyone have recommendations of guides in the Bozeman area? Am happy to get PM's if you don't want to name guides publicly.

4) I've ordered a copy of "Montana on the Fly"......does anyone have any other books to recommend?

5) Does anyone have any rivers/access points to recommend for fishing at that time?

Thanks in advance for any advice given. It's much appreciated and I can't wait to visit.

Daran
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Old 02-13-2011, 06:22 PM
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Default Re: Fishing trip to Montana from UK

You are going to be right at the borderline between possibly great pre-runoff fishing on the Yellowstone and Madison and the onset of runoff, which makes the Yellowstone totally unfishable and dangerous (as in 50 foot trees floating down it) and the lower Madison marginal. The upper Madison is closed from the end of February through the third Saturday of May. All small creeks and most smaller rivers are closed until the third Saturday of May as well. Yellowstone National Park is closed until Memorial Day weekend (late May). The Missouri will be high and many fish will still be in the tributary streams spawning, but it is generally clear all spring, though if runoff is heavy it can get REALLY high.

Bozeman is a great place to base out of for the Madison and Yellowstone, as well as the private spring creeks and lakes. The Missouri below Holter is two hours from Bozeman, so Helena is a better place to base out of for it.

If this is your first trip to Montana and you want a wide range of options, you are much better off in late July and August. That's when it's most crowded here, but the dry fly fishing is much more consistent (if not always better), there are far more rivers open and fishing well, all the opportunities in YNP (fishing and tourism) are available, and the weather is very seldom uncomfortable. Everything you mention in your post fishes well with dry flies then, and the Yellowstone at least is very seldom truly crowded, either on foot or floating. There are a million small streams that don't see many anglers, and even the famous water in YNP can be relatively uncrowded if you hike. The non-famous stuff that isn't right next to the road is never crowded.

If you are stuck coming late April/early May, you should definitely plan to float the Yellowstone and Madison early in your stay, if they're still clear, with the Yellowstone first. Immediately after that the spring creeks are a good bet. Later in May, plan on playing tourist in YNP, going to the Missouri, and/or fishing private lakes.

Lots of information in the how-to section of Parks' Fly Shop's website (where I am head guide): Parks' Fly Shop Home: fly fishing yellowstone, yellowstone fishing guides, yellowstone fly shop

We guide in YNP, on the Yellowstone and its tributaries, and on the private creeks and lakes. We are basically just a booking agent for the Madison and don't do anything on the Missouri. I suggest Fly fishing outfitters Montana trout fly fishing for the Madison and Missouri.
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Old 02-13-2011, 07:07 PM
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Default Re: Fishing trip to Montana from UK

Get "Fly Fishers Guide to Montana"

Do you like big water or small water? Wade or Float?

Where to stay will really depends on the water you like.

From here.. into the park is still an hour and a half, Madison is close, Yellowstone is close, 2 hours to Missouri, Gallatin is right here

You could always mix it up.. stay in Dillon for a week (Beaverhead, BigHole, Ruby rivers).

Maybe Ennis - Madison, Ruby

Craig: Missouri

Missoula: Clark Fork, Bitterroot, Rock Cr

There are so many good rivers here... but they can be far apart

Good local shops:

Greater Yellowstone Flyfishers: Montana Fly Fishing Guides | Montana & Yellowstone Fly Fishing
Rivers Edge: The Rivers Edge - Bozeman, MT

Dillon: Frontier Anglers - Frontier Anglers

Last edited by dhayden; 02-13-2011 at 08:51 PM. Reason: fix link
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Old 02-13-2011, 07:41 PM
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Default Re: Fishing trip to Montana from UK

Daran,

You should be OK for runoff, but it will likely still be on the chilly side. The other replies offer some good advice.

One option I didn't see mentioned and that I would personally consider at that time of year is the Bighorn. You're not that far away ~2 1/2 hours on major interstate. For sure you'll want a guide for at least one day, but take a look on the web as they offer some great lodging/fishing packages. The Bighorn fishes well early and is a tailwater, so flows are pretty stable. It also arguably has the best ratio of quality fish/river mile in the region.

...just another of the plethora of options Montana has to offer...nice dilema to have

Have fun and tightlines!

Freestoneangler
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Old 02-13-2011, 10:17 PM
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Default Re: Fishing trip to Montana from UK

If you are here (Bozeman) on April 27 and stay for two weeks you should pretty much nail the caddis fly hatch on the Madison and Yellowstone.
If the water stays clear enough to fish you will hit the biggest, most epic hatch those two rivers have to offer in my opinion.
There will also be March Browns and Baetis hatches.

The Lower Madison, about 30 miles from Bozeman, will almost certainly be clear at least down to Cherry Creek.
The Yellowstone is much more unpredictable in the first week or two of May. It could stay clear enough to fish the whole time you are here or it could blow out completely within a couple of days of your arrival. Most likely you'll get a solid week of fishable water before run off but the Yellowstone rises and falls and muddies then clears often before the temps get high enough to cause full on run-off.

You should know that people come from all over the country to try and hit the caddis fly hatch. The bugs hatch so thick they literally carpet the water at times. I've seen it so thick that it becomes pointless to fish. Even though fish are rising everywhere your fly is lost amongst the bazillion they have to chose from. This hatch also brings up the big fish and when it's happening you can often look for the big browns and rainbows and target them specifically. I caught a 24" brown on an elk hair caddis last year during the hatch.

The only drawback to your date of April 27th is the possibility of an earlier than usual run-off. But I honestly can't remember, in my 25 years of fishing what are my home rivers, of the Yellowstone blowing out completely that early. It may have happened but April 27th would be unusual and very early.
If you get a more or less normal run-off pattern you should be able to expect some of if not THE most epic dry fly of your life

The Lower Madison is almost guaranteed to be fishable the whole time you are here and also gets an epic caddis fly hatch though it doesn't get quite as ridiculously thick as the Yellowstone. It is easier to wade and has more access than the Yellowstone.
You can hike up Beartrap canyon and experience all of the hatches I mentioned plus you can throw big stonefly nymphs and streamers which can be very effective at that time of year (same goes for the Yellowstone actually). And you can do all that in a roadless wilderness canyon.
Learn how to identify poison ivy, it's everywhere up there and will destroy your vacation if you decide to mess with the pretty green bushes with the white berries. Seriously, don't ignore this warning if you go up there.

I actually try to get friends and relatives to come out right around the time you are thinking of but seeing as how you are coming from thousands of miles away you should be aware of the risk of an early run-off due to early high temps and or a lot of rain. You should have a back-up plan just in case like the Bighorn which is a tailwater and will be fishable no matter what.

You also have the Gallatin which is closest to Bozeman and has lots of access up the canyon.

Flyfisher's Guide to Montana by Greg Thomas covers pretty much everything I've mentioned.

I would recommend these fly shops:

Montana Troutfitters (Bozeman)
George Andersons and Dan Baileys (Livingston)

You might consider a side trip to the Big Hole. I would chose that over either the Missouri or the Bighorn because it's closer and far more beautiful.

But seriously, if the weather cooperates and the caddis come off in their normal time frame you should see some of the best dry fly of your life.
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Old 02-14-2011, 01:27 AM
 
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darans is on a distinguished road
Default Re: Fishing trip to Montana from UK

Thanks for all the information and advice guys. There's so much to consider and the Gallatin/Bighorn backup sounds like good plan.

I'll give one of the outfitters recommended a call and take some advice there too.

You've whetted my appetite!!

Daran
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Old 02-14-2011, 02:57 PM
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Default Re: Fishing trip to Montana from UK

Looks like Bugger and the other Bozeman guys have you covered. We are having excellent snow packs in the mountains to date and if the pattern holds for another month or two we're promised a blow out type of run-off like we haven't had for a quite a few years (at least not over here in the Western part of the state.) So I hope you miss it, it's always a gamble in the spring but like BlackBugger said, if you win the bet the payoff will be epic.

If you're interested in the Bighorn get in touch with forum member, Bighorn Flies. He guides over there. Billings is only a few hours from Bozeman (that's a nice drive for around here).

Blackbugger - now you've got me all fired up about that caddis hatch! I don't get over there to fish very often anymore and have never fished that hatch. I'll most likely be heading to Billings for Easter at my in-laws...is that hatch swingin by then??

---------- Post added at 01:57 PM ---------- Previous post was at 01:55 PM ----------

Quote:
Originally Posted by blackbugger View Post
I caught a 24" brown on an elk hair caddis last year during the hatch.
Did you "elk hair" caddis have a black marabou tail and wing by chance?
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Old 02-14-2011, 08:07 PM
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Default Re: Fishing trip to Montana from UK

Quote:
Originally Posted by dean_mt View Post

Blackbugger - now you've got me all fired up about that caddis hatch! I don't get over there to fish very often anymore and have never fished that hatch. I'll most likely be heading to Billings for Easter at my in-laws...is that hatch swingin by then??

---------- Post added at 01:57 PM ---------- Previous post was at 01:55 PM ----------



Did you "elk hair" caddis have a black marabou tail and wing by chance?
I doubt it but it might be possible. I've never gone lower than Springdale during the hatch and I'm not sure how far downstream the bugs hatch.
But the March Brown drakes will definitely be out as will the Baetis.

I would think that if there is a caddis hatch (which is the so called mothers day hatch which I believe is the American Grannom, someone correct me if I'm wrong) down low it would start a little earlier but I'm just guessing.

It would be fun to hit it somewhere between Big Timber and Columbus but I really don't know if it happens down there. I imagine the Billings people would know...

And you know often times in the first few days of the hatch it seems to be mostly the small fish on it and the bigger fish seem to wait around for the drakes to hatch. I've been out there throwing meat and slaughtered the big browns while everyone is catching twinks on dries, not that there is anything wrong with that.
Big black buggers......
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Old 02-14-2011, 10:19 PM
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Default Re: Fishing trip to Montana from UK

Quote:
Originally Posted by blackbugger View Post
I doubt it but it might be possible. I've never gone lower than Springdale during the hatch and I'm not sure how far downstream the bugs hatch.
Sorry, I wasn't clear. I am not talking about fishing the Yellowstone way down there, I was asking if the Mother's Day caddis is in full swing near Livingston or on the Jeff around Easter, which is late April this year. I can talk my wife into stopping for a few hours, weather depending. Or an overnight at Chico...that'll get her attention...

My other option is to come up with a reason I have to stay in Missoula - like painting the bedroom - and then fish here for a couple days (I can paint real fast, and all night)!
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Old 02-14-2011, 10:20 PM
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Default Re: Fishing trip to Montana from UK

If I had to pick any river to fish at that time in Montana. It would be the Bighorn, hands down. Between April 20th and May 20th the Rainbows and Browns come up the River in the first 6 miles and sit in the side channels and just eat and eat. You have the best chance all year to catch a rainbow over 26 inches and some pushing into the 30 inch range. If they increase the flows this year like they did last year your odds are even better especially if your using a big worm pattern. Unfortunately I'm not guiding this year, I've got a newborn and need to be close to home for at least a year. But if you want to go Fishing I will be more than happy to let you sit in the front of my boat at no charge. I can also get your lodging arranged for you through the shop I work at.

Here's a couple of Pics from last Spring, as an example.

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