My buddy and I have decided to plan a fly fishing trip to Montana in the Sep-Oct timeframe of 2012. I know you may think that I'm crazy for this post, but I am just beginning my research so please bear with me.
We want to do a non-guided (money/time reasons alone) trip. We intend to fly in, rent a car, and fish. We only have 1 week to capture our memory of a lifetime. We figure that we can find some Bed and Breakfasts along the way and we can eat when we get tired. We are open to suggestions.
I know you must be thinking that we are young and stupid, but I can assure you that we are just the opposite. He's old, I'm getting there, and we are dumb! All kidding aside, we just love to fish together and just want to try Montana. Although we intend to visit and perhaps wet a line in some of the world famous rivers, we would gladly trade them for the peace and solitude of the lesser known streams and tributaries. I know that local knowledge is king (and sacred), but any help or advice that any of you can share would be greatly appreciated.
PS>>>>>>I have had the pleasure of a few guides in my time and I have NEVER had a bad experience. I have also hired many professionals to perform work on my home. The part of my home that I enjoy the most is the deck That I built myself
None of my Montana knowledge is current so I'm not gonna give advise on that but................. Welcome to the forum, I hope you will do some more posting and tell the membership about where you are from, fish, and so on. Like breaking into any new group, getting to know folks will be necessary before you are told about the secret honey holes. Besides, you've got a year to become a social animal here and by then maybe some Montana members will be able to meet up with you and show you the ropes......
I've done a similar style trip the last two years. Flew in and out of Bozeman, rented a car, and fished the Gallatin, Madison, Lamar, Soda Butte, Lamar, Slough Creek, Yellowstone, and Boulder River. If you don't mind roughing it a bit, I recommend bringing camping gear with you. You can camp for dirt cheap right on the bank of most rivers. I figure that if I skimp on lodging I can afford a float trip one day of the trip.
If you decide to try this area, let me know and I'll give you some tips on places to stay, fish, and eat, including the source of the best jerky in known to man.
Good luck and have fun planning your trip. I have nearly as much fun planning a fishing trip as I do when I actually go.
Like Dave said, narrowing down your geographical parameters is probably the best way to start. There is nearly every kind of trout fishing your heart desires in Montana (big tailwater, famous and crowded, unknown and easy, remote, spring creeks, etc) and if you plan it right you can fish a little bit of everything (or whatever you want) all in the same relative geographical area.
I say relative because driving 100 miles to go fishing isn't a big deal on a Montana summer day.
Get a good map and study it for a while. You could go from Missoula to Bozeman, or Bozeman to Billings, or Billings to Yellowstone, or....lots and lots of options. But keep in mind, once you leave Bozeman area your B&B options are a lot less!!
Long and short: you could easily focus on one area (Missoula, Big Hole, Bozeman/Gallatin, Yellowstone, ect) and have more water to fish than you could do in 10 years. Trust me, I'm still working on it!
We have enjoyed DIY trips to MT/WY for 20 years now. Each trip creates lifetime memories, but don't discount the "before trip" research, map review, book reading, forum postings and pre-planning it is and can be a tremendous amount of fun. Enjoy the anticipation during the next year, then when you actually go, stay open minded and keep the only expectation one of "being there".
Anyway, as others have posted, more water than can be fished in a lifetime. My suggestion is to make a tenative plan, then have a secondary back up plan. It is important to have some flexiblity in your agenda on a DIY trip. You can never predict when an area you planned on visiting is closed for access. We have had trailhead, river access denied because of grizzlies, forest fire, high water temps, and road closures due to rockslides etc etc.
I want to thank you all for your replies and detailed responses. I have been away on business for a week and have not had time to check the forum until today.
I spent the first weeks of June (2011) scanning the net for information about Montana fishing. As a lifetime member of TU, I reached out the Montana TU and received a tremendous response with great leads and contacts. I looked at a few blogs and forums but nothing jumped out at me until I found this one. After reading a few posts, I was impressed and decided to do something that I rarely do. I decided to register and post my question. I never imagined that I would get replies so quickly and of such great value. You have all given us great ideas and plenty of food for thought. I want to thank you all and I will keep you posted as our research continues.
After reading all of the previous responses, I ordered the Montana Gazetteer in order to gain a grasp of the distances involved and to try to scale down my search criteria for the trip. I don't know of a better resource for a trip of this nature. I'm not sucking up, but;
I apologize for a poor introduction. I am from Massachusetts (blame my parents) and I have been fly fishing for about 15 years. I am self taught and due to my geographic location, my experience for trout has been limited to ponds for the most part. Although I have done some river fishing in the western part of the state, finding time and space has always been a challenge. I also fly fish the salt for striped bass, bluefish, and bonito. I am also an avid bow hunter. I prefer to do things alone. I don't dislike people, I just like seeing them much.
I never would have considered flying into one place and out another! Out of the box thinking that I will do for sure.
Roughing it is not an issue, but space for all the gear on the plane might be. I love the idea though. How 'bout this........I'll fly in, buy camping gear, get your advice on food and like, and then I can leave the gear for you for your next trip. I will give you a discount of course
You inspired me to get the Gazetteer. 100 miles of driving would not bother us in the least. Although Massachusetts is a rather small state, my job sometimes take me on trips beyond the state border. My first job today was 168 miles from home so please don't hesitate to make suggestions based upon distance alone. I can drive after fishing light.
You had a great point on the fallback plan. Although I intend to "lay" a plan down for the trip prior to departure, they are just guidelines for the trip. I just want an idea of what we want to do before arrive.
My buddy and I have been working and fishing together for about 10 years. He has been involved with float plane trips, canoe trips of 50 miles, as well as trips to Canada. In May of this year, we took a vacation with the usual crew of 6 guys and it didn't go so well. Towards the end of the trip, the question was asked "where are we going next year guys", I didn't respond. During a drive back from a pond later that day, I asked him a question........why don't you and I go to Montana? two second pause, let's do it he said, but only you and me!
We are both family men and realize that some people say they want to go on a fishing trip while others just want to get away from home. I am 46 years old and have always wanted to see Montana and 2012 will be the year that I do.
Great job on the lake, it looks like you picked a great day.
I have a question for you folks regarding my trip. Is Montana a "felt free" state? I have heard that many states are starting (considering) outlawing felt soled waders and just want to be prepared. Any thoughts would be appreciated.