I'm planning a trip to Montana for about 2 weeks around mid-August. I live in Portland, Oregon and will be going with my wife, who does some flyfishing, but is probably as interested in just being out in nature as in flyfishing.
We'll drive, probably via Spokane, through Missoula, and mostly stay in motels. I'm not counting the driving time in the 2 weeks. I did a little fishing on the Bitterroot, Big Hole, Madison and in Yellowstone NP some years back. This trip I would like to take more time and hit more of the major rivers.
I prefer to fish dries if I can be successful but have no problem with nymphs etc. if that's the best way to catch good fish. Here are the rivers I am considering:
Rock Creek, Madison, Gallatin, Yellowstone, Beaverhead, Big Hole, Big Horn, Missouri. I also might want to fish a day in YNP.
Is this too many rivers in a two week period? I am thinking I might need to narrow the list down a bit.
My thought was to do a one day guided float on each of the following: Madison, Yellowstone, Beaverhead, Big Horn and Missouri. In addition I was planning to wade fish the Madison as well as the rivers we don't float like Rock Creek, Gallatin and Big Hole. My wife is not a great caster. Are the Beaverhead, Missouri and Big Horn likely to be too technical for her to catch some fish and have fun?
Also, the Big Horn (and to some extent the Missouri) is a longer drive for us than the SW Montana rivers. Is it worth the extra travel? I know these rivers are supposed to have great fishing.
I'm trying to come up with a reasonable plan with some variety but I also don't want to spend most of our time racing from one spot to the next.
I would appreciate any input from you Montana experts.
August could be the wild-card here.. depending on how fats the snow melts and how the water is. You'll only know as it gets closer. You just may have to alter your plans a bit.
There's a couple cities you could stay in for 2 or 3 or 100 days to fish the area waters: Missoula, Dillon, Bozeman, BigSky, Ennis.. then West Yellowstone or Gardiner. Pick a city.. then look for fishing easily reached from there
I'd narrow it down based on how much you want to drive around.. then fill in the rivers.
Beaverhead is a great river. My wife and I go with a guide on it every year for the last 10+. It's not what I would call technical fishing, your wife will have a great time. It's not a very accessible wading river, but there are a few spots to get into, depending on water flow.
Missouri, I haven't fished it much, (which I will correct) but it should be fine as well.
Big Hole you might throw into the float category too.. Have a guide one day.. wade fish it for a few days after that?
Gallatin... ok .. I'm biased, it does have great wade access, and different stretches look like different rivers
Troutfitters.. has the best on-line fishing reports around
Wow man, that is a great plan! I am jealous and I live here!
Great idea to be guided on the larger rivers. As Dave mentioned, mid-August can be a red-flag, but we have a really good snow pack here in the Western part of the state, looks like the summer will be fine...but you really never know until after runoff.
The tailwaters will fish no matter what. The Missouri is not really out of the way and well worth the few extra miles to be guided down. The fishing can be technical, but it can also be surprisingly easy with a good Hopper summer or strong caddis or PMD hatches and a good guide. The Bighorn is definitely out of the way. It is another couple hundred miles from the furthest East you have mentioned, Bozeman/YNP area. And it is the ONLY trout fishery for those couple hundred miles. That said, I went down there for the first and only time last Easter Sunday with my father in law, (they live in Billings) to get out of the house for a while and just see it...it is an amazing looking river. We only fished for an hour or so but I really want to go back...it's just so damn far I don't know when I ever will.
Guide the Beaverhead, too, a lot of fish, a lot of big fish! The Big Hole is one of my very favorite wading rivers. Rock Creek will be in good shape, nice place to stay for a night or two.
As Dave said, go to Twin Bridges. That is a trout mecca, Big Hole and Beaverhead come together there to from the Jefferson, which depending on the level could be good. Ruby is lots of fun.
If you are going to fish only a couple of the Missoula area rivers, and where going to splurge for a guide here, I recommend passing up the Bitterroot that time of the year and going down the lower Clark Fork. It's a sleeper.
Keep in touch, this trip has got me all excited. This weekend might be the last chance for Missoula fishing for a while, it's expected to hit 80 on Sunday and the snow is gonna come down fast! Dave, when are we going to meet at the Missouri? I'll buy shuttles and beer and lunch!