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Old 08-28-2013, 07:38 PM
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Default Montana Crowds?

How bad are they between Memorial Day and Labor Day?

I have been hearing increasingly unflattering reports that during the prime months, the most noted rivers are swamped with boats and people. I have heard of "bumper boat" type scenarios and of boats not respecting wading anglers.

The Fall and Winter are my favorite times to fish because of the beautiful colors, weather and lack of people normally. From the stand point of considering a future move to Missoula or Bozeman, it would not be appealing to have to deal with this craziness for 5 months!

Just looking for some info from those who live there year around and that can attest to or diffuse what I have heard.
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Old 08-28-2013, 09:54 PM
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Default Re: Montana Crowds?

You don't have to fish the most crowded rivers. There's lots of water in Montana.

I rarely fish the Upper Madison, Yellowstone in Paradise Valley, Missouri and Big Horn in the summer. I really have very little interest in the Big Horn regardless of the time of year.
That being said you can still float and wade those rivers and have an enjoyable experience even on the weekends.

There is so much other water available, that I'm not going to mention, that with a little bit of an adventurous spirit you can find relatively unpressured fishing pretty much anytime you want.
Also, most of us tend to think nothing of driving a couple of hours to get to where we want to fish, which opens up hundreds and hundreds of miles of rivers and creeks.

Also the busiest time is still only about 8-10 weeks long.

Also some of the absolute best fishing occurs before Memorial Day and after Labor Day and runoff can take up anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks, depending on the river and the snowpack, of the time between those holidays.
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Old 08-29-2013, 07:17 AM
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Default Re: Montana Crowds?

Like the above.. we have a lot of water

We have 1M residents, spread out over a large area, and I think about 75K non-resident licenses a year?, with so many rivers.. unless you must fish at spot 'X', it's not an issue for me

Most of the 'famous' rivers are big enough, with so many boat ramps, it's really not an issue, but, it may not be solitude

If you're floating, you may see a lot of boats going in, but they spread out pretty quickly.. if you're wading, always easy to find a spot to yourself.
There's only one river I fish, I feel that gets truly crowded - but it's very small.
I do fish the Yellowstone in summer, no issue for me.

I doubt there's much water anywhere in the country that's not considered crowded, if it has the fish/fishing to make it have a reputation.. certainly it's far better here, than water near big cities.. no where near anything like those pictures you see on the west coast or back east
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Old 08-29-2013, 08:33 AM
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Default Re: Montana Crowds?

One of the reasons the rivers get crowded is because of the people like you and me that moved here to get away from so many people! So when I start to get cranky about crowded rivers its good to take deep breath and keep my perspective.

Like bugger and Dave said, the people that live here figure out where to go fishing in July without the tourists. It may take you a few years to find the spots and waters that aren't talked about in the shops but that is part of the fun. If you don't like to explore or on wild goose chases to try new waters that may never pan out, then you will be doomed to fishing with the crowds.

In the Missoula area, the popular rivers are the Bitterroot, Clark Fork, Blackfoot and Rock Creek and if you only read online fishing reports or listened to the generic shop talk, you'd think they were the only 4 rivers in W MT. But this is part of the reason why every recommendation in the fly shop to non-locals is to head to one of these rivers - because those guys live and fish here too.

I won't lie, June salmonfly season is insane on Rock Creek and the upper Root, way too many fisherman. And it stays steady through the summer. "Bumper boats" is an exaggeration on any river in Missoula, if any the Root is the worst because it isn't as large but very popular. Bumper inner tubes on Blackfoot is a very real issue though. The Missouri is a a place where you will fish with other boats all day.
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Last edited by dean_mt; 08-29-2013 at 01:40 PM. Reason: cleaned up the thumb typing typos
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Old 08-29-2013, 09:45 AM
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Default Re: Montana Crowds?

No expert on Montana Rivers, but as a bank angler I'm most framiler with the Biterroot. Boats do go buy, but that whole process takes seconds before their gone. On my last trip over (a 16 hour drive from Southern Oregon) I fished for five days and didn't see a another bank angler the whole time. I actually thought that a bit unusual as the places I fished were all well marked public access points.
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Old 08-29-2013, 10:06 AM
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Default Re: Montana Crowds?

We fished right outside Bozeman last year in July for a few days. Saw a few people but were easily able to get water all to ourselves. Just enough other people that we could talk fishing with another angler for a few minutes every hour or so.

We know about crowds here in Missouri. Just visit the opening day debacle at one of our trout parks!

Click the image to open in full size.
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Old 08-29-2013, 10:30 AM
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Default Re: Montana Crowds?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mridenour View Post
We fished right outside Bozeman last year in July for a few days. Saw a few people but were easily able to get water all to ourselves. Just enough other people that we could talk fishing with another angler for a few minutes every hour or so.

We know about crowds here in Missouri. Just visit the opening day debacle at one of our trout parks!

Click the image to open in full size.

There is noooo way I'd be there!

---------- Post added at 08:30 AM ---------- Previous post was at 08:29 AM ----------

Thank you all for the responses thus far! I am appreciating all of the insight and I look forward to hearing more.
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Old 08-29-2013, 10:36 AM
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Default Re: Montana Crowds?

I'm part of the MT problem as well. I escaped the insanity of East Coast fishing as I was sick of put and take rivers chock full of people. Throughout the summer I've fished lot of the common, famous rivers that tourists target and never really felt crowded.

However, when you want to be alone it's very easy to find good water and not see someone all day.
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Old 08-29-2013, 07:47 PM
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Default Re: Montana Crowds?

I prefer fishing alone, always have. When too young to drive, granpa would take me to an isolated river location drop me off with a tent and groceries for the weekend with a Sunday evening pick-up. Those places are still available in Montana if you put in some time and don't mind carrying bear spray.

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Old 08-29-2013, 09:39 PM
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Default Re: Montana Crowds?

Another thing you have to remember is that the guides almost all use the same accesses at more or less the same times. Take the "bird float" (Gray Owl Access to Mallard's Rest Access) on the Yellowstone. About 8 AM the guide boats start showing up at Gray Owl, and by about 9:30 they've all put in and headed downriver. So if you want to float without a guide, why not get on the river at 6 AM? Or wait until 11 AM or noon and float til near dark? Or put in at the access that's midway between Gray Owl and Mallard's Rest and float down to Pine Creek? I honestly think the short stretch from Mallard's Rest to Pine Creek gets floated less than half as much as the float from Gray Owl to Mallard's Rest.

By late summer, the Yellowstone is low enough that you can do a lot of wading, too, and really concentrate on a lot of water that the guided floats whiz by dragging nymphs. I've done floats by myself where all I did was stop at every little "riffle corner", slower water eddies adjacent to the lower end of riffles, and fish the current seams. The guide boats are either fishing the other side of the river where the water's deeper, or they have their clients drag a nymph through the seam as they go by in the faster water, which is a very ineffective way to fish those places. But get out and fish them carefully and you'll find a lot of fish.

Or check out some of the side channels by wading...

Point is, yes, rivers like the Yellowstone are crowded in the summer, but 90% of the anglers are fishing the same water the same way at roughly the same time. Get out of synch with them and you can have a great day.

And there are lots of smaller creeks coming out of the mountains where, if you're willing to work at it, you can find complete solitude and great fishing for small to medium size trout, including native cutthroats.

One more thing, with a story to illustrate it...

I was driving back from meeting someone in West Yellowstone one late June afternoon, driving down the Madison River valley toward Ennis. I'd packed the rod and flies in case I had time to stop somewhere on the Madison and fish for a while, and fortunately the meeting was over very quickly, so I pretty much had the whole afternoon. But as I came to each access, it was incredibly crowded. The Three Dollar Bridge parking lot was completely full, the overflow parking lot on the other side of the river was full, and cars were parked along the side of the road for hundreds of yards. I crossed over the bridge in amazement, for as far as I could see up and down the river there were anglers every 50 feet or so. It looked like a Missouri trout park on opening day (and yes, I'm from Missouri, so I've seen those trout parks). Every other access was almost as bad, and I just drove on in disgust. Until I decided to check out the access just across the river from Ennis. There was nobody there. I was so amazed that instead of immediately starting to fish, I drove back into Ennis and asked somebody at one of the fly shops what the deal was; I was afraid that for some reason that access was closed to fishing.

"No," the guy said, "It's just that the salmon fly hatch is going strong upstream, but it hasn't gotten down this far yet."

Hmm...salmon flies and thousands of anglers, or no salmon flies but no anglers...

I fished from that access the rest of the afternoon, never saw another angler, and caught a pile of nice browns on nymphs.

Yes, there are ways of avoiding the crowds even on the popular rivers!
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