Montana August 2020

slammer10

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Hello fly fisherman,

I am driving from Michigan to Bozeman, MT this August and have one day set aside to fish. The plan is to hire a guide for a full day float trip. I am considering either an overnight in Fort Smith, MT with a full day float on the Bighorn river or an overnight in Livingston, MT with a full day float on the Yellowstone river. I floated the Yellowstone last August and had an awesome experience. Part of me wants to try something new and check out the Bighorn river and the Fort Smith area. However, I have heard from several people, including a Bozeman guide, that the Bighorn fishery isn't nearly what it used to be. Keeping the middle of August time frame in mind, I am wondering if anyone has insight on the Bighorn river or just suggestions overall? At the end of the day, life doesn't get much better than floating a Montana river so I won't sweat the decision too much. Counting down the days as we speak!

Thanks for reading and as always, tight lines!
 

hiplainsdrifter

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Hello fly fisherman,

I am driving from Michigan to Bozeman, MT this August and have one day set aside to fish. The plan is to hire a guide for a full day float trip. I am considering either an overnight in Fort Smith, MT with a full day float on the Bighorn river or an overnight in Livingston, MT with a full day float on the Yellowstone river. I floated the Yellowstone last August and had an awesome experience. Part of me wants to try something new and check out the Bighorn river and the Fort Smith area. However, I have heard from several people, including a Bozeman guide, that the Bighorn fishery isn't nearly what it used to be. Keeping the middle of August time frame in mind, I am wondering if anyone has insight on the Bighorn river or just suggestions overall? At the end of the day, life doesn't get much better than floating a Montana river so I won't sweat the decision too much. Counting down the days as we speak!

Thanks for reading and as always, tight lines!
Hope things are back to normal by August. Like many places, Montana is currently under a stay at home order. The Bighorn in August means one thing- tricos. Early morning hatches with tiny bugs and lots of rising fish, then a pretty slow rest of the day. Yes, the fishery has gone downhill big time. Yes, it is busy with plenty of boats and wade-anglers. If you had fun on the Yellowstone, I would say you will be disappointed in the Bighorn. If you must fish from a boat, I would look elsewhere. But really, if you are going to hire a guide anyway, I would DEFINITELY explore the myriad of smaller private land wade fishing options in the area.
 

Longs for Cutts

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You could also split the difference drive-wise, stay in Columbus, and float the lower Stillwater in that timeframe. It's a steep, fast, raft-only river with solid but not huge rainbows and browns. Very much a dry-dropper river and the hopper bite should be good in August (it sure was last year). It's about 2hr from Columbus to Bozeman, so very doable at the end of a trip.

Speaking as an outfitter who is looking at a possible 75% reduction in my income this year depending on when we can actually get fishing again and how many people can't afford to come, I certainly hope you (and anyone else planning a July-October trip, I figure June is already lost) can actually come...

I will also note that any river you name is likely to be less crowded than it has been since at least 2009 and probably more like 2000. I would not be surprised if the fishing is on average better this year than it has been since I've been out here. I think a best-cast/worst-case scenario is a 25% reduction in pressure this year. That might actually argue for hitting a big-name river like the Yellowstone again, instead of the secondary options like the Stillwater and a few others.
 

redfisher5

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Beaufort, SC
Hello fly fisherman,

I am driving from Michigan to Bozeman, MT this August and have one day set aside to fish. The plan is to hire a guide for a full day float trip. I am considering either an overnight in Fort Smith, MT with a full day float on the Bighorn river or an overnight in Livingston, MT with a full day float on the Yellowstone river. I floated the Yellowstone last August and had an awesome experience. Part of me wants to try something new and check out the Bighorn river and the Fort Smith area. However, I have heard from several people, including a Bozeman guide, that the Bighorn fishery isn't nearly what it used to be. Keeping the middle of August time frame in mind, I am wondering if anyone has insight on the Bighorn river or just suggestions overall? At the end of the day, life doesn't get much better than floating a Montana river so I won't sweat the decision too much. Counting down the days as we speak!

Thanks for reading and as always, tight lines!
Hey Slammer10,

A little late to the forum here. I just joined... I'm driving out from South Carolina about the same time you are and looking for similar info. The Bighorn River is really awesome, but if you want to get into some really great fishing, then go to the Missouri. Hopefully, you have a boat. If not, then you can wade the banks and get into some other areas where there will be excellent fishing during tricos/caddis. Another option would be to call a travel agent like Yellow Dog... they offer quite a few montana fly fishing trips and work with outfitters all over the state. They could definitely help get you connected to the right people. Have fun out there.
 

slammer10

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Hope things are back to normal by August. Like many places, Montana is currently under a stay at home order. The Bighorn in August means one thing- tricos. Early morning hatches with tiny bugs and lots of rising fish, then a pretty slow rest of the day. Yes, the fishery has gone downhill big time. Yes, it is busy with plenty of boats and wade-anglers. If you had fun on the Yellowstone, I would say you will be disappointed in the Bighorn. If you must fish from a boat, I would look elsewhere. But really, if you are going to hire a guide anyway, I would DEFINITELY explore the myriad of smaller private land wade fishing options in the area.
Thanks for the private land recommendation! I ended up taking your advice and hiring a guide for some private land fishing near Bozeman. Pretty excited to see what it’s all about!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

slammer10

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You could also split the difference drive-wise, stay in Columbus, and float the lower Stillwater in that timeframe. It's a steep, fast, raft-only river with solid but not huge rainbows and browns. Very much a dry-dropper river and the hopper bite should be good in August (it sure was last year). It's about 2hr from Columbus to Bozeman, so very doable at the end of a trip.

Speaking as an outfitter who is looking at a possible 75% reduction in my income this year depending on when we can actually get fishing again and how many people can't afford to come, I certainly hope you (and anyone else planning a July-October trip, I figure June is already lost) can actually come...

I will also note that any river you name is likely to be less crowded than it has been since at least 2009 and probably more like 2000. I would not be surprised if the fishing is on average better this year than it has been since I've been out here. I think a best-cast/worst-case scenario is a 25% reduction in pressure this year. That might actually argue for hitting a big-name river like the Yellowstone again, instead of the secondary options like the Stillwater and a few others.
Thanks for the Stillwater recommendation! I will be sure to add it to my list for future trips. I hope things have been ramping back up for you and the others guides. I feel very fortunate to still have the opportunity to make the trip this summer. Counting the days!
 

slammer10

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Hey Slammer10,

A little late to the forum here. I just joined... I'm driving out from South Carolina about the same time you are and looking for similar info. The Bighorn River is really awesome, but if you want to get into some really great fishing, then go to the Missouri. Hopefully, you have a boat. If not, then you can wade the banks and get into some other areas where there will be excellent fishing during tricos/caddis. Another option would be to call a travel agent like Yellow Dog... they offer quite a few montana fly fishing trips and work with outfitters all over the state. They could definitely help get you connected to the right people. Have fun out there.
Thanks for the recommendations! I’ve heard good things about Yellow Dog and will definitely check them out in the future. I’ve used the same guide service the past few years and haven’t been disappointed. Luckily enough, my trip has change drastically, and I’ll have over 14 days in Montana this year. The plan is to do a day of private land wading and then spend the rest of the time exploring. It will mostly be day trips within the greater Bozeman area. Looking at fishing the Madison, Gallatin, Ruby, Big Hole, and Beaver Head. I am also big time considering making the drive up to the Missouri and even Rock Creek. Lastly, I want to check out some high mountain lakes in the Bozeman area. If you or anyone else has input on any of these options, or recommendations for others not on the list, I’d love to hear it!

Tight lines!
 

Redrock

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FL/MT
Thanks for the recommendations! I’ve heard good things about Yellow Dog and will definitely check them out in the future. I’ve used the same guide service the past few years and haven’t been disappointed. Luckily enough, my trip has change drastically, and I’ll have over 14 days in Montana this year. The plan is to do a day of private land wading and then spend the rest of the time exploring. It will mostly be day trips within the greater Bozeman area. Looking at fishing the Madison, Gallatin, Ruby, Big Hole, and Beaver Head. I am also big time considering making the drive up to the Missouri and even Rock Creek. Lastly, I want to check out some high mountain lakes in the Bozeman area. If you or anyone else has input on any of these options, or recommendations for others not on the list, I’d love to hear it!

Tight lines!
I live about 10 minutes from the upper Beav. It is a decent haul from the upper river to Bozeman for a 1 day float. I would overnight in Dillon. There is a nice little Airbnb about a mile or so from Poindexters. Fish both. Parts of the Big Hole may be under hoot owl restrictions that time of year. The Ruby is a fun little river. Access is interesting, but there are places you can get on the river.
 
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