Planning a Fly Fishing Trip to Montana?

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blackbugger

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If you want to experience the mountains and get a general feel for what Montana is famous for I would suggest looking into the SW Montana areas outlined below.

If you were located in any of the following towns you would have access to bars, restaurants and a slice of Montana life.
Not to mention several great rivers and streams to fish within and a two hour driving distance which is how you need to think of your options in any given area.

Bozeman:
Great town, lots of shops and guides and lodging of all different kinds.
You have the Yellowstone (greatest trout river in Montana and one of the greatest in the world. Period.), Madison, Gallatin, Jefferson all within a short driving distance.
I live in Bozeman, in my opinion only Missoula comes close to having the same kind of quality opportunities that Bozeman as a central hub has.
Oh and there's mountains, lots of them.

Missoula:
Same as above. You have quick access to the Bitterroot, Clark Fork, Blackfoot (my favorite in the area), Rock creek and a host of other smaller creeks that you can explore and wade just like in the Bozeman area.

West Yellowstone;
Lots of fly shops, kind of touristy but it has it's own weird charm. Lots of tourists during the high season but it is perfectly located between the Henry's fork and the upper Madison and of course it sits right on the west entrance to the park. The surrounding area is spectacular and if you take a day off the options for things to do will be overwhelming but you should really just tour the park and of course bring a fly rod.

Slightly more obscure and smaller places that would be just fine for a five day stay;

Ennis:
Right on the upper Madison. Super cool little town, a little touristy these days but from an out-of-stater's point of view that's a good thing. There are shops to peruse and restaurants and funky bars to check out and it's still a town where real people live and work.
I have a fond spot for Ennis especially in the off season.

Twin Bridges:
Montana like it used to be, quite a ways from any other large town. Not a lot of lodging but some excellent fishing lodges in the area like the Stonefly Inn.
The location is perfect for the Big Hole and some other great water I'm not going to mention.
Many people with money who are in the know chose this area as a place to fish over the others mentioned.
I fish this area a lot for reasons I'm not going to go into on the internet.

Melrose:
Very small, next to nothing there, right on the Big Hole. If someone asked me where to fish for 5 days that was beautiful, had great fishing and was somewhat removed from the crowds this would be my choice.
Once the salmonfly hatch is over the Big Hole settles into a consistent kind of busy but nowhere near as busy as the Madison and other high profile rivers in Montana.
The Bighorn has nothing on the Big Hole except more fish but that really doesn't mean much at all in most Montana rivers, they all have a lot of fish.
You'll also be close to the Beaverhead.

Dillon:
I could live in Dillon if I ever got sick of the growth in Bozeman, maybe when I'm really old and yelling at clouds.

It's right on the Beaverhead, the Big Hole is close by and lot of very good water that no one should ever talk about is also in the area. If you have money guides can put you on private waters that have very big fish in them.

I used to work with a girl who's father was a local lawyer. He and three other guys bought about 500 acres on a creek in the area that they used as a private fishing retreat. I got to fish on it several times and it's still, after some 30 years of living in and fishing Montana some of the best trout fishing I've ever had.
Just packed with huge fish, all wild, lots of them over 20". Twenty fish days were typical. I can see where it would get boring if you had access to it all the time as it was so easy.

Ft Smith:
I know the Bighorn has a reputation out there in the world of being this awesome place but those of us who live here rarely make the effort to go there because there are much better places to go that are far more interesting as far as scenery and variety goes.

The Bighorn isn't surrounded by mountains like most of the rest of the good trout water in Montana is. If you take a day off and you're in Fort Smith or Hardin what are you going to do?
You are 3 to 4 hours from anything else worthy of spending time on. You are really out on the beginning of the plains north of the northernmost part of the Bighorn Range. Fort Smith is quite possibly THE dullest fishing town in the west. There is literally nothing there but a big dam and some fly shops, bring your own adult beverages as you won't find any for sale here.

Every famous river in Montana has some kind of all inclusive lodge on it, usually several.
Your best bet is to pick a single river that you want to fish and then find an outfitter who works the area. They will suggest other water in the area if your main choice isn't fishing, usually your guides aren't restricted to a single river.

All the big rivers in Montana have MANY different floats on them and they all have several sections that fish as though you are on a completely different river.

If you have a limited amount of time you are better off picking just one river and planning on being based around it and let your guide suggest somewhere else nearby if that river isn't fishing.
Or, chose Missoula, Bozeman or West and line up an outfitter and let them decide what river in the area you should fish for the day.
If you were in Bozeman and had a guide lined up you could end up fishing the Yellowstone for a day or two then maybe the Madison (upper or lower) and even some other options in the area.
Missoula would be the same way, many options on any given day which is advantageous given the weather can sometimes blow out specific rivers.
That's why you need to allow for some driving time between rivers but good guides will do the driving to put you on good water for the day.

Finally, I would strongly encourage people who want to fish Montana but have never been here to put in some serious internet homework and ask plenty of questions on the forum.
 
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mcnerney

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Note: I had asked permission from Blackbugger to create a new thread of the material he had posted in an earlier request for trip planning to Montana. His post was so full of great information, I thought that the membership would appreciate having this information in a spot where it was readily available. After getting permission, I created the thread and then changed the thread's owner so that Nathan gets full credit for the contents.

If someone else has more information that would be useful for folks planning a fly fishing trip to Montana, please feel free to add it to this thread.
 

dean_mt

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Great post BB. I'm glad to see you back and writing...tis the season I guess.

Someday we really should fish together...I should say, I'd really like to fish with you. I feel the same about the places you've detailed.
 
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blackbugger

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Great post BB. I'm glad to see you back and writing...tis the season I guess.

Someday we really should fish together...I should say, I'd really like to fish with you. I feel the same about the places you've detailed.
Anytime man. I've always figured if I headed over your way for a few days I would let you know. Maybe this spring...
We can mess around with the two-handers a bit.
 

GrtLksMarlin

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Awesome stuff!

BTW, you need to do a write up for just over the divide...As great as Montana is, and as fantastic as Wyoming plays out, poor old Idaho just seems to get forgotten yet if I had to pick one of the three based upon fishing alone....Well :shades:

B.E.F.

P.S.: Even though I no longer need it I still keep our singular PM correspondence regarding _______ _______ & Bulls.
 
B

blackbugger

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Awesome stuff!

BTW, you need to do a write up for just over the divide...As great as Montana is, and as fantastic as Wyoming plays out, poor old Idaho just seems to get forgotten yet if I had to pick one of the three based upon fishing alone....Well :shades:

B.E.F.

P.S.: Even though I no longer need it I still keep our singular PM correspondence regarding _______ _______ & Bulls.
I was up on the Blackfoot late summer this year. It was stupidly low.
According to the fly shop in Ovando the middle stretches (normally fun, easy whitewater) weren't even floatable in a raft. So we floated the popular upper stretch and half the fun was staring down into the crystal clear water of the deep spots and spotting the Bulls.
They were all concentrated in what little deep water there was and we saw some monsters.
We had one swim under and right next to the raft that I would have guessed was in the low 30"s, easily 10 pounds probably upwards of 15 pounds. Pretty cool.
 

dean_mt

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Anytime man. I've always figured if I headed over your way for a few days I would let you know. Maybe this spring...
We can mess around with the two-handers a bit.
I'll trade you day on the Bitterroot for a day on the Yellowstone. And I need some serious help with the spey casting...

Going to the game tomorrow? :teef: I'll be in the mountains, single best day of the season for hunting.
 

100954

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Just a note to follow up blackbugger's excellent post. Some good lake fishing in some of the areas mentioned if you don't minding hiking a few miles. Be forewarned however, lakes, at least in my experience, can be very fickle, 20 fish one day, go back 3 days later, same weather conditions, same water temp, etc....skunked. Also, from Missoula, some excellent water just over the border in Idaho.
 

surfnfish

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Thanks for the information! I just booked a guide trip to fish the Yellowstone and the Madison and found some helpful tips in your post.
Lee
 

leftytyro

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Wow! I just stumbled on this post and it couldn't be more timely. We're on our way to Bozeman this coming July ( first visit to Montana) to fish the Madison and Gallatin. This is a great rundown of the area and waters. Many thanks!!!
 

dmadsen

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I can't add anything to the recent matrimony thread, but one river left out of the original is the Missouri at Craig (perhaps because it's not really SW MT). I live in Dillon and, because of my work, enjoy access on Beaverhead county lakes and streams not available to many, even locals. Friends come from the Midwest and we can go locally day after day, but this summer we'll float at least 3 consecutive days on the MO, first a guided day, then rent boat ourselves. Less crowded that the Madison with more & bigger fish. As much fun as I've ever had with my clothes on.
 

del gue

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I find it interesting that the OP spoke of Dillon. I currently live in hell, er, Florida, and will retire in Nov 2020. In Apr or May of 2021 I plan to move to Montana, and Dillon had come to my attention as mebbeso a good place to move to. When I'm on vacation this year in September, after I leave Yellowstone I'm going to go spend a couple days in Dillon, looking things over. I'm glad to see it was on the list for having good fishing, because flyfishing is gonna be high on my list of things to do once I'm retired, along with take pictures, camp, and maybe hunt a little.
 

jschaffer

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Dillon is a great town and a nice area for fishing and hunting. Everything from River waters, large and small, resivoirs, mountain lakes, creeks, etc.
 

jschaffer

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For whatnot is worth, I spent a lot of time in the Missoula area. If folks need information on timing of a trip, waters to fish, hatches or guides let me know.
 

odie1

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For whatnot is worth, I spent a lot of time in the Missoula area. If folks need information on timing of a trip, waters to fish, hatches or guides let me know.
We are going June 24-July 1, staying in Missoula. There are lots of outfitters that I find, but any personal recs would be great. Thanks!
 
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