Planning a Fly Fishing Trip to Montana?


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SW California/ SW Montana
Hello fisherman friends fly.
I introduce myself I take myself GUY, French, living in the department of drôme.
I came fishing in September 2018 for 3 weeks with 2 friends in the area of Westyellowstone and Coocke city.
we have only one desire, it is to return in 2022 (for 3 weeks) to fish again these mythical rivers that are the Henry fork's, the madison, the Slought Creek and others to discover. I am therefore looking for all possible information regarding accommodation, permits, rivers.
French speaking people on site or in this forum will be welcome, because my ENGLISH is beginner level while wanting to try to progress quickly.
Thank you GUY
PS: if this message is not in the right places, thank you for moving it, I discover your forum
You may want to repost this in a new thread on the Rocky Mountain forum. I think your post is being missed by most in this old thread.


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For those from other regions interested in traveling to/from Montana including YS NP: FYI if you didn't already know well Southwest Airlines just began this year servicing MT for the the first time ever with service into Bozeman.


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Although a Montana native and soon moving back, i find the "famous & popular" waters get ALOT of pressure during the summer. I usually find remote streams and creeks with much less pressure during the summer and the popular ones I will hit in the spring and fall.


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City of Angels, CA
For those from other regions interested in traveling to/from Montana including YS NP: FYI if you didn't already know well Southwest Airlines just began this year servicing MT for the the first time ever with service into Bozeman.
I was on Avelo's inaugural flight into Bozeman in early May. Got round trip tix and checked in bags for right under 50 bucks. On the flight there, the plane was about 50% full. On my flight back into Burbank, it was about 25% full.

2 weeks ago, Avelo announced they would stop service into Bozeman and their $19 rates to random cities are no longer. Guess no more weekend getaways to Bozeman next year for under 50 bucks.

Go figure. Glad to see Southwest is still an option. (Although those car rental rates starting in June!? Ouch!)


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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.

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.

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;

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.

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.

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.
That's a quality synopsis. A few might argue for the Missouri, but other angling choices in the immediate area are not as abundant as Boze or Missoula, nor the amenities.