Western Fly Fishing - Things I wish I had known the first time I planned my first trip...

Hayden Creek

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One more thing is regardless of the time of year, take a warm coat. I've fished in the Bighorns in late August and had snow. The locals here say that the only month of the year when it is guaranteed not to snow is July.
Wise words. Anyway, I'm off to the Green for a few days. And I'm definitely taking a coat.
 

FIB in WI

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Idaho – Great Stream access laws, low pressure (outside of the northeast area), sun valley is wife friendly. Negatives; If Sun Valley/Ketchum is your base it can be a bitch to get to, and good brewpubs in small towns are tough to find.
Nice post! I'm curious though, what do you mean by saying "If Sun Valley/Ketchum is your base it can be a bitch to get to"? I've got a trip planned to Yellowstone this summer and I'm heavily leaning towards the Sawtooths over SW Montana for an extended leg so your comment made me curious.
 

mdbones

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Not a reference to poor roads etc, once you are there it's fine. That was more of a reference to accessing via the Hailey Airport from the NE with limited flights and full-day travel to get to. We looked at flying into Boise, and SLC. as well If I recall, ended up flying into Boise which was a 2:40 minute drive, without a lot of streams available to fish your way to the location, and Salt Lake City was 4.5 hours. Regardless of access, I would do it again without hesitation...
 

joelp

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we did a trip through several of the states you mention in late july last year. the fuel thing is a real concern. you don't get good mileage going up and over 10K' passes or crawling along real 4wd roads. if you're below half a tank and you're headed off the beaten path into an area you don't know, take 10-15 minutes and fill up. the downloading of maps is another good suggestion. the places that are cool have no service.

my only other observation would be that the people in the states mentioned above are used to rough roads and getting out there a ways. we were in places we were sure were past everyone else's willingness to drive and deal with crap roads into the middle of nowhere only to find a clearing with 5 trucks with toy haulers/side by sides/5th wheels/etc looking like a family reunion. i'm sure part of that was that the nation was shut down due to pandemic, but if you see cars or an RV on google earth rest assured the place will have people.
 

sasquatch7

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Another thing I've noticed since just after my birthday on Jan 10 , the gas prices have been on an upwards trend since then . Early to mid Jan we had $2 a gal in Tucson now its $3 and rising . This is one of the lowest gas price towns in the USA but for some strange reason it's going sky high . The states you are speaking of are usually a lot higher than Tucson . I'm starting to wonder about my own trips coming up as far as gas prices pulling a small trailer at 7-10 mpg .
 
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salmo7000

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One other thing I'd add, as someone who lives in a western state and doesn't appreciate fishing crowded rivers, is don't overlook the many outstanding stillwater opportunities that exist. By "stillwater" I mean lakes. The example I'll use is the Beaverhead River in southwest Montana. A rather large number of drift boats launches every single day on this small river, starting in late spring and lasting through the fall, as long as there is adequate flow. If you launch too, you'll be in a never-ending train of boats moving down the river. If you pull over to wait for them all to go by, invariably there will be more, no matter how long you sit there. If you decide to walk and wade instead, you better be packing a good dose of patience as you will be continually dealing with boats with multiple anglers flinging their flies into your spot, and in some cases floating their boats right over your fish. There is a similar scene just north on the Big Hole River.

But what gets overlooked is Clark Canyon Reservoir, which is actually the source of the Beaverhead River. On a given day, a person in a float tube or small boat can find solitude and often incredible fishing for very large trout that don't see many, if any flies. Depending on where you fish, incredible fishing with no others in sight is literally feet from the one of the busiest launches on the river. Or you can drive to the upper end of the lake, a short 10-minute drive from the dam.

Of course you can always focus on smaller streams instead, but while you might find solitude (and I say "might" for very good reason), in many cases the fish in small streams aren't as large, particularly as elevation increases. You'll also need to watch for bears and moose and be prepared for them, which you won't have to worry about if you're out on a lake. Trout also grow fast and get really big in western lakes, often get bigger and heavier than those in big rivers.

One thing that one does need to worry about when fishing lakes, however, is wind. Of course, that can be a problem on rivers too.

While I realize not everyone enjoys stillwater fishing (I used to be one who didn't), lakes can offer incredible fishing, and I have learned to love fishing them. Let me put it this way... I far prefer stripping a leech or streamer in a lake where I'm the only person within a half a mile, to floating in a train of driftboats flinging a plastic indicator over fish that see literally hundreds of flies every single day, and are often caught over and over again. There is nothing like a heavy trout smashing a leech or streamer so hard your rod almost gets yanked out of your hand. Hands down, one of the best things ever... and it happens all the time in lakes.

Even on the very popular and well-known Henry's and Hebgen Lakes, I can always find solitude away from other boats and large fish that are feeding. And it's not that hard to pack a float tube and bring it along, I've packed an 8-foot rowable tube on many trips and checked it with my other baggage. In many places it's also possible to rent a small boat.

Just a thought for anyone planning a trip... There is a whole world of fishing outside of the famous rivers you read about online and in guidebooks, with literally thousands of lakes across the western US, mostly unknown to out-of-staters, with big fish to be caught. Worth considering given the crowded times in which we currently find ourselves!
 

Hardscrabble

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One more thing is regardless of the time of year, take a warm coat. I've fished in the Bighorns in late August and had snow. The locals here say that the only month of the year when it is guaranteed not to snow is July.
4 or 5 years ago I was headed over Powder River Pass on July 4th and had to slow way down because I couldn’t see for the blizzard-like conditions. Someone may have said this already and many will disagree: the waters in YNP are sacred, and everyone who has the wherewithal (time, money, freedom from inconveniences like work and family commitment) should fish those waters once. However, the traffic and crowds there have become beyond burdensome and the second-worse injury a grizzly can inflict on you is show up along a road in YNP. I am done with it. Too much water within a couple hundred miles of there that is much less crowded and carry more fish.
 

Ippyroy

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The biggest "trick" to fishing out here is to miss guide hours. They are on the rivers from 9am to 6pm. Sunrise is around 6:30 and sunset can be as late as 10:30. Get up early and get to the water, go back to base camp and take a nap, wake up and eat a nice dinner and go back out. I rarely see other people out where I fish. I also fish 3 holes inside of the park and unless it's late October I never see another person fishing. In October it's shoulder to shoulder, but I know where the other great holes are where there are fewer people.
The traffic is also so much lighter if you get to the gate before 7. Entering after 3pm will also put you in much lighter traffic.
 

zeroHaul

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just a great thread, thanks to all for the info. planning 1st trip with 2 grown sons to fish Bozeman/ West Yellowstone area this Summer, guidance appreciated:

* Debating whether to fly or drive from NorCal. I recognize the time/ cost trade-off, but other thoughts on +/- for either?
* Never flown to fish, how much gear to bring? We have ~ 4, 5, 6 + Euro for each of 3 of us?
* Is ONE extra bag per person about right (boots, waders, rods, reels)?
* given 2021 snow pack and runoff (so far) any recommendations on when to go? Is early July too early?

Thanks in advance. If anyone has questions or needs recommendations on fishing noCal, hit me up.
 

el jefe

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just a great thread, thanks to all for the info. planning 1st trip with 2 grown sons to fish Bozeman/ West Yellowstone area this Summer, guidance appreciated:

* Debating whether to fly or drive from NorCal. I recognize the time/ cost trade-off, but other thoughts on +/- for either?
* Never flown to fish, how much gear to bring? We have ~ 4, 5, 6 + Euro for each of 3 of us?
* Is ONE extra bag per person about right (boots, waders, rods, reels)?
* given 2021 snow pack and runoff (so far) any recommendations on when to go? Is early July too early?

Thanks in advance. If anyone has questions or needs recommendations on fishing noCal, hit me up.
I am a huge fan of road trips with your kids, no matter what their ages. While fishing, everyone will be in their own little world, but the car time with them gives you chances for some seriously good quality time together. All you will be able to do is share time with them. I spent 11 years driving two of my daughters all over the mountain west for hockey, and that time is irreplaceable. As a bonus, you'll drive through some pretty country, and get to see a lot of the U.S. from the ground.
 

joelp

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i always do a hard sided rolling golf bag for air trips. holds all of your rod tubes/waders/bags/boots/clothes/etc while keeping them safe. airlines are very used to golf bags, so there's never a hassle.

that said, i drove from socal to bozeman to pick up the family for a ski trip in january (they flew) and explored and fished along the way. i'd vote for driving.
 

tomsakai

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I like to carry on my rods and reels using an Orvis safe passage case. Never had a problem. Do a search and you’ll find extensive threads talking about this. A large rolling gear or duffle bag is checked and holds remaining gear and clothes.
 
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