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Thread: Road Trip to Montana in August

  1. #1

    Default Road Trip to Montana in August

    This August I will be driving down to Missoula MT for a two week vacation with my brother (a fly fisher) and maybe up to three friends (1 fisher, 2 non fishers). Originally the plan was to just fly fish for two weeks, but since two of my friends don't fish, we also plan to visit some of the NP's. I grew up in Lolo MT and I miss every moment of it, so I am very excited about this trip.

    We'll arrive in Missoula on August 5th and after resting the night, we plan to start my fly fishing adventure. The plan is to fish around the Missoula/Lolo area for a few days and then drive down to Yellowstone NP for about 3 days. After that, we'll drive up to Glacier NP and stay there about 3 days as well. Even though I lived in Montana for about 6 years, I've never had the opportunity to visit any of the NP's, so hiking and sightseeing is also one of my primary goals for this vacation. After Glacier NP we'll return back to Missoula and after spending one more night I will reluctantly leave MT and drive back to my current home in Missouri.

    What rivers we should fish while in the Missoula area? I prefer more secluded rivers/streams.

    So far we plan to visit the Bitterroot and Lolo Creek as I spent a lot of time there growing up, but we only plan to spend about a day in Lolo. I've seen some information here on the forum for Yellowstone NP and plan to use that when I'm there. I'm not sure where I'll fish while in Glacier NP.

    I am fairly new to fly fishing as I only discovered fly fishing here in Missouri. I usually fish the Current River in Missouri, several miles from the state park. The largest trout I caught there was a 17 inch Brown. Mostly I catch rainbows in the 14 to 9 inch range.

    My current pole is a 5 weight Orvis Access with a CFO III reel. Is this sufficient for the larger trout in MT? I feel like I have what I need for this trip in terms of gear (waders/vest/non felt boots/etc) so I mainly need to stock up on appropriate flys and tippet material. I generally use #5 tippets, though I have some 6 and 3 as well. I use the Orvis Mirage tippets.

    Any tips on flys, rivers, or general advice would be greatly appreciated!

    **********LAST UPDATE 06-18-13*************************************
    **********My latest schedule that I'll update as planning continues**********

    Day 1, Monday August 5th: Arrive in Missoula around noon. Check into hotel. Eat. Most likely will head down to Rock Creek to fish for a few hours. Go to airport at midnight to pick up brother.

    Day 2, Tuesday: Drive down to Lolo in the morning. Go swim the Bitterroot, visit my old home, visit Lolo Creek, Fort Fissel (sp?), & Lolo Hot Springs. Sometime that afternoon we will leave and head south towards West Fork Bitterroot. Try some fishing that evening and perhaps find a camping spot.

    Day 3, Wednesday: If fishing is good at West Fork Bitterroot, I will stay there for most of the morning. Drive down to Ennis that afternoon, or earlier if fishing is poor at West Fork Bitterroot. Once I'm at Ennis, we'll head over to the Madison and fish the recommended wading locations. Will camp somewhere by Ennis.

    Day 4, Thursday: Get up very early in the morning and drive down to Gardiner. Go on an all day float trip on the Yellowstone with a guide. After float trip we will head over to YNP if still daylight and set up camp. Otherwise will camp in Gardiner.

    Day 5, Friday: Explore YNP. Activities will mainly involve hiking and fishing. I purchased three guide books, Lonely Planet YNP for general information and planning, a fly fishing guide to YNP, and a hiking guide to YNP. Rivers I'll try to fish will be Gardiner, Lamar, Soda Creek and Slough Creek.

    Day 6, Saturday: Explore YNP, as above.

    Day 7, Sunday: Explore YNP, as above.

    Day 8, Monday: Explore YNP, as above.

    Day 9, Tuesday: Get ready to leave YNP. Might try some morning fishing, but plan to leave before noon. Arrive in Missoula that afternoon. Go fishing at Rock Creek. Will camp the night here.

    Day 10, Wednesday: Fish Rock Creek during the morning, then drive up to GNP. Setup base camp and explore GNP.

    Day 11, Thursday: Explore GNP.

    Day 12, Friday: Leave GNP around noon, return to Missoula. Fish Rock Creek or maybe some other location close to Missoula. Will leave Montana later that evening.

    Day 13, Saturday: Arrive home and start planning my next trip!

    ********************
    Last edited by pevelg; 06-18-2013 at 01:41 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Road Trip to Montana in August

    Hi there pevelg! Welcome to the forum.

    Sounds like a nice trip you've got planned, getting back to your home stomping grounds. Good for you. Let me try to answer some of your questions the best I can.

    First, your 5 wt rod will be perfect for Montana in the summer (assuming it's at least 8'6" long). While Montana may be a special place, you do not need any special fishing gear, you'll be fine with what you have.

    Early August is never going to be the best fishing conditions here. This year most of the rivers in the Missoula area peaked a month early, around May 14, which is not a good thing. Fortunately we've had a very wet May and beginning of June so while run-off was over really early, the flows have stayed up and consistent, though below average. Sorry, I get a little obsessed with river flows and fluctuations...what this means is that by August in a normal year the water is low and beginning to warm. This year could be a little more extreme than the normal years. When the waters start to warm, focus your fishing in the evening into the night when water temps are dropping.

    Check the flows here. USGS Current Conditions for Montana_ Streamflow Scroll down to the Upper Columbia Basin to find the rivers in the Missoula area and the Yellowstone Basin for rivers in the SW and Bozeman area. These charts show the historic average and the current daily flow for comparison.

    On to the fun stuff. The Bitterroot is great river, for reasons already discussed the upper portions of the rivers is where you will want to be, in general. The lower rivers, particularly the Root will warm a lot faster and the fishing will be bad. The West Fork Bitterroot comes out of a large reservoir and flows ice freaking cold all summer. It will be a really good place in August. It is 70 miles S of Lolo though. The creeks could be good options as trout seek solace in the colder waters. Lolo is a fun one to explore.

    On your way from Missoula to YNP you will pass through basically some of the best trout fishing country in the world. You could swing down through the Big Hole and make your way to the park via Ennis (Big Hole, Beaverhead, Madison) or cruise straight to Bozeman via 90 and then go down to the park (Gallatin, Yellowstone).

    It will pretty much be a Hopper, terrestrials, caddis at night game by then.

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Road Trip to Montana in August

    Very good answer above so only a couple of mild additions. Much your trip has been covered in prior threads so punch in 'Montana' and Missoula into the search function.

    Only concern I have (all the places you want to visit) is the plan may be too ambitious unless you really like spending HOURS behind the wheel of your car. You might want to hit a web site like 'triptic' and get the mileage between locations. From personal history, even on Freeways, you will only average 50mph with stops. Or to put that (as I have in the past) 800 miles will eat up the better part of 16 hours.

    Oh, in Montana its a long way between petrol stations! Plan ahead.

    Fred
    When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost. - Billy Graham"

  4. #4

    Default Re: Road Trip to Montana in August

    Quote Originally Posted by fredaevans View Post
    Only concern I have (all the places you want to visit) is the plan may be too ambitious unless you really like spending HOURS behind the wheel of your car. You might want to hit a web site like 'triptic' and get the mileage between locations. From personal history, even on Freeways, you will only average 50mph with stops. Or to put that (as I have in the past) 800 miles will eat up the better part of 16 hours.
    The driving should hopefully be a non issue. We have ampel camping supplies and do not plan to stay in Missoula. My friend and I will drive into Missoula on Monday to pick my brother up at the airport. We'll only stay the night there in a hotel (will need good rest after driving over 1.5k miles) and then spend Tuesday in Lolo. We would leave Lolo that evening. From then on we will either be camping at local sites or sleeping in the car or hotel in whatever town we are in.

    I am definitely interested in fishing as we drive to Yellowstone. I'm working out details for having a one or two day guide while in YNP, so I plan to have my home base be Gardiner while visiting YNP. I can go south from Lolo towards Widsom to fish Big Hole one day and then head to Dillon to fish Beaverhead. I'd arrive in Gardiner Thursday evening then and would spend Friday thru early Monday in YNP. Total driving would be about 400 miles split between three evenings, so very manageable. Depending on the guide service in YNP, I may need to do this in reverse order (hit YNP first then drive towards Lolo hitting Dillon and Wisdom).

    Would it be better to spend two days fishing one river (e.i Big Hole or Beaverhead or Madison) or try getting one per day?

    ***Edit: I guess it's important to mention that I will be mainly walking/wading as I do not have a boat and won't rent one due to inexperience. I know this will change my options. From what I've read on this forum, looks like it would be best if I just stay in one town, either Dillon or Ennis, as the fishing spots are fairly close. I only can afford to pay for about 2 days worth of guided fishing.
    Last edited by pevelg; 06-12-2013 at 03:49 PM.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Road Trip to Montana in August

    Quote Originally Posted by pevelg View Post
    I am definitely interested in fishing as we drive to Yellowstone. I'm working out details for having a one or two day guide while in YNP, so I plan to have my home base be Gardiner while visiting YNP. I can go south from Lolo towards Widsom to fish Big Hole one day and then head to Dillon to fish Beaverhead. I'd arrive in Gardiner Thursday evening then and would spend Friday thru early Monday in YNP. Total driving would be about 400 miles split between three evenings, so very manageable.
    This is a spectacular tour. I've done it!

    Whether you should stick to one place for a couple days or hop rivers everyday is up to you. They are completely different trips. I'd say, try to play it by ear. That time of the year the fishing will be spotty so if you find a river/spot that is fishing great, I'd stay put. The next stop may not be so hot. But who knows!?! It's fishing!

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  7. #6
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    Default Re: Road Trip to Montana in August

    The Big Hole is a rather big river with lots of deep holes best fished from a boat. For wade fishing it's hard to beat Rock Creek which is right next to Missoula.

    The Madison is fairly easy to wade, as it is almost uniformly knee to thigh deep. My favorite areas are the braided channels below Ennis and above and below three dollar bridge. Three dollar bridge is the bridge to Cliff and Wade lakes. Both these areas do not allow float fishing.

    The Madison in the park, the Gibbon, and the Firehole, as nice as they look, will not fish well in August as the many geothermal features on these streams heat the water too high. The Gardiner, Lamar, Soda Creek and Slough Creek will be prime in August.

    Since you can afford two guided days, I would suggest you fish streams best fished by boat on your guide days. That would be the Big Hole and Beaverhead, or the Yellowstone through Paradise Valley. The Beaverhead is not that big of a river, but the willow choked banks make wading almost impossible.

    Have fun, and come back here and let us know on this thread how it went.

    Chris

  8. #7

    Default Re: Road Trip to Montana in August

    As you get closer.. if the hoppers are on the Yellowstone - that can be great fun! I'd make that determination between that the Big Hole (also the water levels and temps)

    For the park, remember the speed limits - normally about 35-45 - are just about impossible to reach, as someone's first sighting of an elk or bison, and people bail out of their cars in the middle of the road, just allow a lot more time.. and patience.

    I'd agree with fishnskiguy about the NE rivers of YNP. The issue.. everyone else agrees too - lol
    Dave
    406

  9. Likes dean_mt liked this post
  10. #8
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Road Trip to Montana in August

    Quote Originally Posted by dhayden View Post
    For the park, remember the speed limits - normally about 35-45 - are just about impossible to reach, as someone's first sighting of an elk or bison, and people bail out of their cars in the middle of the road, just allow a lot more time.. and patience.
    Or mama duck with ducklings, a magpie, a gopher ...

  11. #9

    Default Re: Road Trip to Montana in August

    Quote Originally Posted by dean_mt View Post
    Or mama duck with ducklings, a magpie, a gopher ...
    Or a sign, alluding about a duck...
    Dave
    406

  12. Likes fredaevans liked this post
  13. #10

    Default Re: Road Trip to Montana in August

    Thanks for all the tips everyone. I am adding my schedule to the top of this thread that I will update as plans become more and more concrete. I am afraid that after this trip I won't want to return and will choose to stay in Montana! I very much miss the clean river waters and the mountains.

    ***Moved schedule to first post
    Last edited by pevelg; 06-18-2013 at 01:51 AM.

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