Fly fishing in Montana should be on the short list for any angler that enjoys chasing trout in beautiful mountain rivers. Montana is home to an astounding number of high quality blue ribbon rivers, lakes and spring creeks. It’s northern latitude and proximity to numerous mountain ranges that produce and ample source of cool snow melt that help to make the state a trout factory. Montana’s trout streams are filled exclusively with wild fish. Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks has a very limited hatchery program and stocking is restricted to high mountain lakes and reservoirs where trout reproduction is limited. Montana fly fishing guides are some of the best in the planet. Hot beds for fly fishing like Bozeman, Missoula, Ennis, West Yellowstone and Dillon attract some of the worlds best professional guides and outfitters. The combination of productive rivers, great scenery, and high quality outfitters make Montana a prime destination for anglers from around the world. With the vast number of high quality trout rivers, outfitters, fly shops and lodges in Montana planning a fishing vacation to Montana can be overwhelming. Here are five tips to help you plan the perfect Big Sky state fishing trip.
Tip 1: Consider your lodging options
Your choice of lodging will be a big factor in your enjoyment of your fishing vacation. Lodging can be broken down into fishing lodges, hotels, vacation rentals and outfitted camping trips. Fishing lodges are the most expensive option, but also provide a lot of amenities. Lodges are often located in beautiful rural settings and often have direct access to rivers. Montana fishing lodges usually include all meals (generally very high quality dining!). Since all the guests are also fly fishing lodges provide for a social atmosphere with like-minded guests. Hotels are a great option to save some money and explore Montana on your own. Many Montana towns like Bozeman and Missoula have a vibrant night life that many guests enjoy by staying at an in-town hotel. Vacation rentals are a great option for families and larger groups and allow your crew to cook your own meals. Vacation houses and cabins are also located in beautiful settings and can offer a lot of room. If you have four our more people in your group they can also be cheaper than hotels. Many outfitters in Montana also offer overnight camping trips either as float trips on rivers or as wilderness horse pack trips into the mountains. Outfitted camping trips are surprisingly “deluxe” and guests enjoy great food while still “roughing” it.
Tip 2: Select which rivers, lakes and streams you would like to target
Do you have a specific target river in mind or do you want to sample a lot of different fishing options. Rivers like the Bighorn are world-famous, but do not have many other high quality trout fisheries nearby so if you plan a vacation there you will be fishing the same river each day. Other regions like Dillon, Bozeman and Missoula have many rivers in their prospective regions allowing angler to sample different rivers each day. If variety is important, make sure to ask outfitters or lodges what the different fishing options are in the region.
Tip 3: Select which type of fishing is most important
There are many different techniques used in the sport of fly fishing including nymph fishing, streamer fishing and dry-fly fishing and many anglers prefer one over another. Each river also has its own character, some stretches have huge trout but lower numbers and others provide fast action with small fish. Fishing conditions also change during the course of the year and different seasons showcase different styles of fishing. Beginning anglers generally are most interested in having some action and experiencing the sport. The perfect trip for an entry-level angler will most likely center around nymph fishing on rivers with a high fish count that produce a lot of action. Seasoned fly fisherman may prefer to target dry-fly fishing. As an outfitter, I always try to find what a client is looking for. Do they want to target big trout, dry-fly fishing, lots of action, etc. Make sure you discuss your ideal style of fishing and what is important to you when you talk to a lodge or outfitter.
Tip 4: Consider non-fishing activities
What do you plan on doing during your down time on your Montana fishing trip? Will you fish every day of your trip or do you want to take off a few days to sight see? Do you enjoy larger college towns or want to be as remote as possible? Are there any members of your group (like a spouse) that won’t be fishing? There is such a large quantity of great fishing in Montana that you should be able to target exactly the kind of trip that you are looking for. Often non-fishing activities are an important part of the equation. Some areas, like Ennis are great fishing towns, but do not offer as many non-fishing activities as a place like Big Sky or Bozeman. This is an especially important consideration if you have a non-fishing spouse or if your group takes some time off from fishing.
Tip 5: Plan your trip early
Prime dates and the most experienced and knowledgeable guides begin booking as early as a year in advance. While we still book trips as late as a week out even during the summer, the longer lead time we have the more flexibility in designing a trip and the better the odds that we can match clients up with the perfect guide.