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The Backstage Pass

5 Special Permitted Fly Fishing Trips in the Western United States

May 03, 23

Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Wyoming are home to some of the West’s world-famous fly-fishing waters. Within these four states lie Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, and over a dozen designated wilderness and roadless areas.

Our decades of experience fly fishing these special waters in even more special landscapes has whittled down the backcountry fly fishing trips we feel offer consistent fly fishing paired with outfitters who are experienced, safe, and provide a level of amenities we’re proud to offer. 

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Wilderness Fly Fishing with Absaroka Beartooth Outfitters

Casting to a native cutthroat trout while riding a horse? It can be done. However, anglers taking one of our wilderness fly fishing pack trips will most likely do their fishing on foot. Only very experienced riders and anglers should ever attempt to catch a fish while riding a horse. But, one needs to have goals, right?

Nestled deep in the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness and the Custer-Gallatin National Forest north of Yellowstone National Park, sits the basecamp for Absaroka Beartooth Outfitters (ABO). Not far from camp lie Boulder and Hellroaring Creeks and one of the most beautiful trout settings you will ever lay eyes upon.

Eager cutthroat trout rise to dry flies on the creeks, offering enjoyable dry fly fishing to native trout. Spend the day fishing and return to camp to enjoy a hot shower, a delicious dinner, and a roaring campfire. Sleep in a comfortable and carpeted wall tent, wake in the morning, enjoy fresh brewed coffee or tea and a hot breakfast, and repeat.

Non-anglers will enjoy viewing abundant wildlife, such as deer, elk, wolves, bears, eagles, and coyotes. Horseback riding, hiking, eating great food, and relaxing are as important as the fishing on this trip. ABO’s wranglers and guides are experienced in backcountry trips and wilderness first aid and they prioritize safety in this remote area.

Smith River Multi-Day Fishing and Camping Trip

If there is one trip most Montanans want to make every year, it is a Smith River float trip. Pristine, protected, and isolated, the Smith River flows for 60 miles through a beautiful limestone canyon. At the end of each day, spacious two-person tents are pitched, the camp is set up, dinner is cooking, and drinks and appetizers are ready. And, we haven’t even talked about the fishing yet.

Wild brown trout—some of them 20 inches and longer—is the primary species. Rainbow, cutthroat, and brook trout are also caught on the Smith River. Anglers will enjoy fishing large dry flies with droppers, stripping or dragging streamers, or fishing nymphs below the surface. While fish numbers and action tend to be great, by the morning of the second day most folks find the fishing a close second to the beauty of the river.

Non-anglers will find abundant wildlife, plenty of waterfowl along the banks and can take a hike to view some Native American pictographs. A black bear or two may be spotted, but they keep to themselves, so anglers and non-anglers can enjoy floating, eating, fishing, and disconnecting from jobs, cellphones, internet connections, and living on “river time.”

The floating season begins in May and runs well into July. Guides use specially designed rafts or drift boats and members of the crew haul gear downriver on freight rafts to set-up camp. Die-hard anglers will embrace walk-wade fishing after dinner as the fading twilight eases from the canyon walls. Others will enjoy telling fishing stories as the campfire glows beneath the millions of starts under Montana’s Big Sky.

Sunrise Pack Station Yellowstone National Park Trip

With the backcountry of Yellowstone National Park as their office, Sunrise Pack Station offers unprecedented fly-fishing trips in Yellowstone National Park. If the fly-fishing gods were to create a landscape and fishing opportunities to epitomize fly fishing for trout, the large rivers, and smaller creeks Sunrise Pack Station can offer you, would fit that bill.

Slough Creek, Cache Creek, Yellowstone and Lamar Rivers, and Pebble Creek are home to plentiful populations of native Yellowstone cutthroat who are usually eager to rise to a well-presented dry fly. The Bechler River and Cascade Corner are home to more than two dozen waterfalls and rivers home to several species of wild trout. Yellow Dog offers trips to explore all of these areas.

A trip into Slough or Cache Creek and the Upper Lamar River is a bucket-list must-do for catching Yellowstone cutthroat trout on dry flies. The Yellowstone cutthroat trout is native to the Yellowstone River drainage and a highly sought-after species. These fish are beautiful creatures matched only by the beauty of their surroundings.

If you desire to truly get away from civilization, a trip into the Thorofare Region south of Yellowstone Lake takes you to the most remote part of the lower 48 states. This unique area is wild—located thirty-three miles from any road, in any direction—Yellow Dog can ensure you are fishing for native trout in a wild setting and are safe and accompanied by plenty of the comforts of home.

Non-anglers will delight in being in Yellowstone National Park. They will enjoy geysers, wildlife, pristine landscapes, hiking, birding, and relaxing in comfortable camps.

Sunrise Pack Station takes pride in their length of time in business and hires only professional guides and packers and promises safety first.

Middle Fork of the Salmon River Float Trip

Cutting through the wilderness and a rugged mountain range in Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Canyon walls that rise for a thousand feet directly from the water, large cutthroat trout eager to rise to a dry fly, several class three and four rapids, and a third-generation outfitter with the finest camps and fishing guides on the river, pushes a Middle Fork of the Salmon River fly fishing trip into the upper realm of fly-fishing greatness.

Since 1973, the native cutthroat of this river has been managed for catch and release angling. There are plentiful numbers of good-sized fish over the five full days you will be on the water floating and fishing. If casting to native trout isn’t enough to get you excited, at the end of each day camp is waiting for you, appetizers and drinks are ready, and dinners range from seared ahi tuna to Dutch oven lasagna to steaks, lamb chops, and salmon.

Great food, fish eating dry flies, and an exciting yet safe river best describes a Middle Fork of the Salmon River fly fishing trip. For non-anglers, this trip is a perfect blend of relaxation, scenery, wildlife, and great service. The outfitter and guides pride themselves in their knowledge of the canyon’s history and geology. Native American pictographs can be seen on the granite cliff walls. Wildflowers, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and river otters frequent the canyon. Birders will delight in dozens of species in the canyon, including bald eagles and horned owls. Hiking trails are abundant and three natural hot springs provide rejuvenation.

For anglers and non-anglers, the attention to detail and the experience of Yellow Dog’s Middle Fork of the Salmon outfitter and his guides is unsurpassed. These trips book up well in advance, so plan accordingly and contact us as soon as you even entertain the idea of a fly-fishing trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.

Wild and Scenic Rogue River Trout, Salmon, and Steelhead Multi-Day Trip

Oregon’s Rogue River flows through a breathtaking canyon, tumbles down several class 3 and 4 rapids, and is home to trout and steelhead. From its origins in the Cascades near Crater Lake National Monument, the Rogue River cuts through the coastal mountains, creating a beautiful canyon. In 1968 the Rogue was designated a Wild and Scenic River.

The scenery is enough to enjoy this trip, but the varied species available and their relative willingness to eat a fly makes a Rogue River fly fishing trip ideal for all abilities of anglers. The guides are some of the best oarsmen in the West and their knowledge of the fishery is unsurpassed. Steelhead are the targeted fish and most fish are half-pounders and run in the 14-16 inch range. On occasion, an adult steelhead is caught and can push up to 8 pounds. A fall run of salmon occurs, with some chinook and coho as well. If available, the guides will target salmon using conventional fishing gear.

Great scenery, consistent fishing, and wilderness accommodations round out a Rogue River trip. Non-anglers will enjoy the many species of wildlife found in the canyon and guides are entertaining and knowledgeable about the history and geology of the area.

After a fun day casting and splashing on the river, guests stay in different riverside lodge accommodations. Comfortable beds, hot showers, and plenty of great food are enjoyed by all. Each lodge has a unique story behind its name and all are close to the river to help lull you to sleep at night.

The Helfrich Family has operated Rogue River fly fishing trips for many generations. Their knowledge of the Rogue River, their excellent guides, and one of the most scenic canyons in the Lower 48 creates multi-day fishing and float trip for all levels and interests.

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