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The Backstage Pass

How to Plan Your Next Fly Fishing Trip to Montana

May 03, 23

+ Listen to this WAYPOINTS Podcast: JAKE WELLS - Planning the Perfect Trip to Montana

Fly fishing in Montana is grand and planning your fly-fishing trip in our home state should be fun and exciting, not a challenge. But how do you plan the perfect trip to a state that is home to a lifetime’s worth of amazing fly fishing?

As you decide where to fish in Montana, choosing when to make a trip is equally as important. Read our When to Visit Montana post to learn our angling calendar. We always enjoy talking about fishing in our home state. Please give us a call and we can talk about current or expected conditions and help you plan a trip. Sending you to the right waters and the right times is how we roll.

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If you’re considering a trip to Montana or will be here visiting, the best way to plan for a trip is to call us. We are Montanans to the core so we are eager to discuss current conditions or to help plan for future trips. Remember our expert services are always free—but we’ve compiled this article to help you wade through the myriad of trip options to help you plan the perfect Montana fly fishing trip.

Yellow Dog’s Home Waters

Let’s look at the state’s geography as we break down the vastness of Montana’s fly-fishing trip options. Over six hundred miles wide the Treasure State is massive in terms of waters accessible to fly fishing. Within those waters, there are options to chose from as well—larger rivers best suited to fishing from a boat, smaller waters explored on foot, crystal clear spring creeks, multi-day backcountry river float trips, alpine lakes, and private access waters.

The places to fish read like a fishing Hall of Fame ballot: Madison, Missouri, Bighorn, Smith, Big Hole, Yellowstone, Bozeman, Missoula, Twin Bridges, and many other places well-known and some other places off-the-radar. We’ve got small towns near a particular river, larger towns with a variety of dining, arts, and entertainment options, secluded lodges with diverse fishing programs and professionally trained chefs, and overnight multi-day float and pack trips.

Non-Angling Activities

For non-anglers Montana has plenty to keep them engaged while others are fishing. Our two national parks, Yellowstone and Glacier, are located near some remarkable fishing. We are known for great scenery, wide-open spaces, and friendly locals. Missoula and Bozeman are vibrant towns with thriving arts and dining scenes. Helena and Great Falls, jumping-off points for our Smith River trips, are steeped in Montana history and home such highlights as the Montana Historical Society Museum, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center, and more.

Knowing the geography and the towns near our waters is important, but so is understanding the many ways to consider deciding where to make a trip.

Destination River Trips

The Missouri and Bighorn Rivers are famous tailwater rivers serviced by world-class destination lodges and local hotels and motels. Fishing trips to these rivers typically have you fishing one river and fishing it intimately, based in or near the angling-centric crossroads of Craig or Fort Smith. These rivers have the longest angling seasons of our Montana waters and usually harbor the most consistent hatches and fish numbers and cater well to all angling abilities, yet non-angling amenities are limited.

Variety is The Name of the Game

Montana offers variety and accessibility to fish multiple waters in multiple days. The Big Hole one day, the Madison the next, a small creek on a day three, and so on. With our network of lodges and outfitters, Yellow Dog’s experience in Montana can arrange a trip to sample all of Montana’s great waters. From Missoula to Twin Bridges to Bozeman to Livingston, we can arrange any length of trip at a destination lodge or with a local outfitter.

Multi-day Backcountry Float Trips

Montana’s Smith River flows for sixty miles through a spectacular backcountry canyon. The Smith River is home to limestone cliffs rising a thousand feet above the river, Native American petroglyphs, wild rainbow and brown trout, and a few native cutthroat trout.

Other Unique Montana Trips

From Montana’s extreme northwest corner to the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness and Yellowstone National Park in between, the desire to get-away-from-it-all exists in fishing less crowded waters. Book a float trip on a remote northwest Montana river or a horse-pack trip into the heart of some of the largest wilderness in the Lower 48. Yellow Dog has extensive experience with these trips. With our knowledge of world-wide angling destinations, we are confident these trips are worthy of being on many angler's wish list.

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