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The Backstage Pass

The Best Fly Fishing Float Trips in the Western United States

May 03, 23

The western United States is massive—home to hundreds of fishable waters and a large variety of species. So what is an angler to do when researching the best fly fishing trip for such a large area? Through over twenty years of fly fishing the rivers and creeks of over a dozen states, we’ve learned what makes a great fly fishing float trip.

Regarding float fishing trips, we understand that not everyone enjoys the same type or style of fishing—some anglers like head-hunting to rising trout while others enjoy casting streamers in hopes of an ambush strike. Others may want native trout in a wilderness setting, while some want big fish no matter the backdrop.

We’ve put together this guide to The West’s Best Fly Fishing Float Trips.

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Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River

The first launch of the season on this wilderness canyon float trip typically coincides with the salmon fly hatch—the largest hatching insect of the season. From the first launch to the last launch of the season in September, the rivers abundant population of 10 to 14-inch native cutthroat trout delight anglers fortunate enough to take a Middle Fork of the Salmon River float trip. Additionally, a Middle Fork of the Salmon fly fishing trip is one of our specially permitted trips. The fishery here is ideal dry fly action for anglers of all levels. This is a strong option for beginners and families with younger anglers, and 20 to 40 fish days are not uncommon. The class three and four rapids, abundant wildlife, and typically crystal-clear waters make this one of the most treasured multi-night camping float trips available anywhere in the western U.S.

Montana’s Smith River Backcountry Trip

For over nearly 60 miles, the Smith River, a major tributary of Montana’s Missouri River, snakes through a secluded canyon. As if created for a small and intimate fly fishing float trip, the Smith River is managed by the state to ensure a quality fishery. Although the river is small in comparison to many other Montana fly fishing rivers and creeks, the fishing here is grandiose. There is one trip that the entire Yellow Dog team looks forward to every spring, a trip that many of us Montanans consider the best trip of the year – the Smith River float. This is a fully-guided float trip on the pristine, protected, and isolated waters, covering 60 river miles and winding through a scenic and remote canyon over the course of five days. Fly fishing the Smith River, one will primarily catch brown trout, although there are also populations of rainbows, cutthroat, and brook trout as well.

Oregon’s Rogue River Float Trip

Its designation as a Wild and Scenic River’ by an act of Congress is only a small reason to plan a Rogue River fly fishing trip. Home to rainbow trout and wild steelhead, a fly fishing trip on the Rogue River offers an exciting opportunity for adventurous anglers of all skill levels. From its origin in the Cascades near Crater Lake, the Rogue River carves its way through Oregon’s rugged coastal mountains to the Pacific Ocean. The Rogue River Canyon is full of breathtaking scenery and whitewater. There are several class 3 and 4 rapids that you cover during the four-day trip. The history, wildlife viewing opportunities, and whitewater are easily as much fun as the fishing. When fishing the “twitch” both anglers swing their flies out of each side of the boat while the guide works the boat back and forth across the run. This is a great way to get beginners and kids into fish right away. The wild steelhead responds to surface flies and can be caught by dead drifting dries and covering pocket water along the way.

Montana’s North and Middle Forks of the Flathead River Overnight Float Trips

Beginning in some of the largest wilderness areas of the lower 48, the North and Middle Forks of the Flathead River offers some uniquely special fly fishing trips near Glacier National Park. Because of the abundance of plentiful water and all of it home to native cutthroat and wild rainbow trout, the fly fishing trips are fully customizable. Depending on the season for planning a Montana fly fishing trip, these trips can range from 2 to 7-days. The rivers here flow through either the Great Bear Wilderness or Glacier National Park. Both the North Fork and Middle Fork carve their way through lush forests, the bounty of trout rising to a well-presented dry fly is a pleasant reinforcement of the conservation efforts. Native trout eating dry flies, gorgeous scenery, and professional and hard-working guides all come together to make these trips some of the best float fishing trips in the West.

No matter how you choose to fly fish—whether on foot or in a boat—Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures has a destination for fly fishing in the western United States to meet your expectations and preferences. For those anglers that enjoy floating and fishing, the fly fishing float trips listed here are some terrific destinations.

Contact us today with any questions or to discuss with us your expectations for your next fly fishing trip.

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