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 smaller populations of rainbows, cutthroat, and brook trout as well. When you arrive in camp at the end of each day, spacious two-person tents are already pitched, camp is set up, dinner is cooking, and drinks are ready.
LOCATION: Central Montana
SEASON: May through mid-July (conditions permitting)
CAPACITY: Group sizes vary, but are limited to 8 people per launch date.
CLOSEST MAJOR AIR HUB: Helena, Montana (HLN)
TARGET SPECIES: Brown, rainbow, cutthroat, and brook trout
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED: Montana fishing license and valid identification
CONTACT US FOR MORE INFO 888-777-5060 INTL 01-1-406-585-8667 info [at] yellowdogflyfishing [dot] com
When you arrive in camp at the end of each day, spacious two-person tents are already pitched, camp is set up, and drinks are ready. A hearty and delicious streamside dinner will provide the perfect end to a day in the wilderness. Stare into the campfire, enjoy a glass of wine, and think about the rises of the day, the “one that got away,” and the hook-ups to come in the morning. Swap stories with your friends and watch the last flicker of sunset slip below the cliffs of the river canyon. Tents, cots and foam mattresses are included. Dry bags are also provided for each client, allowing you to pack your gear in waterproof bags and keep your clothing safe and dry on the river.
Food and Beverages
Delicious appetizers and your favorite beverages await your arrival each evening after a full day on the river. Enjoy hearty “camp-style” Western meals featuring fresh salads, entrees such as as chicken kebabs or steaks grilled over an open fire, and apple crisp baked in a Dutch oven.
Typical Length of Stay
This deluxe wilderness trip covers 60 miles as it winds its way through the scenic and remote Smith River Canyon. Depending on your preference, this can be a five or six day trip.
Non-Angling Activities and Options
While the Smith is a great angling adventure, non-anglers will no doubt enjoy the trip just as much. Wildlife is abundant throughout the river corridor. Nesting waterfowl patrol the banks of the river as migratory songbirds search the bushes and the sky for an unsuspecting stonefly. A mid-day hike in the foothills may be rewarded with the treasure of a "shed" elk or deer antler. Although there are no grizzly bears in this part of the state, a sighting of a black bear in its blond color phase may have you convinced otherwise. Hiking, eating great food, reading and – above all – relaxing are all important elements of this trip.
Internet / Communications
There is no wireless or cell service in the canyon. Guides carry a radio phone that can be used to contact rangers in the event of an emergency.
The character of the Smith River is diverse, offering anglers everything from wide riffles and deep pools to shallow flats, undercut cliff walls and quiet backwaters. The river drops over 1,000 feet in elevation during the 60-mile stretch, creating as wide a variety of trout habitat as one can imagine. While the Smith is primarily a brown trout fishery, there are healthy populations of rainbows as well. Fish will average 14 to 16 inches with the occasional 18 to 24-inch fish landed. While releasing 20 to 30 fish in a day is common, many anglers find that the fishing runs second to the overall atmosphere and beauty of the river and the canyon walls.
Since this is a natural freestone river, the insect populations on the Smith are numerous and diverse. Everything from the smallest trico mayfly to the legendary salmonfly thrive in the wild waters of the river. The season’s major hatches begin with the famous "salmon fly" stoneflies in mid-May. These hummingbird-sized salmon flies are quickly followed by large golden stones, which continue through the month of June. At the end of June, the Smith is often graced with a prolific brown drake hatch. They hatch in the afternoon and transition into an impressive spinner fall at sundown. Some anglers have been known to rush through dinner and skip dessert, beckoned back to the water by the unmistakable "gulping" sounds coming from fish feeding on evening drakes.
July hatches are primarily dominated by hoppers and cicadas, and the dry fly fishing continues to be fantastic. While it seems that this is a river custom-made for big dry flies, smaller hatches are always present to fill in the gaps. Blue winged olives, pale morning duns and many different types of caddis will have you matching the hatch and casting dries on a constant basis. If anglers are willing, subsurface fishing can also be very productive. Nymphing and bugger fishing can really produce numbers, with some of the biggest fish of the year falling for surprisingly large streamers. There is nothing quite as exciting as witnessing a monster brown give in to his voracious carnivore tendencies to chase a big streamer to the surface.
Boats and Equipment
On your Smith adventure, you will float-fish the river two anglers to a boat in 14-foot, self-bailing rafts custom-outfitted for fly fishing. Gear and equipment boats are also included as part of the package.
How To Get There
If your plan is to fly to Montana on a commercial airline, we recommend that you make reservations as soon as possible once you have firm river dates. You'll want to fly into Helena, Montana (HLN) the day before your first scheduled river day.
Arrival and Departure Details / Times
Try to schedule a flight that arrives in the afternoon. Delta (Sky West) and Horizon both service the Helena Airport (HLN). A representative from the Smith River crew will be at the airport to meet you when you arrive. Your first stop will be to get fishing licenses and any other last-minute things you might need. Then you will head from Helena to White Sulphur Springs, where there will be a room waiting for you at a local motel. The following morning you will begin your 60-mile expedition down the Smith.
On the last day of the trip you will usually be off the river between one and three in the afternoon. Most anglers make reservations to stay overnight in either Helena or Great Falls after their last day on the river, with plans to fly home the following morning. Once off the river at the Eden Bridge take-out, you are approximately one hour from Great Falls, two hours from Helena, and about three hours from Missoula. We recommend you make reservations in Great Falls at either the Holiday Inn (406-727-7200) or the Best Western Heritage Inn (406-761-1900), or in Helena by calling the Wingate Inn (406-449-3000). All have excellent accommodations and a shuttle service to the airport. If, however, you will be driving and want your car waiting for you when you get off the river, we can arrange to have it shuttled for you.
Montana fishing licenses are available at all area fly shops and sporting goods stores, or online by visiting the following website: Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. You will need to present a valid driver's license in order to purchase your fishing license.
Yellow Dog offers a full in-house travel and reservations system, and can assist with airline tickets, hotels, transfers, and all travel logistics for every destination that we offer. Contact us at 888-777-5060 or travel [at] yellowdogflyfishing [dot] com for more details on airfare ticketing, travel services and trip insurance.
Remember that Yellow Dog's services are completely free! When you book a trip with Yellow Dog, you never pay more than when you book directly with the lodge or outfitter. All prices listed below are per person and quoted in US dollars. If a group size is less than six (6) people, the outfitter reserves the right to add clients from other parties to the launch date.
5 nights / 5 days of fishing = $4,300.00 per person (unless otherwise noted below)
2018 Trip Dates
May 1 - 5 ($2,900 per person)
May 9 - 13 ($3,900 per person)
May 10 - 14 ($3,900 per person)
May 17 - 21 ($3,900 per person)
May 19 - 23 ($3,900 per person)
May 27 - May 31 ($3,900 per person)
June 3 - 7
June 4 - 8
June 10 - 14
June 19 - 23
June 20 - 24
June 25 - 29
June 26 - 30
July 4 - 8
July 7 - 11
- Airport pick-up in Helena and transfers to and from the river
- Incoming night's lodging at a local Hotel
- All camp accommodations in the river corridor
- All meals, non-alcoholic beverages, beer and wine
- River usage fees and all taxes
- Use of rods, reels, flies and other tackle
What's Not Included
- Montana Fishing License
- Sleeping bag, liquor, and any other items of a personal nature (sleeping bag can be provided on request at an additional cost)
- Extra vehicle shuttle costs (if you have your own vehicle)
- Gratuities for guides and camp staff
- Outgoing night's lodging in Helena or Great Falls (if needed)
- Personal vehicle shuttle (if needed)
Smith River Fly Fishing Expeditions Mission Statement
“To create Montana river experiences that enrich our guests' lives to the greatest extent possible through a level of dedication and work ethic unmatched in our industry - all with a great sense of humor.”
"Out of this world. Trip of a lifetime. Had only done single day trips before. We had eight anglers and four guides. Everyone was of different skill levels and the guides were able to teach everyone, beginner and experienced anglers alike. After a hard day of rowing, instructing, knot-tying, knot-detangling, and picture-taking, our guides then played excellent hosts for convivial evenings around the fire each night and hearty breakfasts each morning. They made us feel like old friends. We are eagerly planning our next fly fishing adventure."
- Charles D. (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
“The Smith River float trip will be difficult to top anytime or anyplace! We launched on Memorial Day weekend into five days of perfect weather, magnificent scenery, and with the finest people possible. Our guides were absolute experts in fly fishing and instruction. They knew the river, all the right spots, and the hatches. Most important, they were an absolute joy to spend time with.”
- Fred N. (Springfield, Virginia)
“When Mother Nature carved out the Smith River Canyon in central Montana, she provided a superior home for trout and a truly wonderful place for anglers.”
- Joe Sowerby