Fly Fishing Montana's Famous Smith River
The Silver Bow Club is a high-end, family-owned Montana guest ranch perfectly situated on 1,800 acres with 3 1/2 miles of private river access on the Big Hole River outside of Divide, Montana; perfect for a Montana fishing trip. Enjoy the entire 15,000 square foot main lodge when coming with family, spouse, or a group. Spend time fishing the Big Hole River, Beaverhead, Jefferson, and Madison River. You can even schedule an aerial photography flight in the Silver Bow Club’s private helicopter! The main lodge is the perfect setting for corporate retreats as well. With eight bedrooms, a private chef, a hot tub, stocked trout pond, and a massive “great room” complete with a grand stone fireplace, the lodge is a spectacular setting for a western fly fishing adventure.
When you arrive in camp at the end of each day, spacious two-person tents are already pitched, the 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 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. This can be a five-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. Typically the outfitting crew will have a sat phone that can be used to contact rangers in the event of an emergency.
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 outfitting 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 in the early 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.
Yellow Dog works directly with and recommends Kanna Travel. They can assist with airline tickets, hotels, transfers and all travel logistics for every destination that we offer. Contact them at 855-739-3139 or email@example.com for more details on airfare ticketing, travel services, and trip insurance.
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 is 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 thrives 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
Depending on water levels, anglers mostly float the river in three-man 14-foot, self-bailing rafts customized for fly fishing. Sometimes drift boats are used on early season trips.
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 outfitter.
$4,600.00 per person (based on at least 2 anglers)
2019 Trip Dates
May 2 – 6 (full)
May 9 – 13 (8 spots)
May 16 – 20 (8 spots)
May 18 – 22 (full)
May 24 – 28 (8 spots)
May 26 – 30 (full)
June 2 – 6 (full)
June 3 – 7 (8 spots)
June 9 – 13 (full)
June 18 – 22 (full)
June 19 – 23 (full)
June 24 – 28 (full)
June 25 – 29 (full)
July 3 – 7 (full)
July 6 – 10 (full)
Trips in May are discounted down to $4,000 per person
- Transportation from Helena airport to White Sulphur Springs
- (1) incoming night of lodging at All Seasons Inn & Suites in White Sulphur Springs (double occupancy room)
- (5) days of guided fishing (2 anglers per raft)
- (4) nights camping (2 anglers per tent)
- Tent, cots, and sleeping pads
- All meals
- Beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages
- Rods/reel, flies, and tackle
- River usage fees
- Transportation from take-out to the chosen hotel in Great Falls or Helena
What’s Not Included:
- Other area airport transportation (dependent on the airport)
- Wader/wading boots (BYO)
- Liquor and any other specialty drinks or mixers (BYO)
- Montana fishing licenses
- Sleeping bag (can be provided upon advanced request for an additional cost)
- Personal vehicle shuttle fee
- Gratuities for outfitting crew
- Outgoing nights lodging in Great Falls or Helena at the end of the trip
- Transportation to either the Great Falls or Helena airport from your chosen hotel the day after the trip ends