Fly Fishing The Original Great Wild of Montana
The South Fork of the Flathead is known in the fly fishing world as the Mecca for dry fly cutthroat fishing. Located in the 1.5 million acre Bob Marshall Wilderness, America’s first ever designated wilderness area, the South Fork is formed from the junction of Danaher Creek and Young’s Creek. From here, it runs 45 miles due north, fed by dozens of small tributaries, where it exits the wilderness near Spotted Bear Ranger Station. This trip completely transects the wilderness area from south to north, right through the deepest, most remote area of the “Bob.”
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 dinner will provide the perfect end to a day in the wilderness. Stare into the campfire, enjoy a glass of wine, think about the rises of the day or 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 mountaintops. Tents, cots, and ThermaRest pads are included. Dry bags are 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
Appetizers and 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 Bison tacos or rib-eye steaks grilled over an open fire, and apple crisp baked in a Dutch oven. Dinner wine is provided. The nature of a pack in wilderness trip creates limitations on weight. There will be beer, but it is considered a luxury and will be cherished during the trip. You are welcome to bring your own.
Typical Length of Stay
This deluxe wilderness trip starts with a day and a half horseback ride, and from there covers about 45 miles by raft through the scenic and remote Bob Marshall Wilderness. Including travel days on the frontend and backend, this is usually a 9-day trip.
Non-Angling Activities and Options
While the South Fork is a great angling adventure, non-anglers will no doubt enjoy the trip just as much. Wildlife is abundant throughout the river corridor. Deer, elk, the occasional black bear or mountain goat, eagles and other birds of prey, 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 an elk “shed” or deer antler. Although this is grizzly bear country, they are rarely seen. Hiking, eating great food, reading and – above all – relaxing in one of the Lower 48’s most remote places are all important elements of this trip.
Internet / Communications
There is no wireless or cell service in the canyon. Each outfit will have a satellite phone, and/or a US Forest Service radio that can be used to contact rangers in the event of an emergency. If you anticipate needing any communication during the trip it is highly recommended that you rent a satellite phone of your own.
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. Flights need to be into Missoula (MSO) and outgoing flights out of the Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) which is located just outside of Kalispell.
Arrival and Departure Details / Times
You must schedule a flight that arrives into Missoula in the afternoon the day before your trip officially begins. The next morning, you will be picked up at your hotel and then taken to the trailhead. The last day of the trip is a big day! You will usually be off the river between 12 PM to 1 PM, to the trailhead by around 3 PM, and then back to your chosen hotel in Kalispell by around 6 PM to 7 PM. You will need to arrange for a hotel room in Kalispell for the evening on which your trip ends, and then fly out the following day.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for more details on airfare ticketing, travel services, and trip insurance.
Fly fishing on the South Fork is known to be some of the best in the world for native cutthroat. Due to its wilderness isolation, the river and its tributaries remain lightly fished, and the result is that the quality of the fishery is as good now as it was many decades ago. Skilled anglers can catch literally dozens of fish on good days, and it is common for each raft to land dozens of native cutthroats a day. These cutthroat vary in size, but there are many in the 12 to 18-inch range, and they love to rise to dry flies throughout the summer season!
The South Fork is also one of the only places where an angler can legally fish for and catch native bull trout (from Crossover boat ramp south and upstream to the confluence of Youngs‘ and Danaher creeks on the South Fork). Please note that angling for bull trout is not allowed in South Fork tributaries. These native bull trout are found throughout the main river, and catch-and-release fishing for bull trout is allowed from the third Saturday in May through July 31. A Montana FWP bull trout permit on your fishing license and a separate catch card are required and must be in possession while intentionally fishing for bull trout in the mainstream of the South Fork of the Flathead River. These bulltrout are some of the largest trout in North America, and it is not uncommon to have a large, predatory bull trout appear out of nowhere to attack a hooked cutthroat as it is being landed. The South Fork drainage is the largest stronghold of these native Char in the Lower 48 states, and bull trout in excess of 30 inches call these waters home. These lurkers act like an anadromous species, migrating upstream every July from Hungry Horse Reservoir.
There are only a few commercial outfitting permits on the South Fork of the Flathead River, and we are lucky to have an exclusive relationship with one of these outfitters. Because the South Fork lies within the Bob Marshall Wilderness, special outfitting and regulations and permits apply.
Trips begin in Missoula and end in Kalispell. That means that guests need to book their incoming flight into Missoula (MSO) and their outgoing flight out of the Glacier Park International Airport (FCA). Upon arrival in MSO, guests are picked up by members of the outfitting crew and then taken to their chosen hotel accommodations for an overnight stay. The next morning it’s off to the Lodgepole Pass Trailhead (1.5-hour drive) to meet up with the pack team and start a full day’s ride into the first night’s camp at Young’s Creek. The next day, it’s then a half day ride into Big Prairie where the South Fork of the Flathead is formed and where you’ll camp for the second night. The next day, the group walks/wades the South Fork while the outfitting crew prepares to launch the next morning. Guests then do 3.5 days floating down the South Fork of the Flathead. On the final day, the group typically makes it to the take-out point at Mid Creek in the afternoon and then it’s a 3-mile walk (1 hour) out the Meadow Creek Trailhead. Upon arrival at the trailhead, everyone is then transferred to their chosen accommodations is Kalispell for an overnight stay, and then it’s their responsibility to get themselves to the airport the following day to catch their departure flight for home.
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.
$6,950.00 per person (based on at least 2 anglers)
$500 per person discount will be given to groups of 8 anglers
2019 Trip Dates
July 8 – 14 (4 spots available)
August 9 – 15 (7 spots available)
August 17 – 23 (8 spots available)
- Ground transportation from accommodations in Missoula to the Lodgepole Pass Trailhead (1.5-hour drive)
- (6) nights of camping accommodations in the backcountry (1 tent per 2 guests)
- (1) day of walk/wade fishing on the South Fork of the Flathead at Big Prairie
- (3.5) days of floating the South Fork of the Flathead (2 anglers per raft)
- Sleeping cots and pads
- Dry bags for your belongings
- All meals and beverages (beer and dinner wine)
- Use of rods, reels, and other tackle (can be provided if requested in advance)
- All flies and terminal tackle
- Floatation vests
- River usage fees
- Ground transportation from Meadow Creek Trailhead to Kalispell on the last day of the trip
What’s Not Included:
- Incoming night lodging in Missoula (the day before the trip)
- Outgoing night lodging in Kalispell (day trip ends)
- Transportation to airport
- Gratuities for outfitting crew
- Other alcoholic beverages (BYO – no glass bottles)
- Fishing licenses
- Waders and boots (no studs) – bring if a trip is before July 20
- Sleeping bags (can be provided at an additional cost if requested in advance)
- Pillow and other items of a personal nature
- Private vehicle shuttle costs (if needed)