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Top Fly Fishing Charters in Montana



Fly Fishing in Montana

Montana and fly fishing go together like peanut butter and jelly. This is the place to have your next fishing vacation, surrounded by the breathtaking scenery Montana is famous for and plenty of fish at the end of your line. A Montana fly fishing trip will not easily be forgotten. Follow the footsteps of Brad Pitt in his film “A River Runs Through It,” and make a pilgrimage to these world-class blue-ribbon fisheries.

What to Catch

These waters have many different species of good-sized Trout, so much so that many bodies of water have been awarded the blue-ribbon status. There are seven different species you can target: Cutthroat Trout, Rainbow Trout, Lake Trout, Brook Trout, Bull Trout, Brown Trout, and Golden Trout. You can also target landlocked Kokanee Salmon, Arctic Grayling, Northern Pike, Largemouth Bass, and more.

Where to Go

With 26 rivers, 30 big lakes, and hundreds of small lakes and tributaries, there are plenty of spots for you to choose from to cast your line. As well as the ones mentioned below, you can also fly fish in Missouri River, East Gallatin River, Jefferson River, Ruby River, Bighorn River, Boulder River, Smith River, Firehole River, and Hyalite Reservoir.

Yellowstone River

The Yellowstone River, or “Stone” to the locals, is the longest undammed river in America. There are plenty of spots to fish from, but for excellent fly fishing head past Livingstone, after the “big bend.” There are over 200 miles of top Trout fishing available here, for Cutthroat, Brown, and Rainbow Trout. The Yellowstone River accurately represents the fantastic fly fishing available in Montana, where you’ll catch good-sized Trout while surrounded by beauty. Head over in April and May to fully appreciate these waters.

Madison River

The Madison River stretches from the Yellowstone National Park to the Missouri River. Each section offers anglers a different type of hatch, allowing for different techniques while fly fishing. Along the river are different regulations, such as catch and release only in Upper Maddison. There’s a section called Madison Meadows that is great to fish in the winter. This is the river to practice your classic dry-fly fishing. The ultimate fly fishing spot on Madison River is ‘the 50-mile riffle.” This stretch of water runs from Quake Lake to the town of Ennis, and is wide and shallow, creating the ideal conditions for a great fishing trip.

Bighorn River

Over 460 miles long, the Bighorn is considered by many to be one of the best fishing spots in Montana. Trout here can reach 20 inches and longer, and it is estimated that there are around 6,000 fish per mile in the most productive parts of the river. Fish the upper 13 miles for the best opportunities to catch your fill. In August there’s a hatch of caddis and pale morning duns – this is the best time for fly fishermen to head over.

Bitterroot River

This 84-mile long river is also super clear and holds large populations of Brook Trout, Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Cutthroat, Bull Trout, Largemouth Bass, and even some Northern Pike. Known locally as “the Root,” you can fish here throughout the year. In March there are hatches of skwala stonefly hatch, making this a great time to visit. This is one of the rivers affected by the Hoot Owl restrictions, so check with your guide before heading over.

Big Hole River

The Big Hole River is one of Montana’s acclaimed blue-ribbon Trout rivers. Running over 150 miles, there are different species depending on where you fish. The upper part is where you’ll find Brook Trout, Cutthroat Trout, and Arctic Grayling. The lower part is best for Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout. After Fishtrap Creek you’re unlikely to find any Brown Trout. Fly anglers will want to head over in June for the salmonfly hatch.

Hebgen Lake

Located in southern Montana near West Yellowstone, this is another top spot for fly fishing. The convenient location, excellent fish, and beautiful scenery all combine to make this a favorite for locals and visitors alike. The Brown Trout can reach sizes of 18 inches and the Rainbow Trout around 16 inches. You can also find Brook Trout, Westslope Cutthroat Trout, and Mountain Whitefish here. During the winter the lake freezes over – great for ice fishing, but you’ll need to put your fly rods away for the colder months!

How to Fish

  • Match your gear to the hatch on your chosen river. In July and August there is a trico hatch, so use light gear to match, with light tippets and long leaders. For the caddis hatch in June and July, standard dry fly patterns work best.

  • Generally, you can’t go wrong with a 9’ 6 wt rod. However, if nymphing, a 10’ or 11’ rod can help you cover more water.

  • Your guide and local fishing shops will be well informed on the water levels of streams and rivers. These depend on the winter snowfall, so vary year to year. These can cause fishing restrictions and change how you fish the river. As well as natural restrictions, some rivers will have a “Hoot Owl” restriction on them, preventing fishing on some rivers after 2:00 p.m.  

When to Go

There are three distinct times for hatches in Montana: March to April, June to August, and September to October. The summer has the most hatches, making it the most popular time out on the water. However, there are opportunities to fly fish in Montana year round. Expect the river to be most quiet in the winter, where you’ll need to wrap up warm and work harder to get the attention of the fish.  

Fly fishing in Montana is exceptional. This is one of the few places in the US where you can be surrounded by beautiful scenery and choose such bountiful waters to fish. Heads up – once you’ve booked a trip here, you’re likely to come back time and time again.

Montana

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Top Targeted Fly Fishing Species in Montana

Rainbow Trout (Steelhead)

Brown Trout

Bass (Largemouth)

Walleye

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