Montana’s Overnight Float Trips

Montana’s Fly Fishing Program:

Yellowstone River: Fly fishing opportunities on the Yellowstone River offer well over one hundred miles of great trout water outside Yellowstone National Park. It is the longest free-flowing (un-dammed) river in the U.S. and has a multitude of moods from the stormy Yankee Jim Canyon above, to eastern Montana cottonwood bottoms below.

There is enough water here that a two week vacation wouldn’t let you fish it all, and thus a guide can be particularly useful. A flyfishing float trip through the Paradise Valley section is a classic with slow-rising Yellowstone cutthroat trout and unforgettable views of the mountainous Yellowstone country. The Yellowstone River has brown, rainbow, and of course Yellowstone cutthroat trout, and it is not unusual to catch all three in a day. It offers great spring nymphing with big-uglies like Yuk bugs, buggers, and bitch creek nymphs. It has the potential for truly mind-blowing days in late April and early May with the “Mother’s day” Caddis hatch, an event so intense that usually both fish and fishermen get overwhelmed. There is good attractor fishing after run-off (usually early July) and great hopper fishing during the
heat of August. The seasons of the Yellowstone wind up with fall excitement when we throw juicy streamers for big browns.

” The fish get huge and there is a nice mix of browns and rainbows although I think there are more browns.  The water is epic looking as the river gains size and braids through the cottonwood lined bottom.  The scenery is better than you would expect with southern views of the Beartooths and very few homes that you pass along the way. Three years ago I hooked a BIG rainbow on a dry that took me to my knot at the end of my backing twice and through two sets of rapids before it swam back up through one and I was forced to snap it off.  I got a great look at it, unfortunately not in my net!  It was likely an eight pound fish.”  – Tim Murphy

Madison River:

Montana’s Madison is one of the legendary flyfishing rivers in the U.S. and many fly fishermen make a pilgrimage here before they feel they have really fished the west. From Quake Lake to Ennis is the “50 mile riffle” and some more varied water too. This part of the river is probably best known for the giant salmonfly which can produce some spectacular fishing. The “hatch” is in late June and early July but the nymphs are available to the trout year round so an imitation of this food form is a consistent producer. A variety of caddis fly species call the Madison home so from the first hatches in May they can be the key to successful fishing.

The lower Madison river between Ennis and Three Forks is a Bozeman local favorite. It fishes best early and late, from March through early July and then again in the fall. The edges of the many large weed beds can produce great fishing with blue-winged olives on drizzly days. If you are willing to get up bright and early and be done shortly after the sun hits the water, you can fish right through the summer. There are fewer fish here than in the more famous upper river but your chances of hooking a hog are probably better. The Mother’s Day caddis hatch can be so thick that it looks like fog.

Clark’s Fork River: The Clark Fork River is one of the rivers Tom Jenni learned to flyfish on and is still one of his favorites. The lower Clark Fork is big, mostly flat water, connected by relatively short riffles, and one big whitewater canyon. From Missoula downstream there is enough water and scenery (trout too!) to create a week long vacation, and never fish the same water twice.

The fish count in the lower Clark Fork sounds low compared to many of the state’s better known fisheries but the rainbows and increasing cutthroat trout provide outstanding and consistent dry fly fishing. The fish tend to be in pods so there are long relatively fishless stretches; this is another river where it really helps to have a guide, even for the very experienced fisherman.

Early in the season, starting in March, there can be good stonefly hatches with both skwalas and nemouras. From the first blue-wing olives of the year there are usually some mayflies hatching on the river all the way into October, and caddis flies play another important roll, particularly in the evenings as summer progresses. The hard fighting rainbows and cutthroat in this river will often fall for hoppers or juicy attractors or they may require a little more technical skill during the incredible trico hatches of August.

Bitterroot River: The Bitterroot River is another one of our smaller rivers, but a very nice size for flyfishing. A typical float trip will include plenty of opportunity to get out of the boat and work some runs and side-channels. Nestled in western Montana’s gorgeous Bitterroot Valley, the river has a very different character than its neighbors in the Missoula valley, the much larger Clark Fork and the rougher Blackfoot. The “Root” is a riffle-pool river winding through cottonwood flats and gentle drops, over mostly gravelly bottoms, past lots of fishy-looking deadfall.

The Bitterroot offers some unbelievable early season dry fly action in March and April as big trout rise to the large and apparently very tasty skwala stonefly. Ten years ago this was a virtually undiscovered fishing opportunity which has now received some national attention and a corresponding increase in fishing pressure. But if you have the early season fishing bug here is a chance to see some big trout come up and eat in a slow but confident manner.

Montana’s Fly Fishing Accommodations:

Your hosts will set up a comfortable camp each night. Each day the bag boater will make their way down river to have camp set up by the time you arrive.  Tom Jenni will provide your tent as well as all other camping gear.  Note:  You may want to bring your own sleeping bag.

Tom Jenni’s staff offer catered camping at its finest: gourmet meals, covered dining and kitchen areas, large comfortable tents, cots and sleeping pads, blazing campfires and the roar of the river. On overnight float trips on the Yellowstone, Madison, Clark Fork, or Blackfoot, they break camp after you and your guide leave for the day’s fishing and set up before you arrive in the evening, creating a float in-float out luxury that must be experienced.

In order to properly plan for your trip, please be sure and notify us of any dietary needs or food allergies as well as any other heath issues that could lead to an acute emergency (ie. heart conditions, diabetes, and bee sting allergies. When actually on the river, we might be several hours from the nearest professional medical help.