Fly Fishing in Montana: The Ultimate Guide

fly fishing in montana

Montana is known for breathtaking landscapes, pristine river systems, and abundant populations of trout. Fly fishing enthusiasts are drawn to Montana for a truly unforgettable fishing experience. Montana has some of best fly fishing rivers in the world. They offer a variety of species and stunning landscapes.

Fly Fishing Rivers of Montana

Montana rivers are home to many trout species, including rainbow, brown and cutthroat trouts, as well as brook, brook trout, and bull trout. Montana has some of the best fly fishing rivers in the world.

1. Madison River

The Madison River is one of the world’s best fly fishing rivers. It is a beautiful river that flows through breathtaking scenery. It is also home to many different species of trout. Some sections of the river have large rainbow trout while others are famous for trophy-sized browns.

2. Yellowstone River

The Yellowstone River, the longest river in the contiguous United States without dams, is known for its amazing rainbow and brown trout population. The river flows through Yellowstone National Park and offers stunning views as well as a unique fishing opportunity.

3. Missouri River

The Missouri River is one of the most popular tailwater fishing spots in the world. The Missouri River is home to many trout species, including large brown and rainbow trout. The river is known as a large, scenic river with excellent dry fly fishing.

4. Bighorn River

The Bighorn River in eastern Montana is a tailwater fishing area that is known for its large brown and rainbow trout. The river flows through an impressive canyon and offers some the best dry fly fisheries in the state.

5. Gallatin River

The Gallatin River is an emerald-blue ribbon stream that flows through scenic Gallatin Canyon. It is known for its large rainbow and brown trout, and offers a great experience for both novices and experienced anglers.

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Fly Fishing Seasons Montana

Fly fishing seasons in Montana vary depending on the river, and the type of fish. Fly fishing in Montana peaks from June to October. During this period, the rivers are at their best and the fish are actively feeding.

1. Spring Season (March – May)

The spring fishing season in Montana offers great opportunities to fish the Missouri River, Bighorn River and other tailwater fisheries. The water levels and fish activity are usually higher in the spring, making it easier to catch fish.

2. Summer Season (June – August)

Fly fishing in Montana peaks during the summer months. The rivers are at their best and the fish are actively feeding, making this a great time to catch large rainbow trout.

3. Fall Season (September – November)

The fall is the best season to catch large browns trout, as they begin to spawn. The water levels are lower and the fish are more concentrated making it easier to catch them.

Fly Fishing Techniques Montana

Fly fishing in Montana involves a variety techniques to catch the different species of trout. Here are some popular fly fishing techniques in Montana.

1. Dry Fly Fishing

Dry fly fishing is used to catch trout that are feeding on the surface. Dry fly fishing is very popular in Montana during the summer when different hatches are occurring.

2. Nymph Fishing

Nymph fishing is used to catch trout that are feeding below the surface. It involves using artificial flies to imitate insects or other aquatic organisms trout feed on.

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3. Streamer fishing

Streamer fishing can be used to catch large predatory fish such as brown trout. It involves using large and colorful flies to imitate small prey animals or fish.

Fly Fishing Guided Trips in Montana

Consider hiring a guide if you are new to fly-fishing or want to explore new rivers in Montana. A guided fly-fishing trip can give you access to private waters, local expertise, and knowledge.

Montana has a variety of fly fishing outfitters that offer guided fly-fishing trips, from half-day trips to full-day excursions. Some outfitters offer multi-day trips, which include meals and lodging.

Fly Fishing Equipment for Montana

It’s important to have the right equipment before you go fly fishing in Montana. Here’s the list of essential equipment you’ll need.

1. Fly Rod and Reel

Fly rods and reels are essential for every fly fishing trip. Consider buying a fly rod that weighs between 4 and 6 ounces, and a reel with the capacity to hold several hundred feet of backing.

2. Fly Line

Fly line is the material you will use to cast your flies to the fish. Consider buying a fly line that is weight-forward and matches your rod.

3. Waders and Boots

For fishing in Montana rivers, you will need boots and waders. Choose breathable waders with plenty of mobility and comfort, and wading boot soles that are sturdy.

4. Flies and Tippet

Fly fishing requires tippet and flies. Consider buying a variety flies to imitate insects or other food sources that trout eat, and tippets that match the size of the fly.

Montana Fly Fishing Camping and Accommodations

If you are planning a trip to Montana to go fly fishing, you will need to find a place to stay. Montana offers fly fishing enthusiasts a variety of camping and lodging options, from primitive campsites to luxurious lodges.

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1. Campgrounds

Montana offers a wide variety of public and privately owned campgrounds. Most campgrounds offer facilities like showers, restrooms and fire pits.

2. Lodges

If you want a more luxurious experience in Montana, stay at one of the fly fishing lodges. Many lodges offer all-inclusive packages, which include meals, guided trips, and accommodations.

3. Vacation Rentals

Montana offers a variety of vacation rentals as an alternative to traditional lodging. Rent a cabin or vacation home near your favorite rivers.

Top Fly Fishing tips for Montana

Here are some tips for a successful Montana fly fishing trip:

1. Research the River

Research the river you intend to fish before you go. You can find out about the river’s flow, fish population and hatches.

2. Practice Your Casting

Fly fishing involves a lot casting, so you should practice your technique before your trip.

3. Bring a Variety of Flies

Trout are picky eaters, so you’ll need to bring a wide variety of flies which imitate different insects or food sources.

4. Respect Private Property

Montana has many rivers that flow through private land. Ask for permission to fish on private land and respect private property.


Fly fishing in Montana should be on the bucket list of any fly fishing enthusiast. Montana’s stunning scenery, diverse river systems, and abundance of trout make it a fly fishing destination unlike any other. Montana offers something for everyone, whether you’re an experienced or a novice angler.

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