Planning a Montana fly fishing vacation is overwhelming with the number of options available. The state is loaded with great rivers, lakes and incredible fishing opportunities. Narrowing it down to a few options with lodging options that make access easy is ideal. If you can fish a variety of waters, that allows for a best option choice when conditions are changing.
Start with the Timing
Timing is everything in Montana and every month offers a different approach to the fishing. The early season in April and May will throw unpredictable weather in your direction but those months also have low crowds and some big fish. June and July are both reliable months with great hatches and off the charts fishing. Crowds are higher but it’s really a great time to be in the state. August and early September are also great months, especially on the tailwater systems where water temperatures remain low. As September progresses, the fall fishing takes off. The big bugs are no longer hatching but fish are feeding on tricos, a variety of mayflies and the streamer fishing picks up big trout.
Guides vs DIY Fly Fishing Trips
Ideally, a combination of guided days and DIY exploring will provide a well rounded experience. Guides bring their expertise and boating skills to the table. Floating is a great way to really soak in the scenery while accessing and fishing the best waters in the state. If your trip is short, guides are worth their weight in gold. If you’re on a longer vacation, mix your days but still capitalize on guide knowledge while fishing together and learning the techniques to have successful outings. Most anglers can find success on the small streams where the trout are more forgiving and generally a bit smaller. Places like the Beaverhead demand the right flies and perfect presentations and guides are a huge asset.
Find the Perfect Lodging
If you plan on fishing in the evenings after guided days, look for lodging that is waterfront or close to the water. If you want to soak in the culture, consider something closer to a town. In some areas, you can find waterfront with easy town access as well. The Big Hole Valley is a favorite place to stay and fish because it has several charming small towns like Melrose and Wise River. Staying in Dillon is also convenient to local shops and dining while having the Beaverhead running right through town. Rental cabins are available or you can stay in a hotel right in town.
More Days - More Options
When you’re planning a trip, stay for as much daylight as possible. Plan your flights to land early and leave late so you can squeeze more time out of the vacation. Even planning to catch an evening hatch after arriving is a great idea. On shorter trips, plan on fishing the prime rivers. For example, a two day trip to Dillon means you can fish the Big Hole and Beaverhead. Add a few more days to the trip however and you might add the Jefferson and Ruby Rivers to experience more water than most trips see.