Montana has been our second home for years now, and will become our primary summer months home soon. We absolutely love this state, the spirit of its people, the near perfect summertime temps, the endless opportunities for outdoor adventures and especially its world class fishing. Before we even looked inside the pages of the Trout Unlimited’s Guide to America’s Greatest 100 Trout Streams book, we knew there would be numerous Montana streams included. Below is the list of the 9 rivers included in the book, along with links to our “Guide Talks” and highlights of our time in Montana.
When we fished this river in June, 2017, we found a Big (fast) Hole flowing. We’d just missed the famous Salmon Fly hatch by a couple of weeks, so we’ll be back. Another reason to come back is the Beaverhead River which is nearby, and while for some reason excluded from the TU Top 100 book, is itself a tremendous trout stream. If you visit the area, make sure to make Melrose (MT) your base came. The true Montana feeling of this small town with the Sportsman’s Motel, Sunrise Fly Shop and Hitching Post restaurant/bar right next to one another is not to be missed.
We’d never fished the Big Horn before our River Ramble, but it has become one of our favorite rivers. We took a memorable ride on the “Bighorn Mothership” with Merritt Harris and had a “Bighorn Blast” fishing in the area. If you want to experience catching lots of big fish, this is a fishery not to be missed.
“Bitterroot Chase” Harrison was our guide on the Bitterroot and Pat’s Rubber Legs was the fly of the day. When Chase learned we were interviewing “characters” along our River Ramble, he immediately recommended someone we had to meet, Andy Carlson. Andy is a guide/outfitter, fly creator (Purple Haze among others) but most importantly, his “Conservation Leadership” has been critical to keeping the Bitterroot a world class fishery.
We had the distinct pleasure of fishing with “Ben DeMers on the Blackfoot” River. Ben, like Chase, guides for Missoulian Angler in Missoula. It was our first trip on the Blackfoot and Ben made it memorable with both the fishing and his knowledge of the river and surrounding areas. He gave us tips for fishing Rock Creek as well. This river was highlighted in A River Runs Through It.
The Gallatin is our “home river” out of Bozeman and we’ve fished it from far up in Yellowstone National Park to its joining with the Jefferson and Madison Rivers to form the Missouri. Our goto shop in Big Sky is “Wild Trout Outfitters” and we sat down with owner JD Bingham to talk about the Gallatin. We also took time to feature our local waters with a highlight post “Gallatin-Big Sky Highlights“.
While the Lower Madison is closer to our Bozeman basecamp, the Upper Madison from Ennis into Yellowstone is our primary fishing stretch of the river. We featured this river on two different float trips. The first was “Madison Mayhem” with Spaz out of Kelly Galloup’s Slide Inn. The second as a “Madison Redux” with Steve Smith out of River’s Edge fly shop in Bozeman. Needless to say, we really enjoy fishing all the stretches of the Madison.
While we both grew up in a small river town, Lexington (MO) on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River, it bears little resemblance to the Missouri River in Montana, especially the section just below Holter Dam. Our River Ramble “Mighty Mo” trip with Shane Wilson of Headhunters Fly Shop in Craig (MT), was not our first on the river, and it sure won’t be our last. This stretch of the Missouri is filled with acrobatic, hungry bows and browns ready for an epic fight.
We fished Rock Creek from Clinton to Phillipsburg and were blown away by the beauty of the area. We didn’t have a guide for our time on Rock Creek as all of our guides in the area told us we’d be just fine on our own. Turns out, they were right. A stimulator, purple haze or parachute adams were all we needed to bring hungry trout to the surface…. so we dubbed our river post “Rock Creek ROCKS!”.
Yellowstone, Middle Section
Like the Gallatin and Madison, the Yellowstone is one of our “regular” rivers to fish and the section between Gardiner and Livingston is our favorite. We’ve floated it many times with varying degrees of success. Our last trip, with Jeff Pavlovich of Flies Only Fishing was incredibly successful. As a matter of fact, we only used one fly to catch a lot of beautiful Yellowstone Cutthroats…. which gave us our “Guide Talk” title “Chernobyls on the Stone“. The only modification was between brown and yellow colors.