Fishing around for the Best

Montana: Classic American Trout Streams

Montana is the heartland of American trout fishing. Here you will find more excellent streams and first-rate outfitters than in the rest of the Rockies combined.

Among Montana's many blue-ribbon trout rivers, Big Horn may be the best. With a population of 5,200 fish per mile, in less than 10 years it has earned a reputation as one of the most productive fly-fishing destinations in the Lower 48. The Big Horn is accessible to the general public, though you may want to hire a guide, both to help you choose the best flies, and lead you to the river's most productive sections. Contact the Big Horn Trout Shop, (406) 666-2375, or Quill Gordon Fly Fishers, (406) 666-2253, both in Ft. Smith.

For the only log-lodge stream site on the Big Horn, contact the Bighorn River Lodge. A four night/three day package includes meals lodging and guides for $925 per person. The lodge is designed to cater to the physically challenged and also has a full service fly shop and fishing license. Contact Phil Gonzalez at (406) 666-2368.

Another legendary Montana trout destination is the Big Hole River area. Here you can fish the Big Hole itself, as well as a half-dozen other top streams including the Beaverhead, the Upper Clark Fork, and the Wise. Craig Fellin's Big Hole Outfitters, based 45 minutes south of Butte, runs one of the best operations around. A recent customer said, "Excellent fishing in magnificent country, with topnotch guides and first-rate accommodations." Cost is about $1,895 per head for 6 days and 5 nights (double occupancy and shared guide). July, August, and September are generally the best times, although the trout bite all summer. Book through Frontiers, (800) 245-1950.
Another top spot is the Madison River, which is best fished in June. The first few miles below Earthquake Lake are particularly productive. An outstanding guide on the Madison is Mike Lawson of Henry's Fork Anglers, (800) 788-4479, or (208) 624-3590.

Before you head off to Big Sky country, pick up a copy of the Montana Angling Guide by Chuck Fothergill and Bob Sterling. It provides detailed maps of all the classic fishing holes, and many little-known spots as well. A companion book for Wyoming is available. We also recommend The Fabulous Bighorn with Gary Borger, a 60-minute float trip video. In this $40 travelogue, Borger demonstrates both basic and expert fly preparation and casting techniques.

Paul McMenamin is the author, editor, and photo director of the original Ultimate Adventure Sourcebook.

Published: 30 May 2001 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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