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Yep, October can be about the best time of the year to fish in Montana. However, you never know how the weather is going to be, it can be as warm as October in Missouri, but it can also have plenty of cold weather.

People always have the tendency to try to cram as much into a trip and fish as many places as possible on it, but whatever you do, you need to pick a spot that gives you multiple opportunities in a small area, so your travel time between fishing spots is short. Or else just pick one or two rivers and do multiple day trips on them.

The John Day is probably the best smallmouth river in the country for multiple day trips. Camping on the river is good and you don't have to worry about getting run off campsites. The scenery is spectacular; it's a high desert canyon river that looks more like something you'd see in Arizona than in Oregon. And the fishing can be terrific.

If you want to base yourself in one area and fish different streams, I don't think you can beat Montana. Wyoming comes in a close second, Colorado would be right in there as well except that so much of the fishing water in Colorado is private. In Montana, if you can get onto it without trespassing (bridge crossings or public accesses) you can fish it anywhere you can reach. The Livingston/Bozeman area where I live is great, so is the Missoula area, or any one of several other areas in Montana. And the variety of trout fishing in Montana is second to none. Where I live, within an hour's drive, I can be fishing 75 miles of the Yellowstone, a good section of the Gallatin, the lower Madison, the Boulder, the Shields, and dozens of small creeks full of native cutthroats that few people fish, plus if you want to hike a while you can reach some high mountain wilderness lakes, or drive less than two hours and be fishing plenty of good water in Yellowstone Park.

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You have a lot of options at hand. . . The Driftless Area would be a great option if you were looking for a "shorter" road trip and I am sure that you could find walleye and smallmouth within a reason

Yep, October can be about the best time of the year to fish in Montana. However, you never know how the weather is going to be, it can be as warm as October in Missouri, but it can also have plenty o

In my area of Montana there is fishing for all skill levels. Rivers like the Yellowstone you need a boat and guide, smaller rivers like the boulder and Gallatin are do it yourself wading requiring ab

There are quite a few lakes in the mountains up there, if you are serious about it there's hiking books out there that will lay it all out. Go to Amazon and search "Washington hiking" or Cascades Hiking". There's also some good hiking/fishing on the Olympic peninsula. The guide books do a good job of laying out where the trails go, access points, etc., but not much detail on fishing opportunity. Fishing is hit or miss, some lakes are barren, especially since stocking lakes in the National parks was outlawed, but some do support natural reproduction, just no way of knowing what you're going to find until you get to the lake. And yes, there are trails/campsites that have access to multiple lakes.

You also need to be in good shape, almost every trail head is at low elevation, and you'll have to ascend 3,000 to 4,000 feet to get to the lakes, at a rate of about 1,000 feet of elevation gain per mile. it's a workout, especially carrying a back pack full of stuff.

Have you made hike into the places like that, or just speaking from the standpoint that you know those trips are available?

You have a lot of options at hand. . . The Driftless Area would be a great option if you were looking for a "shorter" road trip and I am sure that you could find walleye and smallmouth within a reasonable drive. You could also look at the Gunnison River, Yellowstone, Glacier or Banff for an awesome trip. I would take a guide on the first day or two if I were going to Yellowstone, Glacier or Banff. I guess the main thing would be how much you are willing to spend and when you are looking to go. I've heard that October in Montana is when the big fish make their run, i've never been but maybe Al could confirm this.

Yeah, Grizzly. I'm starting to realize that's the one problem. I was hoping there would be more responses of actual trips people have taken, advice on what to do and what not to do, etc. It's looking like I needed to be a lot more narrowed down before asking questions, as I've gotten a wide spread of answers! I do believe you are correct though, getting some kind of guide for any new area of water is most definitely the best option.

Nick you should take a little time and check out the trip Mrs. BilletHead and I take out West to Wyoming. It is in the USA West forum on here. I think there is two summers of posts. If it is a type of trip you might like just PM me for any questions,

BilletHead

Billet, I will go check that out! Thanks for directing me towards there!

Yep, October can be about the best time of the year to fish in Montana. However, you never know how the weather is going to be, it can be as warm as October in Missouri, but it can also have plenty of cold weather.

People always have the tendency to try to cram as much into a trip and fish as many places as possible on it, but whatever you do, you need to pick a spot that gives you multiple opportunities in a small area, so your travel time between fishing spots is short. Or else just pick one or two rivers and do multiple day trips on them.

The John Day is probably the best smallmouth river in the country for multiple day trips. Camping on the river is good and you don't have to worry about getting run off campsites. The scenery is spectacular; it's a high desert canyon river that looks more like something you'd see in Arizona than in Oregon. And the fishing can be terrific.

If you want to base yourself in one area and fish different streams, I don't think you can beat Montana. Wyoming comes in a close second, Colorado would be right in there as well except that so much of the fishing water in Colorado is private. In Montana, if you can get onto it without trespassing (bridge crossings or public accesses) you can fish it anywhere you can reach. The Livingston/Bozeman area where I live is great, so is the Missoula area, or any one of several other areas in Montana. And the variety of trout fishing in Montana is second to none. Where I live, within an hour's drive, I can be fishing 75 miles of the Yellowstone, a good section of the Gallatin, the lower Madison, the Boulder, the Shields, and dozens of small creeks full of native cutthroats that few people fish, plus if you want to hike a while you can reach some high mountain wilderness lakes, or drive less than two hours and be fishing plenty of good water in Yellowstone Park.

Al, so far, everything I have researched is pushing me towards Montana! I am not familiar with Montana in very many ways, and one of my main concerns is the group that is going. While transportation, lodging, etc. is all fairly simple and anyone can make it work. the group that would go is going to be on several different levels of fly fishing experience and we would still want to make the fishing side of the trip as successful as possible. Aside from guiding, are Montana rivers (which are always talked up to be intimidating it seems), lakes, and streams, a viable option for a group to be successful?

- Nick

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Nick, I will give you reports on two trips that I have personally taken and a recommendation on a river that I have always wanted to fish.

The first trip was Arrowhead lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. I did this when I was 20 and in good shape, along with my friend who was also in good shape, however none of us had back country camping skills save for those that we had read about(which made it truly an adventure that a wiser and more mature individual would not have taken). It's 6.5 miles of hiking in one way, plus you are gaining about 1200 feet during this hike. It is not for one who is out of shape or has medical conditions. Further, I would suggest a three night camp at a minimum to make it worth while. The payoff is great, Greenback Cutt's that are large in size and not very picky. My personal best Cutty came from this trip, 19 inches! We went in late July, and I would recommend this as a time frame to shoot for from a weather perspective. Pick up this book for more info if you are interested in RMNP http://www.flyfishingrmnp.com

Yellowstone is my favorite place to visit. It's like Disneyland for the fly fisher. Sure, there will be crowds at the expected areas, Old Faithful, the Mud Pots, the Grand Canyon, but this does not necessitate that the rivers are over crowded with San Juan shufflers. I've been twice, once in mid July and once in mid August. The trip in July was a delight, nice weather and easy fishing. I mainly targeted the Madison in the Park and hit the Firehole once during in the early morning. I did hire a guide out of Blue Ribbon Fly Shop and landed a 20 inch Whitefish(and this is not a fisherman's story). I was also snapped off on 4x multiple times. The August trip brought record heat to the area, making fishing tough. The Madison and Firehole in the park were respectively closed due to heat, thus we had to explore other waters. We fished Iron Springs(I believe?), saw tons of Firehole monsters in that tributary but no success. The Gallatin was ok, we caught some bows that went to 16', but nothing big. We finally broke down and hired a guide and it was well worth the money. We fished Hebgen Lake and the Madison out of the Park. I landed two large(20 inch plus) Browns and my friend landed two large Bows as well. We then went down to the Madison where the guide worked with my friend more than I as he is less experienced. I caught numerous 12 -14 inch bows and some Whitefish. My friend did manage to land a 19 inch Brown out of the river(and I think he still owes me a few beers for hogging the guide :) ). We fished 3 dollar bridge the next day and that was about it. Again, timing is everything. If you are hunting the elusive Salmonfly hatch, then June would be a good time to visit. Want a chance at large spawning fish, albeit with the risk of bad weather, October is your time to shine. Otherwise, late June to early July would be a great time to go.

The one stream that I have always wanted to fish is the Smith River in Montana. Again, Al might be the better resource on this as he lives in Montana and probably knows some people. The have a lottery system where they issue 700 tickets a year to float this river, and you must float this river. From what I have read, it is a 5 to 6 day float wherein you must pack in what you need. Once you are in, you are in, there is no stopping the trip short as the exodus is the outtake down the river. It sounds like an absolute blast to me, 5 or six days with nothing around you but wildlife, a beautiful river and your best friends.

Outside of this, if your budget is unlimited and the political situation is ok, Kamchatka would be a hell of a trip that you will never forget. It is on my bucket list. Large Rainbows that attack mouse patterns large rainbows that attack any fly. I don't know if the situation in Ukraine has affected how the guides in Kamchatka view Americans, thus I would check in with www.theflyshop.com and see what they say. I would think that you would be fine, as it seems that most of the guides there are Americans, but better safe than sorry. IT WILL NOT BE CHEAP. Trips average 7k, and that does not include airfare, but this is something to at least dream about.

I see that you have asked Al a question about the success rate of group fishing. I would take Al's word over mine any day but, from my experience, your success will depend on your and your groups skills. I wouldn't want to go in the backwoods of Montana by myself unless I was a highly skilled outdoorsman who has a great life insurance policy. However, I think you should be fine for the most part. I would suggest the "buddy fishing" that I see at Roaring River where people mistake fishing for rubbing elbows, but I would think that there should be enough river for everyone to enjoy without losing sight of one another. Bring bear spray! Don't fall into the mindless thought that .45 will stave off a bear, it will probably just piss it off while it's mauling you.

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In my area of Montana there is fishing for all skill levels. Rivers like the Yellowstone you need a boat and guide, smaller rivers like the boulder and Gallatin are do it yourself wading requiring about the same skills as fishing the Current here in Missouri. The little mountain cutthroat creeks have really stupid fish but are tough only because of the very tight quarters. The hike in lakes mainly require being in good shape. Any good guide can put relative newbies on fish on the big rivers or the larger wadeable streams, though.

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Have you made hike into the places like that, or just speaking from the standpoint that you know those trips are available?

Yes I have made numerous hikes into the Alpine lakes wilderness in Washington state. Also a few into the Olympic Peninsula National Park. Hiking is very popular in the NW, there's a well used network of trails through out the mountains. Lots of lakes, some have trout, some don't. it's a a make your own adventure kind of thing, get some maps, use Google Earth, do some research, etc.

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Northern Michigan has been my favorite fly fishing trip in my short life. Such diverse options across the board - smallies, little brook trout streams, opportunities for big browns. I have never fished for the salmon, musky, pike, or walleye that I know they have. They also have awesome tourism, scenery, weather (usually). Even without the fishing, Michigan is probably my favorite vacation destination. If you haven't been out West, I think I would go there first, but keep Michigan in the back of your mind.

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Trips I have taken:

1) Boundary waters - not what you are looking for IMO. Not a great FF trip, really fun with conventional gear though. Get ready for bugs in the summer.

2) Tongue river in MT - Nice thing about MT is that you can determine a destination in a particular area and there are usually several areas to fish. I can spend a few days on the tongue catching cutthroat before I get the itch to travel. Lots of access, lots of nearly camping, and the added benefit of no grizzly bear (so they say). Great FF river about the size of roaring river in most places.

3) YNP - Cache creek and other creeks in the Lamar river drainage, near Cooke City, MT. One can hire a guide for day trips, or multi-day horse packing or back packing trips well off the beaten path in Yellowstone, and you will never see another fisherman. Over 90% of folks never leave the pavement at YNP.

These are phenomenal trips if one is looking for the entire experience of FF in a gorgeous ecosystem. The downside is the grizzly factor. Usually not a big deal with the horse trips and a guide, but if you decide to hike in on your own you need to be bear aware and experienced to avoid trouble.

You will literally fish to cutthroat that have never seen a fly, over and over again. Waters are small like Crane creek or RR. Rarely deeper than 3 ft, cutts up to 16 inches, bring your 1 weight. Summer is my favorite (mid -July to Sept).

4) Cody WY area - Lots of great fishing variety within 1-2 hrs of Cody. North and South fork of Shoshone, lower Shoshone, Bighorn, Clark's fork of the Yellowstone, Alkali creek, Newton and West Newton Reservoirs, and others. Most of this area is low mountain arid or desert terrain, beautiful in its own way. Lots of outfitters if desired, certainly not needed. There are plenty of access areas that are public with little fishing pressure.

Clark MT and the Clark's fork canyon are nearby, and this area is rugged and beautiful. Great hiking and fairly steep gradient flows of the Clarks fork river flow through the canyon. It is great summertime pocket water fishing, no guide needed for the fishing. It is home to some grizzlies. I would recommend making lots of noise both in and out, and perhaps a large caliber handgun or bear spray, depending on your philosophy with this subject. Encounters are not common, but they occur. Lots of rattlesnakes, too.

5) Cordova AK in September (early). Yes it is costly, but the salmon fishing is incredible on the fly (Coho) on the Eyak river, and on the Copper river delta. Can wade fish this larger river. Guide optional. Grizzlies are bigger there, but are usually locked in on fish and are actually afraid of people there because they get shot at. That is not the case in MT and WY. Nearly got spooled on a 9 weight the first cast on the Eyak by a fiesty 18 lb + coho back in mid- 2000's. By the end of the trip I was chucking and ducking with weighted egg sucking leaches on a 6 weight and landing 15+ lbs chrome coho's in under 3 minutes. I had to learn how to fight big fish on a fly rig. Could do that trip for about $2500 - $3000 for a week per person back then, not sure about now. That is travel, lodging, car rental, no guide. Add $2500 and up per person for guided trips to AK. It is a cool place. Warning, if you miss the Salmon run, you may be fishing in a river with little or no life in it. It is all or nothing sometimes in AK, but when you hit "all", it is like dying and waking up in FF heaven.

If interested in AK you guys should talk to Bill Babler and Phil Lilly, who have been known to frequent the northland and even guide in that region.

6) The Current river or eleven point river right here in MO. Tons of lower cost options, and having done several on each, would have to say the eleven point is a great combo of trout fishing and SMB fishing that is FF friendly, fairly remote and beautiful. It is a great September-November destination if you like to stay away from crowds and not break the bank. Avoid in summer.

7) The upper Northfork of the white is gorgeous, has a decent gradient, and is generally similar to small and moderate sized western rivers. River of Life (on the net) would be a good place to stay, and they can connect you with a guide if desired. It is pretty good fishing, very scenic, and can be very productive if you are with someone who knows the river well. Also a nice float river in the spring and fall. Avoid in summer.

I have done all of these trips at least once, most of them multiple times. There are, of course, several others but you asked for places people have actually experienced.

IMO, for the time and money spent, I would float and camp on the Eleven point or drive to MT/WY and spend a week hitting different rivers. If considering the latter, make sure you go after July 15 (later some years). Snow melt runoff can spoil fishing in wet years until the end of July, and most years have high water till at least July 10.

Good luck.

Jim

Jim "The obsessions of others are opaque to the unobsessed, and thus easy to mock...If we are lucky we all have at least one."

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From my personal experiences (fishing trips - 3 times to Colorado, and 1 time Clark's Fork in NW Wyoming near Yellowstone - all in late July due to my schedule as a teacher), the biggest surprise has been the difficulty in fishing and wading such fast moving water even in late July. Trips have included fishing the upper Crystal River/Roaring Fork in central CO, Arkansas River, Big Thompson near Rocky Mountain National Park, and the Wind River and Clarks Fork in Wyoming. Of all my trips, the upper Crystal River was probably my most successful, and undoubtedly because we were on smaller water on the upper reaches of the Crystal. MAN, those mountain rivers are fast, furious, cascading waterfall type rivers, and tough to wade (slippery rock/boulder bottoms) even in spots where the river slows down somewhat. But like I said, all trips were in late July. I would love to fish the mountain rivers in fall when all the run off is over, but that will have to wait until retirement. From my experience, in late July for all trips, we have seen more whitewater rafting water than what we flatlanders would associate as fishing waters.

Al Agnew would be the resident expert on the Wyoming/Montana area, but for my two cents, if your group could manage a fall trip, that would be my choice if you have never visited the area. We rented a house northwest of Cody, WY about 2 hours on the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway that follows the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone. About 10 miles farther up the Chief Joseph HWY intersects with the Beartooth Scenic Byway that leads to Cooke City, MT on the WY/MT border, and the north entrance to Yellowstone NP. Just awesome scenery in every direction. As Jim Elam mentioned above, there are numerous rivers within an hour or so drive of this area. Granted, you are primarily on a fishing trip, but the drive from Jackson Hole, WY thru Yellowstone NP and coming out in Montana is something everyone should see in their lifetime. And wherever you are, you are never far from a fishing stream.

You didn't mention if you camping, or getting lodging. One suggestion me and my vacation buddy have found out, we rented a house for a week like I said near eastern Yellowstone boundary. That pretty much limited us to the area within 1-2 hours of our cabin, (especially after driving out there and the drive home to look forward to). We have learned to not tie ourselves down to one area - a good example, the Clarks Fork was still high, fast, and too hard to wade because of amount of fast water, but we were pretty well stuck to that area since our lodging was there. I would suggest not tying yourself down to specific area for the entire trip. Leave yourself some flexibility in case the river(s) you choose are too tough fishing, you can always move on. There are more places to fish than you can get to in a lifetime in that part of the country.

IF you haven't been mountain fishing at all in your life, it is totally different than fishing even the fastest streams in Missouri. Multiply the upper Current by about X 20. Most rivers will have multiple pull offs along the road that are public fishing, but even in those spots, you may have only a hundred yards of wadeable water (if that). Lots of cascading waterfalls with huge boulders that hold pocket water behind the boulders that hold fish. From my experience, don't expect to find rivers that you can wade up and downstream all day, especially I believe is still not legal in Wyoming on private land. Definitely illegal in Colorado, and people are adamant about their own private stretch of water. Correct me if I am wrong, Al, but I believe Montana to be more lenient about fishing thru private land as long as you don't trespass on private land to reach the stream, you can wade thru private streams as long as you stay in the water.

Bottom line, by all means I suggest the Yellowstone/Montana area if your group has never been there, but don't expect to slay the fish your first time fishing a mountain stream. Depending on your budget, a guide and renting a raft may be your best bet, or if someone on here would give you advice on a can't miss section of river. And be flexible, don't tie yourself down by making accommodations to stay in one place all week.

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