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Travel Buzz
Fly Fishing In Big Sky Country!

Montana fly-fishing is legendary.  Anglers travel here from all over the world to experience its many blue ribbon trout rivers and pristine mountain scenery.   Read on to find some incredible rivers, as chosen by the experts at travel café (, for your next big fly-fishing adventure...

The Yellowstone & Missouri Rivers

The Yellowstone River originates in Wyoming and flows through Yellowstone National Park before entering Montana. From the park boundary to Livingston, the river flows north through Paradise Valley, flanked by the Absaroka Mountains on the east and the Gallatin Range on the west. The Yellowstone has survived as one of the last, large, free-flowing rivers in the continental United States.  From the clear, coldwater cutthroat trout fishery in Yellowstone National Park to the warmer water habitat at its mouth, the river supports a variety of aquatic environments that remain relatively undisturbed.


America’s longest river, the Missouri, gets its start in Montana near the town of Three Forks.  Right from the start, the Missouri River runs big and wide on it’s long journey across North America to join the Mississippi over 2,300 miles away.  The swift currents of late spring and summer make it a popular river for floaters. The land the Missouri slides by has substantially the same appearance as when it was explored by the Lewis and Clark expedition more than two centuries ago.  Of particular interest to fly-fishermen is the stretch of river below Holter Dam. From the town of Wolf Creek downstream, it’s a Blue Ribbon rainbow trout fishery that looks more like a giant spring creek than a whitewater Montana river. It’s a good streamer and nymph fishery which produces big brown trout in addition to the more numerous rainbows.

The Bighorn & Madison Rivers

The Bighorn River is a long and fertile drainage that begins in the high country of Wyoming in the Wind River Range. The river hits the Montana border near the head of Yellowtail Reservoir. It’s that 70-mile reservoir that allows the silt to settle out and the waters to cool by the time they come through Yellowtail Dam into the Afterbay Reservoir.  The trout action begins when the waters come out of the Afterbay Dam, forming a Blue Ribbon stretch of trout water that runs toward Hardin.  The most trout-rich stretch is the first 13 miles below the Afterbay, where fish counts have been as high as 10,000 trout to the mile. The Bighorn is primarily a brown trout river.  The Madison is one of Montana’s premier wild trout rivers. Due to its national reputation,heavy fishing pressure, good access, high scenic value, and excellent wild trout populations, it has been classified as a Blue Ribbon trout stream.  The Madison is also the home of “wild trout management,” where the results of a controversial study in the early 1970s introduced a shift in management emphasis nationwide, from stocking to population monitoring, harvest regulation, and habitat protection.

The Big Hole & Boulder Rivers

From its modest beginnings at Skinner Lake in the Beaverhead Mountains of southwest Montana, the Big Hole River flows 115 miles to its confluence with the Beaverhead River. Early explorers and settlers were drawn to the Big Hole by its sheer size, beauty, and richness. The Big Hole is one of the most heavily used fishing streams in Montana.  The river remains free flowing for its entire course, adding to its uniqueness and charm.

The Boulder River is appropriately named, as bread loaf-sized boulders can be seen lining the river bed. The river divides the Absaroka Mountain Range and the Beartooth Mountain Range, and is an edge geological area, therefore giving the area a special appearance.  Three forks of the Boulder River — the West Boulder River, Main Boulder River, and East Boulder River — all converge near McLeod and then flow 20 miles until it reaches the Yellowstone River at Big Timber. One of the best known scenic attractions on the main Boulder River is the Natural Bridge, a rock formation through which the river flows before emerging into a beautiful 105-foot waterfall.

Roughing It In Comfort

After an action-packed day of world-class fly-fishing, nothing beats an evening of indulgent relaxation amid a landscape of unparalleled beauty.  Here are a few lodges that come highly recommended by our staff of seasoned anglers...

Yellowstone River •Yellowstone River Lodge

Just a half-an-hour drive from Billings, the Yellowstone River Lodge offers upscale bed and breakfast accommodations, along with new, contemporary cabins. The cabins here include covered decks complete with patio furniture and gas grills, queen-size beds and sofa sleepers, whirlpool tubs, kitchenettes with microwaves and fridges, wood-burning stoves, air conditioning and TVs with DVD players.

Big Horn River • Bighorn Trout Shop Lodge

The Bighorn Trout Shop Lodge in Fort Smith is simply one of the finest fly-fishing centered accommodations in the Big Horn River area. The lodge’s modern, spacious, and comfortable rooms have been designed specifically with anglers in mind. Wireless Internet service is available here, as well as an elegant common room for those who wish to socialize and swap tall tales with friends. Continental breakfast is served daily and is included in the room rate.

Madison River • El Western Cabins and Lodges

Set in the heart of the Madison River valley, El Western captures the spirit of old west hospitality and style — but with fluffy pillows and beautifully appointed log cabins and lodges. A variety of well appointed cabins are available, both creek side and mountainside, and lodges here can accommodate larger sized groups. Nearby sites include Yellowstone National Park, historic Virginia City, Lewis & Clark Caverns, and millions of acres of national forest.

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