Montana fly fishing equipment overview
When you travel a long way for a Montana fly fishing trip, it is important that you maximize your chances for success by having the right equipment. Fortunately our guides can take care of everything allowing you to arrive with just a smile. We provide rods on our trips and can rent waders (if needed). For experienced anglers the following equipment list will provide some guidance on what rods, reels, lines and flies to bring along.
Our most commonly used rods are 9 foot 5 and 6 weights. The best all around rod for fishing large Montana rivers is a 6 wt and the best all around rod for the smaller rivers like the Gallatin is a 5 weight. Often we fish two rods when float fishing and rig up a 6 weight for fishing nymphs and a 5 weight for throwing dry flies. Our guides provide rods for our guests and most of them carry 6 weights. Most anglers prefer a fast action rod for Montana fly fishing to help generate high line speed which helps cut the wind and make longer casts. For fishing spring creeks a 9 foot 4 weight is ideal. A 3 weight will also do as well as a 5 weight when the wind kicks up but a 4 weight has enough mass to cut some wind while still being delicate enough to not spook trout. A medium action rod for spring creeks help with some of the finesse casting. For throwing streamers a 6 weight or 7 weight fast action rod is perfect. There are many good rod manufactures including Sage, Winston, Scott, Loop, Thomas and Thomas, Redington, Temple Fork, St. Croix and Orvis. If you are purchasing a new rod spend as much as you can - it is the most important part of your arsenal. Most rods that retail under $200 are a liability. If you only bring one rod to Montana bring a 5 or a 6 weight.
You will want a weight forward floating line on most of your rods. For spring creek rods you could also use a double taper floating line. Some anglers like a short sink tip for streamer fishing but a floating line will do just fine with streamers.
A reel with a decent disk drag is nice. The reel basically just holds your line most of the time so you don't need the highest end reel. If cost is an issue put more into the rod than the reel. Redington and Temple Fork make some nice lower priced reels in the $100-$200 range that are great for saving some money. Other great reels are made by Ross, Sage, Galvan, Lampson, Loop and Orvis.
Either pant or chest style waders work great. Hip waders are a little too short. Gore-tex or breathable waders are the best bet and most comfortable. Team a pair of stocking foot waders up with some wading boots. Avoid studded boots for float fishing since they can damage the boats. Waders are not always needed during the summer months. For wet wading a pair of sun pants or shorts teamed with some neoprene booties or thick socks under wading boots does the trick. Please note that Yellowstone National Park does NOT allow felt boots.
Many anglers find a wading staff to be very useful. Some of our rivers are very swift and rocky. A wading staff that folds up into a belt holder works wonders.
Standard nylon leaders are fine (you don't need fluorocarbon for the leader). These are best picked up in Montana to match the days fishing conditions. We use a lot of 9 foot leaders ranging from 0 and 1x for streamers. For nymph fishing and dry fly fishing we mostly use 2-4x leaders. We also use a lot of 7.5 foot 2x and 3x leaders. When fishing spring creeks 9 and 12 foot 5 and 6x leaders are most commonly used.
Guides provide tippet on our trips so you don't need to worry about it unless you are doing some fishing on your own. We most commonly use 2-5x nylon tippet for dries and 2-5x fluorocarbon for nymphs. When fishing spring creeks we also occasionally drop down to 6x.
Flies are best purchased upon arriving in Montana. Fly selection varies greatly by time of year, river fished, and your guide. Each fishing guide has confidence in a slightly different set of patterns and we definitely recommend going with what your guide recommends on a given day. We typically stop by a fly shop on the way to the river to pick out some flies for the days fishing. If you are fishing by yourself here are some recommendations (recommendations are for freestone rivers, for spring creeks call us):
Dries: size 18-16 baetis dries and emergers, size 12 march browns, size 18 parachute adams, size 14 elk hair caddis with dark body, size 14 caddis pupae emergers, size 14 peacock caddis, size 12 olive stimulators
Nypmhs: egg patterns, pink ray charles 16, hot bead sow bugs, san juan worms in pink and red, wire worms in red and wine, 16 pink lightning bugs, 16 and 18 pheasant tails, cdc baetis emergers, 16 prince nymphs, 14 and 16 hares ear, 8 and 6 black and brown girdle bugs, 8 and 6 black and olive wooly buggers, 6 zonkers, 6 sculpin patterns, clouser crayfish 8-6
Dries: size 18-16 baetis dries and emergers, size 16-18 parachute adams, size 14 elk hair caddis with olive body, size 12 yellows and olive stimulators, size 6 rouge salmon, size 8 golden stones, size 12 yellow sallies, royal pmx size 10, purple haze size 14, pmd dries and emergers sizes 16 and 14, Chubby Chernoblys size 10-6
Nypmhs: san juan worms in red, wire worms in red and wine, 16 silver and gold lightning bugs, 14 and 16 red and copper copper johns, 16 and 18 pheasant tails, cdc baetis emergers, 16 prince nymphs, caddis pupae emergers, 14 and 16 hares ear, 8 and 6 black and brown girdle bugs, 8 and 6 black and olive wooley buggers, 6 zonkers, 6 sculpin patterns, clouser crayfish 8-6
Late Summer - late July to mid September
Dries: foam hoppers 10-6, flying ants 18-14, beetles, brown Chernobyl ants 10-6, chubby chernobyls size 10-8, 12-10 royal pmx, stimulators 12, adams 18-16, purple haze 18-14, tricos 22-20, size 14-12 gray wulffs
Nymphs: 14 and 16 red and copper copper johns, 16 and 18 pheasant tails, cdc baetis emergers, gold and silver lightning bugs 18-16, 18-20 micro mayfly, 16 prince nymphs, caddis pupae emergers, 14 and 16 hares ear, 8 and 6 black and brown girdle bugs, 8 and 6 black and olive wooley buggers, 6 zonkers, 6 sculpin patterns, clouser crayfish 8-6
Late Fall - Late September - November
Dries: foam hoppers 10-6, flying ants 18-14, beetles, adams 18-16, purple haze 18-14, baetis 20-16 emergers and dries, gray wulffs 14-12,
Nypmhs: egg patterns, san juan worms, wire worms, 14 and 16 red and copper copper johns, 16 and 18 pheasant tails, cdc baetis emergers 16 and 18, gold and silver lightning bugs 18-16, 18-20 micro mayfly, 16 prince nymphs, caddis pupae emergers, 14 and 16 hares ear, 8 and 6 black and brown girdle bugs, 8 and 6 black and olive wooly buggers, 6 zonkers, 6 sculpin patterns, clouser crayfish 8-6
Montana fly fishing equipment overview