Montana Fishing FAQs

Pre-Trip FAQ's

Booking a fly-fishing guided trip can be confusing as the experience is quite different than traditional "charter" fishing trips and other guided, outdoor activities. Here is a list of the most common questions we hear during the booking process which will hopefully help in your planning process. Please e-mail us with any additional questions or for clarification as well.

Are children allowed on guided fly fishing trips? O

Yes, a Montana fly fishing trip is a great family activity for experienced and novice angling families alike. It is recommended that children under 12 be accompanied by an adult. Life jackets are required to be worn by all children 12 and under while floating. These activities are not appropriate for infants or toddlers.

Are the rivers safe, any whitewater? O
  • Safety on the water is always our top priority. Most of the fly-fishing rivers near Bozeman are easily navigated with small rapids and river obstructions such as boulders and fallen trees being the primary hazards.
  • High water levels during the weeks following the peak of the runoff - typically in mid-late June - create the most challenging water conditions of the year. We avoid sections of the river with significant water hazards during these times.
  • We use drift boats when floating and fly fishing Montana Rivers; these hard-sided boats are designed for a wide range of water types, including small whitewater.
  • Yankee Jim Canyon fishing trips involve floating through a significant whitewater section, depending on water levels. We provide whitewater life jackets for those trips and only recommend these for anglers with good mobility.
  • All of our Bozeman fly fishing guides have multiple life jackets and a throw bag on board with them at all times.

Are we guaranteed to catch fish? O

No, fly fishing in Montana is an immersive experience, catching fish is only a part of the overall trip.

Weather and water changes can happen quickly and cause changes in fish-feeding behavior.

The Bozeman fly fishing rivers have robust populations of wild trout and native whitefish and our guides are some of the most talented fly fishing guides anywhere. That combination ensures that we consistently do catch fish on our guided fly fishing trips in Montana.

Although rare, we have seen days in which a combination of weather and bad luck come together and keep fish from successfully reaching the net. Thankfully, these days are rare!

Can I bring alcoholic beverages? O

Yes, alcoholic beverages are allowed on your guided fly fishing trip.

You are more than welcome to enjoy a drink while enjoying the beautiful landscapes that Montana has to offer!

We do ask that you drink responsibly and respectfully while out on the water.

Can I just fish dry flies If that’s what I want to do? O

I am a DFO angler, is that ok with your Bozeman fly fishing guides?

Yes! Our Montana fly fishing guides enjoy having experienced anglers fishing whatever fly method they prefer. Fish your own flies, or use ours. We tailor each day to our guests' skills and interests.

Can we keep a few fish on a guided fly fishing trip? O

No, we only practice catch and release fly fishing on our guided Bozeman fly fishing trips.

Can we request a specific Bozeman fly fishing location? O

Yes, by all means, let us know if you have a preference. We recommend being flexible as weather and water conditions can change quickly. The variety of rivers around Bozeman ensure that we almost always have a few good options for the day when conditions change.

The Fins and Feathers Bozeman fly fishing guides typically recommended a day trip destination on the morning of each trip based on weather, water conditions, time constraints, and crowds - so be sure to let your guide know if there is a fishery near Bozeman that you prefer or would if there are any that you wish to avoid.

Can we use spin tackle on a guided trip? O

No, we do not offer guided trips using conventional tackle - we only offer catch and release fly-fishing trips as that is our expertise.

Do you cancel Montana fly fishing trips because of weather? O

Does weather affect your Bozeman fly fishing cancellation policy?

We do not cancel day trips due to weather. We fish in a wide range of conditions, including rain and snow, so be sure to check the weather before your trip to and dress accordingly. Sometimes, days are cut short due to unexpected, inclement weather creating unsafe conditions beyond our control. View our deposit policy.

I have never fished before in my life; can I do this? O

Absolutely! All of our Montana fishing guides are patient instructors that work with anglers of all skill levels, everyday. Guests are often amazed at how quickly they pick up the basics of Montana fly fishing with just a few minutes of training at the start of the day.

Should I book a guided wade or float fly-fishing trip in the Bozeman area? O

Bozeman Fly Fishing Wade or Float Trip?

Fins and Feathers Guide Service highly recommends float trips as the best way to experience Bozeman fly fishing. This is because floating enables our guides to take full advantage of the diverse local fisheries.

Wading in Montana fly fishing rivers requires long walks on slippery and unstable river bottoms to get away from popular access points. Many visiting anglers find his much more challenging than they anticipate.

Floating allows our Bozeman fly fishing guides the luxury to choose from a variety of blue-ribbon waters, ensuring flexibility when conditions change.

We have been outfitting Montana fly fishing trips for 23+ years and have learned that wade-specific trips are very difficult for most visiting anglers, regardless of their skill levels.

For anglers that prefer to wade-fish, we tailor the day to emphasize wade-fishing opportunities by using drift boats or rafts to move from one spot to the next. These day trips are a combination of fishing while floating and wading.

The truly unique aspect of Bozeman fly fishing is the abundance of wild trout fisheries within an hour's drive - all of which are best suited for fishing from a drift boat.

Our guide to client ratio is always 1:1 or 1:2 - we cater to larger groups of up to 20 anglers, with advance notice. Floating allows these groups to fish near one another and have lunches together while also ensuring that everyone has access to good water.

We have a group of 3 and we would all like to fish together, how does that work? O

Our Bozeman fly fishing guides can each accommodate a maximum of 2 guests, regardless of age or skill levels.

3 person groups will want to book 2 guides for their Bozeman fly fishing day trip.

Montana fly-fishing guide services typically handle 1-2 anglers per guide. This is to ensure a quality and safe experience. The guide provides "hands-on" approach instruction, which is most effective with 1-2 anglers at a time.

The boats used for drifting and fly-fishing are small (16 feet long) drift-boats that can accommodate a total of 3 people, including one seat in both the front and back of the boat for anglers. The Montana fly fishing guide rows the boat downstream while coaching and navigating the diverse waterways to maintain a position in favorable trout-holding water.

Each day trip is reserved for 1-2 anglers, the pricing remains the same whether there is 1 or 2 anglers in the booking. Group trips that consist of 3-10 anglers are common and easily accommodated. To keep groups together on the river, our guides float the same stretch of river on group bookings.

We do not put more than 2 anglers with one guide as it compromises the quality of the experience and the safety of our clients. Our guides are responsible for the safety of their clients, and having 3 anglers on board or under their supervision is not feasible while rowing or wading across a river.

We have been outfitting Montana fly fishing trips for over 23 years and have phased out offereing 3:1 client to guide ratio trips based on those years of experience.

What are some good restaurants in the area(s)? O

Bozeman has some of the best restaurants Montana has to offer. There are plenty of options for dining no matter where you stay while on your visit. Here are some of our favorite local eateries to grab a bite after a long day of fishing.

  • Black Bird - Wood-fired Pizza & Pasta dishes, Wine Bar

  • J.W. Heist - Iconic steakhouse & Cocktail / Wine Bar

  • Open Range - Upraised steakhouse & Artfully crafted dishes

  • Montana Ale Works - Locally sourced pub fare & extensive bar

  • Roost - Eclectic Southern comfort food with Western influences

  • Hooked Sushi - Adventurous Sushi & other Japanese dishes

  • Revelry - Locally sourced creative pub-fare dishes

What is included in the guided fly fishing rates? O

Bozeman Fly Fishing Trip Includes...

Use of all gear (waders, boots, rods, reels, terminal tackle, and flies), drinks, transfer to and from the fishing destination, and lunches on day trips for 1 or 2 anglers fishing with our Bozeman fly fishing guides. Fishing license and gratuities are not included in the standard rates.

What is the appropriate clothing to wear? O

Having the correct clothing and outerwear before heading out on your fly fishing guided trip is very important and we advise that you plan according to forecasted weather as well as time of year.

Refer to our recommended pre-trip Packing List for a general overview of what you should bring in preparation.

What is the best airport to fly into? O

Bozeman Fly Fishing Trips: Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN)

Missouri River Fly Fishing Trips: Great Falls International Airport (GTF) or Helena Regional Airport (HLN)

Missoula Fly Fishing Trips: Missoula Montana Airport (MSO)

What is the duration of your Bozeman fly fishing trips? O

Bozeman Fly Fishing Day Trip Duration

The length of the trip depends on the Bozeman fly fishing destination, water conditions, Montana fish activity, and angler fishing requests. The standard day trip is usually a 7-9-hour experience with 5-7 hours on the water - we can tailor the length of the day around your schedule.

Day trip meeting times vary throughout the season. Spring and fall trips usually meet between 8 and 9 am. Day trips during the summer start between 6 and 7 am. We can adjust the meeting and return time to fit your schedule on our guided fly fishing day trips.

Half-day trips are 4 hours in duration from start to finish and only offered with early morning starts, when available.

What is the recommended form of transportation, should I rent a vehicle? O
  • Renting a vehicle gives you the most flexibility, especially if you have off days and would like to explore the area.
  • Rideshare companies like UBER and Lyft are in the Gallatin Valley and most Bozeman hotels provide airport transfers, so renting a vehicle is not required.
  • Our Bozeman fly fishing guides can pick guests up and drop them off at their accommodations in Bozeman.
What is the standard gratuity for a Bozeman fly fishing guide? O

How Much to Tip A Montana Fly Fishing Guide

Montana fishing guides work long hours, row boats down many miles of river each day, and cover their own expenses such as gas, shuttles, lunches, drinks, ice, flies, boats, insurance, and equipment.

Spend a day trip with one of our crew and you will have a deep appreciation for the effort and skills required to keep everyone safe and to catch some Montana fish. Ensuring that our guests have a great experience is paramount; our guides work hard to ensure that this is the case, every day.

The recommended gratuity is $150-$200 per day/per guide (1-2 anglers) for a job well done. This is at our guests discretion and anything is always appreciated.

Cash or Venmo paid directly to the guide at the end of the trip is the standard practice.

What kind of boats do we fish from? O

Bozeman Fly Fishing Boats

Specially designed drift boats are 16’ long fiberglass with one seat in the front and one in the back. The guide rows the boat from a seat in the middle of the boat.

Some guides also use rafts with custom-built frames with similar layouts to drift boats.

What kind of fish are we targeting? O

Montana Fish We Catch on Our Montana Fly Fishing Trips

Wild trout are the cornerstone of fly fishing in Montana. We target trout and whitefish on our Montana fly fishing trips.

  • Rainbow Trout are found in all of the Montana Rivers where we offer guided fly fishing trips.
  • Brown Trout thrive in the lower portions of the river drainages and are common in all of the waters that we fly fish near Bozeman, Montana.
  • Westslope Cutthroat are native trout and present in the Missouri River drainage which includes the Madison, Gallatin, Jefferson, Ruby, Big Hole, and Beaverhead Rivers.
  • Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout are native to the Yellowstone River drainage and are found in the Yellowstone River and its myriad tributaries.
  • Mountain Whitefish are a native member of the Salmonid family and are widespread throughout Montana.
  • Brook Trout are more commonly encountered in small tributaries, we occasionally will catch a few throughout the year.
What should my fitness level be in order to participate on a guided fly fishing trip? O

Bozeman Fly Fishing : Physical Fitness Guidelines

Wade fishing requires that the angler is in good condition with excellent balance.

Float trips are less demanding physically, but anglers need to be able to sit comfortably for several hours and to be able to stand up/sit down without assistance. We are able to accommodate anglers with disabilities and poor mobility with advance notice. Contact Us if you have any questions related to any physical limitations or mobility challenges, our experts will be able to tailor a trip around most limitations.

Most of our day trips are float trips with some optional opportunities to get out and wade fish throughout the day when situations present themselves.

What type of lunches are available on guided trips? O

Day trips include lunches and non-alcoholic drinks, (1/2 day trips only include drinks).

Simple deli lunches include a main such as a sandwich, salad, or wrap packed along with a small side and dessert. Gluten-free, vegan, low-carb options and special requests are available upon request.

What type of rod and flies should I bring? O

Typical fly rod sizes used around SouthWestern Montana are 4,5, & 6 weights ranging from 8' 6" - 9' 6" with a 9'- 5 wt being the most universal for differing trout techniques.

Fly patterns heavily depend on time of year and location, refer to our detailed Montana Fly Fishing River Guide to better understand the appropriate flies for when your guided trip is scheduled.

When is the best time to come out for a fishing trip? O

The best times for a fly fishing trip are from mid-March to mid-October, excluding the period of runoff which occurs sometime in May and ends either mid-June or early July to September.

Spring, summer, and fall in Southwest Montana offer different experiences for anglers, make sure to look at the Montana River Fishing Guide which breaks down each month on local rivers to assist in planning your trip.

Where is your guide service located? O

Fins and Feathers Guide Service is based in Bozeman, Montana.

  • Our Bozeman fly fishing trips are offered on premier Montana fly fishing rivers including the Yellowstone, Madison, Gallatin, Jefferson, and Missouri Rivers.

We have a small office that is not open to the public and meet our guests at convenient locations around the area - typically at our former fly shop located just west of Bozeman in four-corners (now Yellow Dog Fly Shop).

We have been outfitting fly fishing trips in Montana for over two decades and service a wide range of the Treasure State, including:

  • Our Bozeman fly fishing guide service also operates fly-fishing trips near Craig, Montana on the Missouri River from April through June
  • We have special permits to guide Beaverhead and Big Hole River fly fishing trips near Dillon, Montana.
  • Bighorn River fishing trips near Ft. Smith, Montana are available seasonally, upon request.
  • Missoula fly fishing trips on the Blackfoot, Bitterroot, and Clarks Fork Rivers are available seasonally upon request.