The following are questions we get asked all the time. Questions are divided into categories delineated by the broad horizontal lines. The categories and their contents are:
You should also take a look at the Rates and Policies page, for more detail on trip fees, general policies my guide service follows, etc.
To begin the process of booking a trip or just to get more information, either E-Mail Me, give me a Phone Call, or use my Trip Booking and Information Request Form. If you're ready to commit to a booking, have your deposit payment ready, preferably via credit card. We'll talk over the options in your timeframe and we'll go from there.
Once you've committed to a booking, I'll send you an info sheet either via US Mail or e-mail, whichever you prefer. This will serve as your confirmation and tell you what you need to bring, wear, etc.
Check out the Rates Page for this answer.
Check out the Rates Page for this answer.
We hate to cancel trips but we sometimes have to do so. If we have to cancel, for any reason, we will provide a full refund if it is not possible to reschedule your trip for later in your stay.
The most common reason we have to cancel is if water conditions are unfishable, generally meaning the water is too muddy to run the type of trip you have scheduled. If you are flexible in regards to trip type or trip date, we can usually work around the issue. Also please note that we do not guarantee specific fisheries: if the Yellowstone is muddy but the Madison is clear and fishable, we will run your trip on the Madison, for example.
The next most common reason we have to cancel is dangerous or unfishable weather conditions. We define "dangerous or unfishable" as an expectation that lightning will be so widespread or that temperatures will remain below freezing or otherwise so cold and miserable for the majority of your fishing trip that it won't be possible to complete the trip. Brief thunderstorms or steady rain without lightning are not reasons we cancel trips, nor are brief periods of below freezing temperatures or light snow showers. We may be willing to reschedule trips when the wind is expected to be horrific on both anglers and guide, but we do not cancel trips due to wind. Obviously, trips scheduled for fall, winter, and spring are expected to run in worse conditions than those taking place during the summer. Again, flexibility in regards to trip date usually allows us to work around ugly weather.
Perhaps once or twice a season we are forced to cancel due to guide illness or other emergency or due to vehicle (boat or truck) breakdown. These are the worst types of circumstances because they're impossible to plan for and we often can't find another guide in time for the trip to run, since we (and most other guide services and fly shops) are usually fully booked during the core season. If something like this happens, we'll try to reschedule if at all possible, either with a different guide for the same day or later in your stay in Montana, if you have the flexibility for this to happen.
On boat trips, it's fine if one passenger does not choose to fish. In all honesty, it makes getting photos a lot easier. Please note that the capacity of my boats is still only two passengers and the guide, even if one passenger is just riding along.
Since my walk-wade trips generally require a hike, take place in rugged terrain, involve stream crossings, and so on, I prefer that non-anglers do not join us for walk-wade trips.
To put it bluntly, no. My rates are based on the total number of people who fish on the trip, not on the number fishing at any one time or the amount of time the guide spends with each client. I don't mind giving members of your party who aren't going on a guided trip suggestions on where to go and what to use, but if an individual walks in with the guided party and fishes the same area, they will be considered part of the guided party and the trip will be billed as such.
By the same token, if we are booked for a full-day trip, we expect to be fishing with the same party members for the entire time. We will not permit the morning clients to depart at lunch and be replaced by others. This qualifies as two half-day trips rather than a full-day. The first hour or two of any trip is spent getting the guide and clients in tune with each other, so if the clients change halfway through, the guide actually works much harder than on a standard full-day trip (which after all is generally only about $100 more expensive than a half-day).
I don't want to sound like a hardcase here, but early in my career I was burned time and again by groups that wound up making me or the guide work a whole lot harder than we were being paid for by having extra people fish. You will find that most guide services and fly shops in the region have similar policies.
Except for a very few rare situations, our trips are catch and release only. There are three reasons for this: first, taking care of kept fish is a pain and takes away from fishing time. Second, almost all fish we target on our guide trips are wild, so keeping fish can severely impact populations. Finally, keeping fish in bear country is downright dangerous unless we're right next to the road. Do you want to be hiking with a slowly-rotting fish when a grizzly might get wind of it?
The only exceptions to our catch and release rule are as follows:
Note that all above situations are rare. I have been guiding since 2001 and have never had a client keep a fish, though we've killed a few rainbows since the park began requiring killing these fish in some locations.
Note that I do not allow keeping a trophy fish unless the above conditions are met. Instead, I'll be sure to get a bunch of high-resolution pictures of the fish and of you holding the fish, then send you the best. A framed picture tells a story even better than a mount, at a much lower price, and it leaves the big fish in the river for my next clients to catch.
The license you need depends on where we'll be fishing. For river float trips, power boat trips, and walk trips outside the Park, you'll need a Montana license. It's required for anglers aged 12 and up. In Yellowstone, you don't need a Montana (or Wyoming) license, but you do need a Yellowstone National Park license. All anglers are required to have a license, but for those age under 16 it's free. Licenses are not required on Depuy Spring Creek, but Montana licenses are required on the other Paradise Valley creeks. Licenses are not required on any of the private lakes we fish.
Some explanation for Montana licensing: all natural waters of Montana and those human-modified waters located at least partially on public land require a license. Since Depuy Spring Creek is a man-made waterway created by diverting Armstrong Spring Creek and other small spring creeks into an old creek channel, it is considered man-made. The private lakes are all man-made reservoirs entirely contained by one private landowner. The other waters we fish are natural and/or bounded by public land.
It's best if you buy your license ahead of time, if possible! You can buy Montana permits online here. If you can't get your MT permit online ahead of time, I'll suggest a license agent to patronize near where we'll start fishing, and we can stop before we start fishing if we must, for most fisheries (some are not near any license agents). Yellowstone Park permits must be purchased in person. Again, I'll suggest which businesses make sense to patronize based on where we're fishing and where you're staying. It can be very difficult to purchase Yellowstone permits the day of the trip, since I often start these trips before dawn, when local businesses are not yet open.
Also please note that you will need to have or be prepared to purchase your own Yellowstone National Park entrance permit for trips within the park, as my commercial permit only covers my guides, not clients. You can purchase these at every entrance station and from the Yellowstone Forever office in Gardiner, before the trip or on our way into the park.
I offer discounts from my listed rates for multi-day bookings consisting of four consecutive trips or six (or more) trips total over the course of a season. I'll discuss these when you book.
Because of the fast/turbulent water and rugged terrain in the areas I guide, I do not guide children under the age of ten except on basic fishing/casting lessons. Ten and up are fine on all trips provided the kids are eager to learn about fly fishing. Nothing is worse for parents, me, or the kids than a child who is being forced to go fishing but doesn't want to. Please note than MT state law requires children aged 12 and under to wear life jackets at all times while in a boat.
I offer guided trips year-round. The widest variety of available trips are available from late May through early October, but unless it's so cold we'll turn into icicles if we try to fish, we can usually put something together. The other pages in this section of the website will give you an idea of what's available when, and I'll also cover this when you contact me to book.
Yes to both questions. We are licensed on waters in Montana subject to general regulations, in Yellowstone National Park (currently in cooperation with Parks' Fly Shop, in Gardiner, MT), in the Custer-Gallatin National Forest (again, in cooperation with Parks' Fly Shop), and on the Madison River. I am Montana Outfitter #22001. My guides all have First Aid and CPR certifications, which are required to even get a guide or outfitter license in Montana and for all commercial use within Yellowstone Park.
Absolutely. Probably a quarter of my clients have never held a fly rod before. Check out the Beginner Trips page in this section of the site to learn about which trips make the most sense for beginners.
One thing to understand is that fishing with spinning (conventional) tackle, even for trout, does not generally help learning how to fly fish. In fact, since the casting, reeling, and line handling in fly fishing are very different than those in fishing with conventional tackle, extensive experience with conventional tackle can actually make learning how to fly fish harder. In other words, those with a lot of experience with other gear but not fly tackle qualify as beginner fly anglers.
The age at which you introduce a child to fly fishing depends on three factors: the child's attention span and size and their ability to walk to the stream and along the stream banks. Fly fishing requires considerably more focus than fishing with bait or lures, and fly rods for our area need to range from eight to nine feet in length. Both factors make fly fishing a poor choice for very young children. In general, a child is big enough and has the attention span to be ready to learn to fly fish between age 8 and age 12, though as noted above I do not take kids under age 10 because of the rugged nature of my guiding. Teens (and really most kids over about age 10) are usually fine for the walking and wading, provided they want to go on the trip. Kids and teens who don't want to go fishing but are forced to do so by their parents take years off of the lives of everyone around them...
In general, we will not take young children fishing unless a parent or other adult comes too, since we're guides rather than babysitters, while those aged 13 and up can be unaccompanied provided they're no more insane than your average teen.
For what it's worth, the clients who typically learn how to fly fish the fastest are girls and young women aged 12 to 20 or so, provided they're eager. All young people learn physical tasks quickly, and young women are less likely to try to rely on brute force than young men, and are a bit more likely to listen to the guide rather than getting into a testosterone war instead, both of which help slash the learning curve.
Yellowstone Park and Montana are rugged places. While there are some streams in Yellowstone Park where the banks are relatively flat and the wading is relatively easy, nowhere I guide qualifies as remotely handicapped-accessible. For anyone who really does not trust their feet (or is in a wheelchair, on crutches, etc.), I suggest float trips. I have successfully taken anglers in their 80s who had to put their wheelchair in the back of the boat.
I ask my potential clients for a description of their age, general fitness level, and mobility when we take the booking, and also ask clients to disclose any phobias or other issues that might impact where we go fishing (such as a fear of animals or of heights, which as you can probably imagine are important factors in Yellowstone Park). This will help me dial in a good place to go. As noted above, for some anglers a float trip is by far the best option, but there are good walk/wade options for most anglers; I can find good places to take mountain goat 20 year-olds as well as unsteady older people who might need to lean on the guide's shoulder from time to time. I just don't want to find out five minutes beforehand that the spot I planned on will be too rough. Please be completely honest in your assessment. The single worsts trip I have ever had in my career as a guide, covering about 100 trips (or more) per season since 2001, resulted from clients who did not give us an honest assessment of their hiking or wading ability when they booked and then for whatever reason refused to understand the severe limitations this placed on where and how we could fish.
Please note that our Acknowledgment of Risk and Acceptance of Responsibility Form that all clients must initial, sign, and date before going fishing with us includes a section indicating that any physical or mental limitations have been disclosed beforehand. Yes, this is to protect myself and my guides.
No, but not knowing how will slash the number of places I feel comfortable taking you, because waders do fall in, clients do fall out of the boat or fall getting in and getting out, and once or twice a year some guide on the Yellowstone out of all the guide services makes a big mistake and flips a boat. With non-swimmers we'll stick to small streams and gentle rivers on walk-wade trips, and we'll float flat sections on boat trips where the guide could make a rescue without endangering the boat. Non-swimmers are required to wear life jackets at all times on float trips.
For what it's worth, we added this entry in winter 2018-2019 because we had a non-swimmer fall out of the boat in a whitewater stretch in 2018. This was the first time in my that he'd ever had a client fall out of the boat while underway. The client didn't disclose his inability to swim, he'd requested the whitewater float, and he took off his lifejacket when I said it was safe to do so "if you feel comfortable." I used to be a lifeguard, and I had to jump in and perform a water rescue for the first time in almost two decades. Good thing it all came back quick, because he was drowning when I got to him... We now double check to ask everyone if they can swim.
Because of the risk of falls on walk & wade trips, even on gentle roadside streams, we take pregnant clients only on boat trips after the first trimester, more or less. All drift boat trips are suitable for pregnant women. Use your head, though. If a member of your party is near-term, it would be a bit of a bummer for everyone concerned for contractions to start when we're four miles from the nearest boat ramp, dependent on commercial shuttle drivers to move our vehicle (which takes hours), with no way to get off the water in a timely manner.
Yes, but it's not easy. I really do need at least one member of every group to speak English, so he/she can translate for us. Even so, such trips need to involve a lot of patience and acceptance of some slapstick humor and misunderstandings all around. The key problem is that fly fishing is a technical sport and it's very hard to explain the precise actions involved via pantomime. Folks who speak English as a second language are no problem at all, especially if they are near-fluent. In fact, many of the most-skilled anglers we've taken over the years were from Europe or Japan and spoke English as a second language.
We provide lunch on all full-day trips, water on all trips, and soft drinks on all trips when it is practicable to carry them (in other words on boat and near-road walk & trips, not on hike-in trips). Typically we do picnic-style sandwich lunches on our trips, with premade sandwiches or wraps, chips, fruit, granola bars, etc. At times our guides make something more complicated (usually after going insane from eating a roast beef sandwich every day), but we virtually never cook on-stream. We figure our clients want to fish and our trips already usually last until later in the day than those of most of our competitors, so we don't want to take the time to make something complicated for lunch. If having a gourmet lunch is a key element of how much enjoyment you take from a guided trip, you should probably book with another outfitter.
If you require kosher, vegetarian, gluten-free, diabetic-friendly, or other specialized meals, please let us know when you book and we should be able to accommodate. Please be very specific as to your needs and make sure we understand the details. One client mentioned "I'll eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich." We took this to mean he didn't care what we made. In reality, he had dietary issues which meant that peanut butter was about the only lunch protein that didn't give him stomach trouble.
If your dietary needs are extremely complex, I may ask you to bring your own lunch. I'll offer a slight discount if this is the case.
Please see the Rates page for these details.
Please note that refunds are unavailable if you choose to end a trip early. If weather conditions become dangerous early in a trip or water conditions suddenly fall apart, rate adjustments may be possible solely at my discretion.
Choosing between each of the five types of standard trips we run (public walk, private spring creek walk, river float, private lake float, walk/float combo) offer different things, produce different results at different times of year, may or may not be available at certain times of year (though all are available in the core summer and early fall season) and are suited to individuals with different skill levels and interests. The best way to decide which type of trip to take if you're unsure is to call me or e-mail me and talk it over. The descriptions of each trip type given on each type's own page in this section of the website will often give you a ballpark idea.
Full-day trips are far more popular than half-day trips except for beginner clients. Most of the time we suggest half-day trips for beginners and children aged 10-12, while full-days are better for others. On full-day trips we have more time to reach distant destinations, can hike farther, cover more water, see the whole day's succession of hatches and the like, and all in all have a much richer experience. Half-day floats do have one benefit: it is usually easier to get away from other boats on half-days than full-days. Except for beginners and families with children, cost is usually the determining factor in whether clients book full or half-day trips. Please note that not all trips are available as half-days, in particular private water trips, walk/wades in areas more than a few minutes inside the Yellowstone gate, and float trips on rivers other than the Yellowstone, Lower Madison, and Boulder.
It ranges from nonexistent to 4G LTE, depending on location and provider. Sometimes on a float trip coverage might change two or three times over the course of a mile. We get great cell coverage on-stream on some walk trips and none at all on others. Verizon has the best service in our area. If you need to have cell coverage during your trip, you must tell us this when you book, or at the latest before departing on the trip. Most of the year, we can take you fishing in an area that keeps you in cell range if we have to (if you have Verizon anyway), but we've got to know this ahead of time
Please note that if you start Instagramming in the middle of an intense insect hatch when the trout are going bonkers for dry flies, it is at least conceivable your guide will take your phone away... :)
Check out our Fishing Info Site for an immense amount of detail to this question. We'll give a shorter and more specific answer relevant to the specific trip you book and time of year you're coming when you book, and can also offer tips on what to have for fishing on your own. Definitely check out the Fishing Info Site, though. It's basically an online guidebook.
The use of a fly rod and reel as well is included on all of our trips, if you don't have your own. In addition our guides will usually carry at least one spare rod on all trips save Beginner Brookie trips. If you need wading gear, I'll suggest a shop to patronize to get it. Some form of wading gear (either full waders with boots or just wet-wading boots) is required on all walk/wade trips. On float trips during the core mid-June through mid-September, you can usually get away without having waders so long as you have full raingear (coat and pants), while during cold snaps or early/late in the year you will want full waders. One reason my rates are fairly low is the fact that I can't stock a full range of waders for all my clients.
I allow spin-fishing only on float trips. This is basically a matter of what my guides and I know how to do. None of us fish with conventional tackle, so having you use it on walk/wade trips doesn't make a great deal of sense since these trips are all about the guide's fishery-specific knowledge. In addition, many walk/wade fisheries are either unsuitable to conventional gear (either too rough or home to fish that are too spooky) or are subject to fly-fishing-only regulations. On boat trips, where boat positioning is a much more important factor and the fish are more aggressive, spin anglers can sometimes do quite well even though our guides are not well-versed in it.
Spinning rods may or may not be available for client use on boat trips; some guides have it, some don't. Same with lures. I personally have a few lures available for client use, but some of my guides don't. I'll suggest what you should bring or buy when you book.
Please note that we do not permit natural bait (worms, minnows, salmon eggs, grasshoppers), artificial bait (Power Bait), or soft plastics on any of our trips (note also that all of the above are illegal in Yellowstone Park). We will also remove a hook point from any treble hooks used and require all hooks to be barbless, in both cases to avoid ripping up the fish more than necessary. We will carry pliers suitable for clipping hook points and flattening barbs on any spin-fishing trip.
It is entirely reasonable for a spin angler to fish with fly angler on the same trip. Usually we'll put the fly angler in the front of the boat and the spin angler in back.
Water temperatures range from thirty-five degrees into the high sixties. We generally wear waders all the time until early June and again from late September onward. Some waters require waders year-round, chief among them the upper Yellowstone River, and if cold/wet weather is forecast we'll wear waders even in high summer. Otherwise, we wet-wade with our wading shoes and gravel guards whenever weather permits, since this is cooler and more comfortable and requires less gear to be carried. It's always a good idea to bring waders in case of a cold snap, but you're probably safe if you choose not to from late June until mid-August unless you're planning to fish the upper Yellowstone near Yellowstone Lake or the lake itself, both of which are icy year-round.
Wading in an old pair of tennis shoes is usually not a good idea except on meadow streams or on float trips where we'll only be getting out of the boat for lunch and to visit the bushes to answer a call of nature, since our waters are often in rugged terrain and have fast currents or otherwise make soles designed for wading and good ankle support necessities. We likewise do not suggest "water socks" of any kind, including those intended for whitewater rafting; dedicated angling wading shoes or boots are far better.
Felt soles are now illegal in Yellowstone Park, though they are legal in Montana. For practical purposes, we suggest sticky rubber-soled wading boots for all waters, since it's much easier to carry one pair of wading boots than two or more. If your boots have metal studs, soft aluminum studs or bars are better than hard tungsten-carbide spikes on our local rocks. Please note that you will need to remove any metal, whether studs, bars, or cleats, from your boots prior to any boat trip, since sharp metal of any kind and the fiberglass or plastic hulls of our boats and rafts make an absolutely horrendous combination.
Check out the Clothing page on our How To Site for suggestions according to the season. We always suggest wearing long sleeves rather than short sleeves. In particular pants are a far better choice than shorts. We have a lot of biting bugs, prickly plants, rocks, and so on, not to mention bright sun, so keeping everything covered by a layer of fabric helps keep you from getting torn up. Our guides' standard summer uniforms regardless of trip type are lightweight quick-dry outdoor pants and longsleeve poly tee shirts with SPF, a synthetic neck gaiter (Buff), and a hat and polarized sunglasses. It's a good idea to follow our lead.
You MUST bring polarized sunglasses!!!! Fitover or clip-on glasses that fit over prescription eyeglasses are fine. Not only do polarized sunglasses improve your ability to see/recognize strikes by several orders of magnitude, they also provide eye protection from hooks in case of an errant cast. If you absolutely do not want to wear polarized glasses, we won't insist, but we require all clients to wear some form of eye protection on all trips, no exceptions. This is a safety measure; we don't want a client to lose an eye due to an errant cast. Even cheap polarized glasses are an immense improvement over no glasses at all or non-polarized glasses; $15 glasses are fine. We also strongly suggest you bring a hat, either a ball cap or a broad-brimmed hat. Hats cut down on sunburn and eye strain, help protect your face from bad casts, and cut down on glare, making it easier to see strikes.
I also strongly suggest bringing a raincoat, no matter how pleasant the weather is when you start your trip. It can go from 80 degrees and sunny to 45 degrees and raining in half an hour around here, especially in August and early September when fall first starts poking at summer with a sharp stick. Hypothermia is actually a bigger problem in the summer than the winter, since in the winter people are usually prepared for bad weather. Our guides generally carry a spare in their boats, but odds are it won't fit you right, and on hike-in trips you will need to have your own.
On all walk/wade trips, make sure to bring a fishing bag or vest or a lightweight backpack to carry water (either your own reusable bottles or bottles we provide), your raincoat, etc. On trips that involve hiking, you will want a larger daypack; we will tell you to bring such a pack when we finalize the trip.
Otherwise, required medications, spare socks for the end of the day, and other commonsense items are all you need to bring. We provide any fishing tackle you don't have free of charge.
Both questions depend on your experience level, interests, the season, etc. On our walk trips we fish anywhere from right alongside the road to five miles into the backcountry, in flat meadows where we've taken 85 year-olds to rugged canyons that seem to require as much rock climbing as walking. Our How To site and the information on the Walk & Wade Trips page will give you a good idea of how the season affects where we fish. This should give you some idea of our options. We do have some secret spots where we might take you, of course, but they're too sensitive to mention online.
Beginner Brookie trips usually take place on the upper Gardner River, one of its tributaries, or on a couple tributaries of the Yellowstone, all within Yellowstone Park. The walk required ranges from half a mile to over two miles one-way, with longer walks generally required the later into the season we go. Some rough footing and steep trails are present on portions of the Gardner, while the other locations have fairly flat terrain but often some deadfall trees and boulders to negotiate.
As for the private spring creeks, Depuy, Nelson, and Armstrong Spring Creeks all offer different things, with Depuy featuring the widest variety of water. This makes it our favorite of the creeks and the one most-suited to anglers of intermediate skill. All three creeks feature exceptionally easy access, with gravel roads, clear angler paths, benches, picnic tables, and so on limiting the need to walk very far at any one time or over rough ground.
It sometimes does, though the hike is usually worth it in terms of solitude, larger and/or more plentiful fish, and scenery. We may stay out a bit later on days when we hike a long way, but there are only so many hours of daylight and the guide will have to get up at 5:00 tomorrow for his next trip no matter how late he stays out with you, meaning that a hike to the Second Meadow of Slough Creek or several miles up the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone will by necessity eat an hour or two of fishing time.
The baseline requirement is an ability to stay on your feet for most of the day. We will either travel to a picnic area or find a convenient spot under the trees to eat lunch, but otherwise there aren't many places to rest on the public water we fish. The spring creeks have numerous benches, picnic tables, etc. Other than this, physical fitness is not a huge requirement, as there are streams to suit any degree of fitness or desire for adventure.
That said, the longer and/or more-difficult a hike you are willing/able to make, the better the fishing usually is. It's always better to find fish that aren't overpressured, and the best way of finding such fish is to get away from the places that are easy for anglers to access.
Sometimes. Despite popular opinion, there are still secret spots in the Yellowstone area. In general, big fish and no other anglers does require one or more of the following: fishing first thing in the morning in early fall, fishing in the true offseason (late fall, winter, or early spring), hiking a long way, and fishing a steep/rugged/turbulent/slightly dangerous stretch of water.
Generally speaking, five miles one-way is the absolute maximum we're willing to walk. Any more and we're too tired to fish once we get where we're going, and it's too late in the day by the time we get there. Two or three miles each way is more common when we want to shed the roadside crowds for some solitude. Even a short hike, less than a mile, is often enough to shed all competition, particularly if the hike is steep and/or rugged. Most flat roadside streams will be crowded, even if they're not very good.
This was a real question (a demand in fact). We told this client that if he found such a place, he should tell us so that we could go there, but otherwise keep it under his hat. There's a three-part equation to how crowded a piece of water can be expected to be: the closer to the road it is, the easier the walking/wading along the stream, and the larger the fish are, the more crowded it will be. Usually two out of three will get you onto relatively uncrowded water. So a long hike with easy wading with big fish usually isn't too crowded, nor is a short hike to a stream with big fish but really rugged wading. Small-fish water a mile or more off the road is generally empty, especially if the going gets rough in spots. Gentle streams that flow beside the road and hold big fish are always crowded, unless they're private.
Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words...
The above photo is from a Clacka Craft 16LP drift boat, the model of boat used by a majority of our guides, though I personally use a RO. Two clients and a guide are therefore the boat's maximum legal capacity. Some of our guides use boats with higher capacities, but even these boats only have seating for two anglers and the guide, making it unsafe to float any rough water at all with more than two aboard. Moreover, our boats feature only two casting braces, one in front and one in back, so only two people can fish, anyway. In sum, more than two passengers requires more than one guide.
A double half-day float consists of floating two separate short sections of river, one in the morning and one after lunch, rather than one long stretch. There are a couple reasons we offer these trips.
First and foremost is the ability to show our clients two different stretches of river in one day of fishing, particularly on the Yellowstone. The Yellowstone changes dramatically over the 90 miles or so of it that we float, with some stretches holding large numbers of medium-sized trout that love dry flies and others holding smaller numbers of big fish. The scenery, character of the water, and even the weather can change depending on where we go. While we'd love it if clients were up for booking two (or more) full days with us to see different stretches of river, the double half-day allows us to see a lot of river in one day. Ideally, we'll have our cake and eat it too: catch numbers of smaller fish on dries during one half of the day, then get some big daddies in the other half.
The other reason we run these trips is to provide flexibility: flexibility to beat crowds, outrun dirty water due to rain storms, or just to fish one specific short stretch of river twice in one day if it happens to be fishing particularly well.
How come these trips cost more? Two reasons. First and foremost, they cost us more. On double half-days we pay our shuttle service for two river shuttles (currently costing us $25-$40 per shuttle) rather than just one. We also have to pay two sets of commercial use fees if we utilize National Forest boat launches (currently around $13 per client per launch, over $50 if we double up on National Forest water during the course of the day). Secondly, these trips run long due to the time needed to launch and secure the boat twice, rather than once, so they always take more of our guides' time than standard full-day trips. We're paying our guides a few bucks extra due to this fact.
Check out the Waters I Guide page for a general overview (most waters in Montana mentioned there are float waters) or the sections of the River Floats page where I discuss where I typically guide at specific seasons.
I utilize both drift boats and rafts. Some of the independent guides have one or the other, some guides use both. In general, the higher and/or rougher the water, and the more obstructions (rocks) there are, the more likely we'll use a raft. In gentler sections of river, we'll almost certainly use a drift boat, since they're easier to fish from and have more room. If you have any mobiility issues, we need to know about these, since getting in and out of a raft with its wide tubes is harder than getting in and out of a drift boat with narrow sides.
I personally like water where the fish are eager to eat dry flies, and that often means floating rough water sections of the Yellowstone, Boulder, and Stillwater which feature numerous class II or class III rapids. I do not guide any waters where there are class IV-V rapids during the seasons these waters are fishable, despite what the raft tour companies claim in their marketing. Other rivers I float have mild rapids, at most, and many sections of the Yellowstone are mild, as well.
If you would rather not see anything more than gentle waves, please let me know when you book so I can plan accordingly. This is no problem, but it would stink to be ready to launch the raft to fish the whitewater section and learn that we need to run a gentle stretch instead, where the low-profile drift boat is far more suitable.
Walter Wiese is licensed to operate on all waters in Montana under general regulations, Yellowstone Park, and the Madison River in Montana. He is Montana Outfitter #22001, Yellowstone Park CUA holder 426SSF, and Madison River SRP Holder #297.
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Website, text, and graphics by Walter J. Wiese. Photos generally by Walter J. Wiese unless noted.