In April and May, large lake rainbows, like the one in the above picture are cruising Montana's stillwater fisheries.
March is "coming in like lamb." Will it come out like lion? Noboby can predict what mother nature will bring us later this month, let alone in the months to come, but even without having very little measurable snow in the valleys over the last month and a half, we seem to be doing ok in the mountains for retaining our Montana snowpack. The last report was that the Upper Yellowstone drainage was still sitting at about 90% of average. Not bad for being one of the nicest winters since I have lived in Montana.
After guiding in the region for 25 years now, the snow pack levels hold some weight in planning a fishing trip, but don't bet the bank on it. My philosophy has always been that any time you can come to Montana to fish, regardless of weather conditions, water conditions, and season, is a great time to get away and relax. Whether your trip ends up coinciding with snow run-off time, a freakish summer-time heat wave, or some high country snow in late July or August, your trip can still be succesful.
There are things we can't control in relation to a guided fishing trip in Montana like weather, water conditions, and airline issues, but there are a few important factors involved with having an enjoyable and successful trip, that we can control. A guide trip involves a lot more than just booking a guide for the day, such as travel, and lodging. The following are a few highlights of what you should be on your radar screen if you are new to booking a guided trip.
1. Book early. Many of the guides who have been around for a long time and have a great reputation for be an expert guide, get booked up early. Also, securing appropriate lodging can be difficult during busy times of the year, i.e. July.
2. Be flexible with where you might be fishing for the day. Sometimes water and weather conditions don't allign together, and what was considered Plan A, might not work. Always talk about Plan B, and Plan C when booking your trip. If we have a big rain event in the middle of the summer on the upper Yellowstone drainage, the Yellowstone River can have a plug of mud flowing down it. If you had a float trip planned on that stretch of river for the day, you either need to change stretches, or change rivers.
3. In relation to #2, don't expect to do a float trip on the Yellowstone during peak snow run-off period which is between mid May and late June. It can be scheduled, but expect Plan B to come into play which could be a float trip on a tailwater fishery like the Madison River, or a wade trip on a stream in Yellowstone National Park instead.
4. If you are planning on flying into Bozeman, Montana, search for reasonable flights but if you don't find what you need, check on other cities such as Billings that is only an extra hour of drive time from our base in Livingston, Montana.
5. Make sure your guide understands what you want to get out of your guided day. Communication is key to having a flawless understanding on how your day should progress. If you haven't figured out the attraction to fly fishing yet, much of it deals with the fact that the fish and how you approach trying to catch them should be fluid, and constantly changing, not stagnant.
6. If you run into problems with arranging airlines, lodging, rental cars, etc., don't be afraid to contact us. We can be flexible about changing dates if need be, or help you tie together all the parts of a planning successful guide trip.
7. Come to Montana expecting to have fun, learn something, and not count every fish you catch. Success is in the eye of the beholder, but honestly, we enjoy guiding you and watching you catch fish, as much as you should enjoy being on vacation surrounded by trout, family, friends, and beautiful scenery.
8. Don't be afraid to plan a trip during our off-season, which is November through April. The weather can be unpredictable, but some of our best and most memorable of fishing trips have been during this season. Crowds are non-existent, and as an outfitter, we can be flexible about scheduling since there aren't many clients around, even though the fishing can be great. If we need to delay a trip a day because of a winter storm, your deposit will not be lost. Plan a couple of days of guided fishing around your next ski vacation at Bridger Bowl or Big Sky.
9. Contact us anytime, if have questions about planning a guide trip of a lifetime in Montana.
A mid-winter Depuy's Spring Creek fish from the "Narrows Section' comes to hand in the above picture. Fish like this are common on the local spring creeks during late winter and early spring.