FAQ: questions & answers

Here's a series of common questions that clients have asked before coming out to Montana. (Click on a question to hide / show the answer)

If you have other questions about our fishing, rivers, water conditions, hatches, weather, local spots of interest, or nearly anything else (except those small riddles of the universe), please contact me, and I'll get back to you.

Dog watching angler across the river

Bank-bound yellow lab Murphy wonders why he can't get in, too

Two rods will cover 99% of the situations we'll find: #1) A medium-fast or fast-action 8.5' rod / # 5 or #6 weight-forward line will work in almost all boating and walk-wade situations; #2) A fast-action stiff 9' rod / #6 to #8 weight-forward line for those windy days, for big flies & nymphs, and for streamers.

If we're going to the spring creeks, your favorite small-water rod is in order. It'll also work if we decide to walk-wade some small feeder streams. The choice is always yours, but, short of my acting as a rod caddy and burning fishing time selecting the "proper" rod, fewer rods (OK, OK, maybe three) are best to keep things simple.

As for terminal tackle, your favorite 7.5' to 12' leaders match our from-the-boat and sneak-and-creep wading needs. On the rivers, we go through a lot of 3 through 5x tippet material; on the spring creeks, 7x is handy. I use lead-free weights for nymphing. A good strike-indicator helps a lot, too, kind of like the drugstore "cheater" magnifying glasses I've found necessary. Speaking of eyewear, polarized sunglasses are a MUST. Trout are tough enough to see, and clearing that glare out of the way helps immensely, making a long day on the water that much easier on your eyes. Add all your familiar gee-gaws (hemos, fly-dope, hatbrim lights, hook-sharpeners, etc.) you use on your home waters, and you're all set.

Flies? Bring your own or get 'em at several local shops. I recommend a sampling of attractor patterns and a few specifics to match a particular hatch. On the spring creeks, expect those wizened denizens to be picky - a miscolored Tanzanian female hyena leghair collar on your PMD emerger may earn only a shrug from the yawning 'Bow sinking slowly from sight. When we talk, I'll suggest some good patterns for the time and waters you choose.

Breathable lightweight waders work fine in the spring and fall, and for the chilly tailwaters, add a pair of fleece leggings. Even in the heat of the summer, when I'm wet-wading, I still like to bring waders along, just in case: Montana weather changes rapidly.

I prefer felt-soled wading boots over boot-foot waders. Studs or lugs in the soles are bad on boats, but if they help you wade, we'll slip in a rug to keep you and the boat from unraveling.

In the summer, we mostly wet-wade in shorts and wading boots, but these new felt-soled sandals are great, too.

A folding wading staff helps a lot of people, not just the mature and unsure. Ladies - it's not wimpy; it's wise. Don't let your favorite fellow angler mislead you.

You'll need a Montana fishing license, made up of an annual Conservation Stamp ($10.00) good from March to March and a valid fishing license, and the actual fishing license, offered in two-day increments ($15.00), a 10-consecutive-day license ($43.50), or a season license ($60.00).

For kids age 1 - 11: $0 if accompanied by a license-carrying adult. Age 12 - 14: $10 Conservation license if accompanied by a license-carrying adult.

The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks department is proud of its computerized Automated Licensing System (ALS) installed in flyshops, sporting goods stores, etc., which can make purchasing a license very simple, though the first time takes a little chunk out of your fishing day, so be ready to relax. If you want an early start, get your license at the flyshop the day before.

Montana weather changes rapidly along the Rocky Mountain front, be ready for anything, coming back to back. I used to joke about a down-jacket-and-swimsuit combo, but I've swallowed my laughter over the years. And, as old-timers say, "There's no bad weather, just bad gear", so bring the best you can afford.

In the spring and fall, layering is the answer, plenty of layering - like a duck-hunter says, "You can always take it off, but only if you wear it." Lightweight silk or faux-silk underwear, tops and bottoms, followed by breathable turtlenecks in turn covered by some polar fleece garment or long-sleeve shirt or whatnot snuggled in a windbreaker or quality raincoat keeps you happy. Gloves are nice, when they don't get in the way. A snug watchcap can be pulled over your ballcap to finish the job. Remember, we're not stylin', we're keeping warm.

Summer (short but sweet up here) is easy: bring your favorite t-shirts, lightweight shirts, pants or shorts - just about anything that'll keep you cool and protected from the sun works. Big-brim hats help deflect the rays and keep you cool, as do water-soaked cowboy 'kerchiefs.

Trout rising for a mayfly