The Big Sky State has some of the most pristine, wild and unique trout waters in the United States. From your classic western freestones to giant tail waters, MLBO has your favorite rivers covered! Though we guide all across the state, we’ve highlighted some of our favorites below. If you’re interested in unique, private and/or different types of fishing and fisheries please click here.
The lower Madison comes out below Ennis Lake and flows through the Beartrap Canyon. The “Trap” is well-known for its gnarly whitewater and terrific pocket water fishing. Below the Beartrap, the river slows into a shallower, much calmer tail water that is rich in aquatic bug life. From scuds and crayfish to stoneflies and caddis, and everything in between, the brown and rainbow trout that range from 12”-25” have plenty to eat! This is a terrific year-round option located only 25 minutes from Bozeman.
The upper Madison stretches from Quake Lake to Ennis Lake. This portion of the famed Madison River is very fast, shallow and littered with giant boulders. It’s slippery rocks and swift current make it a better option for float fishing but still has plenty of walk/wade access. With beautiful rainbow and brown trout, mountains towering over and terrific dry-fly fishing, this river is your classic western trout stream.
The Yellowstone River is the longest free-flowing river in the lower 48. With almost 650 miles of free flowing water, the “Stone” is everything we love about Montana and remains on of MLBO’s favorite fisheries! The portion inside YNP is home to some of the worlds finest trout habitat and holds an abundant population of 12”-18” native Yellowstone Cutthroat. Just outside YNP and into your Montana float trip, you can target your “Montana Grand Slam”, catching rainbow, brown, cutthroat and cut-bow’s in the 12”-24” range. With ever changing water conditions and scenery, this large western freestone river aims to please anglers of all experience.
The Gallatin River is a very intriguing and productive river that fishes well year-round for brown, rainbow, cutthroat, cut-bow, brook trout and even some grayling. The river begins in Yellowstone National Park and continues through a magnificent canyon and the Gallatin Valley before joining the Madison and Jefferson to create the Missouri River near Three Forks Montana. The lower reaches are open to floating and hold some much larger fish. The upper portions are more suitable for wade fishing due to easy walk/wade access and restrictions on fishing from a boat. However, MLBO is proud to offer a unique and exclusive float option for the upper regions of the Gallatin River below the canyon.
The Jefferson is formed by the Big Hole and Beaverhead Rivers just north of Twin Bridges Montana. As the third leg of the Missouri River, the Jefferson offers some of Montana’s most amazing scenery and river wildlife. With lower water levels during the summer months due to irrigation and fewer numbers of fish compared to its counterparts, the “Jeff” is often a tougher fishery but does offer some big rewards. With a bit longer drive from Bozeman, the upper sections of the Jefferson can be a very productive hopper and streamer fishery.
If you like big tail waters and all that comes with fishing these aquatic masterpieces, then Montana has two of the countries best. Known for their exceptional dry fly fishing, both rivers offer anglers with year round opportunity to seek out those sipping lips. With rainbow and brown trout averaging 15-17 inches, but with many growing to the 22″ range, these “giant spring creeks” hold more fish per square mile than most rivers. *Additional gas fees may apply.
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