Fly Fishing,    Planning

Fly Fishing Packing Check List for Montana

By Reza Almaneih 11/11/2015 5 minutes

Ready to start packing for your upcoming Montana fly fishing trip? Here's a pointer on how to make the process as efficient as possible: try to bring what you need and nothing more. Though that may be easier said than done.

You don't want to end up in one of Montana's best trout rivers missing a critical piece of gear. But you also don't want to overpack (and wind up paying more for baggage fees than for flies!).

Nothing is more frustrating than having to buy something you already have, just because you forgot to pack it. To help you keep track of the essentials, we've put together a list based on input from fly fishers who frequent these parts. 

Here is a sample packing checklist for your fly fishing trip.

What to Pack for Fly Fishing in Montana

    • Fly Rods
      – Nine-foot rod, 5 or 6 weight with floating line. Three or four weight rod for small creeks and streams, and 6 or 7 weight rod for bigger rivers (Madison, Jefferson, Missouri) and lakes. It does not hurt to bring two just in case of breakage.

    • Leaders and Tippet
      – 9 foot tapered leaders work throughout season. Spools of 1x, 2x, 3x, 4x, 5x tippet.

    • Waders and Boots
      – Waders with layers underneath, Felt-soled wading boots, wading socks.

    • Other Gear –
      backpack, hip pack or fishing vest to hold gear, fly box, fly floatant, nippers, forceps, and net

    • Around Town Attire –
      Most backcountry towns in Montana have a very casual setting. Blue jeans, sweatshirts, shorts, fishing shirts, t-shirts and baseball caps are all commonly worn.

    • Clothes for the Weather –
      Bring a waterproof packable rain jacket regardless of the time of year. Synthetics that dry quickly are recommended; a fleece jacket is helpful both on the water and afterwards when the nights cool down. Fish shirts and pants that are long sleeved that quick dry are are a must. And for those occasional cold conditions, bring your gloves.

    • Thermals –
      Pack a set of thermals regardless of the time of year. Mid-weight, quick drying. For cold weather and water, use heavy weight underwear or fleece garments under waders.

    • Shoes –
      Keens for float fishing. Flip flocks and tennis shoes for around town, Non-cotton socks. Smart wool or synthetic fleece.

    • Fishing Hat –
      Either baseball cap or long brimmed hat for sun protection.

    • Polarized sunglasses

    • Waterproof case for your phone

    • Sunscreen

    • Insect repellent

    • Flashlight

    • Toiletries and any medications

What else would you bring on a fly fishing trip to Montana? Feel free to post in the comments below.

Read More Getting Your Fishing License in Ennis, Montana

A uniquely western mix of quaint and kitsch, West Yellowstone is a gateway to one of three, Montana based, national park entrances. While tourist shops and nature attractions threaten ... moreto distort the town’s true character, serious fly fishers should not be put off. In 2009, Forbes Magazine rated West Yellowstone as one of the top ten fly fishing destinations in America, describing it as the trout epicenter of the world. If that weren’t enough, in 2010, Forbes went on to list Firehole Ranch, located on Hebgen Lake, as the 5th best fly fishing destination in the world, one of only two cited in the US.

Epicenter is in fact an accurate way to describe this town. Top rated trout streams surround West Yellowstone such as the Madison, Gallatin, Yellowstone and Henry’s Fork of the Snake. The Upper Madison, Gibbons and Firehole Rivers are a stone’s throw away. For those partial to float and deep-water fishing, Hebgen Lake, Earthquake Lake, Henry’s Lake and Island Park Reservoir provide a large roster of fishing options. Heartier souls can go ice fishing during winter months while for those inclined to participate, the region hosts several, competitive, ice fishing tournaments. 

Lodging choices are abundant, ranging from rustic campsites to absolute luxury. Year round sports opportunities are available including horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. 
Nestled at the convergence point of five valleys, Missoula is a picturesque as it is interesting. Surrounded by towering mountains, three rivers come together here; the Clark Fork, ... moreBlackfoot and Bitterroot. Each river is overflowing with rainbow, brown, cutthroat and bull trout, and the variety of opportunities to fish here are nearly infinite. For those inclined to venture out, it’s even possible to drop an impromptu line from a bridge in the middle of town and expect success with a catch. Other year round outdoor sports include white water river rafting, hiking and competitive marathon running.

What’s most unique about Missoula is that it’s not only beautiful but it appeals to sportsmen and artists alike. In fact, Missoula is a premier choice for fly fishermen with diverse interests such as the visual arts, live theater, cinema, local brewpubs and an active nightlife. Much of this activity is attributed to the presence of the University of Montana, frequently ranked as the most beautiful campus in the US, as well as being recognized for its academic excellence. The city is now host to the Montana Book Festival, the International Wildlife Film Festival and the Montana Museum of Art and Culture.

Whether you are a fly-fisher with a yen for culture or you are a fisherman traveling with people who don’t fish, this is a wise choice for striking a balance between great angling and satisfying entertainment.
This is a small town with a big heart, a veritable fisherman’s paradise. Located near the fish-filled Madison River, and surrounded by the waters of Ennis Lake, the Ruby River, Hebgen ... moreLake, Quake Lake, Henry’s Lake, the Big Hole River and scores of smaller streams, the town boasts what many consider the best trout fishing in the world. As well known for its wranglers as its anglers, Ennis has succeeded in maintaining the look and feel of its original, gold town roots. Warm and hospitable, the area offers a wide variety of accommodations ranging from simple campsites, rustic motels and gracious hotels, to full-service, luxury resorts. Fly shops are numerous, stocked by local experts ready to advise and assist, while guides can be booked for trips throughout the area.

Boredom is the only thing unavailable in Ennis. Throughout the summer season the city hosts a series of events, including its renowned 4th of July Celebration Parade and a genuine, old-fashioned rodeo. In August, fly-fishing luminaries from around the US, flock to Montana to compete in the Madison Fly Fishing Festival. Athletes also find their way to Ennis to compete in the city’s Madison Trifecta, two shorter races followed by a full Marathon at 9000 feet, the highest elevation run in America. For the true sportsman, October falls in with the annual Hunter’s Feed. What’s caught, typically elk, moose deer, pheasant and bobcat, gets cooked on the streets and served up to hungry spectators.

Flanked by three grand mountain ranges, The Tobacco Root, Gravelly and Madison, Ennis is scenic and entertaining – truly an authentic, fly fisher’s haven.
Fishing Waters
Maclean’s famous story, A River Runs Through It, is set on the now famous Blackfoot River. Despite this, Robert Redford’s 1992 movie version was largely filmed on the Gallatin as he ... morefelt the scenery and fishing were more cinematic. The river originates high in the mountains of the Gallatin Range inside Yellowstone National Park and flows for 115 miles until it intersects with the beginning of the Missouri River at Three Forks. Inside the Park, where it runs for more than 25 miles, floating is not allowed and there are restrictions on fishing. Once it exits the park, it crosses a forty-mile expanse of mostly public lands, and runs parallel to a highway that makes it quite accessible. Because the river is narrow for much of its run, float fishing is restricted from Yellowstone Park to the confluence with the East Gallatin River. No wonder this river has a great reputation for wade fishing!

Unimpeded by dams, the river provides consistent, easily waded flows from mid-summer through mid-spring. Rainbows predominate with an estimated 1400, 8+ inch, fish per mile from the West Fork confluence at Big Sky to the mouth of the canyon. Browns are abundant accompanied by occasional cutthroats, brook trout, white fish and graylings. New to the lower most band of the river are northern pike. Never known for trophy trout, the river offers excellent dry fly fishing and beautiful surroundings. Since the fish are recognized as indiscriminate eaters, the Gallatin has come to be known as an excellent river for those learning to fly fish.

Like much of Montana, the River played a significant role in the state’s history. First explored by Native American hunters, by the early 1900’s, the area eventually became known to fur-trappers and gold prospectors. By the turn of the twentieth century logging rose in importance to the local economy as loggers famously rode the logs down river to prevent them from jamming. The towns of Bozeman and Three Forks are most closely associated with the River although given the importance of Maclean’s legacy, Livingston should also be considered as part of its history and heritage.
Game Fish Opportunities:
/ Boat
1 - 2 anglers
1 day
The Gallatin River is one of the closest, in proximity to Bozeman, Montana. As it makes its course from Yellowstone National Park to the Headwaters of the Missouri River, the Gallatin ... moreRiver flows through a diverse topography. High mountain meadows near Yellowstone Park, robust pocket water through the Gallatin Canyon, and the wide open spaces of the Gallatin Valley offer three distinct environments in which to fish and explore this fine river. Since it is smaller than many of our other rivers, the Gallatin offers a good opportunity for fishing on foot. Consistent hatches of caddis, mayflies and stoneflies throughout the season make the Gallatin an easy choice on any day.
/ Boat
1 - 2 anglers
3 days
Experience the Madison River Like Never Before Learn the best spots on the Madison River with 3 great fishing days with Red Mountain Adventures. Eric Shores, with over 35 years of ... moreexperiencing guiding on the Madison River will take you down a journey of the best places to fish.

The journey starts on the Upper Madison River on a guided float trip covering about 8-11 miles of premier fly fishing water. The following day includes a recipe (location flies, and technique) on a do it yourself wade location near the fly fishing town of Ennis. The third day moves you on to where the Madison River dumps into Ennis Lake for a full float day stalking the giants.

Note: The order or location may change based on where the best spots are at the time.
/ Boat
1 - 2 anglers
4 hours - 1 day
The Madison River is arguably the most legendary trout stream in North America. It is home to some incredible trout and holds many secrets. The experienced guides at Fishtales Outfitting ... moreknow how to coax sizeable trout out of the water and will help you get them on the end of your line. Located near Sheridan, Montana, we have prime access to some of southwest Montana's finest trout streams, and there's no doubt that the Madison stands apart. Full Day and Half Day wade and drift boat trips are available based on your preferences and experience level. Lunch is included with full day trips and comes straight from food grown and raised locally. Book a fantastic day on the Madison River and you won't soon forget it!
Welcome to Southwest Montana's finest fly fishing adventures. Blue ribbon trout water is literally steps away when you visit us in the picturesque town of Ennis, Montana. You may spend ... morethe day on our home river, the world famous Madison or drive to one of our other local rivers such as the Big Hole, Beaverhead, Ruby or the Jefferson. Whether you are a new angler or an old pro we have the expertise and patience to make your time on the water chasing wild trout a success.


Reza Almaneih

As a fly fishing enthusiast for over a decade, Reza sees Yobi Adventures as a way to bring the the fly fishing community together and experience the thrill of fly fishing across North America.


Discover Your Own Fishing and Hunting Adventures

With top destinations, guided trips, outfitters and guides, and river reports, you have everything you need.