Introduction to Montana Fly Fishing Tackle

Just about every rod/reel/line/leader combination you can think of up to and including seven-weight spey outfits can work as Yellowstone and Montana fly fishing tackle. That said, you can get by with a whole lot less. I will go into a great deal of detail on the pages in this section of the fishing planner, but if you want to keep it simple and only bring one outfit and basic gear, use the basic list below this introduction. Check out the other pages under the tackle tab for the details.

Wading gear is discussed under the Clothing and Accessories tab.

Note that only Montana fly fishing tackle is discussed in this section of the planner, not suggested flies. Instead, check out theĀ Flies and Hatches tab. You might also check the pages within the Our Waters section for even more detail on the flies that work on specific fisheries.

The Basic Tackle List

The following gear won’t be ideal in all situations, but it can perform everything an angler needs to do in the Yellowstone Area on all waters at least acceptably well, throughout the year. If you’re trying to stuff all of your fishing gear into one corner of a suitcase, this is what you should bring.

  • Rod: Nine-foot six-weight
  • Reel: Standard or large-arbor with a smooth drag and palming rim, large enough to hold the line and 50+ yards of backing. This is the place to save money if need be.
  • Line: Weight-forward floating line to match rod. Color does not matter. The line must float well and be in good repair, free of cracks, nicks, dirt, etc.
  • Standard Leaders: 7.5′ to 12′ general purpose monofilament trout leaders ranging from 1X to 6X. 9′ 3X and 4X leaders are the most popular in the region, but leader choice varies a great deal according to season, fly size and type, and the specific water in question. Ask your friendly Montana or Yellowstone fly shop (or me) which leaders are suitable for the water and time of year you’re fishing.
  • Sinking Leaders or Sink-Tip Fly Line: Either extra-fast sinking polyleaders in the five to seven-foot range or a sink-tip fly line with a sink rate of around five inches per second is suitable for streamer fishing.
  • Tippet Material: Standard monofilament in 1X through 6X (2X through 5X most common) and, optionally, fluorocarbon in 2X through 7X. If you like fishing large, articulated streamers, use 8lb to 12lb Maxima Ultragreen.
  • Dry Fly Floatant: Choose gel-type silicone-based floatants over powder-type floatants on most waters and with most flies. Tiny CDC flies float better with powders. The largest dry flies imitating Salmonflies and grasshoppers often perform best with a liquid silicone-based floatant such as Flyagra or Parks’ Fly Shop’s Magic Sauce rather than the standard gels.
  • Indicators: 1/2″ and 3/4″ Thingmabobber or Airlok-type are most popular and generally useful, but small pinch-on or yarn indicators are useful for shallow-water fishing with small flies.
  • Shot: Sizes 4 through AB non-toxic shot for Yellowstone Park, where lead shot is not legal. I suggest non-toxic shot on all waters. Lead shot in sizes B and BB may be useful on the Yellowstone or Missouri Rivers if you choose to use lead. Sink putty, twist-ons, and similar gimmicks do not work very well and I do not like them.
  • Basic fly fishing tools (nippers, forceps, knot tool if required, etc.)
  • Hook hone or file. Our stream bottoms have many hard rocks that dull hook points quickly, and the large flies commonly required on many waters will not penetrate if their hooks are dull.
  • Net with a basket at least 14″ long. Deep nets with rubber or catch and release mesh baskets are preferred.