Float & Wade Trips

Combine floating and wading to hit water that shore-bound anglers can't reach and boat anglers blow by. Perfect for clients who think differently!

Most outfitters run float trips and walk & wade tripstrips. Float trips might include a little wade fishing, but boat-fishing is the focus. We like to do things differently at Yellowstone Country Fly Fishing, so we combine float and wade trips. These are our most unique Montana fishing trips.

On these trips we use drift boats and whitewater rafts to access chunks of water impossible to access on foot, then pull over to fish them more slowly and methodically that floaters can. Sometimes we do some fishing from the boat. Sometimes it’s just our taxi.

beautiful brown trout

Who are These Trips For?

Float & wade trips are good choices for beginners who want more hands-on instruction than is possible on floats but don’t want to hike in Yellowstone Park.

They’re great choices for experienced anglers who want to fish big rivers more slowly and methodically than on an average float trip.

They’re perfect for visitors who have done normal float trips on big-name float rivers and want more unique Montana fishing trips this time around.

Float & wades aren’t for everyone, though, mostly due to the physical nature of the fishing, which might edge too far into “adventure” for some:

  • Clients must be able to wade fast water with poor traction.
  • When the water is low we might need clients to help us drag or carry our rafts over shallow areas, or to launch or take out in areas with awful boat ramps.
  • A strong south wind can be a killer on these trips, making for extremely difficult casting for all but experts.
  • They are best early and late in the year, so the weather can be awful.

The above being the case, these trips are not suitable for children (great for adventurous teens, though) or anglers with limited mobility. Wading boots without studded soles are required.

angler with early spring float-wade rainbow

2024 Float & Wade Trip Rates

Float & wade trips are available as full-day trips from early March through mid-November. Shoulder-season 3/4-day trips are available from March through mid-May and from October 1 through mid-November, weather and ice permitting.

Access sites are too far apart to run these trips as half-days. We’d spend all our time rowing from spot to spot instead of fishing.

  • Full-Day Rate: $625 for one angler, $650 for two. Additional fee of $25 applies to trips on the Upper Yellowstone, Stillwater, and Missouri Rivers due to increased fuel costs and/or private ramp access fees.
  • 3/4-Day Rate: $575 for one or two anglers. Yellowstone and Lower Madison Rivers only. Additional fee of $25 applies to trips on the Upper Yellowstone River to cover private ramp access fees.
  • Standard terms apply.

Note: It’s not a good tactic to run multiple guides on the same stretch on these trips. If your party requires multiple guides, we suggest splitting up and fishing different places. If you want to fish all together, we suggest sticking to a normal float trip.

angler with brown trout

Montana Float & Wade Trips: Where and When

Float & wade trips are available on all of our standard float trip rivers: the Yellowstone, Boulder, Madison, Stillwater, and Missouri (the headwaters stretch only—the famous tailwater is too crowded). They’re also available on the Gallatin.

Float-wades are more popular on small rivers like the Boulder, Stillwater, and Gallatin. On most stretches of the Yellowstone and Madison during core season, boat traffic is so high that it’s usually best to go with the flow.

The exception on big name rivers is spring and fall, when boat traffic falls off and the trout cluster in small areas. Every guide stops the boat once in a while in fall, but few pull over for more than a few minutes. Hitting the good spots hard is therefore a good bet to switch things up.

float-wade guided trip quality by season

Early Spring Float & Wade Trips (March–Early May)

When the ice jams breaks up around March 1, float & wade trips become great options for experienced anglers looking to target large rainbow and rainbow-cutthroat hybrid trout with nymphs and streamers. See that big boy at the top of the page? Caught on a float-wade in early spring (the angler rolled up his sleeves for the pic).

The fish are gathered in a few deep holes this early in the year, so it makes far more sense to row from spot to spot, hopping out to pound these good spots, rather than just floating along fishing almost everything.

We mostly target the Yellowstone River prior to mid-April, after which the Stillwater, Boulder, and Gallatin join the party.

Float-wades are our best public water trip option in late March and early April, except perhaps with total beginners. In fact, the quality early spring fishing is the main reason we started offering these unique Montana fishing trips as a regular offering rather than something we did once in a while.

angler with nice early season rainbow trout. Snow and mountains in background.

Late Spring Float & Wade Trips (Mid-May through Mid–Late June)

Once the spring melt hits sometime in the first half of May, float-wade options dramatically decline. The Lower Madison and Boulder Rivers may run low enough for these trips to work, but this availability is sporadic.

We suggest regular float trips in late spring instead, though we may jump out of the boat to wade-fish a spot or two if conditions allow.

Early Summer Float & Wade Trips (July)

Opportunities increase in late June as the water drops. The water is still raging, so we’ll often fish out of the boat more than we do on float & wade trips earlier or later in the year, but pull over to fish the largest and best pools on foot.

The Boulder River is our top float & wade destination in early summer, but small segments of the Yellowstone are also good. The Gallatin (where boats are legal but float-fishing isn’t) also gets low enough now and is a popular destination for clients staying in Bozeman or Big Sky.

By mid-July, lots more good options start cropping up, especially as small rivers like the Boulder and the upper Stillwater get too low to fish effectively from a moving boat, but fish well while wading.

Happy angler on the Boulder River

Late Summer Float & Wade Trips (August and Early September)

Late summer is not as good for float & wade trips as early summer. There are two problems. The smallest rivers like the Boulder are too low to float. On big rivers the fish tend to be spread out enough that we’re usually better off covering water.

That said, some float & wade options are available on the Yellowstone for anglers who want to “get weird” with unique Montana fishing trips and beat the crowds. This fishing is strictly for fit anglers, though, because the wading is difficult.

The Stillwater River is also popular for float & wade trips in August, but we prefer to run standard floats on it at this time if water conditions are near-normal.

angler with late summer Stillwater River rainbow trout

Early Autumn Float & Wades (September and Early October)

September through early October can be excellent for float & wade trips, or they can be awful. It comes down to weather and water conditions.

On the Yellowstone, low water and gray weather mean the trout jam into small areas to feed heavily on Blue-winged Olive and other mayflies. Float & wades are great bets on the ‘Stone under these conditions. If the weather is still summer-like, standard floats are better.

On the Stillwater River, the situation is reversed. Warm weather and higher flows keep the river high enough to get a raft down, while the fish are beginning to cluster up since most of the water is getting shallow. Cold weather and/or low water make this river too low to float even with whitewater rafts, ending the float-wade season.

large rainbow-cutthroat hybrid caught in early autumn

We actually had to jump in the boat to chase this one. Caught on a #18 dry fly.

Late Autumn Float & Wades (October and Early November)

Late-season float wades might include some dry fly fishing, like early fall float-wades, but there’s really one prime draw at this time: fall-run brown trout. Float-wades at this time are great options for experienced anglers who like to swing streamers or nymph good runs in search of the largest brown trout of the year.

This is fishing for anglers who want to swing for the fences, or maybe strike out. Favorite destinations at this time are the lower Stillwater (if it’s high enough) and the Yellowstone. Bring your “big gun” fly rod and your favorite streamers and let’s roll the dice…

colored up fall brown trout