Walk/Float Combination Trips: Intro
For clients who only have one day to devote to a guided fly fishing trip in Montana and Yellowstone Park, but want to experience both a walk-wade and a float, our full-day walk-float combo trips might be just the ticket. On these trips, we’ll walk half the day and float half the day, with lunch in between.
These trips provide our clients the widest variety of fishing experiences they can get without booking multiple days. We’re one of very few outfitters to offer trips like this, at least as a regular part of our business.
We have our clients get out to fish on foot from time to time on many float trips. That’s not what combos are about. On combos, we fish two very different stretches of water, generally one where floating is illegal or impossible (such as a small stream) and one where floating is the way to go. We’ll generally use different tactics, targeting different sizes of fish and even different species of fish.
Most combos combine a chunk of the day on the Yellowstone River with a chunk of the day on a smaller water in Montana or Yellowstone Park. Trips combining the Boulder River or Stillwater River plus either a tributary stream or an upstream stretch of the same river that’s too low to float are also possible.
Because of the long duration of these trips, they are only available from late June or early July (whenever the Yellowstone drops from the spring runoff) through the first week of October. July is prime time for beginners interested in these trips, while early August and September offer the best opportunities for advanced anglers.
Combo Trips: Where and When?
Most combo trips fall into one of the following categories:
- Teach beginners the basics of fly fishing on a small stream in Yellowstone Park, then float the Yellowstone in the afternoon. Trips that fit this bill are particularly popular in late June and July, when the Yellowstone is high enough that total beginners on float trips often feel overwhelmed and struggle. Cutting the learning curve with a few hours targeting small, dumb trout on a creek as wide as the boat beforehand is long goes a long way to making floats easier.
- Float a river first thing in the morning, then head up to fish a small creek in the mountains. These trips are most common in late July and early August, when low water levels, bright sun, and potentially high water temperatures can make afternoon float-fishing slow, but the mornings are great on big water while the mountain creeks stay cold and their fish frisky even in the afternoons.
- Target large brown trout on foot with nymphs and streamers at first light, then float for the midday hatches. These trips are most common in September and early October, though some years they even make sense during late August cool spells. Since the big boys strike best early in the morning at this time and the early fall dry fly fishing is best from about 11:00 to 3:30, this combo trip option puts experienced anglers on the best tactics and locations for the time of day much better than a regular float or a regular walk trip can. Put another way, this is a way of “getting your big fish and your dry fly fishing too.”
Occasionally we’ll run a combo that falls outside of the above categories, but not often. A big limiting factor is travel time. To keep the travel time to fishing time ratio sensible, combo trip walk-wade destinations are limited to areas within about a 30-minute drive from good floating. This impacts Yellowstone Park fishing destinations in particular, since floating is not allowed inside the park. Simply put, it’s impossible to get very far into the park and still have time to float fish, too.
Combo Trip Details
One of the above options is usually ideal for any clients who want to get a lot out of a single day of fishing, provided these clients are up for a long day. Because of the complicated changeover in the middle of the day, these trips almost always run long. That’s one reason our rates are higher for these trips than for other full-day trips. Another reason they’re higher is that we’re usually paying commercial use fees to two or even three jurisdictions (Montana and Yellowstone Park, sometimes the US Forest Service) rather than just one. Finally, our guides are also paying for a river shuttle. That said, the price difference is not high, and hardcore anglers often do get a lot more out of a combo than a standard trip.
One of the main reasons to take a combo trip is flexibility: fishing the best water at the best time of day, or that best matches client skill level. To run with this theme, we are flexible in scheduling these trips.
While we’ll need to know whether or not to pack the wade-fishing gear (or to hitch up the boat) a day or two in advance, we don’t need to know for sure whether we’re walking, floating, or running a combo trip right when you book a full-day trip. Since all of the extra price of a combo trip gets eaten by fees and expenses, anyway, it’s no problem if we switch things out from a combo to a full-day walk or float (or vice-versa) if conditions warrant. If the wade-fishing is good, we’ll do that. If the floats are going great, we’ll float. If both are good, it’s worth considering a combo.
2022 Combo Trip Rates
Combo trips are available only as full-day trips. The rate is $625 for one angler and $650 for two anglers. Note that both Montana and Yellowstone Park licenses are required on many combo trips, so there are usually more ancillary expenses for combo trips as well as higher guide service fees.