Guided Trip Policies
The following section of this page covers our policies: what’s included on trips, deposit/cancellation policies, and other general practices we follow on trips. Rates are not discussed below, since they’re on the relevant pages for all of our assorted trips. You might also be looking for our packing list page, which you may wish to print out to be sure everything is in your luggage.
Reservations, Deposits, and Final Payments
Reservations are required. For trips from mid-October through mid-May, one of our guides can often be booked a day or two in advance. During the June-September absolute peak season, both outfitter Walter Wiese and the independent guides we use when he is busy and on multi-guide trips are routinely booked several months in advance, so I suggest calling or e-mailing ASAP to book. The tighter your available dates, the more important it is to give as much notice as possible. To give you an idea of what we’re talking about, this is being written on February 7. Walter’s July is already half booked.
To begin booking a trip, fill out our trip booking and information form, call, or e-mail. Your booking is not confirmed until you hear it from us verbally over the phone and later via e-mail when we send you your booking confirmation and itinerary form.
Deposits and Cancellations
To confirm your booking and hold your date(s), we require a deposit of one half the total trip price or $1500, whichever is less, within 7 days of booking. This deposit may be paid via personal check or credit card (VISA/MC/AMEX/Discover, processed via Square). If paying the deposit via card, we can either take your credit card number over the phone or send you a Square invoice. A valid credit card number is required to hold all dates, whether this is the preferred payment method or not. For bookings made less than seven days before the trip date, the deposit must be made upon booking via card.
If you book a private water trip and we are reserving the water with the landowner on your behalf, we usually add the required access fees to your deposit, though this varies on a water-by-water basis depending on the landowner’s cancellation policies.
Since our business is highly seasonal and cancellations are difficult to rebook, particularly when notice is given late, we have adopted the following cancellation policies. They are comparable to those of our competitors.
- Deposits for cancellations received in writing prior to one month before the trip date (or first date of a multi-day trip) will be refunded in full via the original deposit method. If a deposit is required to be refunded via a different method (for example if you change credit cards between booking and the date of the trip), a 5% cancellation fee will be charged to pay our original credit card processing fees.
- From one month to 7 days prior to a trip, cancellations will forfeit the deposit unless we are able to rebook the date for a trip of equal or greater price.
- Trips canceled within 7 days of a trip require full payment unless we are able to rebook the date for a trip of equal or greater price.
- Changing the scheduled trip date or dates within 30 days of a trip may be treated as a cancellation and rebooking or allowed without penalty, at our discretion, depending on whether or not we have turned away business for the date originally booked.
- Deposits we take to reserve private waters on your behalf may or may not be refundable. This depends on the specific policies of each landowner.
- Unless weather or water conditions are dangerous or unfishable, we do not cancel trips due to weather or water conditions. We fish rain, shine, snow, or wind. At our discretion we may offer to cut a full-day trip to a shorter-duration trip without penalty, if conditions warrant. Clients are expected to have raincoats, clothing appropriate to the weather, and otherwise be prepared for changing weather conditions.
- While we are more than willing to take client preferences into consideration in regards to the body of water we fish and the techniques we use, we do not guarantee that we will fish any specific body of water or use any specific fishing techniques. In other words, if there is a body of water suitable for the type you have booked (e.g. river float vs walk-wade), you should expect your trip to go forward. We will not accept cancellations if your preferred body of water becomes unfishable, your preferred techniques are unlikely to produce, or the weather is unpleasant but safe.
- We reserve the right to cancel or reduce the duration of any trip due to dangerous or unfishable weather or water conditions, truck or boat breakdown, or illness. If we have to cancel a trip, we will attempt to reschedule the trip or will offer a full refund of the deposit. If trips are cut short, we may refund a portion of the trip fee depending on how much time is lost, solely at our discretion.
- If you are concerned about your ability to take a trip based on the above conditions, we suggest purchasing a travel insurance policy. Travel Guard is a good choice.
The balance of the trip must be paid in full on the first date of your booking. For final balances, we accept cash, personal checks, and all major cards (cards are processed using Square). No-show clients will be charged full-price for the entire booking using the card on file.
Other Expenses & Gratuities
Other possible expenses may include the following, with the precise additional expenses depending on where and when we fish:
- Montana or Yellowstone National Park fishing licenses
- Yellowstone Park entrance fees, if we’re fishing inside the park
- Private water access fees
- Wading gear if you lack your own (seldom required on summer float trips, generally required on other trips). When required, we will suggest a local shop to patronize for your rentals. we do not have the financial resources to provide wading gear for the various shapes and sizes of potential clients. Our rates reflect the fact we do not provide wading gear.
- All clients must have or be ready to purchase polarized sunglasses! No exceptions! Good sunglasses (Smith, Costa, etc.) are ideal, but clip-on or gas station grade polarized shades are acceptable. Not wearing polarized glasses is the single biggest reason clients fail to recognize when fish strike, and lacking something to shield your eyes invites losing an eye to an errant hook. This is the sort of nightmare scenario that makes guides wake up sweating on cold winter nights.
Whether you choose to fish with YCFF or another outfitter, average gratuities for Montana fly fishing guides average $50 to $100 for half-day trips and $80 to $150 for full-day trips. Gratuities can be handled ahead of time via your preferred payment method if there’s no other option, but cash is most certainly king. Note that gratuities average about the same amount whether you are fishing with the business owner or a guide working on behalf of the business.
All trips include the following:
- The use of a rod/reel, if needed.
- Flies, though you’re encouraged to bring favorites if you tie your own or just like certain patterns.
- All leaders, tippet material, shot, etc.
- Water and soft drinks.
- Transportation from a prearranged meeting point. While we are based in Livingston and therefore it makes the most sense on many trips for our clients to stay here as well, we can meet at/near client lodgings in the Yellowstone River Valley, Gardiner, Bozeman, Yellowstone Park, or Helena/Craig, with the precise location depending on where we’ll be fishing.
- River shuttles, gas, and other transportation costs associated with the guide’s vehicle(s).
Trips do not include the following:
- Montana and/or Yellowstone Park fishing licenses, if applicable.
- Yellowstone Park entrance fees, if applicable.
- Private water access fees, if applicable.
- Wading gear (note: no felt soles in YNP, no metal studs or bars of any kind in any boats).
- Hiking gear (light backpack and hiking boots), if applicable.
- Required personal attire (rain gear, hat, polarized sunglasses, clothing suitable for weather and terrain).
- Alcoholic beverages (BYOB, cans only in boats please).
- Guide gratuities.
General Guided Trips Policies
- Trips are catch and release only except where must-kill regulations are in place.
- All fishing is barbless and artificials-only. No natural or synthetic bait. Spin fishing is permitted on boat or private lake trips but not on any walk & wade trips. Spin-fishing clients must remove one hook point from any treble hooks.
- We do not intentionally target or disturb actively-spawning wild trout. Trips fishing for “fall-run brown trout” target only pre-spawn trout in deeper water, not spawners on their shallow redds, for example.
- All plastic and aluminum containers used on our trips will be recycled.
- We follow “leave no trace” guidelines on all trips.
- We follow Yellowstone Park guidelines on animal interactions on all trips, inside the park or not. Animals get the right of way…
- We attempt to follow “visual rule of crowding” guidelines on all walk trips, when it is at all feasible. Basically this means fishing out of sight of other anglers whenever we can.
- We accept clients aged 10 and up, or 12 and up for trips from October 15 through April 15 (the latter is due to cold temps and dangerous water conditions for younger children).
- No more than five guests may join us on any trip unless additional guides are booked. This includes non-angling observers who are not being charged, even on lessons. Yellowstone Park regulations do not permit us to supervise more than five guests at a time, and anyone with us on a trip is a guest whether we are charging them or not.
- Guests may be asked to sign acknowledgement of risk and acceptance of responsibility forms at the beginning of the trip, including notes on any physical or mental considerations the guides must know about (eg non-obvious injuries, fear of animals or heights, inability to swim, etc.). Refusal to do so will constitute a late cancellation and require full payment.
- Clients must wear eye protection at all times (with polarized sunglasses strongly encouraged).
- Wading gear worn in boats must not include any metal studs, cleats, or bars. Wading gear worn in Yellowstone Park must not include felt soles. Wading gear will be cleaned before moving between water bodies in different river drainages.
- We ask that our clients leave their firearms at home, even when they possess valid concealed-carry permits. To be frank, we don’t know how clients will react to bears and virtually all concealed-carry weapons lack the muzzle energy to do more than make bears angry anyway. Our guides carry bear spray on all walk trips and we have additional canisters available for client use, on request. Bear spray has been proven to be far more effective at deterring bear attacks than firearms. For what it’s worth, most of our staff own firearms of one type or another and some are concealed-carry permit holders, so this isn’t a political statement of any kind.
- No illegal drugs on trips, please. This includes any marijuana in client possession while traveling in our vehicles in Yellowstone Park. Since this is a federal park, state legalization laws do not apply (including Montana medical and recreational marijuana laws) and our guides may be considered responsible if we get checked by a ranger or cop and clients are in possession. Clients will be sued in civil court for any violations of this policy that impact Yellowstone Country Fly Fishing, its operations, its property, or its guides in any way.
- Recreational marijuana is legal in Montana and guests may partake as they wish within legal limits. Please acquaint yourself with Montana laws on transporting and consuming marijuana. It is illegal to carry marijuana openly in a motor vehicle in much the same way as it is to carry an open container of alcohol, for example.
- No smoking or other open flames in rubber rafts (for obvious reasons) or during periods of High or Extreme fire danger as declared by Yellowstone Park, the Custer-Gallatin National Forest, and/or the state of Montana. All tobacco ash/waste must be handled in a way that prevents litter and the potential for fire. Some guides may have respiratory issues and ask you to refrain from smoking or vaping in their presence, but subject to fire restrictions in late summer we can always stop for a smoke break.
- No glass containers in boats, though wine bottles stowed in gear bags or the cooler except at lunch are fine. No open alcohol containers in our motor vehicles except obvious refuse stowed in the cooler.
Guided Trip F.A.Q.
The following are questions we get asked all the time. The categories and their contents are:
- General Policies: catch and release policies, licensing, minimum age requirements, discounts
- Other General Questions: operating season, our commercial licensing and insurance, beginner trips, trips with kids, trips for anglers with disabilities, trips with anglers who do not speak English, food and drinks, cell service
- Flies, Tackle, Clothing, and Gear
- Walk & Trip Questions: Questions about both public water walk & wade trips in Yellowstone Park and Montana and private spring creek walk & wade trips are answered here.
- Boat Trip Questions: Questions about float trips, jet boat trips, and private lake trips are answered here.
Can Someone Who isn’t Fishing Come Along?
On boat trips, it’s fine if one passenger does not choose to fish. In all honesty, it makes getting photos a lot easier. Please note that the capacity of our boats is still only two to at most three passengers and the guide, even if one passenger is just riding along.
Since our walk-wade trips generally require a hike, take place in rugged terrain, involve stream crossings, and so on, we prefer that non-anglers do not join us for walk-wade trips.
Can We Get a Reduced Rate if Only a Few People are Fishing at Once, or if a Member of Our Party Doesn’t Need a Guide?
To put it bluntly, no. Our rates are based on the total number of people who fish on the trip, not on the number fishing at any one time or the amount of time the guide spends with each client. We don’t mind giving members of your party who aren’t going on a guided trip suggestions on where to go and what to use, but if an individual walks in with the guided party and fishes the same area, they will be considered part of the guided party and the trip will be billed as such.
By the same token, if we are booked for a full-day trip, we expect to be fishing with the same party members for the entire time. We will not permit the morning clients to depart at lunch and be replaced by others. This qualifies as two half-day trips rather than a full-day. The first hour or two of any trip is spent getting the guide and clients in tune with each other, so if the clients change halfway through, the guide actually works much harder than on a standard full-day trip (which after all is generally only about $100 more expensive than a half-day).
We don’t want to sound like hardcases here, but early in his career our outfitter was burned time and again by groups that wound up making him work a whole lot harder than he was being paid for by having extra people fish. You will find that most guide services and fly shops in the region have similar policies.
Are Your Trips Catch & Release Only?
Except for a very few rare situations, our trips are catch and release only when we are fishing for trout, grayling, or whitefish. There are three reasons for this: first, taking care of kept fish is a pain and takes away from fishing time. Second, almost all fish we target on our guide trips are wild, so keeping fish can severely impact populations. Finally, keeping fish in bear country is downright dangerous unless we’re right next to the road. Do you want to be hiking with a slowly-rotting fish when a grizzly might get wind of it?
The only exceptions to our catch and release rule are as follows:
- If you catch a pure rainbow, definite rainbow/cutthroat hybrid, or brook trout in the Lamar drainage or portions of the Yellowstone drainage, or a lake trout anywhere in the Yellowstone drainage, park regulations require killing these nonnative species to protect cutthroat populations. If we are fishing near the road, you may keep the fish we kill to comply with these regulations. If we are in the backcountry, we will puncture the fish’s air bladder and dispose of it in deep water, as park guidelines suggest.
- If a trout that is legal to keep dies or is likely to die from injuries it sustains due to the fight, you will be allowed to keep it provided we are close enough to the road that the bear danger is minimal and we can keep it cool enough that it will be safe to eat once we are able to get it in a cooler.
- On Power Boat Trips (due to return after a hiatus in late 2022), we may do a bit of spin-fishing for perch and walleye from time to time. These may be kept up to the legal limit. Clients will be responsible for cleaning any perch or walleye they decide to keep except those we fry up as part of lunch.
Note that all above situations are rare. Walter has been guiding since 2001 and has never had a client keep a trout, though he’s killed a few rainbows since the park began requiring killing these fish in some locations.
Note that we do not allow keeping a trophy fish unless the above conditions are met. Instead, the guide will be sure to get a bunch of high-resolution pictures of the fish and of you holding the fish, then send you the best. A framed picture tells a story even better than a mount, at a much lower price, and it leaves the big fish in the river for our next clients to catch.
What License Do I Need? Where Do I Buy It?
The license you need depends on where we’ll be fishing. For river float trips, power boat trips, and walk trips outside the Park, you’ll need a Montana license. It’s required for anglers aged 12 and up. In Yellowstone, you don’t need a Montana (or Wyoming) license, but you do need a Yellowstone National Park license. All anglers are required to have a license, but for those age under 16 it’s free. Licenses are not required on any of the private lakes we fish but are required on private streams.
It’s best if you buy your license ahead of time, if possible! You can buy Montana permits online here. If you can’t get your MT permit online ahead of time, we’ll suggest a license agent to patronize near where we’ll start fishing, and we can stop before we start fishing if we must, for most fisheries (some are not near any license agents). Yellowstone Park permits must be purchased in person but are available at many businesses both inside and outside the park. They are not available at park entrances. Again, we’ll suggest which businesses make sense to patronize based on where we’re fishing and where you’re staying. It can be very difficult to purchase Yellowstone permits the day of the trip, since we often start these trips before dawn, when local businesses are not yet open.
Also please note that you will need to have or be prepared to purchase your own Yellowstone National Park entrance permit for trips within the park, as our commercial permit only covers our guides, not clients. You can purchase these at every entrance station and from the Yellowstone Forever office in Gardiner, before the trip or on our way into the park.
Do You Offer any Discounts or Perks?
We offer discounts from our listed rates for multi-day bookings consisting of four consecutive trips or six (or more) trips total over the course of a season. We’ll discuss these when you book.
Is there a minimum age requirement on your trips?
Because of the fast/turbulent water and rugged terrain in the areas we guide, we do not guide children under the age of ten. Ten and up are fine on all trips provided the kids are eager to learn about fly fishing. Nothing is worse for parents, the guide, or the kids themselves than forcing a child to go fishing when he/she doesn’t want to. Please note than MT state law requires children aged 12 and under to wear life jackets at all times while in a boat.
Other General Questions
What’s Your Operating Season?
We offer guided trips year-round. The widest variety of available trips are available from late May through early October, but unless it’s so cold we’ll turn into icicles if we try to fish, we can usually put something together. The other pages in this section of the website will give you an idea of what’s available when, and we’ll also cover this when you contact me to book.
Are You Licensed and Insured?
Yes to both questions. We are licensed on waters in Montana subject to general regulations, in Yellowstone National Park, in the Custer-Gallatin National Forest (in cooperation with Parks’ Fly Shop), on the Madison River, at the Carbella-BLM boat ramp, and through an L-1 landowner agreement at the Gates of the Mountains Marina. Walter Wiese is Montana Outfitter #22001 and a USCG-licensed captain. Our guides all have First Aid and CPR certifications, which are required to even get a guide or outfitter license in Montana and for all commercial use within Yellowstone Park.
I’ve Never Fly Fished Before, but I Want to Learn. Do You Take Beginners?
Absolutely. Probably a quarter of our clients have never held a fly rod before. Check out the Beginner Trips page in this section of the site to learn about which trips make the most sense for beginners.
One thing to understand is that fishing with spinning (conventional) tackle, even for trout, does not generally help learning how to fly fish. In fact, since the casting, reeling, and line handling in fly fishing are very different than those in fishing with conventional tackle, extensive experience with conventional tackle can actually make learning how to fly fish harder. In other words, those with a lot of experience with other gear but not fly tackle qualify as beginner fly anglers.
My Child is “X” Years Old. Is He/She Old Enough to Go on a Guided Trip?
The age at which you introduce a child to fly fishing depends on three factors: the child’s attention span and size and their ability to walk to the stream and along the stream banks or to stand up in a high-sided drift boat. Fly fishing requires considerably more focus than fishing with bait or lures, and fly rods for our area need to range from eight to nine feet in length. Both factors make fly fishing a poor choice for very young children. In general, a child is big enough and has the attention span to be ready to learn to fly fish between age 8 and age 12, though as noted above we do not take kids under age 10 because of the rugged nature of our guiding. Teens (and really most kids over about age 10) are usually fine for the walking and wading, provided they want to go on the trip. Kids and teens who don’t want to go fishing but are forced to do so by their parents take years off of the lives of everyone around them…
In general, we will not take young children fishing unless a parent or other adult comes too, since we’re guides rather than babysitters, while those aged 13 and up can be unaccompanied provided they’re no more insane than your average teen.
For what it’s worth, the clients who typically learn how to fly fish the fastest are girls and young women aged 12 to 20 or so, provided they’re eager. All young people learn physical tasks quickly, and young women are less likely to try to rely on brute force than young men, and are a bit more likely to listen to the guide rather than getting into a testosterone war instead, both of which help slash the learning curve.
What Trips are Available for Anglers With Disabilities or Limited Mobility?
Yellowstone Park and Montana are rugged places. While there are some streams in Yellowstone Park where the banks are relatively flat and the wading is relatively easy, nowhere we guide qualifies as remotely handicapped-accessible and the gentle roadside areas suffer from overwhelming crowds. For anyone who really does not trust their feet (or is in a wheelchair, on crutches, etc.), we suggest boat trips. We have successfully taken anglers in their 80s who had to put their wheelchair in the back of the boat.
We ask our potential clients for a description of their age, general fitness level, and mobility when we take the booking, and also ask clients to disclose any phobias or other issues that might impact where we go fishing (such as a fear of animals or of heights, which as you can probably imagine are important factors in Yellowstone Park). This will help the guide dial in a good place to go. As noted above, for some anglers a float trip is by far the best option, but there are good walk/wade options for most anglers; we can find good places to take mountain goat 20 year-olds as well as unsteady older people who might need to lean on the guide’s shoulder from time to time. We just don’t want to find out five minutes beforehand that the spot we planned on will be too rough. Please be completely honest in your assessment. The single worsts trip we have ever had in our careers as guides, covering about 100 trips (or more) per season since 2001, resulted from clients who did not give us an honest assessment of their hiking or wading ability when they booked and then for whatever reason refused to understand the severe limitations this placed on where and how we could fish.
Please note that our Acknowledgment of Risk and Acceptance of Responsibility Form that all clients must initial, sign, and date before going fishing with us includes a section indicating that any physical or mental limitations have been disclosed beforehand. Yes, this is to protect ourselves and our guides.
Do I Need to Know How to Swim?
No, but not knowing how will slash the number of places we feel comfortable taking you, because wading anglers do fall in, clients do fall out of the boat or fall getting in and getting out, and once or twice a year some guide on the Yellowstone out of all the guide services makes a big mistake and flips a boat. With non-swimmers we’ll stick to small streams and gentle rivers on walk-wade trips, and we’ll float flat sections on boat trips where the guide could make a rescue without endangering the boat. Non-swimmers are required to wear life jackets at all times on float trips.
For what it’s worth, we added this entry in winter 2018-2019 because Walter had a non-swimmer fall out of the boat in a whitewater stretch in 2018. This was the first time in his career that he’d ever had a client fall out of the boat while underway. The client didn’t disclose his inability to swim, he’d requested the whitewater float, and he took off his lifejacket when he said it was safe to do so “if you feel comfortable.” Walter was a lifeguard as a teen, and he had to jump in and perform a water rescue for the first time in almost two decades. Good thing it all came back quick, because the client was drowning when Walter got to him… We now double check to ask everyone if they can swim.
A Member of Our Party is Pregnant. What Trips are Available?
Because of the risk of falls on walk & wade trips, even on gentle roadside streams, we take pregnant clients only on boat trips after the first trimester, more or less. All boat trips are suitable for pregnant women. Use your head, though. If a member of your party is near-term, it would be a bit of a bummer for everyone concerned for contractions to start when we’re four miles from the nearest boat ramp, dependent on commercial shuttle drivers to move our vehicle (which takes hours), with no way to get off the water in a timely manner.
Can You Take Anglers Who Don’t Speak English?
Yes, but it’s not easy. We really do need at least one member of every group to speak English, so he/she can translate for us. Even so, such trips need to involve a lot of patience and acceptance of some slapstick humor and misunderstandings all around. The key problem is that fly fishing is a technical sport and it’s very hard to explain the precise actions involved via pantomime. Folks who speak English as a second language are no problem at all, especially if they are near-fluent. In fact, many of the most-skilled anglers we’ve taken over the years were from Europe or Japan and spoke English as a second language.
What’s for Lunch? What About to Drink?
We provide lunch on all full-day trips, water on all trips, and soft drinks on all trips when it is practicable to carry them (in other words on boat and near-road walk & trips, not on hike-in trips). Typically we do picnic-style sandwich lunches on our trips, with premade sandwiches or wraps, chips, fruit, granola bars, etc. At times our guides make something more complicated (usually after going insane from eating a roast beef sandwich every day), but we virtually never cook on-stream. We figure our clients want to fish and our trips already usually last until later in the day than those of most of our competitors, so we don’t want to take the time to make something complicated for lunch. If having a gourmet lunch is a key element of how much enjoyment you take from a guided trip, you should probably book with another outfitter.
If you require kosher, vegetarian, gluten-free, diabetic-friendly, or other specialized meals, please let us know when you book and we should be able to accommodate. Please be very specific as to your needs and make sure we understand the details. One client mentioned “I’ll eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.” We took this to mean he didn’t care what we made. In reality, he had dietary issues which meant that peanut butter was about the only lunch protein that didn’t give him stomach trouble.
If your dietary needs are extremely complex, we may ask you to bring your own lunch. We’ll offer a slight discount if this is the case.
When Does the Trip Start? How Long is It?
The various pages covering specific trip types cover this question. We’ll usually give you a rough idea on our meeting time when you book, then finalize it a day or two in advance when we know what weather and water conditions are and how the fishing has been at specific times of day.
Full-day trips usually include 8-10 hours of the guide’s time including travel time from Livingston, MT. Yellowstone Park and jet boat trips run a bit longer most days.
Half-day trips usually include 4-6 hours of the guide’s time including travel time from Livingston. Yellowstone Park trips may run a bit longer if we have to get a long way into the park to find water that’s clear (most common in May and June).
Please note that refunds are unavailable if you choose to end a trip early. If weather conditions become dangerous early in a trip or water conditions suddenly fall apart, rate adjustments may be possible solely at our discretion.
What Kind of Trip Should I Take? Full-Day or Half-Day?
The various trips we run offer different experiences, produce different results at different times of year, may or may not be available at certain times of year (though all are available in the core summer and early fall season) and are suited to individuals with different skill levels and interests. The best way to decide which type of trip to take if you’re unsure is to call us or e-mail us tp talk it over. The descriptions of each trip type given on each type’s own page in this section of the website will often give you a ballpark idea.
Full-day trips are far more popular than half-day trips except for beginner clients. Most of the time we suggest half-day trips for beginners and children aged 10-12, while full-days are better for others. On full-day trips we have more time to reach distant destinations, can hike farther, cover more water, see the whole day’s succession of hatches and the like, and all in all have a much richer experience. Half-day floats do have one benefit: it is usually easier to get away from other boats on half-days than full-days.
Except for beginners and families with children, cost is usually the determining factor in whether clients book full or half-day trips. Please note that not all trips are available as half-days, hike & wade trips in many areas of Yellowstone Park, and float trips on rivers other than the Yellowstone and Lower Madison.
How is the Cell Service on the Trip?
It ranges from nonexistent to 4G LTE, depending on location and provider. Sometimes on a float trip coverage might change two or three times over the course of a mile. We get great cell coverage on-stream on some walk trips and none at all on others. Verizon has the best service in our area. If you need to have cell coverage during your trip, you must tell us this when you book, or at the latest before departing on the trip. Most of the year, we can take you fishing in an area that keeps you in cell range if we have to (if you have Verizon anyway), but we’ve got to know this ahead of time
Please note that if you start Instagramming in the middle of an intense insect hatch when the trout are going bonkers for dry flies, it is at least conceivable your guide will take your phone away… 🙂
Flies, Tackle, Clothing, and Gear
I Have My Own Tackle. What Sorts of Tackle and Flies Should I Bring?
We will provide specific details on the e-mail itinerary we send when you book. Otherwise, the Free Regional Fishing Planner on this site and the Destinations page provide a wealth of information. Combined, these two sections of the site have more information than your average fishing guidebook.
I Don’t Have Tackle, or I Won’t be Bringing It. Do You Offer Rentals?
The use of a fly rod and reel is included on all of our trips, if you don’t have your own. Flies are also included. In addition our guides will usually carry at least one spare rod on all trips save Beginner Brookie trips. If you need wading gear, we’ll suggest a shop to patronize to get it. Some form of wading gear (either full waders with boots or just wet-wading boots) is required on most walk & wade and hike & wade trips. Some gentle beginner brookie creeks don’t require anything more than tennis shoes or secure sandals that you don’t mind getting wet. On float trips during the core mid-June through mid-September season, you can usually get away without having waders so long as you have full raingear (coat and pants), while during cold snaps or early/late in the year you will want full waders. One reason our rates are fairly low is the fact that we are a home-based business and can’t stock a full range of waders for all my clients.
Do You Allow Spin-Fishing (Fishing with Conventional Tackle) on Your Trips?
We allow spin-fishing only on boat trips on public water. This is basically a matter of what our guides know how to do. None of us fish with conventional tackle, so having you use it on walk/wade trips doesn’t make a great deal of sense since these trips are all about the guide’s fishery-specific knowledge. In addition, many walk/wade fisheries are either unsuitable to conventional gear (either too rough or home to fish that are too spooky) or are subject to fly-fishing-only regulations. On boat trips, where boat positioning is a much more important factor and the fish are more aggressive, spin anglers can sometimes do quite well even though our guides are not well-versed in it.
Spinning rods may or may not be available for client use on boat trips; some guides have it, some don’t. Same with lures. We’ll suggest what you should bring or buy when you book. Lures are not included in trip pricing
Please note that we do not permit natural bait (worms, minnows, salmon eggs, grasshoppers) or artificial bait (Power Bait) on any of our trips. Soft plastics may only be used for walleye and perch. All of the above are banned in Yellowstone Park. We will also remove a hook point from any treble hooks used and require all hooks to be barbless, in both cases to avoid ripping up the fish more than necessary. We will carry pliers suitable for clipping hook points and flattening barbs on any spin-fishing trip.
It is entirely reasonable for a spin angler to fish with fly angler on the same trip. Usually we’ll put the fly angler in the front of the boat and the spin angler in back.
How Cold is the Water? Do I Need Waders? What kind of waders and boots should I bring?
Water temperatures range from thirty-five degrees into the high sixties. We generally wear waders all the time before early June except on jet boat trips when the weather is gorgeous and again from late September onward. Some waters require waders year-round, chief among them the upper Yellowstone River, and if cold/wet weather is forecast we’ll wear waders even in high summer. Otherwise, we wet-wade with our wading shoes and gravel guards whenever weather permits, since this is cooler and more comfortable and requires less gear to be carried. It’s always a good idea to bring waders in case of a cold snap, but you’re probably safe if you choose not to from late June until mid-August unless you’re planning to fish the upper Yellowstone near Yellowstone Lake or the lake itself, both of which are icy year-round.
Wading in an old pair of tennis shoes is usually not a good idea except on meadow streams or on float trips where we’ll only be getting out of the boat for lunch and to visit the bushes to answer a call of nature, since our waters are often in rugged terrain and have fast currents or otherwise make soles designed for wading and good ankle support necessities. We likewise do not suggest “water socks” of any kind, including those intended for whitewater rafting; dedicated angling wading shoes or boots are far better.
Felt soles are now illegal in Yellowstone Park, though they are legal in Montana. For practical purposes, we suggest sticky rubber-soled wading boots for all waters, since it’s much easier to carry one pair of wading boots than two or more. If your boots have metal studs, soft aluminum studs or bars are better than hard tungsten-carbide spikes on our local rocks. Please note that you will need to remove any metal, whether studs, bars, or cleats, from your boots prior to any boat trip, since sharp metal of any kind and the fiberglass or plastic hulls of our boats and rafts make an absolutely horrendous combination.
What Should I Wear?
Dress for the forecast weather and be prepared for anything. The packing list page will give you some ideas. We always suggest wearing long sleeves rather than short sleeves. In particular pants are a far better choice than shorts. We have a lot of biting bugs, prickly plants, rocks, and so on, not to mention bright sun, so keeping everything covered by a layer of fabric helps keep you from getting torn up. Our guides’ standard summer uniforms regardless of trip type are lightweight quick-dry outdoor pants and longsleeve poly tee shirts with SPF, a synthetic neck gaiter (Buff) if the tee shirt isn’t hooded, and a hat and polarized sunglasses. It’s a good idea to follow our lead.
What Clothing/Gear MUST I Bring?
You MUST bring polarized sunglasses!!!! Fitover or clip-on glasses that fit over prescription eyeglasses are fine. Not only do polarized sunglasses improve your ability to see/recognize strikes by several orders of magnitude, they also provide eye protection from hooks in case of an errant cast. If you absolutely do not want to wear polarized glasses, we won’t insist, but we require all clients to wear some form of eye protection on all trips, no exceptions. This is a safety measure; we don’t want a client to lose an eye due to an errant cast. Even cheap polarized glasses are an immense improvement over no glasses at all or non-polarized glasses; $15 glasses are fine. We also strongly suggest you bring a hat, either a ball cap or a broad-brimmed hat. Hats cut down on sunburn and eye strain, help protect your face from bad casts, and cut down on glare, making it easier to see strikes.
We also strongly suggest bringing a raincoat, no matter how pleasant the weather is when you start your trip. It can go from 80 degrees and sunny to 45 degrees and raining in half an hour around here, especially in August and early September when fall first starts poking at summer with a sharp stick. Hypothermia is actually a bigger problem in late summer and early fall than the winter, since in the winter people are usually prepared for bad weather. Our guides generally carry a spare raincoat in their boats, but odds are it won’t fit you right, and on hike-in trips you will need to have your own.
On all walk/wade trips, make sure to bring a fishing bag or vest or a lightweight backpack to carry water (either your own reusable bottles or bottles we provide), your raincoat, etc. On trips that involve hiking, you will want a larger daypack; we will tell you to bring such a pack when we finalize the trip.
Otherwise, required medications, spare socks for the end of the day, and other commonsense items are all you need to bring. We provide any fishing tackle you don’t have free of charge.
Public and Private Water Walk & Wade and Hike & Wade Trip FAQ
Where Will We Fish? How Long a Walk Is It? Are the Banks Rough/Slippery?
All three questions questions depend on your experience level, interests, the season, etc. On our walk trips we fish anywhere from right alongside the road to five miles into the backcountry, in flat meadows where we’ve taken 85 year-olds to rugged canyons that seem to require as much rock climbing as walking. The Destinations pages and the information on the Montana Walk & Wade and Yellowstone Hike & Wade pages will give you a good idea of where we fish. This should give you some idea of our options. We do have some secret spots where we might take you, of course, but they’re too sensitive to mention online. As noted on the appropriate pages, we strongly suggest hiking to access uncrowded water and do not generally fish near the road in YNP except at client insistence.
Beginner Brookie trips usually take place on the upper Gardner River, one of its tributaries, or on a couple tributaries of the Yellowstone, all within Yellowstone Park. The walk required ranges from half a mile to over two miles one-way, with longer walks generally required the later into the season we go. Some rough footing and steep trails are present on portions of the Gardner, while the other locations have fairly flat terrain but often some deadfall trees and boulders to negotiate.
As for the private spring creeks, Depuy, Nelson, and Armstrong Spring Creeks all offer different things, with Depuy featuring the widest variety of water. This makes it our favorite of the creeks and the one most-suited to anglers of intermediate skill. All three creeks feature exceptionally easy access, with gravel roads, clear angler paths, benches, picnic tables, and so on limiting the need to walk very far at any one time or over rough ground.
Does Hiking a Long Way Reduce the Amount of Fishing Time?
It sometimes does, though the hike is usually worth it in terms of solitude, larger and/or more plentiful fish, and scenery. We may stay out a bit later on days when we hike a long way, but there are only so many hours of daylight and the guide will have to get up at 5:00 tomorrow for his next trip no matter how late he stays out with you, meaning that a hike to the Second Meadow of Slough Creek or several miles up the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone will by necessity eat an hour or two of fishing time.
What Kind of Shape Do I Need to be in to Take a Walk Trip?
The baseline requirement is an ability to stay on your feet for most of the day. We will either travel to a picnic area or find a convenient spot under the trees to eat lunch, but otherwise there aren’t many places to rest on the public water we fish. The spring creeks have numerous benches, picnic tables, etc. Other than this, physical fitness is not a huge requirement, as there are streams to suit any degree of fitness or desire for adventure.
That said, the longer and/or more-difficult a hike you are willing/able to make, the better the fishing usually is. It’s always better to find fish that aren’t overpressured, and the best way of finding such fish is to get away from the places that are easy for anglers to access.
I Want to Catch Big Fish in a Place Where I Won’t See Anyone Else. Is This Possible?
Sometimes. Despite popular opinion, there are still secret spots in the Yellowstone area. In general, big fish and no other anglers does require one or more of the following: fishing first thing in the morning in early fall, fishing in the true offseason (late fall, winter, or early spring), hiking a long way, and fishing a steep/rugged/turbulent/slightly dangerous stretch of water.
What are the Maximum Distances You’ll Hike on a Walk Trip?
Generally speaking, five miles one-way is the absolute maximum we’re willing to walk. Any more and we’re too tired to fish once we get where we’re going, and it’s too late in the day by the time we get there. Two or three miles each way is more common when we want to shed the roadside crowds for some solitude. Even a short hike, less than a mile, is often enough to shed all competition, particularly if the hike is steep and/or rugged. Most flat roadside streams will be crowded, even if they’re not very good.
“I Want to Fish a Meadow Stream Close to the Road Where the Trout are Large and There aren’t Any Other Anglers, and I don’t Want to Pay for a Private Spring Creek Trip. Is This Possible?”
This was a real question (a demand in fact). We told this potential client that if he found such a place, he should tell us about it so we could go there, but that he should otherwise keep it under his hat. There’s a three-part equation to how crowded a piece of water can be expected to be: the closer to the road it is, the easier the walking/wading along the stream, and the larger the fish are, the more crowded it will be. Usually two out of three will get you onto relatively uncrowded water. Gentle streams that flow beside the road and hold big fish are always crowded if they’re fishable, unless they’re private.
Boat Trip FAQ
Where Will We Float?
Check out the Our Waters pages for a general overview (most waters in Montana mentioned there are float waters) or the sections of the Float Trips page where we discuss where we typically guide at specific seasons.
What Kinds of Boats do You Use?
We utilize both drift boats and rafts on river floats, drift boats on private lake trips, and a bass boat-style jet boat on jet boat trips. Some of our independent guides have either a drift boat or a raft, some guides use both. In general, the higher and/or rougher the water, and the more obstructions (rocks) there are, the more likely we’ll use a raft. In gentler sections of river, we’ll almost certainly use a drift boat, since they’re easier to fish from and have more room. If you have any mobiility issues, we need to know about these, since getting in and out of a raft with its wide tubes is harder than getting in and out of a drift boat with narrow sides.
Do You Encounter Much Whitewater on Your Floats?
We like water where the fish are eager to eat dry flies, and that often means floating rough water sections of the Yellowstone, Boulder, and Stillwater which feature numerous class II or class III rapids. We do not guide any waters where there are class IV-V rapids, despite what the raft tour companies claim in their marketing. Other rivers we float have mild rapids, at most, and many sections of the Yellowstone are mild, as well.
If you would rather not see anything more than gentle waves, please let us know when you book so the guide can plan accordingly. This is no problem, but it would stink to be ready to launch the raft to fish the whitewater section and learn that we need to run a gentle stretch instead, where the low-profile drift boat is far more suitable.