Benefits of a Montana Float Fishing Trip

Fishing from a raft in western Montana

There’s nothing quite like a Montana float fishing trip from the bow of a drift boat or raft. While wade fishing provides the opportunity to stalk trout on small water, fly fishing from either a drift boat or raft dramatically increases the amount of water, and trout, an angler will see. An addiction to rushing water and an obsession with Montana scenery and wildlife are just a few of the side effects of embarking on a Montana float fishing trip.

Don’t get me wrong, wade fishing small water and working it thoroughly is a fun and rewarding way to fish. However, fly fishing from a boat is undoubtedly the best way to fish hard-to-reach water and, in turn, get more opportunities to catch more fish. This, coupled with several other benefits of Montana float fishing, is why we strongly recommend making a float trip a part of your Montana fly fishing experience.

Mo’ water, mo’ fishin

Arguably the biggest difference between Montana float fishing and wading is the ability to see more water with ease. Even the most adventurous anglers struggle with putting miles behind them while fishing. Fly fishing from a boat allows you to see 10 or more river miles in a single day without breaking a sweat. Not only are you seeing more water than you could on foot, but you’re also fishing water that is unreachable by wade fishermen – either because of the size and structure of a particular stretch or because of limited public access nearby.

Fly fishing from a boat also gets you in a better position to present flies to tricky fish. Everyone has been in that situation where a big fish is just out of reach on the opposite bank, feeding subtly under tight structure. And man, does being in those situations stink! From a boat, no water is left untouched. Fly fishing from a boat is an excellent way to ensure you will never be out of position when an opportunity arises. Whether trout are rising along a swift undercut bank or in a deep foamy eddy, fly fishing from a boat is your best way to cover a wide variety of water effectively.

Rainbow trout caught while float fishing in Montana

Access More Water on a Montana Float Fishing Trip

If there’s one unique thing about Missoula fly fishing, it’s that there is no shortage of water to explore. Our big three, the Clark Fork River, Blackfoot River, and Bitterroot River, are home to thousands of trout and miles of public access. However, they’re big rivers! Contrary to what you might see in A River Runs Through It, these rivers are not meandering streams. They’re big, wild freestone rivers. This too means their flows fluctuate seasonally.

Our runoff season typically occurs during the months of May and June. During this time of year, these rivers are swollen with cold, muddy water and are not only difficult to fish but dangerous, too. This also means the months before and after our runoff season see higher flows that, while clean and fishable, can often be difficult to wade comfortably. And while there are plenty of smaller tributaries to fish in our area, those streams are still high and difficult to wade well into July. Fly fishing from a boat allows you to adequately fish all that water that looks enticing to you from the road, but is just too difficult to access and fish on foot.

Stay Drag-Free

You’ll often hear discussion in the fly shop about the importance of a “drag-free drift” when fly fishing in Montana. This means presenting your fly so that it seamlessly flows with the current in the water you’re fishing. It’s crucial when fishing dry flies and nymphs to not spook or deter fish with unnatural movement. More than not, a good drift is what trout are looking for over any particular fly. But executing a good drift is easier said than done, especially when you’re not in a boat.

Anglers of all skill levels struggle with making a good drift when fishing on foot. Line management is difficult with conflicting currents. From a boat, however, anglers are able to work with the flow of the vessel to make long, uninterrupted drifts with ease. Your position, seated well above the water’s surface, and the mobility of a drift boat or raft also puts you in position to make good drifts on water you can’t fish effectively from shore, like swirly eddies and riffles that are otherwise out of reach.

Fly fishing from a boat not only helps with dragless drifts, but also helps with various streamer techniques. Whether you are high-sticking heavy streamers or pounding the banks with articulated flies, the extra height and positioning you gain fishing from a boat makes covering water much easier. Streamer fish from a boat once and you’ll understand why floating anglers move more fish.

Two anglers fishing from boat in Montana

Easier On Your Body

No matter who you are, nimble and more cautious anglers alike benefit from the mobility of fly fishing from a boat. Our rivers move swiftly much of the year and can be very difficult to wade, both because of the flows and the slick riverbeds themselves. Anglers that can’t wade as confidently benefit from seeing water they would otherwise not be able to access, without sacrificing the ability to pick apart water like you can wading. Covering water on foot requires a lot of work and can be strenuous. Fly fishing from a boat requires minimal effort and is very relaxing, allowing you to fish all day without getting fatigued.

It helps, too, when you have an expert Missoula fly fishing guide to handle all of the details. Our guides have years of experience on the water and ensure a safe and memorable experience on our rivers.

A Montana float fishing trip on the Blackfoot, Bitterroot, or Clark Fork Rivers will dramatically change how you see and experience fly fishing in Missoula.

Have questions about Montana float fishing trips or fly fishing in Missoula? Shoot a note to our Missoula fly shop, we’re happy to help!

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