Montana help

The good news is that my bride and I are picking up our GFC in mid-June. She had a bummer health diagnosis recently and will begin serious treatment mid-July. So we want to take a few weeks right after we pick up the tent with our pups, and fly rods to get our minds off of the rest of the year to come.

I know people can be hesitant to share cool spots in their home state publicly, so please feel free to DM me. We would really like to find some spots away from the crowds to cast a bug and enjoy the wildlife/scenary. We live in CO and spend most weekends in our current RTT on dirt roads exploring for slivers of public space that have hidden gems.

I have onX and wouldn’t mind some guidance to sweet spots around Montana. Cool things to see on day trips to the towns are great too.

Thanks so much for the help

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Nothing to add for camp spots but wanted to drop a note of encouragement for you and your wife. Health issues suck for the person that is sick and their caregivers.

Positive thoughts for the both of you and remember to take care of yourself while you’re helping her.


Can’t thank ya enough. Definitely not how we thought we would be spending the rest of the year… but hey that is how life works. Nothing that can’t be fixed with a lot of love, determination, and nature.

So sorry to hear about the recent diagnosis. Nature and love are good medicine, so kudos to you both for the positive outlook and determined approach. While I’m by no means the spitting image of Paul Maclean, nor do I cast as well, I know a few folks who do and gathered a bit of info for you two.

Hopefully these quick recommendations offer enough insights to get your RTT pointed in the right direction post-install. We’re also really looking forward to meeting you both and spoiling those pups!

  • The Bighorn River: Located in southeastern Montana, the Bighorn River is one of the most popular fishing spots in the state. It’s known for its large population of rainbow and brown trout and is particularly good for float fishing.
    • Nearest City: Fort Smith, MT.
  • The Missouri River: The Missouri River is another popular fishing destination, particularly for fly fishing. It’s known for its large brown trout and is a great spot for wade fishing. You can float though, and the guides seem great if you ‘em.
  • The Madison River: The Madison River is another popular fishing destination in Montana, particularly for its large population of rainbow and brown trout. It’s a great spot for both wade and float fishing.
    • Nearest City: Ennis, MT. This city in the lower stretch is lined with quick access turnouts, and the wide/ shallow gravel bars make for some of the best wading around.
  • The Gallatin River: A close one and favorite for Bozeman and Big Sky locals. There are several access points along the river, including some public fishing access sites to make things easy. Camping is available at several nearby campgrounds, including Taylor Fork Campground and Big Sky Campgrounds just to name a few.
    • Nearest City: Big Sky/ Bozeman, MT.
  • Yellowstone River: A bit further east of the Gallatin River, but still accessible for a day trip. There are several access points along the river, as well as guided fishing opportunities. Camping is available at several nearby campgrounds, including Pine Creek Campground and Eagle Creek Campground.
  • Rock Creek: Located in western Montana, Rock Creek is a beautiful freestone stream with plenty of brown and rainbow trout. It’s a great spot for both wade and float fishing.
    • Nearest Cities: Clinton, Bonner or Missoula, MT. This place is special as it’s a spot outside of my hometown of Missoula. Often underrated due to where tourism is driven in our state. Less crowded waters to really let a line out.
  • The Blackfoot River: Made famous by the book and movie “A River Runs Through It,” the Blackfoot River is a beautiful river that’s known for its large population of cutthroat trout. It’s a great spot for wade fishing.
    • Nearest City: Missoula, MT.
  • The Bitterroot River: a blue-ribbon trout stream that runs for 80-ish miles through the valley. The Bitterroots just south of Missoula are something else, and you’ll have your choice of mountain streams for some quick casting right off the trail.
    • Nearest Cities: Hamilton, Lolo, and Missoula, MT. For mountain streams, check out Blodgett Creek and their campground in the Canyon. The East fork is a smaller stream near Sula, but access can be just slightly difficult. Painted rocks campground might be the easiest.

As for day trips, there are plenty of great small towns to explore in Montana. Some recommendations include:

  • Red Lodge: Located in the Beartooth Mountains, Red Lodge is a small town with plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities, including hiking, biking, and skiing.
  • Livingston: Located just north of Yellowstone National Park, Livingston is a charming western town with plenty of great restaurants, shops, and galleries.
  • Virginia City: Located in southwestern Montana, Virginia City is a historic mining town that’s been preserved as a living museum. It’s a great spot to learn about Montana’s mining history and enjoy some old-fashioned western charm.
  • Dillon: There’s a reason Patagonia has an outlet in this small town, and it’s not due to shows like Yellowstone driving a tourism spike. Partly due to the opportunity to renovate a historic building that shares their name, the Dillon area is home to the Beaverhead and Big Hole Rivers. Both with ample browns and more, you’ll find quick access to camping in Bannack State Park. Bannack is home to Grasshopper Creek, which is known for its trout. The Clark Canyon Reservoir also has browns, rainbows and cutties, but there are also chances to snag some kokanee salmon.

Apologies for any overlap, but I hope this helps out! Happy to hop on a call or hook you up with some locals who are willing to share some favorite spots over the phone. OnX was built in this backyard though, and their app will make this all a breeze.

Wishing you both the best and stoked to have you as part of the community. And one more shameless plug for my hometown…

“The world is full of bastards, the number increasing rapidly the further one gets from Missoula, Montana.” - Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It


+1 for all of what Thayne said! I grew up in Billings and have great memories of almost all of those places at some point.

I’m not sure on your route to MT from CO, but if you’re coming up through WY on I-25, I’d recommend routing through Cody, WY and then up to Red Lodge via the Beartooth highway (assuming it’s open, check the road reports). It’s a beautiful drive and Red Lodge is a good time. If you’re into Rodeos I’m sure you could find one between Cody and Red Lodge in the summertime. From there I’d recommend checking out the Stillwater river near Absarokee and Columbus (the Yellowstone is right near Columbus too). I’m not a fisherman, but I’d think you’d run into fewer people there than you would around Bozeman.

If you’ve never been, I’d recommend Glacier National Park (a personal favorite). It’s some of the most incredible landscapes I’ve seen, but expect lots of people. Whitefish is a cool mountain town and the whole Flathead Valley is beautiful. The view of the Mission Mountains when you round the bend on the highway north out of Missoula is breathtaking every time.

On your way back south, the Paradise Valley south of Livingston is a personal favorite. We used to raft the Yellowstone every summer. There were always people fishing around there too. That route will take you into Yellowstone National Park. If you want to avoid Yellowstone, the Ennis and Virginia City valley is an option, or if you’re further west, the Bitterroot Valley down into Idaho is also beautiful (it may be crowded with tourists trying to soak up some of that Yellowstone TV show scenery though).

If you’re really looking to avoid crowds, eastern Montana is very different than what you’d get out west, but I cannot speak to the fishing. Makoshika state park in Glendive is interesting (think badlands-type landscapes) and Fort Peck Reservoir is huge so you should be able to find somewhere to fish and hopefully get some solitude.

Best of luck on your Montana adventure. I hope it can offer some healing and some fuel for the challenges ahead. I know I’ve always felt better under the Big Sky and I’m counting down the days until I can be there again.