Walk & Wade Trips
My walk & wade trips are ideal for anglers who like to fish small chunks of water thoroughly, get a lot of specific instruction, hike to get away from crowds, have opportunities to see lots of wildlife and Yellowstone Park's scenic wonders, or just want a more-relaxed pace to their day of guided fishing.
I run walk & wade guided fishing trips in both Montana and Yellowstone Park, on both public and private water. Since Yellowstone Country is blessed by probably the widest range of trout waters in the United States, along with excellent public access, a vast wealth of trip options are available, depending on the time of year. I can take you to anything from tiny mountain streams full of aggressive brook trout perfect for beginners to technical spring creeks, from the raging Yellowstone River home to insects as long as your finger that the trout smash to placid spring creeks where the trout sip tiny mayflies and spook at the smallest unnatural motion. Then there are all the hike-in lakes...
Because of the huge range of waters suitable for walk & wade trips, options are available for anglers of all ages and skill levels, from kids who've never picked up a fly rod to anglers who fish a hundred days a season and prefer chasing trout as smart as they are.
Please read on to learn about the public and private water walk trips I offer.
This large fall-run brown trout came on a Yellowstone Park walk trip.
2017 Standard Walk & Wade Trip Rates
2017 Private Spring Creek Walk & Wade Trip Rates
Public Water Walk & Wade Guided Trips in Yellowstone Park and Montana
I run the vast majority of my walk & wade guided fly fishing trips on public water. There's a huge amount of public water in this area, enough of it to offer a huge range of possible trips, for anglers of all skill levels and almost all levels of fitness. Of these trips, the vast majority occur in Yellowstone Park. This is a simple matter of access. There's both more public water in Yellowstone Park than outside the park, and it's easier to get to than most of the public water outside of the park.
Above: Soda Butte Creek cutthroat.
Below: Walter with an October fall-run brown.
Yellowstone Park trips are available from the beginning of the park season on the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend through the first Sunday in November. I guide on different bodies of water as the season progresses. Early in the season, the Firehole River offers excellent match-the-hatch dry fly fishing and wet fly fishing and the Gibbon River offers great (and underrated) attractor dry fly and nymph fishing. At the same time, several hike-in lakes offer excellent opportunities to catch the elusive Arctic grayling. As June progresses, the nymph fishing heats up on the Gardner River and the nymph and streamer fishing begins on some portions of the Yellowstone that clear from runoff early and are open. These latter options are best for fit anglers and really fly under the radar.
In July, the best options shift to the northern part of Yellowstone Park. This area remains the focus of my walk & wade business through early September. During this period I primarily run guided trips on the Yellowstone River, which offers great fishing for experienced anglers who like to hike. I also hit up small streams in the Gardner River drainage, which are great for beginners. With anglers who like technical dry fly fishing and those who aren't up for hiking, I target Soda Butte Creek and the Lamar River. This is also the time of year when virtually every creek in Yellowstone is fishing well, and I'm not about to name my favorites online, especially those that can hold some larger fish...
In September, most of the "summer water" continues to fish well, but things start to change as some summer waters get too low and cold and the better fall water starts to turn on. By late September, my focus is almost exclusively on the Gardner River, with occasional "side dishes" of the Yellowstone and the Firehole. In October and early November, it's all about the Gardner, with occasional forays to the Madison and Lewis. Why these waters? Brown trout. The fall-run brown trout in these rivers is phenomenal, and it stays spectacular right up until the end of the park season. While not ideal for beginners, this is the time to come if you want to dredge big nymphs and streamers for trout averaging 14-20 inches but occasionally getting much, much bigger.
During the Yellowstone Park season, walk & wade trips outside the park are strictly "change-up" options. Several small streams and small portions of the Yellowstone River outside the park offer variety that can't be experienced, and seldom get crowded. On average, I only run one or two such trips per season, usually with clients who've already fished in the park and want to see something different. The real prime time for walk & wades outside the park is in late winter and spring, from late February through April. Since the water's cold, fishing a piece of the Yellowstone or Missouri on foot to probe every nook and cranny is often the best method to get lots of fish, and the fishing can be shockingly good, with the right tactics. Large rainbow and cutthroat trout are remarkably available at this time, for example. This fishing is primarily nymphing, with a side dish of streamers. Since winter weather makes staying outside all day uncomfortable and the fishing is usually only worthwhile for a few hours each day anyway, I offer short trips on the Yellowstone at this time. The Missouri River, being a tailwater fishery with constant water temperatures, is a much better bet for all-day fishing, and can turn out large numbers of fish at this time.
Rainbow and rapids in the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone
Private Montana Spring Creek Walk & Wade Guided Fly Fishing Trips
The Yellowstone River valley near Livingston, Montana is home to a wealth of springs. From these springs rise two natural spring creeks, Armstrong and Nelson, and another than has in some sense been "manufactured" by diverting water from Armstrong Spring Creek into an old stream channel, along with some other spring water. This is Depuy Spring Creek, which is actually the longest and in my opinion best of the three, despite its man-made origins. These creeks are home to large numbers of wild rainbow and brown trout that grow large and spooky in their clear, slow, insect-rich waters. The creeks are where you should fish if you want to fly fish in the angling equivalent of Yankee Stadium. The fish here see flies almost every day of the season, and the creeks host vast numbers of only a few species of aquatic insects, and they have all the time in the world to compare how your fly and your drift match up compared to the real bugs. All too often, the fish turn up their noses and reject even the most-experienced anglers.
My favorite periods on the creeks are from late February through the middle of April, from late June through late July, and from mid-October through November. In spring and fall, larger numbers of trout are present due to seasonal spawning runs. Both resident and run-up trout love eating egg patterns fished in deeper water downstream of the spawning gravel (I never guide over spawning gravel even where it is permitted), and large run-up fish stack up below stretches of fast and/or shallow water as they move upstream. There can also be good BWO (mayfly) and midge hatches during these periods. In late June and July, it's all about the Pale Morning Duns (PMD). These are the marquee hatch on the creeks and the creeks are routinely booked-up at least six months in advance during this period. There's a reason for the heavy bookings: the PMDs are the most dependable hatch on the creeks and are the event most likely to make the fish truly aggressive towards dry flies.
These creeks make ideal destinations for experienced anglers, particularly those who are willing to pay a fair bit of money to get on the water, don't mind "manicured" landscapes (but seldom crowded landscapes), and want to test their skills against solid, very spooky trout. Beginners and novices should run away screaming.
Private water walk & wade trips run $75 cheaper than equivalent public water walk & wades, but additional access fees of $40-120 per angler per day payable to the landowner are required. Rates are lowest from mid-October through mid-April, which is one reason I love to guide on the creeks in late fall and early spring.