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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, my 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 my clients the widest variety of fishing experiences they can get without booking multiple days. I'm one of very few outfitters to offer trips like this, at least as a regular part of my business.

I have my clients get out to fish from shore or while wading 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 either a smaller river or stream in Yellowstone Park or a little mountain creek feeding the Yellowstone outside the park boundaries. Some trips combining different stretches of the Boulder, Madison, Gallatin, and Stillwater Rivers are also possible, though they're rare.

angler fishing streamers on the Yellowstone

Learning the basics on foot...

Most combo trips fall into one of the following categories:

  • Teach beginners the basics of fly fishing on a small stream or river 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 is long goes a long way to making floats easier.
  • Float the Yellowstone first thing in the morning, then head up to fish a small creek in the mountains. These trips are most common in late summer, when low water levels, bright sun, and potentially high water temperatures can make afternoon floating slow, but the mornings are great.
  • 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," and in years when the brown trout run is strong it's actually my most popular trip during the early fall.

...before fishing dry flies out of the boat.

angler and cutthroat trout

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 my rates are higher for these trips than for other full-day trips. Another reason they're higher is that I'm 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, I'm 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.

combo trip brown trout

Morning brown trout on nymphs...

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, I am flexible in scheduling these trips. While I'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, I don't need to know for sure whether we're walking, floating, or running a combo trip when you book a full-day trip. Since all of the extra price of a combo trip gets eaten by my 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.

...afternoon cutthroat on dry flies

combo trip cutthroat

Yellowstone Country Fly Fishing

Walter Wiese

113 Altair Drive

Livingston, MT 59047

(406) 223-8204

E-Mail Walter

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