Choosing a destination for your next fly fishing adventure is not always easy. There are too many wonderful places to fish across the world that choosing just one can be a stressful experience. Bozeman, Montana, however, could be the destination for your next five fly fishing adventures.
Table of Contents
- Fly Fishing Bozeman: Why Go?
- Species For Bozeman, Montana Fly Fishing
- Best Spots for Fly Fishing Bozeman, Montana
- Best Flies For Bozeman, Montana
- Bozeman, Montana Fishing Season
- Bozeman Fly Shops
Choosing Bozeman as a home base will allow you to fish hundreds of miles of world class water. Whether you’re looking for a chance to float a powerful river or finesse your way through tight mountain streams, Bozeman has something for you.
Don’t miss our full guide to Fly Fishing in Montana.
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Fly Fishing Bozeman: Why Go?
I made my first visit to Bozeman five years ago and make an effort to return on a yearly basis. The wonderful accommodations, breathtaking scenery and top-notch fishing make it difficult to avoid. I’ve been back four times and have fished new water every single time.
This city has something for everybody. If you need a break from the water, you have ample amount of restaurants or sight seeing you could do. You can bring your family and sneak away for a day trip and land some trophy trout. Bozeman gives you a chance at any sort of outdoor activity you could ever want.
Species For Bozeman, Montana Fly Fishing
The waters surrounding Bozeman give anglers a chance to catch fish they couldn’t catch anywhere else in the world. The trout populations are extremely healthy and the different fish you can target make it even more exciting.
Brown trout are some of the most popular fish you’ll find near Bozeman. The Madison, Gallatin, Yellowstone and Jefferson River all hold these fish. You can find them upwards of 23 inches in these waters.
Brown trout are some of the heartiest trout on the planet. They can survive in some difficult places so keep that in mind as you target them. The dry fly hatches in Western Montana are to die for. As a result, target these fish with Stoneflies, Caddis and a variety of Mayfly patterns.
Rainbow trout are the other most common species of trout you’ll find in Western Montana. These aren’t as popular as the Brown trout, but you won’t have any trouble finding these fish in all of the major rivers and streams around Bozeman.
These fish aren’t as hearty as Brown trout so be sure you’re fishing in healthy water with plenty of oxygen and food. The summer is going to provide you with the most hatches. Salmonflies, hoppers, ants and Elk Hair Caddis flies are a must when you’re targeting these fish.
They’ll also eat a variety of streamers!
Perhaps the most prized fish near Bozeman is the Cutthroat. This western strain of the Cutthroat is beautiful. The bright colors and impressive fight these fish provide keep me coming back year after year. I struggle to find larger Cutthroat anywhere else in the country!
You can land these in the Yellowstone, Madison and Gallatin. They’re going to be a bit more picky than the Brown or Rainbow trout so focus on making accurate presentations and choosing the proper fly.
Prince Nymphs, Pheasant Tail Nymphs as well as Salmonfly patterns are going to provide you with great success.
Mountain Whitefish wander the waters near Bozeman. These are extremely popular fish and depending on what you’re targeting, you may not be too happy that you landed one! However, they put up a great fight and can grow upwards of 25 inches.
Fish any clean body of water near Bozeman and you’ll find a Mountain Whitefish. If you’re targeting them specifically, use deep diving midge nymphs as well as streamers. Crayfish, minnow and leech patterns will all be successful against these fish!
Best Spots for Fly Fishing Bozeman, Montana
Bozeman has hundreds of spots you can fish within 50 miles of the city. Visit the local fly shops to gain up to date information on where to fish, but the areas listed below have proven to be successful for years!
Pine Creek on the Yellowstone River
Pine Creek is a great place to access the Yellowstone if you’re trying to fish it on foot. Many anglers choose to tackle the Yellowstone in a drift boat, but if this isn’t possible, go ahead and try near the Pine Creek access point. You can easily access it outside of town!
When fishing the Yellowstone, be sure you have your 6-weight handy. This river is big and powerful and so are the fish. Focus on fishing the seams and the foam lines. This is where the food is going to be.
If you’re fishing dries, do your best to wade out and cast towards shore. The fish will sit along the banks looking for larger flies to fall into the water. For streamers and nymphs, you can fish from shore if you would like.
Wooly Buggers and Minnows are the best streamers you can use. Make sure they’re reaching the lower portions of the water column. On warm days, the monsters will hang near the bottom. Cast upstream, let it drift in front of you and as soon as it starts swinging, strip! Fish will often hit on the swing or first strip.
Beartrap Canyon on the Madison
This is my favorite spot to fish on the Madison River. While it’s around an hour outside of Bozeman, it holds some of the best views in all of the area as well as great fish. You’ll find pools, pocket water and riffles. It’s a great area to fish and test all of your skills.
Be aware that you’ll have to hike into the canyon. It’s not too challenging of a hike and the access is plentiful. Even if you come across other anglers, you’ll have ample areas to fish and won’t find yourself too close anyone.
Bring your 5-weight and your fair share of nymphs and dry flies. The pocket water is where I have had my most success. Cast a Prince Nymph or Pheasant Tail along the sides of the pockets and let them get sucked into it. Fish will likely hit here!
You have to pick and choose your spots, but pulling one fish out of each pocket is extremely entertaining. You’ll feel accomplished by the end of the day. The harder you’re willing to work, the more seclusion you’ll find.
Squaw Creek Off of the Gallatin
Squaw Creek is around 30 minutes outside of Bozeman. This is where I have caught dozens of Cutthroat Trout. If this is what you’re after, I would definitely recommend the creek. It’s filled with great riffles and pools. Finesse fishing is required, but it’s not too tight!
Since this is a tributary off of the Gallatin, you have the chance to fish bigger water if you would like. Split time on the creek and the Gallatin and see what you can find. You can easily make a day trip out of Squaw Creek and the Gallatin.
Before you go, work on your river loading and finesse casts. You don’t want to ruin pools or riffles with poor casts. Since the stream is clear, the fish can pick out a poorly presented fly in a heartbeat.
Best Flies For Bozeman, Montana
There are a specific few flies that are guaranteed to work in Bozeman, Montana. They’re known for the impressive dry fly hatches along with fish willing to hit some larger streamers.
The Mega Prince Nymph is money near Bozeman. Fish it in size 4-6. It’s going to fall in the water column and anger some of those larger fish who don’t want to deal with anything infiltrating their area.
Tie this on with 3x leader and 4x tippet. You may need a split shot depending on the size of water you’re fishing, but be sure you have access to some of these!
Black Crystal Bugger
The Black Crystal Bugger in size 6-8 is going to work great. During runoff season, go ahead and tie on this fly. It’s dark enough that the fish will pick it out in the murkier water. Use 1 or 2x leader with it!
The Sex Dungeon in size 2-4 is a staple in fly fishing and it’s going to land you fish in Bozeman. If you’re a fan of streamer fishing, make sure the Sex Dungeon is included in your arsenal.
Griffiths Gnat is a must for anyone fishing near Bozeman. The Gnats get worse and worse as the season continues. Have this available in sizes 16-20. Fish it in the morning or the evenings and you’ll find yourself with a heap of fish.
It’s also imperative that you have an ample supply of Salmonflies. These flies are awesome to fish and the trout love them. Starting around Mothers Day and continuing through the summer, Salmonflies are a must!
Bozeman, Montana Fishing Season
It’s best to fish in Bozeman right at the end of runoff (late June) through September. This is going to be the most productive months of the year. The earlier you can fish, the more uneducated the fish!
Bozeman Fly Shops
Bozeman has nearly 10 fly shops you can visit on your trip. They all offer great product and advice. We also have a guide to all of the best Bozeman Fly Shops so don’t miss it.
Bozeman Family Fly Shop
This is the perfect spot for someone new to fly angling! They offer information, classes and gear for anglers of all ages and levels! If you don’t want to be intimidated, this is a perfect spot for you.
The River’s Edge Fly Shop
The customer service at The River’s Edge is great. You’ll have all of your questions answered, won’t receive pressure to buy gear and have a great experience. They offer guided trips if you’re interested!
The Montana Angler is a great spot to go if you’re wanted a guided trip on one of the surrounding rivers. They have a wonderful selection of guides and can provide you with all of the information you could need to be successful.
Bozeman, Montana is one of the few places in the world where you’ll always find prolific fly anglers. The best in the world spend quite a bit of time here. The first experience landing fish on these waters is something you’ll never forget.
Do yourself a favor and visit. You’ll at least have the opportunity to say you’ve fished these waters. It’s going to be something for the memory book!