I feel privileged to manage Fly Water Travel’s destinations in the Rockies. I consider it a privilege because I truly love the Rockies and the beautiful trout fishing venues they offer. Professionally I keep an ongoing list of new places and rivers I hope to visit and fish. For years now, the South Fork of the Flathead River has sat squarely at the top of that list. For me, it ticks all the boxes for great trout fishing: fish willingly rising to dry flies, a combination of wading and boat fishing, backcountry travel and camping all set within a stunning wilderness setting.
In a world where true wilderness adventures are becoming harder to find, it is good to know that the South Fork of the Flathead and the Bob Marshall Wilderness are ready and waiting for those that want to push a little harder than the average day trippers. A trip here brings horse packing, rafting, camping and dry fly fishing together in the heart of America’s fifth largest wilderness area. This unique region of western Montana received its first protections in the 1930’s and was designated as the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area with the passing of the 1964 Wilderness Act. While the wilderness area has many outstanding features, from the perspective of a fly angler, the South Fork of the Flathead River must be considered its crown jewel. The South Fork of the Flathead is a spectacular and pristine clear-flowing mountain river with an extremely healthy population of wild west-slope cutthroat in the 12 to 18-inch class as well as a healthy population of wild bull trout. Finer unsophisticated dry fly fishing is hard to find anywhere in the Lower 48.
Integral to Wilderness designation is that the region remains roadless and that is where this adventure begins. To get to where the float trip begins, guests will embark on a scenic and rigorous two-day horse packing trip that will take them 33 miles into the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Following a layover day of walk and wade fishing guests will load into rafts and fish their way back toward civilization. In many ways, a better multi-faceted western adventure is hard to imagine.
This program features a combination of walk and wade fishing as well as fishing from rafts. The first and second night of the trip, guests are free to walk and wade fish on their own as the guide team sets up camp. On day three guests will spend the entire day walk and wade fishing the upper reaches of the river with a guide. There will be one guide for every two anglers. Days four through six will be rafting days in which anglers can fish a great deal from the boat as well as get out to wet wade and explore side channels and key runs on foot. Once camp is reached,there will be additional time for unguided walk and wade fishing.The majority of fishing will be with dry flies. There will be hatch based fishing, as well as plenty of time to throw attractors between hatches. Ten to 15 cutthroats per person per day is fairly standard with some fish creeping up into the 18-inch range. Guests also have the chance to target large bull trout with streamers, but these trophies are not numerous and catching one is something the entire team will celebrate.
Meals and Accommodations
Guests stay at the Montana Wilderness Lodge the day of arrival as well as the last night of the trip. Cabins at the lodge are rustic and comfortable with en-suite bathrooms, propane lighting and heat. During the wilderness trip, two guests will share spacious four-person tents with provided cots and pads. Guests are encouraged to bring their own sleeping bags, but the outfitter can provide sleeping bags upon request. There will be tables and chairs set up for breakfasts and dinners, and they can cover the tables with a fly in the event of weather.
Breakfasts are hot and hearty featuring standards like bacon, eggs and pancakes. Lunches are taken as a group streamside and prepared on-site. Dinners are hearty and delicious and often feature Dutch oven specialties. There is no structured lavatory on the trip but rather a trowel, toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
Travel: Guests fly to Kalispell Montana where they will rent a car and drive 2.5 hours to the lodge
Season: July and August
Capacity: Four to six anglers
Essential Tackle: A 9-foot 3-weight with floating line
Top Flies: Parachute Adams, ants, mayfly cripples and caddis
Rate: $6,000 per person for a 7 night/6 day package
Contact Charles at 800.552.2729 to learn more about this trip