Plain and simple, the Smith River is a masterpiece. One of the most sought-after float trips in the country, it’s a chance for you to leave the rigors of civilization behind and enjoy the best of what nature has to offer. Towering limestone cliffs, deep pools, fast riffles, abundant wildlife and fantastic fly fishing for wild browns and rainbows makes this the trip of a lifetime. The Smith River adventure is a 5-day and 4-night float down 61 miles of pristine water in remote country.
Non-anglers are equally enthralled with the Smith. The scenic beauty rivals anything in the country. You’ll see deer, a wide variety of birds, an occasional bear, and fascinating geology, making this trip truly a photographer’s dream. While you float and fish all day, part of the team floats ahead so that camp is set and hors d’oeuvres ready when you arrive in late afternoon.
The Smith River float trip begins at Camp Baker, MT northeast of Helena, MT.
Smith River Fishing Program:
The Smith River is an excellent river for both brown trout and rainbow trout. While the Smith River does not hold significant amounts of large fish, the river does hold lots of trout between 13-16 inches. What the Smith River lacks in very large trout, however, it makes up in relative ease of catching trout. Unlike many other popular Montana rivers, fly fishing the Smith River does not require precise fly imitations, light leaders and perfect presentation - although all of the above certainly will increase both your catch and the size of the fish caught!
This section of the Smith River has both large populations of brown trout and rainbow trout, with brown trout generally out-numbering the rainbow populations. The largest fish in the river will also be found in this section. For the fly fisherman willing to brave the elements, April can provide for excellent fishing. Strong stonefly hatches occur in the Smith River generally beginning in mid to late April and last through the middle of May. Fly patterns for this hatch include the standard Elk Hair Caddis for dry fly fishing and the Prince Nymph for sub-surface fishing, in sizes 10-14.
The Smith River has a strong salmonfly hatch that occurs beginning in mid-May and can last through June, depending on weather and river conditions. Popular fly imitations include the Stimulator, Kaufmann's Stone and Bitch Creek Nymph, in sizes 4-8. Beginning in the middle of June and lasting throughout the summer, the Smith River is an excellent river for dry fly fishing for rainbow trout using standard caddisfly imitations, such as the Elk Hair Caddis and X-Caddis, in sizes 14-18. Generally, the caddisfly hatches occur in the early morning and again later in the evening. While top water fishing using standard dry flies may not catch the largest trout in the river, it is very effective and can land many decent sized trout.
For anglers in search of brown trout, the numerous deep pools in the Smith River provide wonderful places to catch the larger fish. Use large streamers or Wooly Buggers, working them down in the deep pools. Also work them around any undercut banks and around obstructions in the river. This is probably the most effective way to catch the larger trout during the summer months.
Smith River Accommodations and Meals:
While you are floating and fishing each day a team will float ahead of you to set up camp. When you float into your stream side camp in the late afternoon everything will be set up and ready for your arrival, including hors d’oeuvres and cocktail ice. Camps are set up near productive fishing and are designed with your comfort in mind. All guests will have a cot and sleeping pad in their tent to ensure the best possible night's sleep.
Smith River Sample Itinerary:
Day 1: Arrive Helena, MT and overnight.
Days 2-5: Full days of guided fishing.
Day 6: Float and fish all day. Take off the river around 2 – 4 pm. Overnight in Helena, MT.
Day 7: Depart Helena, MT for home.
2020 Rate: $4,800 per person for a 4 night/5 day package
Included: Guided fishing, accommodations and meals on the river, camping gear, beer and wine, transportation to/from the river
Not Included: Airfare, accommodations and meals other than float trip, guide gratuities, hard alcohol, fishing licenses
Species: Rainbow trout, brown trout
Season: June - July
Capacity: 8 anglers
Map: Helena, MT
Time: The time in central Montana is Mountain Time, or 1 hour later than Pacific Standard Time.