The downloadable pdf documents below have additional detail which we're sure you'll find helpful as you plan your trip.
The Bob Marshall Wilderness rivers are fast and clear. There are stretches where they meander, but often the weave back and forth between the valley walls creating deep pools where they change course. The stream sizes vary considerably. The North, South, and West Forks of the Sun River are the largest east slope streams. The volume of water ranges from 700cfs in early July to around 300cfs by end of August for these main streams. We also fish several tributaries of the Sun River, including Rock Creek, Moose Creek, Biggs Creek, and Gates Creek. They are generally flowing at around 50-100cfs.
West side rivers are similar, with the South Fork and Middle Fork Flathead rivers running high at 900cfs in early summer and dropping to 300-500cfs in the late summer. We primarily fish the Middle Fork and it's primary upper basin tributaries which include Strawberry Creek, Bowl Creek and Trail Creek.
These waters all run a little murky in early July but clear out by mid-July and will only cloud up with extended rain.
The rivers are not particularly brushy, so you can cast most of the time from the banks. Ocassionally, as with all rivers, you'll want to get a fly under a log jam and may need to approach that from mid-stream, but the spring high water and minor flooding keep the willows and brush further back. This makes for a unique forgiving environment to learn how to fly fish.
The only river that is consistently floated with inflatable rafts is the South Fork of the Flathead. The Middle Fork of the Flathead is floated in June and early July as a white water river, but that is only the lower stretches where we rarely go, due to it's very steep canyon. The absence of floaters on our rivers makes for a very private and uncompetitive fishing experience for our fishermen.
Our fishing is all by wading from bank to bank. Our fishing guides take you to sections of the river for that day's excursion, often using horses to get to that day's section of water. Then you just start fishing upstream or downstream. The water can be crossed in almost any place, though you have to chose your footing carefully as the riverbed is rocky and slick. One of the more unique things about our mountain streams is that there are fish in almost every stretch of water - from the deep pools to the faster water. If there is a boulder in the stream they can get behind to rest, you can bet there is a trout resting there.
We frequently get questions about wearing waders, which I find unnecessary. I do recommend wading shoes that have a lot of traction on slick rocks. More on the gear further down.
The fish move up and down the rivers and streams in cadence with water temperatures and flows. There are no barriers to their movement, so they tend to optimize their comfort and feeding habits largely in tune with the rivers and streams. We have a pretty good idea where they'll be most prevalent based on the time of year, and what their habits are at that time. The trip durations play an important role in the trip itinerary. Shorter fishing trips (5 days) typically go to our Gates Park camp on the North Fork of the Sun River as this is a great campsite a modest ride from the trailhead, and gives us many great options for fishing different stretches of water. Longer fishing trips (7 days) will move to different campsites along the North and South Forks to give additional variety of river stretches.
We match your time frames and particular interests to our fishing trips as best we can. Thus, the best fishing trip changes depending on the week of the summer you come out. For example, the lower Nork and South Forks of the Sun River are great in early summer, but the upper North Fork and Middle Fork Flathead are much better later in the summer.
I strongly recommend reading through our pdf document on wilderness fly fishing gear. In summary, you will need attire that is appropriate for being out in the sun and wading back and forth all day. Some days it can get quite hot, so shorts are great, but somedays it's cloudy and fast drying pants are better. Also, the wading shoes are important. You'll want something that is light, has good ankle support, and has a lot of grip for slick rocks.
The fishing gear is also detailed in the pdf, but in summary should be collapsible gear (trail rods, etc) that allow for greatest flexibility in casting. The most successful flies are aggitators (bright colored lures) that ride high on the water. Our trout come to the surface aggresively and you'll find this amount of action on the surface is exhilirating.
We have primarily trout and a few greyling. The trout are cutthroat, rainbows, some hybrids (cut-bows), brook trout, and yellowstone cutthroat. On the west side rivers we catch mountain white fish and ocassional bull trout. They are 10-20" in length, and world class fighters. The rapid water flow and cold water temps keeps them active all day and in excellent shape.
This is not a particularly physically demanding adventure. This is spectacular mountaineous country, but with the use of horses we get around relatively easily. You will want to be able to hike, as the river wading is all on foot, and you will ocassionally want to hike from camp to fish. Of course, you will also need to be comfortable sitting on a horse as the ride into or between camps is often 4 hours (we take many rest breaks). But, many of our fishermen come into their 80's as this is a great way to get far from people and have a phenominal fishing experience, often when you cannot walk that far anymore.
Definitely. We often have non-fishermen join a trip. There are so many things to do when the fishermen leave camp. Our guides will take those people on hikes, day rides, or other adventures to nearby points of interest. It works great, and is limited only by your imagination on what appeals to you that day.
A typical morning begins with a hearty breakfast in camp, and depending on how close we are to the river, we either walk or ride horses to our destination. Out here, you can fish upstream, downstream, ripples, holes, or whatever your prefer. The fish are everywhere and will be active at different times of day depending on air temperature, light or shadows on the water, terrestrial insect activity among other factors. This makes for quite a variety in activity at different times of day and in different stretches of the streams.
After a sack lunch in a shady spot along the river, you have the rest of the afternoon to continue fishing with almost no one else on the water with you. You will occasionally see deer, elk, and assortment of birds of prey, and perhaps even a bobcat along the river, but you will rarely see another person. After getting back to camp the often well deserved happy hour, a filling and delicious dinner is served in the early evening.