Waters We Fish in Montana

  • view of the madison river
  • montana drift boat
  • madison river picture
  • stalking trout

Being located in the heart of Trout Country, Trout Stalkers is able to offer fully guided fly fishing trips to several different rivers, streams and lakes. Within about 90 miles of Ennis, MT we can put you on multiple other Blue Ribbon Trout Streams.

We try to help anglers who come for several days to incorporate some variety into their trip by fishing a different reach or a different river each day. A typical itinerary might look something like this:

  • Day 1 - Upper Madison River float fishing
  • Day 2 - Big Hole, Jefferson or Yellowstone River float fishing
  • Day 3 - Ennis Lake gulpers in the morning - Float the Upper Madison River, or wade fish the Ruby River.
  • Day 4 - Upper or Lower Madison float trip - different reach

Bear in mind that Mother Nature reigns supreme around here and we must respect her. Although we may make some loose plans, we try to remain flexible and adaptable. We always consider all of our options and make our decisons based on the best available information and our client's input.

Have a look below at "Our Waters".

The Madison is our "Home Stream." We know every rock in the river and fish it from top to bottom! From Quake Lake to Three Forks, MT where it joins the Gallatin and Jefferson to form the headwaters of the Missouri. The Madison River is a beautiful body of water that passes through majestic high mountain scenery along it's entire course. This is classic Big Sky country with plenty of wide open space. We fish the Madison River predominately from a drift boat, but there are also many optunities to wade fishing. Read more about Madison River Fly Fishing.

Upper Madison River

Named by Lewis & Clark, the Big Hole is a tributary of the Jefferson River and is approximately 150 miles long. It is a classic western trout stream beggining in the high mountain meadow alpine zone and descending through a beautiful "pocket-water" canyon and then on down through the alluvial Cottonwood river bottom towards it confluence with the Ruby and Beaverhead near the town of Twin Bridges, MT. The Big Hole offers good trout fishing for its entire course, thought the middle to upper reaches tend to be most consistent. It is well suited to both wading and floating but the best access is gained by floating. There are many possible full day floats on the Big Hole. Drive times range from about 40 minutes to an hour and a half each way from our base of operations in Ennis. 

Among the unique facts about the Big Hole is that it is the last habitat in the Lower 48 for Fluvial Arctic Grayling. Anglers are most likely to hang one of these beauties in the upper reaches above Divide. It's also unique in that the water contains tannin, giving it a coffee or tea color.

Dry fly action on this river is very good for much of the prime season beginning in early spring with the Sqwala and Baetis hatches in April. Salmon flies hatch on the Big Hole in mid-may and can produce some great action. Water conditions are often the big X factor due to spring runoff, but there will usually be opportunities.

Streamers are also very effective, especially in the upper reaches for larger fish. Several 6-8 lb. Brown Trout are taken on streamers each season. 

The Beaverhead River is another tibutary of the Jefferson and is approximatley 70 mile slong. It is unique trout stream in every way, and one of the better trophy trout rivers in Montana. It is small, yet hosts one of the state's largest populations of trophy (20" +) Trout. Past population surveys have revealed 700+ Trout per mile that were 20" or better. The Beaverhead begins at the outlet directly below Clark Canyon Reservoir. This stretch from the dam down to Barrett's diversion is the most popualr with anglers, but good fishing can also be had in the lower reaches downstream from Dillon, MT. Access is more difficult in the lower river though as it flows through private ranch lands with only a few public access points. Drive time is about an hour and a half each way from Ennis but it's usually well worth the trip.

We typically float the Beaverhead, however the most effective tactic is often stopping frequently to wade fish. The willows put a tight press on this small river/stream, targets move fast and change quickly making this a difficult but fun stream to fish out of a boat. The angler in the backseat doesn't get many good shots.

The best fishing is often had using small nymphs and dries, and sometimes large streamers. The river's best hatches are generally PMDs, Yellow Sallies, and Craneflies.

The prime stretch of the Beaverhead opens to fishing on the third Saturday in May, and it fishes well from then until it closes again in November. And like the Big Hole, commercial use on the Beav is controlled by a limited commercial use permit. This basically means that only permitter Outfitters can run guide trips there and each permitted outfitter has a limited allocation of use days during the high season which runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. 

The Ruby is another tributary of the Jefferson River. In fact, to call it a river is really a misnomer.  It is a  beautiful small stream. Most Montanans would refer to it as a "crik". It is located just over the Virginia City hill from Ennis, about a 25 minute drive each way. Read more about fishing the Ruby River

Ruby River Montana


The Yellowstone is the last truly "wild" major river in the lower 48.  It is a large river and a major tributary of the Upper Missouri. From the Thoroughfare deep in the heart of Yellowstone National Park to it's confluence with the Missouri in North Dakota it is a wild and beautiful place.

The Yellowstone is classified as a BLue Ribbon Trout Stream from the park boundry to its confluence with the Boulder river near the town of Big Timber, MT  and we fish anywhere in this large stretch. Most of this reach is the area known as Paradise Valley and if you've fished the Yellowstone there, you know why. The views of the Beartooth/Absaroka mountain range are spectacular.  It's about a 90 minute trip each way from Ennis.

The Yellowstone is a very large river and is best fished from a drift boat although there are also plenty of good wading opportunities. It offers good dry fly, streamer, and nymph fishing at different times of the year.  It has all the structure of a classic trout stream, but on a magnum scale. There are also many magnum fish in this big river. Streamers are usually the best way to catch the big ones. Hopper and Chubby action is good during late summer and early fall and many big fish are taken during this period also.

Due to its wild nature, runoff on the Yellowstone is substantial and can extend well into July or even August. For this reason the Yellowstone usually fishes best in the spring (march-may) and in the fall (Sept.-Nov.)

 Yellowstone River

Named by Lewis and Clark after Thomas Jefferson, this river is a "sleeper."  The Jeff begins near the town of Twin Bridges, MT at the confluence of the Big Hole, Beaverhead and Ruby rivers. Trout populations aren't that good compared to other area rivers, however fishing pressure is generally light and there is something to be said for that.  When the Jeff does turn on, there are more than enough trout to make for good fishing. And, there have been many true giants (5-8lbs.) caught there over the years. The "bread and butter" these days is a 13-15" Rainbow, but we know there are 20-28" Browns lurking also. That's what peaks the imagination and keeps us going back.

The Jeff is a large slow moving river that can be fished with all the usual tactics.  It is generally an early and late season river due to water temperatures and flows.  It will often fish best on cloudy days with big junk. However we have also seen some great dry fly fishing with mayflies, hoppers and stones. If you got some time to explore, it's worth a day trip. If nothing else it's cool to float a stretch of river that the Lewis & Clark Expedition also floated.

Yet another river named by the Lewis & Clark Expedition. Robert Smith was Secretary of the Navy under Thomas Jefferson in 1805 . The Smith is certainly one of the most scenic and beautiful rivers in the lower 48, and a damn fine trout stream too! No kidding.The Smith should be on every adventurous angler's bucket list. 

A float trip down the Smith River canyon is an unforgettable experience.  It's a gentle 60 mile float that takes 5 days/4 nights. Up to 8 guests float and fish from state of the art fishing rafts equipped with frames and seats. 2 anglers per raft. The camp crew floats ahead of the anglers each day and takes care of all the camp setup and breakdown work as well as all of the cooking and cleaning. This is a first class trip where you don't have to do anything except relax and enjoy yourself and the spectacular surroundings.  This is a great trip for virtually everyone with an adventuresome spirit and a love of nature: couples, bachelors, families.

What to Expect

The famous Smith River corridor is still untouched by major developments and offers visitors a truly unique Motana wilderness experience.  Here's what you can expect on a trip down this amazing river:

  • Transportation from your lodging in Helena to Camp Baker, the trip departure point on the river. Take out is 59 river miles to Eden Bridge, where we will take you and your gear back to your lodging.
  • Each day, experienced guides will float you down a section of river for a great day of fishing, provide lunch, snacks and refreshments, and at the end of the day arrive at our camp. Freshly made hors d'oeuvres, beer, wine, and refreshments await you, followed by a delicious riverside dinner prepared for you by our talented staff.
  • All meals are prepared fresh each day and include fresh fruits and vegetables; full breakfasts and lunches. For dinner: soups and salads; entrees include fish, pork, chicken and beef; you can also look forward to a variety of desserts. Drinking water, fruit juice, milk, tea, coffee, pop, beer and wine are provided as well. (We can accommodate special dietary restrictions and preferences by making arrangements with us at least two weeks prior to your trip.)
  • Mike's staff prepares the camp for you each day with tents (individual or shared), cots, therma-rest pads, transport your personal gear, solar showers are available, dining table and chairs, and campfires. They even do the dishes and turn out the lights!
  • As you wait for your rod to bend, you can take in the natural majesty of the Smith River. The river is perhaps best known for its extraordinary limestone canyon walls. There are plenty of chances to stop and wade fish, take photos of wildlife, check out the points of interest (caves and pictographs) and admire the landscape as you float downstream.

2016 Rate is $3900/person. This does not include: airfare, loding the night before and after the float, and gratuities.

Let us help you arrange your Smith River expedition. We are booking agent for Mike Geary's outfit Lewis & Clark Expeditions. (Mike is permitted and licensed byt the U.S. Forest Service and Montana Board of Outfitters.)

Please call 406-581-5150 or e-mail us for more information. flyshop@montanatrout.com


Anglers on the lake can experience some spectacular, and frequent surface feeding activity throughout the summer months. Fish will cruise around and gulp tricos and calibaetis for hours each morning. And we're not talking about small fish! Average fish caught in the lake will run 16-20" with many exceeding 20". Read more about fly fishing Ennis Lake.

Ennis Lake fly fishing


In addition to all of the waters mentioned above, we have several private water options. These include small freestone streams, spring creeks and private lakes (wild, not stocked). Private water options generally require some advance planning and rod fees from $60-$100/angler.

Please contact us for more information and availabiltiy.