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There is one trip that the entire Yellow Dog team looks forward to every spring: one that many of us who live in Montana consider the best trip of the year. We’re talking about a multi-day float trip on the Smith River. A fully-guided float trip on the pristine, protected, and isolated waters of this river is 60 miles long and winds its way through a scenic and remote canyon over the course of five days. The Smith is primarily a brown trout fishery, although there are smaller populations of rainbows, cutthroat, and brookies as well. When you arrive in camp at the end of each day, spacious two-person tents are already pitched, camp is set up, dinner is cooking, and the drinks are ready. Stare into the campfire, enjoy a glass of whisky or wine, and think about the rises of the day and the hook-ups to come in the morning.
This deluxe wilderness trip covers 60 miles as it winds its way through the scenic and remote Smith River Canyon. Depending on your preference, this can be a five or six day trip.
When you arrive in camp at the end of each day, spacious two-person tents are already pitched, camp is set up, and the drinks are ready. A hearty and delicious streamside dinner will provide the perfect end to a day in the wilderness.
Stare into the campfire, enjoy a glass of wine, and think about the rises of the day, the “one that got away,” and the hook-ups to come in the morning. Swap stories with your friends and watch the last flicker of sunset slip below the cliffs of the river canyon.
Delicious hors d"oeuvres and your favorite beverage await your arrival after the days float. Enjoy superbly prepared Western meals featuring fresh salads, entrees such as chicken kebabs or steaks grilled over an open fire and apple crisp baked in a Dutch oven.
The character of the Smith River is diverse, offering anglers everything from wide riffles and deep pools to shallow flats, undercut cliff walls and quiet backwaters. The river drops over 1,000 feet in elevation during the 60-mile stretch, creating as wide a variety of trout habitat as one can imagine. While the Smith is primarily a brown trout fishery, there are healthy populations of rainbows as well. Fish will average 14”-16” with the occasional 18”-24” fish landed. While releasing 30 fish in a day is common, many anglers find that the fishing runs second to the overall atmosphere and beauty of the river and the canyon walls.
Since this is a natural freestone river, the insect populations are numerous and diverse. Everything from the smallest trico mayfly to the legendary salmonfly thrive in the wild waters of the Smith. The season’s major hatches begin with the famous "salmon fly" stoneflies in mid-May. These hummingbird-sized salmon flies are quickly followed by the large golden stones, which continue through the month of June. At the end of June, the Smith is often graced with a prolific brown drake hatch. These majestic mayflies are giant (typically a size 8 or 10) and stand an inch tall on the water. They hatch in the afternoon and transition into an impressive spinner fall at sundown. Some anglers have been known to rush through dinner and skip dessert, beckoned back to the water by the unmistakable "gulping" sounds coming from fish feeding on evening drakes. July hatches are primarily dominated by hoppers and cicadas, and the dry fly fishing continues to be fantastic. While it seems that this is a river custom-made for big dry flies, smaller hatches are always present to fill in the gaps. Blue winged olives, pale morning duns and many different types of caddis will have you matching the hatch and casting dries on a constant basis. If anglers are willing, subsurface fishing can also be very productive. Nymphing and bugger fishing can really produce numbers, with some of the biggest fish of the year falling for surprisingly large streamers. There is nothing quite as exciting as witnessing a monster brown give in to his voracious carnivore tendencies to chase a big streamer to the surface!
On your Smith adventure, you will float-fish the river two anglers per boat in 14 ft. self-bailing rafts custom-outfitted for flyfishing. Gear and equipment boats are included as part of the package.
While the Smith is a great angling adventure, non-anglers will no doubt enjoy the trip just as much. Wildlife is abundant throughout the river corridor. Nesting waterfowl patrol the banks of the river as migratory songbirds search the bushes and the sky for an unsuspecting stonefly. A mid-day hike in the foothills may be rewarded with the treasure of a "shed" elk or deer antler.
Although there are no grizzly bears in this part of the state, a sighting of a black bear in its blond color phase may have you convinced otherwise. Hiking, eating great food, reading and – above all – relaxing are all important elements of this trip!
If your plan is to fly to Montana on a commercial airline, we recommend that you make reservations as soon as possible once you have firm river dates. You'll want to fly into Helena, Montana the day before your first scheduled river day.
Try to schedule a flight that arrives in the afternoon. Delta (Sky West) and Horizon both service the Helena Airport. A representative from the Smith River crew will be at the airport to meet you when you arrive. Your first stop will be to get fishing licenses and any other last minute things you might need. Then you will head from Helena to White Sulphur Springs, where there will be a room waiting for at a local bed and breakfast. The following morning you will begin your 60-mile expedition down the Smith!
On the last day of the trip you will usually be off the river between one and three in the afternoon. Most of anglers make reservations to stay overnight in either Helena or Great Falls after their last day on the river, with plans to fly home the following morning. Once off the river at the Eden Bridge take-out, you are approximately one hour from Great Falls, two hours from Helena, and about three hours from Missoula. We recommend you make reservations in Great Falls at either the Holiday Inn (406-727-7200) or the Best Western Heritage Inn (406-761-1900), or in Helena by calling the Wingate Inn (406-449-3000). All have excellent accommodations and a shuttle service to the airport. If, however, you will be driving and want your car waiting for you when you get off the river, we can arrange to have it shuttled for you.
All rates are per, person and include the first nights lodging at a Bed and Breakfast. If a group size is less than six people, the outfitter reserves the right to add clients to the launch date.
Five Day / Five Night Float Trip ------------------------------------------------------------------- $3,900.00
* Remember that Yellow Dog's services are completely free! When you book a trip with Yellow Dog, you never pay more than when you book directly with the lodge or outfitter.
Yellow Dog has a full in-house travel and reservations system, and can assist with airline tickets, hotels, transfers, and all travel logistics for every destination that we offer. Contact us at 888-777-5060 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more details on airfare ticketing, travel services and trip insurance.
Smith River Fly Fishing Expeditions, Mission Statement
To create Montana river experiences that enrich our guests' lives to the greatest extent possible through a level of dedication and work ethic unmatched in our industry - all with a great sense of humor.