Overview

 

  • Float trips on the South Fork of the Flathead River

  • Roving wade fishing on the tributaries of the South Fork

  • Also horseback rides to see the famed “Chinese Wall”


SOUTH FORK OF THE FLATHEAD FLOAT TRIPS

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The South Fork of the Flathead is known in the fly fishing world as the Mecca for dry-fly Cutthroat Trout fishing. Located in the 1.5 million acre Bob Marshall Wilderness, America’s first ever designated wilderness area. The South Fork is formed from the junction of Danaher Creek and Young’s Creek and runs for 45 miles due north, fed by dozens of small tributaries, where it exits the wilderness near Spotted Bear Ranger Station. Our trip itineraries take you to the best water in the wilderness area and will take you to the deepest, most remote area of the “Bob.”

Fly-fishing on the South Fork is known to be some of the best in the world. Due to the South Fork’s wilderness isolation, the river and its tributaries remain lightly fished, and the result is that the quality of the fishery is as good now as it was many decades ago. Skilled anglers can catch of over 100 fish per rod on good days, but it is common for each boat to land 40+ native cuts a day. These Cutthroat Trout range in size, but there are many in the 12-18” range, and they love to rise to dry flies! The South Fork is also one of the only places where an angler can catch the native Bull Trout. The South Fork Drainage is the largest stronghold of these native Char in the Lower 48 states. These lurkers act like an anadromous species, migrating upstream every July from Hungry Horse Reservoir. Lucky anglers have brought Bull trout in excess of 30 inches to hand. Legal fishing season for Bull Trout usually closes on July 31.

Because the South Fork lies within the Bob Marshall Wilderness, special regulations and permits apply. There are only a few commercial Outfitting Permits on the river, and we are lucky to have an exclusive relationship with one of these outfitters.

 

“We are dedicated to bringing together the best mules, horses and tack; the most professional packers, wranglers and fly fishing guides; the finest and most customized equipment; and the most backcountry-river-trip-knowhow that has ever been assembled on the South Fork.”

 

South to North Itinerary. “South End” trips begin in Missoula.

Day 1 – We transport you to the trailhead at Lodgepole Pass, north of the town of Ovando (about 1.5 hours from Missoula) - ride to 1st night's camp on Young’s Creek
Day 2 – Ride half day to Big Prairie on Southfork, wade-fish in the afternoon
Day 3 – Layover day in same camp, wade fish Southfork all day
Days 4 - 6 – Float, fish and camp your way down the Southfork
Day 7 –  Float and fish half day, hike out to Meadow Creek trailhead from the Mid-creek take out (3 miles), drive to Kalispell hotel

Airfare should be into Missoula and out of Kalispell for this trip.


SE to North Itinerary. “South East” trips begin in Great Falls.

Day 1 – We transport from Great Falls to trailhead at Benchmark, west of the town of Augusta (about 1.5 hours from Great Falls), ride to 1st night's camp on Danaher Creek
Day 2 – Ride half day to Big Prairie on Southfork, wade-fish in the afternoon
Day 3 – Layover day in same camp, wade fish Southfork all day
Days 4 - 6 –  Float, fish and camp your way down the Southfork
Day 7 – Float and fish half day, hike out to Meadow Creek trailhead from the Mid-creek take out (3 miles), drive to Kalispell hotel

Airfare should be into Great Falls and out of Kalispell for this trip.


**There are several ways to customize or upgrade each of these itineraries**

  1. There may be a private charter flight at the beginning and/or end of the trip to eliminate several hours of driving.
  2. There are some wilderness boundary lodges near the trailheads that you could stay at the night before to eliminate long travel days on the first morning of your trip and to add to the experience.

**Please let me know as early as possible if you would like to explore these options**

 

WADE FISHING TRIPS


Benchmark to Lodgepole - “Roving” Wade trip


Roving trips eliminate the floating part of the trip and focus on the smaller upstream waters of the Southfork drainage that most anglers just ride by and wish they could fish.

It is important to remember that the nature of a roving trip is that you will ride into the wilderness to access amazing trout fishing, moving camp several times during the trip so that you can access several different rivers/streams and then you will ride back out. Since you are riding in and back out of the wilderness, there is roughly twice as much time in the saddle as the standard float trip itinerary.

The challenge of these trips is to find the balance of maximizing fishing time and fishing as much new water as possible. Getting to new water requires packing up and moving, and you can’t fish while you are riding. The only way to add more fishing time is to “layover” in the same camp for more than one day. Yet, with less moving, you will end up fishing some of the same pools more than once, or do more hiking each day out of camp to reach new water. With that in mind we feel that the following itineraries are the best.


Starting at the Benchmark Trailhead west of Great Falls;


Day 1 – Ride into camp at Basin Creek confluence with the Danaher
Day 2 – Layover and fish Danaher Creek
Day 3 – Move camp and ride to Big Prairie on the Southfork of the Flathead. - Fish in the afternoon upon arrival
Day 4 – layover and fish Southfork at Big Prairie Area
Day 5 – Move camp and ride to Young’s Creek near the “Hole in the Wall” - Fish in the afternoon upon arrival
Day 6 – Layover and fish Young’s Creek
Day 7 – Ride out of wilderness to Lodgepole Trailhead

This trip can be run in the opposite direction from Lodgepole to Benchmark. The itinerary is very symmetrical, so it can literally just be flipped. Airfare should be into Great Falls and out of Missoula, or vice-versa.

The best way to improve this itinerary is to add a day and make it an 8-day trip. This then allows you to do a double layover at Big Prairie on the Southfork (or one of the other camps), which really adds some rest from the horses and an extra day of uninterrupted fishing.

Again, there are several “add-ons” to customize or upgrade any of our wilderness trips:


- There may be a private charter flight at the beginning and/or end of the trip to eliminate several hours of driving to and from the trailhead.
- There are some wilderness boundary lodges near the trailheads that you could stay at the night before to eliminate long travel days on the first morning of your trip and to add to the experience.

**Please let me know as early as possible if you would like to explore these options**

 

Packing List

Riding Portion

  • One Pair of Jeans (that you do not intend to wear again after the horseback portion of the trip)
  • Long sleeve shirt (a little heavier than fishing weight) You may brush against branches, etc.
  • Pair of sturdy hiking boots, but not too aggressive of a sole. (you want to be able to go in and out of stirrups, but also be able to jump down and walk for a while – Cowboy boots are not recommended, unless you wear them regularly)
  • Wide brimmed hat. Straw cowboy hat, fishing hat, etc.
  • Bandana or “Buff” brand style face cover to help with dust
  • Optional – Very small “Fanny Pack” style bag to hold sunscreen, camera, etc. while on the horse. (Saddle bags will be on the saddle to hold a few essentials.)
  • Some people choose to wear gel-padded cycling shorts under their jeans to help stay comfortable in the saddle
  • Also, if you have knee problems, it is helpful to wear neoprene sleeve knee braces.

Packing

  • A soft bag or nylon duffel bag up to 15" diameter so that it can be stuffed into our dry bags or packed on horses. ***if you plan on traveling with a hard-sided bag or a bag with rollers, you must pack another simple soft duffle inside to repack into as roller bags cannot go on the mules.
  • Small dry bag or daypack for gear you might need on the river.
  • A small pillow
  • Warm sleeping bag. (We can provide if you let us know in advance.)
  • One bath towel and two hand towels.
  • 2 heavy trash bags for wet/dirty clothes.
  • Bring a camera, binoculars, sun screen and insect repellent.
  • Ibuprofen and baby wipes are very nice when needed.

River Portion - Clothing

  • Polar fleece sweat shirt or wool sweater.
  • Polar Fleece hat (nice to sleep in if it gets cold)
  • Ball cap/fishing hat.
  • A warm jacket even in August.
  • A pair of polypro long underwear. These are essential in spring and fall
  • Smartwool Socks.
  • Shorts or a swimsuit.
  • River sandals or wading boots. (river is extremely slippery- felt is highly recommended over non-slip rubber)
  • Before July 20th - Breathable chest waders. Chest waders with a raincoat will keep you dry! (Optional- if you choose not to bring waders, a quality rain suit is a must)
  • Two long sleeved shirts (fishing type.)
  • Two pairs of pants.  (The quick-dry, zip-off leg pants are nice.)
  • Good rain gear!!!! (If you are wet you will be miserable!  If there is one thing you don’t overlook, this is it.  If you have been waiting to buy a nice Simms jacket, this is the year to do it!)
  • One pair of dry shoes for around the camp. (may be same or different from riding boots)

Fishing Gear

  • Polarized sunglasses.
  • Wide Brim hat (same as above)
  • Small Day pack/ dry bag (same as above)
  • Small Fly Vest/chest pack (should fit in above day pack)
  • Fly Rods – 1 to 2 rods, if you bring one, it should probably be a 9’ 5wt.  if you bring two, you could bring a 5wt and a 6wt, or add a 4wt, (most of the fishing will be with dry flies, but if you intend to fish for Bull Trout, you may want to bring the heavier 6wt+ for streamers)

 

Having listed all the above, please try to keep as light and compact as possible due to limited space on the rafts and horses.


We provide all camping equipment including a tent per each two guests, the highest quality cots, inflatable Therma-Rest pads, heavy rubberized dry bags for your belongings and floatation vests. We also supply terminal fishing tackle including flies, tippet, etc. Non-alcoholic beverages and dinner wine will be provided. Liquor bar is not provided, but you are welcome to BYOB.

Destination Quick Facts

LOCATION: Western Montana
SEASON: July through September 15th
CAPACITY: 8 anglers
CLOSEST MAJOR AIR HUB: Missoula, Montana (MSO)/ Kalispell, Montana (FCA), Great Falls (GTF)
TARGET SPECIES: cutthroat and bull trout
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED: Montana fishing license and valid I.D.

Lodging Details

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 mountaintops. Tent, cots and ThermaRest pads are included. Dry bags are also provided for each client, allowing you to pack your gear in waterproof bags and keep your clothing safe and dry on the river.

Food and Beverages

Appetizers and beverages await your arrival each evening after a full day on the river. Enjoy hearty “camp-style” Western meals featuring fresh salads, entrees that include such dishes as Bison tacos or grilled rib-eye steaks over an open fire, and apple crisp baked in a Dutch oven. Alcohol; Dinner wine is provided. The nature of a pack in wilderness trip creates limitations on weight. There will be some beer, but it is considered a luxury and will be cherished during the trip. You are welcome to BYOB. Vodka, Bourbon, etc.

Typical Length of Stay

Most trips are 7 or 8 days.

Non-Angling Activities and Options

While the South Fork is a great angling adventure, non-anglers will no doubt enjoy the trip just as much. Wildlife is abundant throughout the river corridor. Deer, elk, the occasional black bear or mountain goat, eagles and other birds of prey, 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 this is grizzly bears country, they are rarely seen. Hiking, eating great food, reading and – above all – relaxing in one of the lower 48’s most remote places are all important elements of this trip.

Internet / Communications

There is no wireless or cell service in the Wilderness. Each trip will have a satellite phone, and/or a US Forest Service radio that can be used to contact rangers in the event of an emergency. If you anticipate needing any communication during the trip it is highly recommended that you rent a satellite phone of your own.

If you have any questions, please contact Joe Sowerby, 406-370-2868, joe@smithriverflyfishing.com  - Montana Flyfishing Connection, LLC www.mtffc.com

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

Montana Outfitter License #5157.

All posted rates subject to change without notice.

All dates subject to availability.

Moving camp

Trout temptation

Back country transportation


2016 Prices

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