DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in Montana

If you're new to fly fishing and you're looking for that perfect spot to learn some skills and enjoy the sport, then the state of Montana has plenty of opportunities for you. Montana gives you the opportunity to build the exact kind of experience you want, at a price point that works for you.

As for the fish species that the state is known for, Montana is ideal for wild trout as they love the alpine lakes and rivers that are abundant in the state. There are strict rules and restrictions in place so that wild trout is able to flourish and there is no need for fish born from hatchery.

Where to Go?

You certainly won't be at a loss at finding a great fishing opportunity in Montana. If anything, you'll have a hard time narrowing down the options. And as mentioned, because you can enjoy fishing year-round, you can really have some very unique experiences.

Featured Destinations

  • Missouri River
  • Rock Creek
  • Ruby River
  • Smith River
  • Stillwater River
  • Yellowstone River

Montana Trout Stream Map

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Big Hole River, Montana: 45.801580, -112.934217
MT - Bighorn River: 45.343821, -107.876601
MT - Bitterroot River: 46.861952, -114.100914
MT - Blackfoot River: 47.022617, -113.307002
MT - Clark Fork: 46.866500, -113.983819
MT - Flint Creek: 46.245132, -113.329651
Gallatin River, Montana: 45.264633, -111.255155
MT - Georgetown Lake: 46.187021, -113.288612
MT - Kootenai River: 48.368553, -115.321544
Madison River (Below Ennis Lake): 45.455239, -111.649482
Madison River (Quake Lake to Ennis): 45.095383, -111.662529
MT - Missouri River (Below Holter) : 47.074155, -111.962893
MT - Rock Creek: 46.519573, -112.819365
MT - Yellowstone River : 45.665676, -110.539284
Blacktail Deer Creek FAS (Blacktail Meadows) : 45.223746, -112.637801
Beaverhead River FAS (Henneberry) : 45.059694, -112.815017
Beaverhead River FAS (Pipe Organ) : 45.065605, -112.800375
Beaverhead River FAS (Grasshopper) : 45.100077, -112.777563
Beaverhead River FAS (High Bridge) : 45.017813, -112.837494
Beaverhead River FAS (Poindexter Slough) : 45.185471, -112.678770
Beaverhead River FAS (Corrals) : 45.114228, -112.753595
Bighorn River FAS (Two Leggins) : 45.645338, -107.658651
Bighorn River FAS (Bighorn) : 45.414597, -107.786482
Bighorn River FAS (Mallard's Landing) : 45.521484, -107.724273
Bighorn River FAS (Manuel Lisa) : 46.144747, -107.466029
Bighorn River FAS (Arapooish) : 45.753824, -107.567946
Bighorn River FAS (General Custer) : 45.926417, -107.578590
Bighorn River FAS (Grant Marsh) : 45.844249, -107.590973
Georgetown Lake FAS (Stuart Mill Bay) : 46.174805, -113.275369
Big Hole River FAS (Sportsman's Park) : 45.885345, -113.166137
Big Hole River FAS (Greenwood Bottoms) : 45.778073, -112.837519
Big Hole River FAS (George Grant Memorial) : 45.777696, -112.848263
Big Hole River FAS (Fishtrap Creek) : 45.870657, -113.224327
Big Hole River FAS (Powerhouse) : 45.760029, -112.801160
Big Hole River FAS (Glen) : 45.466660, -112.669059
Big Hole River FAS (Maidenrock) : 45.655583, -112.696106
Big Hole River FAS (Salmon Fly) : 45.624389, -112.688049
Big Hole River FAS (High Road) : 45.548418, -112.365880
Big Hole River FAS (Notch Bottom) : 45.436512, -112.566458
Big Hole River FAS (Pennington Bridge) : 45.499630, -112.439339
Big Hole River FAS (Kalsta Bridge) : 45.525762, -112.702563
Big Hole River FAS (Brownes Bridge) : 45.546711, -112.692305
Lower Carter Pond FAS : 47.143746, -109.429399
Upper Carter Pond FAS : 47.155052, -109.427859
Big Casino Creek Reservoir FAS : 47.036392, -109.428355
Big Spring Creek FAS (Reed & Bowles) : 47.094633, -109.465301
Big Spring Creek FAS (Lazy KB) : 47.073903, -109.427283
Big Spring Creek FAS (Brewery Flats) : 47.047106, -109.412327
Big Spring Creek FAS (Hruska) : 47.111261, -109.505742
Big Spring Creek FAS (Carroll Trail) : 47.081758, -109.445491
Big Spring Creek FAS (Spring Creek) : 47.029357, -109.380656
Bitterroot River FAS (Darby Bridge) : 46.014558, -114.163911
Bitterroot River FAS (Bell Crossing) : 46.444335, -114.126293
Bitterroot River FAS (Poker Joe) : 46.586017, -114.068293
Bitterroot River FAS (Florence Bridge) : 46.632111, -114.051537
Bitterroot River (Tucker Crossing) : 46.368378, -114.137365
Bitterroot River FAS (Hannon Memorial) : 45.972823, -114.140101
Bitterroot River FAS (Angler's Roost) : 46.198930, -114.169428
Bitterroot River FAS (Demmons) : 46.247292, -114.176883
Bitterroot River FAS (Forest Cooper) : 45.969012, -114.140793
Bitterroot River FAS (Woodside Bridge) : 46.313240, -114.144823
Bitterroot River FAS (Chief Looking Glass) : 46.661653, -114.053548
Bitter Root River - West Fork FAS (WW White Memorial) : 45.921330, -114.142015
Bitterroot River FAS (Bass Creek) : 46.566738, -114.101127
Bitterroot River FAS (Wally Crawford) : 46.091782, -114.174930
Clearwater River FAS (Clearwater Crossing) : 47.001062, -113.380007
Clearwater River FAS (Clearwater Bridge) : 46.965480, -113.378856
Monture Creek FAS : 47.036479, -113.219857
Harpers Lake FAS : 47.021600, -113.380564
Upsata Lake FAS : 47.073041, -113.229800
Brown's Lake FAS : 46.945742, -113.010849
Blackfoot River FAS (Daigles Eddy) : 46.939788, -113.634841
Blackfoot River FAS (River Junction) : 46.985736, -113.136366
Blackfoot River FAS (Cedar Meadow) : 46.897352, -113.059449
Blackfoot River FAS (Thibodeau) : 46.952518, -113.611906
Blackfoot River FAS (Scotty Brown Bridge) : 47.018383, -113.240216
Blackfoot River FAS (Whitaker Bridge) : 46.942775, -113.599825
Blackfoot River FAS (Sunset Hill) : 46.937297, -113.387760
Blackfoot River FAS (K. Ross Toole) : 46.903928, -113.725928
Blackfoot River FAS (Thibodeau Rapids) : 46.953111, -113.618937
Blackfoot River FAS (Sheep Flats) : 46.947804, -113.629475
Blackfoot River FAS (Johnsrud Park) : 46.916445, -113.678540
Blackfoot River FAS (Weigh Station) : 46.879697, -113.852480
Little Blackfoot River FAS : 46.568763, -112.665886
Blackfoot River FAS (Russell Gates Memorial) : 47.023436, -113.306023
Blackfoot River FAS (Marco Flats) : 46.889687, -113.829727
Blackfoot River FAS (Ninemile Prairie) : 46.944392, -113.502756
Blackfoot River FAS (Red Rocks) : 46.941517, -113.598476
Blackfoot River FAS (Roundup) : 46.945570, -113.432125
Blackfoot River FAS (Belmont Creek) : 46.953301, -113.566558
Blackfoot River FAS (Harry Morgan) : 46.980950, -113.097316
Blackfoot River FAS (Corrick's River Bend) : 46.951376, -113.538500
Blackfoot River FAS (Angevine) : 46.896629, -113.763328
Beavertail Pond FAS : 46.729182, -113.578363
West Fork Fish Creek FAS (Forks) : 46.926246, -114.701403
Fish Creek FAS (Big Pine) : 46.989565, -114.662605
Clark Fork River FAS (Tarkio) : 47.013770, -114.737351
Clark Fork River FAS (St. Regis) : 47.301973, -115.088025
Clark Fork River FAS (Dry Creek) : 47.225239, -114.963614
Clark Fork River FAS (Flatiron Ridge) : 47.628897, -115.406087
Clark Fork River FAS (Pair-A-Dice) : 47.383468, -114.799059
Clark Fork River FAS (Forest Grove) : 47.076207, -114.761407
Clark Fork River FAS (McKay Landing) : 47.536826, -115.079212
Clark Fork River FAS (Big Eddy) : 47.193364, -114.879870
Clark Fork River FAS (Erskine) : 47.013485, -114.284841
Clark Fork River FAS (Tarkio East) : 47.020749, -114.653278
Clark Fork River FAS (Middle Osprey) : 47.019515, -114.627455
Clark Fork River FAS (Kelly Island) : 46.866865, -114.100042
Clark Fork River FAS (Petty Creek) : 46.991121, -114.445393
Clark Fork River FAS (Cyr Bridge) : 47.005281, -114.579139
Clark Fork River FAS (Deep Creek) : 46.929733, -114.210700
Clark Fork River FAS (Natural Pier) : 47.015035, -114.506707
Clark Fork River FAS (Harper's Bridge) : 46.931505, -114.207779
Clark Fork River FAS (Ralph's Takeout) : 47.012604, -114.690367
Clark Fork River FAS (Kona Bridge) : 46.898566, -114.151666
Clark Fork River FAS (St. John's) : 47.012586, -114.542686
Clark Fork River FAS (Lower Osprey) : 47.022138, -114.645533
Clark Fork River FAS (Drummond) : 46.660724, -113.148286
Clark Fork River FAS (Sha-Ron) : 46.881358, -113.934650
Clark Fork River FAS (Kohrs Bend) : 46.498731, -112.741007
Clark Fork River FAS (Turah) : 46.822161, -113.808206
Clark Fork River FAS (Schwartz Creek) : 46.751944, -113.718440
Clark Fork River FAS (Bearmouth) : 46.700105, -113.431946
McWenneger Slough FAS : 48.220522, -114.204128
Island Lake FAS : 48.232893, -114.976199
Thompson Chain-of-Lakes FAS : 48.045483, -114.830464
Thompson Lake FAS (Thompson Chain-of-Lakes) : 48.043078, -115.095189
Tetrault Lake FAS : 48.948313, -115.108304
Sophie Lake FAS : 48.955505, -115.126397
Glen Lake FAS : 48.869996, -114.949911
Lake Five FAS (Paul's Memorial) : 48.458886, -114.024952
Blanchard Lake FAS : 48.393694, -114.366612
Beaver Lake FAS : 48.431092, -114.421235
Bootjack Lake FAS : 48.418275, -114.494149
Skyles Lake FAS : 48.404527, -114.401894
Pine Grove Pond FAS : 48.248437, -114.288626
Loon Lake/Ferndale FAS : 48.026231, -113.990971
Horseshoe Lake/Ferndale FAS : 48.021702, -113.997576
Echo Lake FAS : 48.130620, -114.037983
Smith Lake FAS : 48.107315, -114.441420
Flathead Lake FAS (Elmo) : 47.834681, -114.337238
Flathead Lake FAS (Ducharme) : 47.692859, -114.070534
Flathead Lake FAS (Woods Bay) : 48.000540, -114.063275
Flathead Lake FAS (Somers) : 48.077480, -114.235518
Flathead Lake FAS (Bigfork) : 48.060497, -114.078372
Flathead Lake FAS (Walstad) : 47.811272, -114.265492
Swan River FAS : 48.041852, -113.978461
Flathead River FAS (Old Steel Bridge) : 48.208827, -114.255794
Flathead River FAS (Pressentine) : 48.291397, -114.223453
Flathead River FAS (Teakettle) : 48.365812, -114.171021
Flathead River FAS (Sportsmans Bridge) : 48.092391, -114.113334
Flathead River FAS (Kokanee Bend) : 48.349891, -114.214248
Flathead River FAS (Shady Lane) : 48.211263, -114.262428
Flathead River FAS (Kookoosint) : 47.343646, -114.708402
Bozeman Pond FAS : 45.673768, -111.081232
East Gallatin River FAS (Cherry River) : 45.724330, -111.064953
Gallatin River FAS (Shed's Bridge) : 45.673775, -111.209194
Gallatin River FAS (Axtell Bridge) : 45.623393, -111.204862
Gallatin River FAS (Four Corners) : 45.859956, -111.290045
Gallatin River FAS (Gallatin Forks) : 45.889794, -111.327807
Gallatin River FAS (Kirk Wildlife Refuge) : 45.510360, -111.261064
Gallatin River FAS (Erwin Bridge) : 45.769216, -111.239042
Gallatin River FAS (Cameron Bridge) : 45.737733, -111.220122
Piedmont Pond FAS : 45.843682, -112.115193
Jefferson River FAS (Drouillard) : 45.897636, -111.594016
Jefferson River FAS (Mayflower Bridge) : 45.857948, -112.015906
Jefferson River FAS (Kountz Bridge) : 45.843548, -112.063236
Jefferson River FAS (Sappington Bridge) : 45.804005, -111.751274
Jefferson River FAS (Hell's Canyon) : 45.632614, -112.318539
Jefferson River FAS (Limespur) : 45.822543, -111.874915
Jefferson River FAS (Silver Star) : 45.686391, -112.282440
Jefferson River FAS (Parrot Castle) : 45.812385, -112.118469
Jefferson River FAS (Williams' Bridge) : 45.802137, -111.695978
Jefferson River FAS (Cardwell Bridge) : 45.853835, -111.950923
Harrison Lake FAS : 45.699419, -111.707979
Three Forks Ponds FAS : 45.893343, -111.536694
Ennis Lake FAS (Meadow Lake) : 45.443360, -111.707971
Madison River FAS (Valley Garden) : 45.367254, -111.705392
Madison River FAS (Burnt Tree Hole) : 45.314842, -111.747791
Madison River FAS (Cobblestone) : 45.772927, -111.515801
Madison River FAS (Milwaukee) : 45.899335, -111.525071
Madison River FAS (Ennis) : 45.344990, -111.723640
Madison River FAS (McAtee Bridge) : 45.095481, -111.662496
Madison River FAS (Black's Ford) : 45.646380, -111.522472
Madison River FAS (Varney Bridge) : 45.229826, -111.751460
Madison River FAS (Blackbird) : 45.901379, -111.526898
Madison River FAS (Greycliff) : 45.701913, -111.514179
Madison River FAS (Raynolds' Pass) : 44.826839, -111.486039
Madison River FAS (Damselfly) : 45.624116, -111.547879
Madison River FAS (Lyons Bridge) : 44.899096, -111.592586
Madison River FAS (Three Dollar Bridge) : 44.831935, -111.514161
Madison River FAS (Eight Mile Ford) : 45.299980, -111.754050
Little Muddy Creek FAS : 47.340317, -111.608074
Marias River FAS (Loma Bridge) : 47.931912, -110.505470
Lake Helena FAS : 46.707115, -111.914900
Hauser Reservoir FAS (Causeway) : 46.702430, -111.900896
Hausser Reservoir FAS (York Bridge) : 46.711423, -111.811646
Helena Valley Reservoir FAS : 46.643543, -111.879754
Eureka Reservoir FAS : 47.877722, -112.314071
Faber Reservoir FAS : 48.262682, -109.137366
Whitetail Reservoir FAS : 48.891401, -105.156639
Arod Lake FAS : 47.995508, -112.028421
Bynum Reservoir FAS : 47.959888, -112.405435
Fort Peck Lake FAS (Duck Creek) : 47.986121, -106.525203
Fort Peck Dredge Cut Ponds FAS : 48.055529, -106.441769
Fort Peck Lake FAS (Rock Creek) : 47.767633, -106.285876
Bean Lake FAS : 47.300819, -112.428221
Nilan Reservoir FAS : 47.472909, -112.519752
Pishkun Reservoir FAS : 47.681874, -112.465327
Willow Creek Reservoir FAS : 47.547801, -112.440447
Little Prickly Pear Creek FAS (Prickly Pear) : 46.929867, -112.122342
Little Pricky Pear Creek FAS (Lichen Cliff) : 46.938773, -112.121723
Missouri River FAS (Fairweather) : 46.027727, -111.418313
Missouri River FAS (Toston) : 46.171991, -111.445203
Missouri River FAS (York's Islands) : 46.266866, -111.493562
Missouri River FAS (School Trust) : 48.048542, -106.364081
Missouri River FAS (Snowden Bridge) : 48.006354, -104.103234
Missouri River FAS (Lewis and Clark) : 48.068106, -105.537452
Missouri River FAS (Culbertson Bridge) : 48.122469, -104.475281
Missouri River FAS (Eagle Island) : 47.120907, -111.890185
Missouri River FAS (Pelican Point) : 47.200937, -111.779487
Missouri River FAS (Big Bend) : 47.389831, -111.340149
Missouri River FAS (Carter Ferry) : 47.755852, -110.898998
Missouri River FAS (Spite Hill) : 47.121123, -111.937345
Missouri River FAS (Cottonwood Grove) : 47.420614, -111.380695
Missouri River FAS (Bull Pasture) : 47.001490, -111.997877
Missouri River FAS (Mountain Palace) : 47.162554, -111.823094
Missouri River FAS (Devils Kitchen) : 47.138714, -111.851940
Missouri River FAS (Craig) : 47.072557, -111.963036
Missouri River FAS (Mid Canon) : 47.125477, -111.885083
Missouri River FAS (White Bear) : 47.434143, -111.291741
Missouri River FAS (Dunes) : 47.404424, -111.531399
Missouri River FAS (Dearborn) : 47.125849, -111.907353
Missouri River FAS (Prewett Creek) : 47.171286, -111.827038
Missouri River FAS (Stickney Creek) : 47.116249, -111.945760
Missouri River FAS (Hardy Bridge) : 47.168162, -111.835316
Missouri River FAS (Wolf Creek Bridge) : 47.019826, -112.011110
Missouri River FAS (Wing Dam) : 47.295247, -111.677645
Missouri River FAS (Widow Coulee) : 47.627845, -111.031870
Missouri River FAS (Ulm Bridge) : 47.429904, -111.498978
Missouri River FAS (Lone Tree) : 47.055695, -111.965334
Rock Creek FAS (Water Birch) : 45.314755, -109.191966
Rock Creek FAS (Beaver Lodge) : 45.264728, -109.219501
Rock Creek FAS (Bull Springs) : 45.278497, -109.209588
Rock Creek FAS (Horsethief Station) : 45.237396, -109.231797
Rock Creek FAS (Gillies Bridge) : 46.330255, -113.536235
Rock Creek FAS (@ Tamarack Creek) : 46.671662, -113.671865
Ruby River FAS (Silver Springs Bridge) : 45.411825, -112.205841
Ruby River FAS (Alder Bridge) : 45.319624, -112.117202
Ruby River FAS (Ruby Dam) : 45.241692, -112.109822
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distance: 340.1 miles
Missouri River FAS (Snowden Bridge)
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distance: 338.6 miles
Yellowstone River FAS (Diamond Willow)
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distance: 336.6 miles
Big Muddy Creek near Antelope MT
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distance: 333 miles
Yellowstone River near Sidney MT
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distance: 332.9 miles
Yellowstone River FAS (Sidney Bridge)
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Get the DIY Fly Fishing App to get driving directions to access points shown on the map above and real-time stream flow conditions.

To make things easier, Montana breaks down its fishing into three main regions. These regions are the central district, western district, and eastern district. Let’s take a closer look at what each region has to offer.

Central District

The central district is made up of a number of rivers. These rivers offer true "back-country" type of fishing as there is nothing else around you other than the trees and the river. This is important to keep in mind because if you’re not crazy about remote locations, this district may not be for you. Be prepared to hike your way to many of the rivers as they aren’t always accessible by car.

The most remote and least frequented rivers tend to be the Sun River, Teton River, and Dearborn River. If you're looking for less of remote feel, head to the Smith or Missouri River. All of these rivers are ideal for trout fishing. A good rule of thumb is that the closer you are to the mountains, the better the fishing will be. This is largely due to the water temperatures, as they are cooler near the mountains, which trout like.

You need to be comfortable with camping and a rustic experience when it comes to lodging. Options include state run campsites, camping on your own in the woods, or camping in your car. Remember, the temperatures get quite cold at night, so come prepared. As far as hotel lodging goes, you can look at Helena and Great Falls.

Western District

This particular region includes both the north and southwest areas of the state. Expect to find more stunning natural scenery and plenty of rivers to explore. When it comes to the northwest, the fishing isn't quite as plentiful. Stick to Kootenai River and Yaak River for the best results when it comes to trout fishing. Both rivers are easily accessible so you won't have problems getting to them. Where the northwest region shines is that there are plenty of accommodations in the towns of Kalispell and Whitefish, and you're close to Glacier National Park.

The southwest is another story altogether as you can find plenty of fabulous trout fishing opportunities. Some of these rivers cross into the central district as well. Consider the Gallatin, Boulder, Madison, Yellowstone, Ruby, Stillwater, and Bighorn rivers just to name a few. Not only are these rivers great for fishing but they also offer stunning scenery opportunities.

Eastern District

Montana offers more than just trout fishing opportunities and the eastern district is a perfect example of this. You won't find any trout here, but instead you can fish for smallmouth bass, catfish, and walleye. The rivers in this region are much warmer, which trout want no part of. This area is easily accessible and you can get to most of the rivers by car. The area is known for its prairie landscape, which is a stark contrast of what you'll find in other areas of the state. If you aren’t into crowds and don’t mind missing out on the trout, then this can be an enjoyable district to visit.

The state has a few international airports, making it easy to get in and out of if you choose to fly. These include Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport, Billings Logan International Airport, and Glacier Park International Airport.

When to Go?

Montana is one of those states that offers year-round fishing opportunities, which means it can really work with your schedule. With that said, the weather from about November until March can be pretty cold and wet, so it may not be the most comfortable time to visit. As well, some times of the year offer much better catch rates.

Where the timing really starts to matter is with the insect hatches. These tend to happen in the early part of the fishing season each year, which means April to about mid-May. This makes for an excellent time to fish.

Another ideal time is from mid-June until early July. You'll get some of the nicest weather of the season, you're pretty much guaranteed good fishing, and the fish tend to be pretty hungry and read to bite. Opt for float fishing during this time period.

If dry fly fishing is what appeals to you, then you'll want to visit in early July right into late July. There are plenty of hatches going on when it comes to aquatic insects.

What You Will Need When You Get There

There are a few things to keep in mind when you are packing your gear for your trip, and much of it depends on where you plan to fish.

Visiting Montana’s Lakes

If you plan on doing lake fishing while in Montana, which offers the chance to catch pike, whitefish, bass, and lake trout, then you'll want to be sure to have fishing boat. It is suggested you avoid paddleboats, rowboats, and canoes. The reason for this is quite simple: the lakes tend to get very windy and most of them are pretty large. A boat that has a motor will save you a whole lot of trouble.

Visiting Montana’s Mountain Regions

The mountain regions are perfect for trout fishing, thanks to the colder waters. With that said, you can better your odds of catching trout using dry flies. If you prefer to use live bait, just be warned that you need to check the regulations of that particular area to see if it is permitted. Morning and night are your best times to fish, giving you the rest of the day to enjoy exploring. Anglers often find that a travel spin outfit or a four-piece fly rod can be beneficial in this area.

The Specifics

When putting together your packing list, you'll want to bring chest waders, a reel that is able to offer a good amount of drag, a floating line, and nine foot rods. As for the weights, six and five are recommended and tend to be quite popular among anglers in the area. You can go ahead and bring your own flies, but you might have better luck buying them locally. This assures that the flies attract the local species of fish.

Montana Fishing Regulations and Licenses

In the state of Montana, the fishing regulations depend on the region in which you're fishing and the time of year. In the western district of the state, you can start to fish from the third Saturday in the month of May all the way until November 30. The central district is open to anglers all year long. The eastern district is also open on a year-round basis.

No matter where you fish in the state, you will need a valid fishing license. In fact, two are required. You'll need the fishing license as well as a conservation license. Be sure to obtain these before you head out onto the water. You can get a license whether you are a resident of the state or not.

The state of Montana offers a great opportunity for those who are new to fly fishing and who might be working within a tight budget. There is no need to hire guides and join tour groups as you can head out on your own and easily find incredible places to fish. Lodging can be as simple as pitching a tent in the woods.

You’ll have the opportunity to enjoy quite solitude as you fish or head to the more popular spots and enjoy spending time with other anglers. It’s a relaxed and laid-back experience that can yield some pretty high catch rates when you come at the right time of year.