Smith River, Montana, Fly Fishing with Lewis & Clark Expeditions

Fishing the Smith River

Is there a more scenic enticing place in the state of Montana to cast a fly line? No. Now, how to fish the Smith.

  1. The most important thing is to have a good guide. We have good guides. Guides are the short cut to success. They know the Smith and the techniques you need to catch fish.
  1. Do what the water dictates. This means several things but listen and watch the river. If you don’t see insects on the water; nor, do you see any feeding fish the odds are that dry fly fishing is not going to be productive. This doesn’t mean a large attractor or some sort of terrestrial like a grasshopper, ant or beetle imitation will not work but it hints at that possibility of another approach. Be open to nymph fishing and casting streamers. The river is saying, “The trout are underneath the surface.”
  1. Spring on the Smith is the combination of high, discolored water along with periods of clearing waters. The high water comes from runoff that occurs at different elevations. You can be fishing the Smith in 70 degree weather in May using dry flies and 24 hours later the river is high and discolored. Discolored water leads to San Juan Worms (although a San Juan Worm is good anytime and anyplace) it also leads to fishing with solid dark patterns for nymphs and streamers as trout will distinguish a solid shape quicker.
  1. All trout rivers fish better as they are clearing and the water starts to recede than when rivers rise quickly. This is an absolute. Las Vegas would phrase it this way: fishing rivers as they clear 2-1 advantage fishermen. Rivers going up, trout have a 6-5 advantage.
  1. The Smith River is a free stone stream with a very healthy stonefly population.   Salmon flies emerge around Memorial Day with Golden Stoneflies more prolific emerging June 15 through the first week of July. There is also a healthy caddis hatch on Mother’s Day, followed by PMD’s in late June and a hit and miss Green Drake Hatch. We also have years where Cicadas really take over the river.
  1. The best and most productive dry fly fishing days have clouds associated with them. Trout are nervous and wary with direct sunlight but give them a few clouds and the advantage can again move in favor of the angler.
  1. Fishing the Smith is for anyone that wants to have fun. The better the angler the more productive they are going to be. There is direct correlation between how well someone can manage their fly line and how many fish they can catch. Managing fly line means using the right amount of fly line to cast, normally, less is best. Anglers need to be able to either mend the line in the air or on the water to set up drag free drifts. When the moment of truth arrives (when the fish hits the fly) a better managed fly line results with more trout.
  1. Equipment. Entry-level fly rods and reels these days are excellent. High-end rods and reels are really excellent. I favor an Orvis Helios 2 nine foot, five or six weight. I know fly rods are inanimate objects but the Helios 2 when I am fishing courses right through my body when I am casting, setting the hook and playing a fish. The rod is the conduit to the fish and me, which becomes something more than fishing. The connection with a trout approaches the divine.