Getting to the Smith
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. Check Availability Here. You'll need to fly into Montana the day before your first scheduled river day - arriving in the afternoon.
Here are some flight scenarios in order of preference:
You can fly into Helena and out of Great Falls.
You can fly in and out of Helena.
You can fly in and out of Great Falls.
You may wish to use the airports in Bozeman or Missoula, but this will require additional time and planning, and may require you to rent a car.
White Sulphur Springs
When you arrive, you will be greeted by one of our crew at the airport and we will make the drive to White Sulphur Springs. There will be a room waiting for you at a hotel. The following morning, we will begin our 60-mile journey about 9 am.
On the last day of the trip we usually plan to get off the river between 1 and 3 in the afternoon. Once off the river at the Eden Bridge take-out, we are 1 hour from Great Falls, 2 hours from Helena and about 3 hours from Missoula.
We recommend you make reservations in Great Falls at the Best Western Heritage Inn (406-761-1900), or in Helena by calling the Best Western Premier Great Northern (406-457-5500). Both 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.
There are afternoon flights out of Great Falls, which can get you home the same day that you get off the river. However, most of our guests make reservations to stay overnight in either Helena or Great Falls after their last day on the river, have a nice shower and fly home the following day.
A Typical Day on the Smith
Montana Flyfishing Connection provides a weather proof tent that sleeps two with an extra-long, extra-wide Therma Rest air mattress and comfortable sturdy cot for each guest.
We will transport your personal effects downstream to each camp in a large "dry-bag" and have room on board every day for a smaller day bag. Camp will be set upon your arrival after an awesome day of fishing - with libations waiting and dinner on the grill.
A day on the Smith starts with coffee around the camp fire followed shortly by a healthy, hearty breakfast. Then, as your guides break down camp, you’ll have some time to pack your things, get into waders and get yourself ready for a day on the water.
Then guests pair off with a guide for a day of fishing. Our guides know the river better than anybody and work to keep you having fun on the river whether that means fishing until you're sore or taking it easy and enjoying the beauty of the canyon.
Then, around midday, we typically like to meet up for lunch to take a break and check in. After lunch, it’s back in the boats to fish out to camp which, by the time you arrive, out trusty gear staff will have set up with your tent, appetizers and your favorite beverage waiting for you.
Once everyone is in camp we have dinner at the table, complete with wine paring and followed by dessert. Then, if you’re not ready for bed, we have a fire and sit around telling stories as the sun fades over the canyon walls.
Packing for the Smith
There’s a saying in Montana: If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. What that is meant to suggest are the wild and unpredictable changes in the weather that can having you getting sunburnt in a t-shirt and then five minutes later stuck in the middle of a damn-near biblical rainstorm. So when packing for the Smith you have to come ready for not only five days in camp but for changable and sometimes extreme weather.
Weight and size are important considerations on our trips. Think of your gear in terms of two separate groups. The first group is gear that is packed away on our large cargo boats each day and goes down ahead of the fishing boats to the evening campsite.
This gear should consist of a sleeping bag and one large, soft duffel that contains your clothing and other personal items. We will provide you with a rubberized "dry-bag" to protect this duffel. Hard sided duffels will not go inside the dry-bags (this includes bags like Simms duffels with handles and wheels.)
If you choose to fly with hard sided luggage be prepared to repack into the dry-bag for your time on the river. Your luggage will be waiting for you at the end of the trip.
The second group of gear, which you will have with you on the fishing boat each day, should consist of a small duffel or backpack and your fishing gear. In the small duffel, you'll want to carry such items as your rain gear, a light sweater and jacket, camera, binoculars, sunscreen, and fly-vest. An extra rod is welcome but not necessary since each boat is always equipped with one.
Lightweight chest waders are generally all that are necessary on the Smith. The river is easy to wade, but felt-soled boots are imperative. Most of our guests wet-wade after the 15th of June in a pair of shorts, or lightweight pants and wading shoes. But bring waders just in case we have inclement weather. Studded wading boots (corkers) will not be allowed in the boats.
Regardless of when your trip is booked, long underwear, wool socks, warm hat and gloves should be included in your gear. In fact, don't come without them!
First a few words of wisdom. "Having the right tool for the job" makes any task easier and more enjoyable. The same goes for preparing for a big trip. Start preparing and organizing now!
Your rain jacket and waders are absolutely the most critical gear for your trip. If you have not invested in quality outer gear yet, this is the year to do it. It only takes one day of cold rain in a cheap rain jacket or leaky waders to make you miserable. Simms and Patagonia are both great brands.
Printable list of suggested equipment Printable copy of this planning guide and equipment list
Please purchase your license online before you arrive. This can be done at https://app.mt.gov/als/index/index.html.
To answer my most frequently asked question, the tips that you provide for the staff will be pooled and split equally among the crew. A general rule is 10% to 20% of the cost of the trip, so that usually computes to $400 - $600 per angler. If you feel that one of the staff really went above and beyond for you, of course, you are welcome to address that separately. We can add your tip to your credit card or process checks, but cash is always easiest to divide among the guides.
We are really looking forward to sharing the Smith River with you! Please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions.
Still have Questions? Get in touch.Joe Sowerby