Power boat trips offer the largest trout on any of our trips, on average, and lots of them too. Power boat trips are best from mid-March through early July, even during the spring runoff.
Does the name "Land of the Giants" sound evocative? It should. This short section of the Missouri River is home to the largest trout in the Parks' Fly Shop area of operations. We didn't coin the name, but it's well-earned. The trout population is dominated by rainbow trout. Most rainbows caught here range from 14-20 inches, and many fish will be even bigger. On an average day, even novice clients can expect shots at fish exceeding 20 inches. The best rainbows we encounter in an average season run 24-26 inches. Except during the peak spawn period, these are also rock-solid, fat, powerful fish that will almost make your reel smoke. Brown trout make up 5-10% of the population and are most common in June, July, and late autumn. They average 16-20 inches and true monsters exceeding 12 pounds and 30 inches are possible. In addition to trout, walleye, perch, and kokanee salmon are possible.
Access to this section of river is difficult. There's no boat ramp at the upstream end and the river is constrained by a roadless canyon, so the only boat access is by motoring up from Holter Lake in a boat powered by a jet outboard. Guiding on this water via motorboat requires a US Coast Guard captain's license, which less than 1% of Montana fly fishing guides possess. PFS Head Guide Walter Wiese is one of these guides, and we're VERY EAGER to offer power boat trips on this exceptional piece of water.
Please Note: The combined weight of clients must not exceed 460lbs on power boat trips. Please don't fib about this when booking. Since the "Land of Giants" stretch of Missouri is considered a federally navigable waterway, we are required to remain within our jet boat's Coast Guard limit, which is 685lbs, and your guide weighs 225lbs on a bad day.
Another Note: This stretch of the Missouri River is a long way from Gardiner, too far to make sense as a day trip unless you LOVE windshield time. It's 3hr 15min from our shop. As such, it makes more sense to stay in Livingston (2hr 30min), Bozeman (2hr), or Helena, Wolf Creek, or Craig (less than 30 minutes) to fish this water. Walter does all of our trips at "Land of the Giants" and will meet you either near your lodgings or at the launch, whichever makes the most sense from a logistical standpoint.
Dreadful weather is possible on spring jet boat fishing trips on Montana's Land of Giants, but the trout don't mind and ugly weather keeps fair weather anglers away.
Regardless of time of year, fishing Land of the Giants is different from standard river float trips. The trip begins with a beautiful run upstream from Holter Lake, at the upstream end of the famous Gates of the Mountains. The river enters the southern side of the lake and is often slow and lazy, so much of the time we will anchor and fish a run thoroughly, something that seldom works well on the Yellowstone. In addition, the motor makes it possible to repeatedly run upriver, so even when drift-fishing, we jump upstream several times to hit the best water again and again. In regards to flies and tackle: while the fish are bigger here than anywhere else Parks' Fly Shop guides, most of the flies these big fish like to eat are small, and the fish can be spooky, so you can expect plenty of breakoffs and long, epic fights on light tippets.
Because of the additional expenses involved: the power boat, fuel, and yearly and daily commercial launch fees at "Land of Giants," rates for these trips are higher than for other trips. All trips at "LoG" are full-days, and the rates below are for 1-2 people. 3+ clients requires an additional guide, which will be difficult but perhaps not impossible with substantial notice.
We often see a dozen or more fish per day in this size bracket per day at Land of the Giants, along with some bigger ones, though this one was extra pretty.
The Land of Giants section of the Missouri is at its best from March through early July and again very late in the fall, from mid-October until it gets too cold for you to stand the idea of traveling at 35mph in an open jet boat. From March through the middle of May, trout from Holter Reservoir downstream run up into the river on their spawning runs, increasing fish numbers into the stratosphere, while from mid-May until early July these same fish hang around gorging on the smorgasbord of aquatic food available here. Fishing gets tougher until early October. It can still be good, and crowds actually drop in late summer and early fall rather than increasing as they do elsewhere. Late fall fishing can be phenomenal here, with streamer fishing productive for large brown trout on their spawning runs as well as the more-abundant rainbows gorging on their eggs.
While there's some dry fly fishing in late June and July, the bulk of the fishing is subsurface. In early spring, when the fish are fixated on eggs, nymphing with egg patterns and nymphs that resemble mayflies, midges, or scuds but also push the egg "button" are the top tickets. As the fish begin to shift off eggs, sowbugs, scuds, and BWO and PMD nymphs are better bets, and if the river is high, large San Juan Worms are also excellent choices. By mid-June, PMD nymphs and caddis larvae and pupae are the tickets. They remain the best options until fall, when BWO nymphs take over again. Streamers can work throughout the season and typically produce the largest fish.
Colored-up April male rainbow.
Richard Parks is Montana Outfitter #327. Under his licensure, Parks' Fly Shop is licensed to operate in Yellowstone National Park, Montana waters under general regulations, and the Custer-Gallatin National Forest. Walter J. Wiese is Montana Outfitter #22001. Under his licensure, the shop is licensed to operate on the Madison and Missouri Rivers.
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