Southwestern Montana's Premier Fly Fishing Guide Service

What Is The Difference Between A Float Trip And A Wade Trip

Monday, November 30, 2020

Located here in Southwestern Montana we have many blue ribbon rivers and streams to choose to fly fish. Bozeman, Montana is centrally located between the Yellowstone, Madison and Gallatin Rivers to name a few. These famous rivers are well known for their high trout population and world class fly fishing. When people ask whether they should get a guide for a Montana fly fishing float trip or wade trip we need to dig deeper to see what would work best for each individual or group.

There are many pro’s and con’s on whether to book a fly fishing float trip or a wade trip. When deciding on which trip best suits you, keep a few things in mind. What time of year are you booking for? What kind of physical shape are you in? Is your fly fishing partner wanting the same type of experience? What are the most important aspects of the trip for you?

Pros and cons of both wade vs. float guided fly fishing trips we offer

Pros of a float trip:

  • The guide will always be near by you.
  • The guide can keep you the proper distance from your target based on your casting ability.
  • You usually don’t have to worry about catching anything in your backcast.
  • You cover miles of river seeing varying scenery.
  • Very comfortable fishing. Don’t have to worry about your footing or fighting the currents.
  • Lot’s of room for extra gear if needed.
  • You can wade some if water conditions allow.
  • If you have any mobility challenges, a float trip is a great way to fish our area.
  • You can easily get nice long drifts over likely areas over hungry trout.

Cons of a float trip:

  • You basically get one shot at a likely area, as you are moving downstream with the current.
  • Fly Fishing within close proximity of your fishing partner.
  • Rivers may be busier than wading a small stream.
  • May not explore skinny water or side channels do to limitations of the boat.
  • May have to share the water with your boat partner.

Pros of a wade trip:

  • Some people feel a deeper connection with fly fishing by wading in a river or stream.
  • You get to fly fish more thoroughly and carefully in likely areas.
  • Usually less angler traffic vs. float angling.
  • Can be a more relaxed, slower paced.
  • Can fish smaller rivers and streams.

Cons of a wade trip:

  • Do not cover as much water.
  • Have to be concerned about catching obstructions in your back cast.
  • May be more strenuous, finding sure footing and fighting the current all day.
  • Guide may be unavailable, helping your fishing partner in another area.
  • Must be organized and bring just the essentials.
  • May limit where you can fly fish. For example, the Yellowstone River is best fly fished from a boat due to volume of water and lack of public access.


In my 25 years of guiding fly fishermen in Montana, the ratio of wade trips vs. float trips is 90% float trips and 10% wade trips a season. Many of our clientele find it easier to fly fish from a boat. Clients new to fly fishing only need to be able to make a short cast and let the guide put them in proper position, older clients find it safer to fish from a boat and not worry about negotiating the stream bed and currents. Personally, I enjoy float trips more as I feel that I am on the same team for the clients. I am constantly coaching them, readily available to change flies or undo tangles. When a fish is hooked, I have to do my part controlling the boat and netting the trout. When wading, I still coach up my clients, but it is less about what I do and everything about how the client handles the situation. I also feel that while guiding one on one is valuable, having two clients spread out in an area has me running back and forth trying to split my time as fairly as possible. If one client is less skilled than another, he/she will demand more of my time, leaving the other client to fish more on their own.

Please contact us to see what kind of trip we can offer you. Some clients enjoy fly fishing both from the boat and the banks. Later in the season, once the water levels drop we can offer a shorter float trip with some wading mixed in. Many gravel bars are exposed and spending a little time fly fishing a side channel or thoroughly working a mid stream riffle can be very productive, satisfying both options. Whichever technique you prefer, give us a call and we can answer any questions with all the information for your Montana fly fishing guide trip.

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