Fly Fishing Montana

The Comprehensive Guide to Guided Fly Fishing Trips

Lots of folks call the shop and inquire about guide services. Many of you who have not had the wonderful opportunity to be guided before, you are in for a trout fishing treat.

Squeeky’s father suggested he write this blog for all those who ask why? “Why would you hire a trout fishing guide if you already know how to fish?” Or, “Don’t you already know how to fly fish? Do you really need a guide?”

What kind of folks hire guides or Why would you hire a fly fishing guide?

All walks of angling life hire fly fishing guides. From the 1st time angler who wants to learn everything from which end of the fly pole to hold to advanced/expert anglers who want to fish to finicky bank sippers with a a sz 24 Trico spinner.

All anglers want to learn, almost all. Enjoying the day with a full time Missouri River Guide will give you the time to not only hook a few, but to learn about casting, entomology, why the bobber is called an indicator or to point out birds, Mink and other streamside wildlife.

Yes, all types of anglers hire fishing guides. Some just want a guide to usher them down the river and row, while others want the full meal deal. Soup to nuts. There are lots of reasons you could hire a fly fishing guide.

What does the Guide Trip Include?

The Missouri River Guide Trip is all inclusive.


All included @ Headhunters Fly Shop & Guide Service. Not all fly shops or guide services include flies. Be sure to ask your Outfitter if this is included. Otherwise you may pay additionally for flies used during the day. Back in the day most of the operations charged for flies. That concept is changing. So if you needed or lost 23 flies during the day the up-charge could be 23 flies X $2.50 equaling $57.50. No, not here at Headhunters. All flies are included in the trip price.

Fly Rods.

Again, most Outfitters and Guides provide gear for the day. We encourage you to bring your favorite gear but it is not imperative. If you like your 8 1/2’ Winston 8’6” IM6, then bring it. If you like your hyper-fast pinpoint precision casting SAGE R8, then bring it. Most guides have top ‘o the line fly rods for your use, pre-rigged and ready to go. Headhunters also has FREE demo rods for you to enjoy or embrace for the day. Many anglers seize the opportunity to try that new Loomis  or the Orvis Helios. Why not have fun and give current fly rod technology a test drive? Again, ask your guide if he has gear for you as many assume you will be bringing your own.

Terminal Tackle.

What does that mean. It means leaders, tippet, split shot, bobbers and the like. All guides will have this. Unless you hire a guide born before fiberglass drift boats became widely used. Not that there is anything wrong with that…


Included with most trips all over Montana. Headhunters yes. The Saltwater Flats Captains generally want you to provide lunch, not the freshwater trout guides of Montana. Headhunters provides a nice high quality delicious sando, snacks like chips, fresh fruit or salad, dessert like a cookie or chocolate, and non-alcoholic beverages. Guides will have a bundle of bottled water, leaded and unleaded sodas, and the like. You will have to provide any alcoholic beverages if you like a beer after lunch. Or some even prefer one before lunch. You are on vacation…

Some guides will have daytime snacks too. This is up to the guide so if you want anything like Beef Jerky, sunflower seeds, peanuts, nicotine products including cigars and snuff, trail mix…bring it for yourself. The guide will have plenty of room to stash any additional snack items. The bottom line is if you want some additional stuff because you get hungry at 10am, then tote it along.


Most bring their own waders in the spring and fall. In the summer months many wade fish and hangout in the boat in flip flops, Crocs, wading sandals. Headhunters has SIMMS waders gratis for all guided clients. Check and see if your outfitter has the proper gear for you.

The advantage of having rods, reels, flies, waders on site you can travel light. Just hop on the jet airplane and begin enjoying your trout fishing vacation. We got your back.

The Comprehensive Guide to Guided Fishing Trips
What kind of day will you have?

You are the Captain!

You design the day. Your guide will commonly ask you what you want to do for the day or if you have something specific in mind. Do you want to Head-Hunt looking for single sippers bankside or nymph up a pile for body count anglers or work on your streamer presentations and streamer casting? It is imperative that you have a few ideas about your goals and convey them to your guide. It is the only way for both of you to have success. This may be the #1 item on your agenda. Think about what you want while booking the fishing trip and let the booking individual in on this secret.

You could say something like “I am a dry fly fanatic. I just want to hunt heads.” Or you may say “I’ll gladly nymph until the hatch, then I would like to find a few rising fish.” Or, “I’ll leave the dry flies to those other guys, I just want to pound the banks with a streamer!”

Questions you can ask while booking a fly fishing guide include…

Is the guide local and does he fish this river often? Will my guide travel to meet me and what rivers will we be fishing? An analogy would be if you were to host a Chinese Party at your house with Chinese decorations, theme, and Chinese Food…wouldn’t you hire a Chinese Chef? Sure you would. You would probably not hire a French Chef for this task. While the French Chef is probably familiar with Chinese Cuisine, it is not his specialty. Chinese Chefs cook better Chinese Fare. The French Chef could probably pull it off…but is that what you want in your Chef? In your fishing guide?

Headhunters Guides fish the Missouri River, the Blackfoot River, and the Dearborn River. Exclusively. If you are looking for a Madison River Guide, you would not hire a Missouri River Guide. In situations like this we will refer you to a Madison River Expert. A guide who works on the Madison would be abetter bet for your success.  And conversely if you are wanting a Missouri River Guide, you would not…

How long is the day?

8 hours is pretty common. That might mean 8 hrs fishing with the other two hours getting ready, rigging rods, meeting you at your rental house. Some  guides go longer than the 8hr mark. If the fishing is damn good, guides want to go longer and enjoy the fantastic bite. If the fishing is shitty and you have several guided days in a row, he may suggest a shorter day making up the difference when the bite is red hot. Remember that most guides work many, many days in a row. To be great and excited for every day, many recognize that stringing several long days on the water will decrease the attitude and mood of said guide. Keeping the day closer to the 8hr mark will insure that each day is great!

Guides will want to meet you at a time that will provide you the best opportunity for your fishing desires. If you like to hunt heads, he may want to get out before the rest of the gang. So early may be the right time. If you want to fish the evening hatch, he may want to meet you at High Noon. If you are fishing a half-day he may want to meet you at 9am and fish ’til afternoon encompassing the meat of the bite, spinner fall, streamer session. He has your back and will set the meeting time accordingly.

He/she is a fishing guide, guide-like…not god-like.

Having said that you can dictate the meeting time. If you like to sleep in tip 9am, have breakfast while reading the newspaper, and leisurely wander in at 10:30am…well you can. Just don’t ask your guide to promise you the best dry fly bite, the best of whatever you may want. He/she is a fishing guide, guide-like…not god-like. Mother Nature conducts the bug choir and the guide plays second fiddle to that part of that equation.

Mid-summer in Montana presents some interesting hot weather and some guides will offer split days. Late July temps can exceed 100F so the Guide to keep you and he comfortable and to offer fishing services during the most productive times of the day may want to meet you at O’Dark Thirty, or 5am and fish until 11am. Then meet you again at 6-7pm and fish ’til dark. This is a mid-summer operation.

Ben Hardy HH Lead Guide and his dog Reva

Can I bring my Dog?

Ask your guide. Some say yes, some say no.

Well, the drift boat that most guides use has two seats for anglers. Some folks want to bring 3 people on the boat, with the guide making four passengers. This rarely works. Ask your guide and do not be surprised if he declines the opportunity to guide 3 at a time. Rivers like the Bighorn in SE Montana operate this way, but not may other rivers. Some steelhead Guides want 3 anglers. But it is not as common as the two angler situation. The drift boat is built for two anglers.

The reason is that there is not a seat for that 3rd angler. The 3rd anger has to sit on the cooler, crowding either the angler in front, or the guide. It usually compromises the entire day. The boat is not designed for 3. Think about 3 anglers casting at the same time. A mess! So, only two can fish at one time unless you go to a spot and get out and wade fish. Which is just fine unless you like to drift fish. Nymphing is a game that on our river, the Missouri, the drifting game is an effective and efficient method!

Ask Questions during the day!

Don’t be afraid to ask your guide to teach you something. Or if you want to learn about a reach cast, or why he moved the indicator for that last run. Or why he added more split shot or removed it completely. Why he passed the last 17 rising fish and stopped at this particular rising trout? He will be glad to let you in on his thinking, on his reasoning, in his trout fishing mind.

When should I come?

Ask the Headhunters booking expert, or your outfitter the best time for you to come. The answer is different for different guests. You may not want to come in late July or Early August as the dry fly fishing becomes more difficult. Those fish are educated. That time frame is for those who like difficult sippers. But it is good timing for those who want to toss grasshoppers for big Brown Trout. You may not catch 10 of them, but you may get a couple big ones?

May, may be the time for you if you like un-educated trout eating Blue Winged Olives and Midge. June is crowded. The first half of July is damn busy. September is for nymphers with not many fish to toss the dry at. October is great for BWO’s in the afternoon with the nymphing filling the morning session. Fall is good for streamer fishing with the spring being even better! Ask anyone at the shop for a detailed itemization of hatch schedules, nymphing and streamer fishing seasons.

What is not included in my Guide Trip?

Fishing License.

You should provide your fishing license to your guide, outfitter, or booking agent as they will need some information from your fishing license for the Governor. No, they are not stealing your identity.


A common tip is $100. Some tip as much as $200. A tip is a tip. Guide appreciate any dollar amount. Inviting your guide to dinner does not constitute a tip. He or she has another trip in the morning and needs to finish up today’s work and prep for tomorrow. Or, he needs to spend some time belly’d up to the bar finishing up the days work prepping for tomorrow.

Alcoholic Beverages. BYOB.

Will my guide show me wade fishing spots?

Sure. The best way to insure guide trip success is for you to ask questions and communicate constantly with your guide. He cannot read your mind. He is not god-like. He may be able to whisper some fish, but he cannot guess what you want or need from your guided fishing trip.

The Comprehensive FGuide to Guided Fishing TripsWhat should I bring on my guide trip?

Anything you want. Bring your favorite fly rod. That is why you have it. To fish world class water with your favorite tool. Water Bottle. Sunglasses. All the clothing you think you need including raingear. It can rain in the summer too. Maybe for just 12 minutes, a 12 minute downpour. Hats, sunscreen, anything you like to have while trout fishing. The drift boats have plenty of storage. Just be comfortable.

Enjoy the Day!

The bottom line is just this…you get to dictate how the day goes. You need to communicate effectively with your fly fishing guide. You will design the day together, as you go. It is just that simple.

Lots of people take their first guide trip every year. Usually not their last. Some anglers like to fish with a guide for a couple days, rent a boat for a couple days, and wade fish a couple days. And then there are those who spend the whole week getting guided. It is totally up to you!

Guide Trips, Guides, Headhunters Guides, How to, The Comprehensive Guide to Guided Fishing Trips
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  • wayne e clayton
    February 8, 2024 6:10 am

    Great advice

  • Thanks for the write up, it’s hard to get good clients.

  • Do you have any openings this spring.


  • Terry Armstrong
    February 8, 2024 6:00 pm

    You might want to add that the best way to teach you wife, or other family member is to hire a guide to do the teaching while you sit in the back of the boat and fish. Most of my guided fishing has been to teach my wife and learn how to deal with her while fishing without a guide. I also have hired a guide when fishing rivers I am not familiar with for a day or two then spent the rest of my trip fishing on my own. This has greatly increased my enjoyment and safety.

  • I am not ashamed to say that literally everything worth knowing that I know about fly fishing I learned from a guide. If you are a willing student, it is like playing basketball with Michael Jordan. Ask a lot of questions and soak up the knowledge and the instruction.

  • My guides have all BEEN god-like. I’ve always had great days in the water out of your shop.

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