Why You Should Try Fly Fishing in Montana Even if You’re an Indoorsy Person

Hunker down at one of Montana's many lakes and rivers then head to Billings for brews and fun

By Seattle Mag July 9, 2015


This post is sponsored.

Sponsored by Visit Billings

It’s summer so it’s high time to unwind and experience all the great outdoors has to offer. One of nature’s most relaxing activities is fly fishing. (Author Izaak Walton once referred to the sport as “the contemplative man’s recreation.”)

One of the best states in which to cast a line is Montana, where its many lakes and rivers loaded with trout make ideal spots to while away the hours catching fish. Big Sky Country is just a quick (and often inexpensive) flight away or–if you’ve got time to spare–a very scenic 12-hour drive via Interstate 90.

“There aren’t many activities I love quite as much fly fishing,” says Ashley Gross, who lives in Queen Anne and makes an annual trek to several fly fishing spots in the state with her family. “It’s my ideal opportunity to disconnect and escape into nature. Floating the river, casting my line, catching the perfect rainbow trout on the Yellowstone–it’s just me, the fish and Montana. Our relationship is unlike any other.”

Even if you’re not into camping, hiking or fishing trips, the sheer beauty of mountains, lush forests, wide-open valleys and tranquility makes traveling there and trying out the sport worth it.

When you go, consider treating a locale such as Billings, the largest city in Montana, as your home base and take in all it has to offer. Start off in the wilderness catching fish, then retreat back to civilization for a craft beer tour, a gigantic burger from the Burger Dive and a wild animal-free suite at the Northern Hotel.

Still need convincing? Here are 3 more reasons why you should try fly fishing:

1. Fly fishing is fun even if you don’t know what you’re doing

You don’t have to be a fly fishing expert in order to have a grand experience. Consider booking a trip with a professional guide who will lead you to prime fishing waters and provide education on the ins and outs of the sport. While you’re learning, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the surrounding nature. It’s a great way to unplug and since it’s not competitive, it’s a good time regardless of whether you hook a huge trout or not. Bonus: It also offers the perfect excuse to go shopping for sporting gear.

2. You don’t have to be in great shape to enjoy it

Photo: Mike Cline
There’s a reason fly fishing is called the contemplative sport: It’s meant to be relaxing and calming with a lower intensity that just about anyone can handle. According to the Harvard Medical School Department of Neurobiology’s On the Brain newsletter, the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation and the Outdoor Foundation report that 38 percent of people who hope to take up fly-fishing and other forms of angling say they see fishing as a means to relax and relieve stress. Fly fishing is a “natural stress reliever,” the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation notes, “because fly anglers are surrounded by nature, unplugged from electronics, and distanced from the so-called real world.”

3. You might even discover a new favorite brew

Fish all morning on the Yellowstone River then trek to the nearby city of Billings for a self-guided, walkable tour of its downtown brewery district, which includes six local breweries and two distilleries. The sudsy tour also includes stops along the way at key spots in the city such as the Western Heritage Center–built in 1901 and located in the historic Parmly Billings Memorial Library building–where you can view artifacts and learn more about Billings’ history.

To learn more about fly fishing and Montana, go to For information on Billings, head to


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