It is hard for a lot of anglers to know what to bring and how to store it on their Montana fly fishing trip. Some folks bring too much while others show up with too little. If we boil it down to the essentials there are 3 things you never want to be on the river in Montana; cold, wet, or burned. I always carry quality rain gear, an extra jacket, and sunscreen whether it is March 1st or August 15th. What you bring on your fishing trip is important, but how you bring it is not to be overlooked either. A dry bag is the best way to carry your gear. Fishing out of a drift boat typically affords plenty of dry storage but if you find yourself in a raft there may not be any dry storage at all. Having your own dry bag will ensure your gear stays safe, and it keeps all your stuff in one place so you don’t forget a jacket or camera in your guide’s boat at the end of the day. I really like the Sea to Summit dry bags because they are so light weight.
So what exactly should you bring on your Montana flyfishing trip? I have two basic set-ups, one for the spring/fall seasons and one for summer. During spring and fall we are typically wearing waders and try to layer appropiately for the weather forecast. My dry bag during those seasons holds a warm hat, heavy rain jacket, packable jacket like a Patogonia Nano Puff, sunscreen, Buff, and at least one pair of fingerless gloves but usually two pairs. The key is staying warm and dry and this gear will do just that in virtually any conditions.
During summer the essential gear list changes a little, but not much. You will likely wet wade during a summer Montana Fly fishing trip so you will trade the waders for good water sandals. It is still important to make sure you stay warm and dry so a quality lightweight rainjacket and rain pants are a must along with a packable jacket. I have seen a hot 85 degree day turn sketchy when a thunderstorm rolled in with heavy rain, wind, and a 20 degree temp. drop. If you’re not prepared for that then a great day on the river can turn miserable in heartbeat. Of course, sunscreen is a must and a Buff or similar sunshade will keep the sun off your neck and face. These are just the essentials to keep you safe and comfortable on the river, but your dry bag can also hold your camera, wallet, and smart phone all in one place. Just remember it is better to have something with you and not need it than need it and not have it with you.