Fish what may be the West’s most famous rivers on a road trip framed by the snowy peaks and cowboy towns of the Rockies. The names alone make you drool: The Henry’s Fork, the Madison, the Big Hole, the Yellowstone, and the Bighorn offer an ideal blend of Western freestone and tailwater rivers. Every trout fisherman should make this trip at least once in his life. The Route Start in Idaho Falls and hit the Henry’s Fork. Then head north to the Madison in Ennis and west to the Big Hole near Twin Bridges. Hit Interstate 90 and move east to the Yellowstone near Livingston, then down to Fort Smith and the Bighorn. The Fishing The Henry’s Fork is difficult, but its energetic rainbows-especially in the Harriman Ranch section-are worth it. Hit the salmonfly hatch on the shallow riffles of the Madison in late June. You’ll find one of the best populations of grayling left in the country at the Big Hole. The majestic Yellowstone River is eaten up with browns, rainbows, and cutthroats. And with some 8,000 trout per mile, the Bighorn may be the most productive trout river in the world. Get up early and launch a driftboat or a canoe near Yellowtail Dam. Local Color Be sure to pick up some of RenÂ¿Â¿ Harrop’s exquisitely tied flies at Trouthunter on the Henry’s Fork (208-558-9900; www.trouthunt.com). Tour the Winston Rod Co. in Twin Bridges (406-684-5674; www.winstonrods.com). Check out the whoppers of yesteryear on the wall-of-fame at Dan Bailey’s in Livingston (800-356-4052; www.dan-bailey.com). On the way to Fort Smith, stop at the Little Bighorn National Battlefield (406-638-2621; www.nps.gov/libi). Insider Tips Wade the Madison for a more intimate experience, but get a guide on the Yellowstone (Yellowstone Angler, 406-222-7130; www.yellowstoneangler.com) and float the Bighorn. Stay flexible: Water levels, thus fishing, can change quickly on the freestone streams (Madison, Big Hole, and Yellowstone). Where to Stay and Eat Trouthunter has a new lodge and a bar and grill. Camp and cook on the Madison near Ennis, or get a steak at Chatham’s Livingston Bar and Grill (406-222-7909).
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West's most famous rivers