Just be sure to bring your skis, too.
Montana winters are long, but as anglers we need to cherish the season of white because winter snow means good summer streamflows. If you’re looking for the best of both worlds, here are our favorite Montana winter fishing and skiing locales. To avoid any throw-downs, the listing is alphabetical.
Anaconda. Someone had to be listed first besides Big Sky. Nestled at the base of the Pintlar Range and a little over a half hour from Discovery Basin, this town is a cast-and-carve sleeper. The Clark Fork gets its start near here and the winter fishing on the river near Anaconda is consistent and good for some big brown trout. Rent is cheap in this town. Skiing is surprisingly good. If you love shrimp cocktail and large cuts of beef with real horseradish, this historic place is for you.
Big Sky. Since the ‘70s this is Montana’s largest resort-centered mountain town. Skiing here is massive and lift-lines don’t exist. Nothing about this town is off the radar, but there are few places on earth where you can ski fresh powder in the morning, cast to rising trout on the Gallatin River in the afternoon, and eat great Pad Thai in the evening. The Big Sky trifecta:ski, fish, eat.
Bozeman. The world knows of Bozeman’s great fishing. The skiing at nearby Bridger Bowl and it’s “Ridge” is world class. Bozeman rents are do-able on a Top Ramen budget and the fishing is close by so what you save on gas can go to fend off scurvy.
Missoula. The largest town in the listing. Small freestones and large freestones, and the potential for skwala dry fly fishing in March. Snowbowl is your ski area. Snowbowl is no Whitefish Mountain Resort or Big Sky, but once you’ve had a few drinks at Al and Vick’s you’ll forget all about those other mountains.
Red Lodge. Off the radar indeed, but it shouldn’t be. Beer is great at the Red Lodge Brewery. Fishing, if you’re willing to drive to the Bighorn River, is the best winter fishing in all of Montana. Skiing at Red Lodge Mountain is budget in many ways, but, you’ll certainly have money left in the tank in April to visit your mom or even chase a few tarpon.
Whitefish. Winter fly fishing here is not great, in fact, it’s mostly an ice fishing game. But the town of Whitefish and Whitefish Mountain Resort, the ski resort formerly known as Big Mountain, is a favorite of many long-time Montanans. Despite the lack of winter fishing, the food and drink scene allow you to party like its 1999.