Rod and Reel Selection for a Bob Marshall Fishing Trip


by Zach Lazzari | Photo by Ryan McSparran

Backcountry trips limit your options for gear and you must pack wisely. Weight and space are critical on foot. Horse packing leaves a little more room for gear but organization remains important. Consider your species and style of fishing as you decide which rods to bring. Length, weight and line styles are all equally important parts of the equation. Here are a few tips on rod and reel selection for a Bob Marshall fishing trip:

Rod Weight and Length

You could easily settle for an 8 to 9 foot, 5 or 6 weight to cover most trout fishing scenarios. If you plan on fishing smaller tributaries for cutthroat, and primarily light dry flies, choose a lighter 3 to 4 weight rod in lengths under 8 feet. The shorter rod is easier to handle on small streams with tight brush. If your trip will be taking you down to the South Fork of the Flathead and you plan on targeting bull trout or fishing streamers, go with 6 to 7 weight, 9-foot rods. Always choose 4-piece rods for easy transportation in your packs. Hard cases are a necessity to prevent breaking rods on your trip.

Reels and Line Types

Bring one reel for each rod you pack. You can bring extra spools but they are rarely used or necessary. Use weight forward floating lines on your regular trout rods and keep a sink tip for your streamer rod. If you are floating out on the South Fork, keep multiple rods rigged. Packing each day will require more time spent rigging and breaking down rods for travel.

Our Ideal Rod Choices for the Bob Marshall Wilderness:

3 weight with a floating line – The light rod is perfect for small streams and dry flies. It makes even small trout feel big and it can handle a dry-dropper rig if necessary.

5 weight with a floating line – This rod can handle anything. It will cast small and large dry flies, small to medium size streamers and nymph rigs. It works great for boaters, wade fishing and from lake shores. It is light enough to feel good on smaller fish yet has the backbone to land larger fish.

6 weight with a sink tip – Keep this rigged as a dedicated streamer rod with a solid 200-300 grain sink tip. You can go heavier but the 6-weight is nice when an average trout grabs your streamer. It will handle a 20-30 inch bull trout without issue as well.

How Many Rods to Pack

Bring 3 to 4 rods on horse and boat trips. You will have plenty of space and packing a spare is a wise idea. If you happen to break a rod, you can always swap reels and make it work.

For more information on our summer fishing trips in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area, please visit our Summer Trips Page. We offer fully guided horseback expeditions into “The Bob” including trips to the famed South Fork of the Flathead River in search of bull trout. We also offer drop floats on the South Fork. If you have questions or need specific information, call us at 406-932-5687 or send us a message.