Photograph by Barry Beck, Aurora Photos

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A fly-fisherman casts in a side channel of DePuy's Spring Creek in the Paradise Valley of Montana.

Photograph by Barry Beck, Aurora Photos

Fly-Fish the Spring Creeks of Paradise Valley, Montana

See trip details for fly-fish the Paradise Valley spring creeks in Montana, one of 100 best American adventure trips from National Geographic.

According to Montana author Norman Maclean, the only pure way to catch a trout is on a dry fly. After all, in the first lines of his A River Runs Through It, one of MacLean’s characters says that “all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman.” And there is no more religious experience for a dry fly angler than catching big trout on the spring creeks of Montana’s Paradise Valley. These slow, rich, clear waters require great art with a fly rod, but they also pay out the greatest reward—big, fat rainbow and brown trout.

The scenery here is straight out of a Robert Redford movie—crystal waters licked by willows with the crags of the Absaroka Range towering above it all. The three famed spring creeks—Armstrong’s, DePuy’s, and Nelson’s—all have their own quirks. But they are similar in that, even though they are less than 4.5 miles (7.2 kilometers) long, their rich waters produce the big trout perfect for high-calories meals. For the true trout bum, it’s the apex of the sport.

Need to Know: Some experience fly-fishing is best before you take on the holy grail. Yellowstone Angler ( will guide you to all three creeks, starting at $425 per person. You will need a Montana fishing license, and the owners of the creeks recommend guides and reservations.