One of the prettiest freestone rivers in the West is so popular with boaters that you need to win a lottery to float it. In 2015, more than 8,000 people applied for just 1,175 permits. There’s good reason: for 60 miles in Central Montana, from Camp Baker to Eden Bridge, the Smith cuts through an inaccessible swath of sage land and canyons — and every mile offers prime trout fishing. The best time for the four-day float is in June, when the weather is a more reliably sunny, the high water has subsided, and the caddis are hatching. The river offers healthy populations of brown and rainbow trout that average 14 to 16 inches and rise willingly to a dry fly. Catching them beneath towering 200-foot limestone cliffs is the icing on the cake. If you’re unlucky in drawing a permit, you can still float the river with a licensed guide service, like PRO Outfitters (four days, five nights for $4,150).
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