I’m getting ready for a fly fishing road trip and am in the process of checking fly lines, leader, and flies to ensure I’m ready.

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If you are a regular here at RiverKeeper Flies, you know we’ve headed to Montana the last few years about now. We’ll occasionally stop in Idaho on the way and last year ventured to Wyoming because of the forest fires in the Madison Valley.

Flooding in the Mountain West has raised rivers higher than expected for this time of year. Yes, I expect runoff in many of the rivers, but unprecedented rain and snowmelt have really increased river flows. I’ve been checking river levels a few times each week to determine when it is best to begin our trip. I was happy to see I’ve added images of river levels to many of my fly fishing road trips for the last couple of years.

One thing I must do before we leave is replace my fly line. I’ve noticed the tip has been sinking. It doesn’t surprise me at all because I’d seen cuts in the loop where the leader is attached with a perfection loop. Have you ever caught a fly in the tree behind you and pulled on the fly line hoping to retrieve your fly and it doesn’t seem it will break? Not a tree? How about getting caught on a piece of wood in the river. It isn’t forgiving either. Pull hard enough and the monofilament will cut your line. I’m pretty sure that’s what happened to me. I’ve just lived with it for quite a while.

So I’ll remove the old line and spool up the Rio Gold Elite on my trusty Winston BiiX 9′ 5 weight. My wife likes the regular Rio Gold. I like the Elite because it’s a little smaller in diameter and the fly line doesn’t stretch as much. Lastly, there’s a color change at the 20′ mark. When I cast, the color change is an indicator of how much line to strip in before I begin my next cast. I’ve found I can cast more efficiently when I pay attention to this mark.

You’ll notice the monofilament leader is also Rio brand. I’ve changed in the last year from their Powerflex to Powerflex Plus. Here are examples of the increase in strength.

Leader strength





6.4 lbs

5.0 lbs

3.5 lbs

Powerflex Plus

7.5 lbs

6.0 lbs

4.0 lbs

Percent stronger




The diameter of each tippet size is exactly the same, so having increased strength is a good thing in my book.

I’ve written about my simple leader system before. I start with a 9′ 5X leader, trim off 12 – 15″ and add around 3′ of 6X. Why? On today’s leaders, the final 20 to 24″ is the same diameter. Trimming 12 – 15″ and adding roughly 3′ of tippet will continue the taper and allow the leader to turn over properly.

I’ve found this works well on my home waters of the Metolius River. I catch more fish with 6X. In Montana, I’ll select a 9′ 3X leader, trim 15″, and add 3′ of 4X. The reason for this system is you always know what your tippet strength is. When you only have 18″ remaining, snip it off at the triple surgeon knot and start over. Trust me, it works.

There are many other leader manufacturers out there. Select your favorite and use the same leader and tippet material. I’d advise not mixing them for the best results.

Now, on to fly selection.

One of the things I do, and I encourage you to do the same, is review previous RiverKeeper Flies posts of the locations I’ve fished. I’ve tried to provide helpful information about where we fished, along with the flies which were successful to us. An easy method of finding them is on my Fly Fishing Road Trips page. Find the water you plan to fish along with the time of year, or close to it.

I choose to fish dry flies these days, so here are a few flies I plan to carry to imitate the major insect hatches I hope to encounter.


I’ll probably add some Iris Caddis in amber and black as well.


I carry other mayfly patterns too, but the flies mentioned above have been successful in previous trips.


I’ve not had good hatches of Salmonflies or Golden Stones where the fish are keyed on them during our trips, but I wouldn’t be without them. Always be prepared for a “plan b”.


For some reason, we’ve had great success with terrestrial fly patterns when there isn’t a hatch. We blind cast these flies and are able to coax a few fish to the surface.


Generally, you’ll find us fishing moving water, but we’ve been know to fish lakes too. Callibaetis usually begin showing themselves in July in the areas we fish. I fish the Pheasant Tail Soft Hackle with a floating line, but allow it to sink a little and slowly strip the fly.

I’ve got a few more days before we hit the road. I’ll be tying a few flies to fill in the holes.

Enjoy…go fish!

(John Kreft is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.)

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One Comment

  1. Good luck on your trip and safe travels. I must say I am a bit jealous. It has been a few years since I have been out that way and I need to get back. Currently headed to your home waters for a week. Should be nice weather and hopefully the fishing is good as well.

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