Visitors to Montana have some important choices to make as to where to fly in and stay for their fishing trips. It's a big state, so planning is important to maximize time spent on the river. It takes between 6 and 7 hours to drive between Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park, and there are many lifetimes of sights to see and waters to fish in between.
A vibrant college town located in Southwestern Montana, Bozeman is a major destination for visiting anglers. Bozeman's airport has more flights and destinations than any other in Montana, so it is an excellent hub for anglers. It is also located in close proximity to world class fishing as well as Yellowstone National Park, making it a great place to base out of. The Gallatin River and East Gallatin River are 10 minutes away, and you can be on the Yellowstone or Lower Madison within a half hour. An hours drive gives access to many more excellent fisheries including the Boulder, Upper Madison, Jefferson and numerous smaller streams. Bozeman is the closest airport to fabled fishing towns like Ennis, Livingston, and West Yellowstone. Yellowstone National Park is about 90 minutes away, making Bozeman a good jumping off point for fishing and exploring the park.
Montana's largest city, Billings can be used as a hub for anglers headed for the Bighorn River, Stillwater River, or Yellowstone National Park. With the closest fishing an hour away, Billings does not make a good base for anglers, just a spot to fly in and out. Billings is the closest airport to the Bighorn (90 minutes) and Stillwater (60 minutes). It is about 90 minutes from Billings to the town of Red Lodge, MT which is the gateway to the Beartooth Mountains and the starting point of the famous Beartooth Highway, which covers 60 miles of breathtaking alpine scenery on its way to Cooke City and the northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park.
A historic mining town, Butte was once known as "The Richest Hill on Earth". Although not a major destination for anglers, Butte does have a commercial airport and could be used by anglers headed to the Beaverhead or Big Hole Rivers. It's just under an hour from Butte to both Twin Bridges and Dillon, which are good places to for anglers to stay. This saves about an hour of driving compared to Bozeman, but Bozeman's airport has many more options for flights.
Like Bozeman, Missoula is a college town that is both a good place to fly into and base a fishing trip out of. Located along the banks of the Clark Fork River in Western Montana, Missoula also offers easy access to the Bitterroot, Blackfoot, and Rock Creek within a half hour to hours drive. Glacier National Park is about 2.5 hours to the north, and the mountains around Missoula feature numerous small streams and lakes.
Montana's capital city, Helena is a good choice for anglers planning to fish the Missouri River or are headed to the Smith River. It is about 30 minutes from Helena to the town of Wolf Creek and Holter Dam, which gives rise to the Missouri River tailwater and excellent fishing. It's just under 2 hours from Helena to the fairly remote put in for the Smith River wilderness float, a bit closer than from Bozeman.
Located in Northwestern Montana, Kalispell is the hub of the Glacier National Park region. The park itself is about 45 minutes north of town, as are the 3 forks of the Flathead River. The main Flathead flows right through town, and Flathead Lake lies just to the south. Other major rivers within striking distance of Kalispell include the Thompson, Swan, and Kootenai. This is also major lake country, with hundreds of nearby lakes of all sizes.
Although not a major tourist hub or destination, Great Falls is one of Montana's largest cities and it has a commercial airport. From Great Falls it is approximately 45 minutes to the Missouri River, 2 hours to the Smith River, and 2 hours to the east side of Glacier National Park.