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Montana is full of rivers. Thousands of miles of rivers snake their way across all corners of the state. And in these rivers can be found some of the finest fly fishing for trout anywhere.
Yet, for better or for worse, many of the rivers in Montana are not especially friendly to wade fishermen. Either the river is inaccessible, too wide, too deep and the list goes on
Because of this, anglers in search of trout and fishing holes that aren't over-run with heavy use, frequently must resort to floating the rivers in Montana. And for the solo angler, few boats match the versatility and cost of a pontoon boat. Pontoon boats provide the solo angler an easy, and affordable, method to fish mile after mile of river in Montana (or elsewhere, for the matter).
In short, if you need a dedicated (note the emphasis on dedicated) boat for fly fishing, you'll have a hard time finding a better boat for fishing than a pontoon boat.
To help anglers visiting Montana who need a boat to hit the water, this section on Big Sky Fishing has been prepared. Hopefully by the time you are done wading through the information you'll have a good idea about what boat you want to get, how to use it and where to get it.
There are, in essence, four different types of pontoon boats available that an angler can purchase. While the looks of the boats and features on the boats can vary remarkably among manufacturers, all the boats in the end can be broken down into four types. Each type of pontoon boat has a particular use. Because of this, before running out and getting the first pontoon boat you see, an angler needs to give careful thought to exactly what kind of fly fishing they will be doing and where they will be doing it.
This is by far the most common of pontoon boats availble. These boats generally have a weight capacity of between 250-400 pounds. The prices among these types of boats will vary remarkably, depending on the features the pontoon boat has. Yet, in the end, the boats all do the same thing - provide a floating platform for fly fishing.
These pontoon boats, which are far more expensive, have been designed to accommodate two or more people instead of one. Because of this, the boats are VERY large, and very heavy. Once you assemble these boats, you will be very leery about taking them apart except for over-the-winter storage. Due to their size and weight, an angler really needs a trailer to cart these pontoon boats around.
OK. This term may be a bit misleading. All pontoon boats are packable. However, by packable, I mean packable by a person on their back - in a backpack. This style of pontoon boat a few years ago was almost impossible to find. However, advances in technology and increased demand for these small, quick to assemble pontoon boats have led manufacturers to create many more styles recently. In terms of versatility, these little pontoon boats are tough to beat as they pack into a small bag, allowing you to take these boats into backcountry lakes. However, if you primarily fish on larger rivers, they may not be the ideal choice.
A Kick Boat is not a true pontoon boat, but isn't a true float tube either. As people who might be interested in a kick boat generally are the ones interested in a pontoon boat, I've included it here. In essence, a kick boat consists of two inflatable pontoon boats. The angler sits in between these pontoons, with their legs in the water. The angler moves the boat around by kicking - not paddling. The advantages of a kick boat are packability and light weight (these boats can easily be packed into remote areas). The disadvantage is that they can be physically tiring and can cause the angler to bash their legs into underwater obstructions in shallower water. Additionally, these boats are best used on rivers that have a steady current - not a super fast one nor on a river that has no current (where significant kicking would be required to move the boat).