The Missoula area is a true gem in the fly fishing world with over 400 miles of floatable water within an hour and half drive of town. Four main rivers run near Missoula: the Blackfoot River, Bitterroot River, Clark Fork River and Rock Creek, each having its own character.
Clark Fork River
The Clark Fork River is really two rivers in one. Above Missoula the Clark Fork River is a recovering river from decades of mining waste. It is characterized by gentle meandering flows through willow bottoms. This section is getting better each year and its resiliency is making it a top fishing destination.
Below Missoula and with the increased flows of the Blackfoot River, Bitterroot River, and Rock Creek, the Clark Fork River becomes a big river with its own character. It is known by its pods of wolf pack like trout, big sweeping bends and great dry fly fishing. The rainbows from the lower Clark Fork River are both numerous and large.
BEST TIME TO FISH THE CLARK FORK RIVER:
We enjoy fishing The Clark Fork during two times of the year. The spring fishing on both The Upper and Lower can be great. Hatches of Skwala, march browns, BWO, and midges keep the fish looking up from April 1-high water sometime the second week of May. In the fall we like fishing the lower Clark Fork. In fact we feel the dry fly fishing on the Lower Clark Fork in September and October is some of the best in the state. Blanket hatches of BWO’s and Mahogany’s keep the fish looking up each day like clockwork. These are generally small dries in the size 14-18 range. You will see lots of fish up sipping and making the perfect drift to each fish is a never ending game.
The Bitterroot River headwaters is in the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness and with nearly 90 miles of fishable water between Darby and Missoula, the Bitterroot is globally known as a premier dry fly river. Hatches start in March with the famed Skwala hatch and continue through October. Great numbers of rainbows, cuts and browns are always more than happy to snag a dry from the surface. The meandering character of gravel riffles, pools and log jams is easily fished both from a boat and wading.
BEST TIME TO FISH THE BITTERROOT RIVER:
We like fishing the Bitterroot river during the early spring of March 1-April 30. Because the Bitterroot is lower in elevation then many of the other rivers in the state it is the first to wake up in spring and provide great dry fly fishing. The Root’s signature hatch is the skwala stone fly and happens usually the middle of March till the middle of April. Throw in Blue Winged Olives, March Browns and a variety of other stone flies and the Root is a spring dry fly fisherman’s dream.
The Blackfoot River was the inspiration for and made famous by the book and movie “A River Runs through It” and has had a metamorphose in the last 15 years. Its deep emerald pools, steep gradient, and boulder strewn riffles are the perfect habitat for a healthy trout population. The Blackfoot River is a very forgiving river to fly fish and trout regularly take big fluffy dries even during the heat of summer. The Blackkfoot River also has tremendous streamer fishing in the spring and fall. The Blackfoot River is easily wadable after the spring runoff and floatable all season.
BEST TIME TO FISH THE BLACKFOOT RIVER:
We like to fish the Blackfoot river either in April and again late June early July. In April the river is waking up and nymphing is out of this world. Also, the fish are on the feed after a cold winter and streamer fishing this time of year produces some really large fish. The Blackfoot holds a good number of monster brown and bull trout and April is the time to go after them.
In June and early July the Blackfoot experiences a great Salmon Fly and Golden Stone hatch. If you like floating and throwing large bush dry flies this is the time for you. Mix in other hatches of yellow sallies, green drakes and PMD’s and the dry fly fishing is out of this world.
Rock Creek is western Montana’s only “Blue Ribbon Trout Stream”. Its intimate character, enormous trout population and great access make this a wade fisherman’s paradise. Fly fishing starts in April with the Skwala hatch and barring the peak of high water is fishable right till November. Fly fisherman can expect good hatches, easily readable water, and eager trout. Keep your eyes on the mountains as big horn sheep, moose and elk are frequently visible from the rivers edge.
Base of Operations:
When in the Missoula area we like to base our operations out of the city of Missoula. Missoula is a large city by Montana standards and has all the great lodging and eating that you would expect in any city. It is also home to The University of Montana and being a college town it is infused with lots of culture that is not found in the rest of Montana. It is the perfect vacation town for the entire family. We have several great lodging options in and around Missoula to satisfy and trip.
If flying in from out of state to fish with us in the Missoula area please fly directly into the Missoula, Montana Airport. We can pick you up at the airport if needed.