Fly Fishing Montana

Fly Fishing Montana

Thinking about putting Montana on your fly fishing bucket list? If not, you should immediately. Montana is one of the worlds most spectacular and pristine fly-fishing destinations.

Montana boasts of some of the best fly fishing rivers in the United States, from Blackfoot River to Yellowstone River among many others.

If you’re heading to (or in) Montana, be sure to check some of these prime fly fishing waters:

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13 Best Places To Fly Fish in Montana

1. Yellowstone River

Yellowstone River

Yellowstone is endowed with immense potential. You can fly fish in this fantastic river for the longest time and still won’t exhaust what this river has to offer. As the longest undammed (and one of the healthiest rivers in the US) the Yellowstone River is a big brown trout, rainbow and cutthroat paradise. You can start your fishing expeditions from the headwaters in the Yellowstone National Park and go all the way to the waters near Big Timber.

The best way to go fishing around the Yellowstone river is float fishing. However, walking and wading can get you some good fish too. The further you head downriver, the more the brown trout numbers decline with rainbows becoming more common. If you want to catch you some cutthroat, better start fishing at the rivers in Gardiner. The best time to fish Yellowstone river is from July through October.

2. The Madison River

Madison River

 

The Madison River is probably one of the most revered rivers in the whole of Montana when it comes to fly-fishing. If you want to get your best catch, it would be best if you took to time to learn the rhythms and the intricacies of these rivers before your fly fish trip. The waters here are dynamic, swift and loaded with huge population of rainbow and wild brown trout. Although it may seem like an uphill task to land your first catch while fly fishing in Montana, it gets easier the more you familiarise yourself with the rivers.

Furthermore, you can find the brown trout and trophy rainbow species around every bend of these rivers in Montana all year round. You can be in time for the annual salmon fly hatch to become a Madison River fly fishing legend. However, make sure you learn about fishing and boating regulations around these parts before heading there [1].

3. Blackfoot River

Blackfoot River

The Blackfoot River is as magical as they come. Its fame is attributed to the book ‘A River Runs Through It’ by Norman Maclean. The Montana river is a pretty textbook boulder river with some mix of whitewater that is filled with browns, cutthroats and rainbows.

Get yourself some attractor dry flies and head over to this Montana picturesque location for the catch of your life. Even though you might be eager to explore the beauty and majesty of the bountiful trout Madison River, make sure that you read the fishing reports to have a better understanding of the fishing seasons [2] and the type of fish you can expect from these rivers in Montana.

4. Hegben Lake

Hebgen Lake

Hegben Lake is one of the special trout fishery regions of Montana, providing a summer and winter habitat for large schools of brown trout and large rainbow trout. These fish species mostly move in and out of the Madison River to spawn. On calm day, Hegben Lake provides you with some great sight fishing for cruising risers.

Depending on what is hatching at the time of fishing, the fish may feed on tricos or callibaetis mayflies. You might want to get yourself a float tube or a pontoon boat to get to the fish. Sometimes the fish get spooky; thus, you might want to bring long leaders as well. It would be best to concentrate around Grayling or Madison arms of the lake since you might find heavy boat traffic in other parts of the lake.

5. The Missouri River

The Missouri River

Located near Craig, the Missouri River is a fine blue ribbon tailwater fishery in Montana with over 5,000 trout per mile. If you are lucky enough, you can even land trout averaging 17-19 inches. For the doubting Thomases, trust me, grab your gear and head over to Missouri River to give it a try.

It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is, Missouri River is a true year-round fly fishing spot for Montana. It is actually one of the few of its kind in big sky country. The best time to fish the Missouri River in Montana is in late September through October or in April, May and June. During this time, you can count on getting great caddisflies and mayflies hatches to keep the trout in the river looking up.

6. The Bighorn River

The BigHorn River

The Bighorn River boasts of great numbers of fish per mile, making it a trout fly fishing fantasy land. Furthermore, there are epic hatches around these parts in Montana which keep the fish just underneath the surface.

Although the fish populations have taken significant hits due to various environmental changes in this region of Montana over the years, the river remains a worthwhile destination for us fly fishermen. Brown trout are the most popular trout species you can expect to find in this region of Montana. So, get your fly fishing gear ready for this and head on down.

7. Rock Creek

Rock Creek

If you’re a wading angler, this is probably the best location for your next fly fishing trip in Montana. The area is not too small and not too big, just the right size of a stream for wading. You can expect lots of stoneflies, Yellow sallies, caddis and salmonfly hatch mostly because of Rock Creek’s tumbling nature. This is why the area attracts anglers not only from Montana but also from all over the world.

The fish predominant species in the upper reaches are rainbow trout and cutthroat. It then slowly transitions towards brown trout as the river slows and widens in the lower catchement.

8. Big Horn River

Big Horn River

The Big Horn River is located south-eastern Montana and it is (again) one of the finest fisheries in Montana and even the whole world. The Big Horn is characteristic with clear waters with over 6,000 fish per mile, with many of these fish species being 20 inches or longer. The Big Horn River is a year-long fishery but the most productive months are July through September. There are plentiful hatches of caddis and morning duns.

The summer in Montana is also a great time for fishing catch large-sized trout. The best flies in the bighorn river are the whitlock red fox squirrel nymph just below the water surface, or most mayfly patterns just above the surface.

Bonus tip: You should focus on the upper 13 miles of this river for the best fishing catches while in Montana.

9. The Big Hole River

The Big Hole River

The Big Hole is a legendary blue ribbon trout stream located southwest Montana near Dillon. The river begins at Skinner Lake in the Beaverhead Mountains and hosts four major trout species. However, Big Hole is especially popular for its giant brown trout. Although the water level of the rivers in these parts of Montana reduces drastically in the summers, there are diverse conditions in different parts of the rivers suitable for fishing. This means that despite the tough conditions, you can still find great fishing spots on The Big Hole River.

The best time to fish big hole river in Montana is in April because of the blue-winged olives and skwala stonefly hatches. This time of year makes for one of the best dry fly fishing trips you’re able to have. Furthermore, you can pass by the Sunrise Fly Shop in Melrose and get yourself the latest reports, fishing guides and flies.

10. Paradise Valley Spring Creeks

Paradise Valley Spring Creeks

Most of the Montana fly fishing destinations in this area are privately owned. Therefore, you can expect fishing here to be a bit pricier than many other locations in Montana. However, you will find the experience in these parts worth the price they of admission.

You can expect heavy hatches of morning duns that will bring almost every fish to the surface. The water here is very rich in nutrients so expect to find large brown and rainbow trout. However, this is not easy fishing. Due to the nature of the rivers, it can be pretty challenging to wade to them, hook and land them.

11. Bitterroot River

Biterroot River

The Bitterroot River is yet another exciting Montana fly fishing destination located towards the southwest. The scenery here is absolutely spectacular and with a plentiful supply of rainbow trout, it’s a must-visit. You may also be lucky to land a brown trout or cutthroat along the way.

The Bitterroot River has outstanding hatches, and if you’re lucky enough to be on the river during a  skwala hatch, you’re going to have fun! The best time to fish the Bitterroot tiver is during the warm months, just around the time for green and brown drakes to hatch. You will it transitions to tricos over the late summer period.

12. Clark Fork River

Clark Fork River

For best dry fly experience during your Montana fly fishing trip, you should head over to Clark Fork River. The best time to visit the Clark Fork River is in June, July, August or during the fall when you will find fish rising all throughout the day. That is why this river is a must-visit destination if you’re planning a Montana fly fishing trip.

13. North Fork of the Flathead River

North Fork of the Flathead River

There are only few rivers in Montana that can offer the scenery, wildlife and remoteness of the North Fork of the Flathead River. The river in Montana runs southward from the Canadian border and offers a great location for adventurous Montana dry fly fishing experience. You can expect to find some of the natives, cutthroats and occasionally a bull trout.

This far north it can be rather cold, which means there are comparatively poor fly hatches. That said, you’ll get smaller cutthroats to rise for a parachute Adams or yellow humpy. The best way to fish the North Fork of the Flathead River is by taking a fishing kayak or tubing from the section between Polebridge and Ford Creek Ranger Station. If you need any help, you can head over to Arends Fly Shop located in Columbia Falls.

FAQ

What is the best time of year to fly fish in Montana?

The best time to fly fish Montana is during Spring. We suggest visiting from around 1st March through November 1st. However, a lot of the rivers in Montana are ideal for year-round fishing.

Where is the best trout fishing in Montana?

All of the rivers mentioned above are great for trout fly fishing in Montana. However, we must recommend a visit to Yellowstone River running through Yellowstone National Park. Make sure you understand the fishing seasons and regulations in Montana [3] before going out for your fly fishing trip.

Conclusion

Rivers in Montana, big sky country, offer some of the best fly fishing destinations in the world. When you get the time, be sure to visit any one of the destinations we mentioned above. You will learn, explore and get to see some of the most incredible fish and Montana scenery. If you liked the post, remember to leave a comment down below. Take care and tight lines!

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References

[1] http://fwp.mt.gov/recreation/regulations/boating/useRestrictionsWaterbody.html

[2] http://fwp.mt.gov/fwpDoc.html?id=42528

[3] http://fwp.mt.gov/fish/regulations/default.html

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