Montana Destination Fly Fishing
From The Tackle Shop we venture out across the state to fly fish the best trout fishing waters of Montana at their prime. Join us and see some of the best Montana has to offer!
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.
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.
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. Fly fishing on the Blackfoot River generally begins in June with the salmon fly hatch and ends in October. 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 Balckfoot 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.
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.
The Missouri River below Holter Dam has been called the world's largest spring creek for good reason. Holter Dam releases consistent flows from the bottom of the lake year round creating an environment of ideal trout habitat. Missouri River trout are big, strong, well fed and numerous. The fish numbers and size from Holter to Cascade are just amazing. The Missouri River boasts prolific aquatic vegetation and insect life which in turn feed all the trout.
A large river by nature, the best method of fishing the Mighty Mo is by drift boat. Hatches occur all year and the Missouri River boasts the longest productive fly fishing season around. Because of the dam the Missouri River does not experience the extreme high flows in the spring as many of the Freestone Rivers in Montana. This is the best time to fish the Missouri River.
Many of the insects on the Missouri River are small, size 18-22. Good hatches of mayflys and caddis bring fish to the surface at times during the season but nymph fishing always produces. Fine tippets and small nymphs are the norm. Streamer fishing can produce some extremely large trout for the fly fisherman patient enough to stay with it. Hopper time in the late summer and early fall can be amazing in the channels below Craig.
The Smith River Canyon float in the Lewis and Clark National Forest is a 58 mile stretch of the most pristine trout stream you'll ever see! This truly is what is meant by the expression "God's Country". Abundant wildlife, a blue ribbon trout stream, spectacular scenery and western hospitality combine to make this float the trip of a lifetime. Some are blessed with the opportunity to do it year after year, but everyone should do it at least once.
Limited access restricts this to a 5 day float. Your camp is moved daily by raft as you proceed down the river through limestone canyons, meadows and forested hills. Frequent waterfowl viewings of elk, deer, river otters, raccoons, beaver, and black bears add to the beauty of the Smith River. The Smith River fishes well beginning in May and continues into July. This is a very special place to fly fish and a great trip.
Slough Creek pronounced "Sloo" is one of the most written about small creeks in the world. It is described by the National Park Service as the symbol of Western Rocky Mountain trout fishing. This small creek which originates outside Yellowstone near Cooke City, Montana and the Beartooth Range flows for 16 glorious miles through the park.
With ample trout populations from top to bottom and boasting over 70% of the creek meandering through open meadows this is as popular a fishing destination as any. Fly fishermen come to Slough Creek for the large Yellowstone cutthroat trout and the gin clear water set in some of the parks most impressive scenery. Anglers visiting on foot are confined to the lower two meadows above the trailhead. The real wilderness fishing lies in the upper or third meadow. This is only accessible by horseback or back pack on multi-day trips. The park service requires advance reservation and limits trips to the upper meadow to three nights. Here fisherman will experience the slow moving Slough creek with ample hatches of May flies and caddis flies. It is not hard to know where the fish are as most are easily spotted in the crystal clear water. The trick is getting them to rise to your fly. The large cuts in this meadow, many over 20 inches, live in an environment that favors the trout not the fisherman. Fish are known to rise and follow a fly for several feet before taking or rejecting. If you love small dries and finicky fish this is the place that will make you happy.