What are the Best Places to Fly Fish in Montana?

best-places-to-fly-fish-in-montana
(Last Updated On: April 12, 2021)

What are the best places to fly fish in Montana? Montana is a popular place for fish lovers. People with a huge passion for a fishing rush there all year round for fly fishing.

In fact, fly fishing is at the top of many fly fisher bucket lists in Montana. You know, fly fishing has been very popular in Montana. Let’s discuss the best places to fly fish in Montana.

From the mighty Clark Fork River, Blackfoot River, Bitterroot River, and other Missoula Territory rivers to Yellowstone and Gallatin, we collected 18 of our places to fly fish in Montana.

Montana has some of the best flying fishing rivers, spring climbers, and lakes in the world. The amazing diversity of wild trout waters ensures that there are plenty of variations.

Best Places to Fly Fish in Montana

1. Hazen Lake

Hazen Lake is a special trout fishery. It provides a winter and summer habitat for many large rainbows and brown trout that penetrate the Madison River in Yellowstone National Park.

While these fish are in the hedgehog, they provide opportunities for spectacular fishing cruise risers on calm days. These gallopers are feeding on trichomes as well as collybitis mayflies depending on hatching.

A boat or float tube is ideal for getting the fish to where it is. Be sure to bring tall leaders as these fish get drunk!

Best Places to Fly Fish in Montana

3. Higgins Lake

There are plenty of access points for boaters to Hedgehog. A good arrow is more limited for walking but it is impossible to find. We suggest taking a stroll in the Madison or Grayling Arms of the Serious Anglers lake. Boat movement in other areas of the lake can be heavy.

Suggested fly flies in Higgen Lake

Calibatis, Ups, Upsetters, Right and Spinners, Size 14-16
Trico, both right and spinner, black and olive, size 20-26

4. Madison River

The Yellowstone National Park begins with the Madison River Firehole and the Gibbon River. Once it enters Montana, it flows through Higgen Lake. The short tailwater fountain is great at the bottom of the lake but our favorite fishing is flowing down Quake Lake.

The famous $ 3 Bridge Wade access is always crowded, but there are good reasons. Occasionally large rainbow and brown trout with mountain whitefish entertain you for a few days.

The Evening Caddis and Mayfly Spinner Falls are perfect for staying out late in the summer. Madison is sometimes called a 50-mile rifle. This makes it ideal for fly anchors.

Flowing from the Down 3 Bridge, anglers floating in most parts of the river can access and catch fish. Even if you don’t have a river, it’s like exploring all the paths to Lake Ennis.

The river below Ennis Lake flows through the famous Beartrap Canyon. Hard to access but fishing can be great for adventure anchors. There are lots of crayfish in this section, so bring some imitation and notice the larger trout that live here.

5. Rock Creek

This classic freestone is close to Missoula. This is one of Montana’s best rivers for wedding anchors. Not too small nor too large, this right stream provides plenty of access as it flows through many miles of national forest. Due to the tantalizing nature of Rock Creek, the rocks bring the angler from roughly including the salmon fly hatch.

Yellow sallies are also abundant. Evening caddis hatches can be great in the evening. Expect kaththroats and rainbow trout in the upper reaches, with a transition towards Rainbow and Brown Trout at the bottom end of Rock Creek.
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6. Beaverhead River

Known for jumbo-sized brown trout, Beaverhead is an amazingly small river that considers the size of the fish that live there.

Most of the angler’s Clarks make their way to the upper river right along the Canyon Dam. This section is crowded and has special rules on floating access so check the current rules for more information.

Small nipples and light tippets are the keys to success here. Streamers can sometimes attract big browns as well. The best way to find success in this river is to hire and float guides.

Summer droids have suffered due to low Beaverhead irrigation claims. Thus, it is less fishing than in other parts of the river. This makes it a good sleeper stream.

Trout numbers aren’t that high, but if you kill them properly, it doesn’t matter. The cool monsoon weather may be a good time to fish this low part.

7. Paradise Valley Spring Creeks

While these mostly make access to privately owned property a bit pricey, it is worth the admission for fishing. Heavy hatches of thunderstorms, like the foggy morning rings, bring each fish seemingly to the surface to the currents.

Because they are Spring Creek, they are extremely nutrient-rich. Although large rainbow and brown trout are common, hooking and landing them can be challenging.

8. Paradise Valley Fly Fishing

If you live in Livingston or Gardner and fish in the Yellowstone River, these streams make for a great day trip. Bring a light rod, taller leader and fine tippet for this educated trout.

9. The Bitterroot River

Located in the southwestern part of Montana, the Bitterroot River is conveniently located near Mysula. The landscapes here are spectacular. The river is not stressed like some of Montana’s waters although it has its fair share of anglers. Rainbow Trout Bitterroot’s Main Quarry Although some cutthroats and brown trout are also available.

With good hatches, dry fly anglers will especially enjoy this river. Fishing is especially good in the first season during the scola hatch. However, during the warmer months, the river catches good fish.

Green Drakes are also a special treat in late June and July. Brown drakes can also detect hatching at the same time. Tricos bring some of the most technical fishing of the year to this trout stream in late summer.

9. Ennis Lake

There is also some great fly fishing on Ennis lake, another lake on the banks of the Madison River. The preferred method is to make the whole lake quite shallow for fly fishing.

Like Halogen Lake, the goalkeepers can be seen cruising here. Fishing of these raisers from a powered boat with a calibitis or tricho simulation provides consistent action as long as the wind does not flow too much.

Many large trout in Ennis Lake flows to the light, but it is hard to give specifics on this run, but if you hit the right you can catch brown trout for a lifetime. One particularly good plan is to catch the lake in the morning until the fishing air comes through.

As it warms up, the chop on the surface of the lake makes it difficult to dry the flying fish. Get out for an afternoon fishing in the Madison River. Better yet, take a break during the day’s heat and fish the hatch in the evening after the other anglers leave the river.

10. Clark Fork River

The Clark Fork River is one of the dead rivers for mining waste. Thankfully, this problem has been largely resolved through the ongoing Superfund cleanup efforts and the river is being restored.

The far upper river is much like a spring creek. Here, Brown trout dominate, and access is tight. The narrow stream presents its own challenges, but the abundance of fish makes the effort worthwhile.

Probably the best section is the bottom of the Missoula, where the Rock Creek and Blackfoot rivers add cool water to the river during the summer heat, because of the irrigation, low flow can bring disaster to the trout population. You will find rainbows, browns, and a few cutthroat trout here.

11. The southern fork of the Flathead River

This is one of the premier flying fishing destinations in the bottom of the 7th River River providing epic fishing to some rainbows as well as native cutthroat trout. You have to walk to the stream as the river flows through the valleys.

The best way to fish a flat fork in the flathead is backpacking or a horse pack trip. Many grizzly bears call home in the wilderness so be careful of appropriate bears.

Like most cutthroat trout, standard attractive dry flies of sizes 8-10 are best. Their willingness to attack the dried flies is what makes Catharot a favorite choice.

The big treat here is that you can also fish for bull trout. It is the only place in Montana where it is legal to do so even if there are some restrictions.

If you want to target bull trout to make sure you’re legal, check the current rules. All bull trout caught are strictly caught and released. Bring a heavy rod and large streamer for bull trout.

12. Glacier National Park

People do not actually fly to Glacier to fly fish. Although this is truly the point. Don’t go here for fly fishing. However, once you reach this gem and fly away with the scenery, think about how nice it would be to fly a fish in this nationally amazing environment.

There are two lakes and streams. Bull trout can be found, but most fishing here is for domestic cutthroat trout. The National Park Service has special rules, including some extended seasonal and permanent closures.

Stop near the park’s visitor center to get a current copy of the rules. Don’t pay too much attention to your fishing. Stop enjoying the scenery as often as possible. Also, keep an eye out for the grizzly bear that calls the park home.

An alternative that could run under the radar is the Blackfoot tribal land on the eastern side of the Glacier National Park. Check out the lakes there for potentially huge trout. Rainbow trout are typically measured with a separate probability of ten pounds of fish per pound.

13. The Jefferson River

This is the river for anglers to avoid crowding. The Jefferson River is one of the three major tributaries of the mighty Missouri River and is seen as the lightest fish.

This is probably due to the lower overall fish count in Jefferson. That said, it can provide memorable fishing opportunities if you take the time to fish.

The low pressure may also be responsible for the more remote nature of the river. This is more driving from places like Bozeman than Madison or Gallatin. Consider streamer fishing in Jefferson above if you prefer to target large brown trout in tough structures.

14. The Ruby River

There are two distinct sections at the top and bottom of the Ruby River. The Upper Ruby River originates in the national forest and provides good fishing for small to medium-sized rainbow and cutthroat trout.

You can occasionally get gray here. Once the river is out of the national forest, access becomes less difficult with less than the accompanying landowners.

Remember that under Montana law, you can access the river below the high watermark. Since this is often ambiguous, it is best to stay in the real stream if you prefer fishing with private water to avoid problems.

The river below the Ruby reservoir is a great brown trout fishery. Fish are a bit more willing here than some other rivers in the Montana River.

Angling pressure is low here which probably helps. The lower Ruby River offers some of Montana’s best hopper fishing opportunities.

The Browns will attack hoppers in the very early winter in early summer, just like the upper river, anglers probably want to stay in the river if they want to get away from access points. Banks are usually exaggerated and impossible to navigate.

Best Places to Fly Fish in Montana

15. Large Hole River

This major tributary of the Jefferson River offers something for everyone. The river contains rainbow, brown, brook, cutthroat, and brown trout. The Big Hole River is one of only a few places in Montana where you can see native gray. Like most Montana rivers, whitefish are also present. Some parts of the Big Hole provide great access to weddings. Another good way to enjoy this beautiful trout stream is by floating. Dry fly is often the best choice in this perfect fly fishing river.

16. The Gallatin River

Gallatin is another great trout river with headways in the Yellowstone National Park. While the park’s expanse is perfect for exploring, Montana’s best fishing flows further down. Along with Rock Creek, it is a favorite with Wedding Anglers.

This is because floating fishing is not allowed in most parts of the Gallatin River, so fishing is a matter of time as long as the wardens keep the river to them.

Floating fishing is permitted, below its connection to the east fork of the Gallatin. However, since access is quite limited, floating is the only way to fish this bottom.

Gallatin is a fast-flowing river with a high gradient. Yellowstone’s high mountains come out of the region and it flows very cold throughout the year.

Most of the year is usually the best fishing from mid-July to mid-September. Rainbow and Brown Trout are your main target though, with Catherthroat and Grayling available as well. If you like fishing in the nymphs, you will probably also draw some big mountain whitefish.

The good news is that Gallatin is a major dry fly river. Standard attractive dried flies are often the best approach to this fine trout stream. Don’t forget some spruce moth types because they are especially abundant in the Gallatin.

17. Bighorn River

Another famous fly fishing destination in the world, Montana, begins in Wyoming before flowing north into the Bighorn Lake. Under the Yeltel Dam, world-class fly fishing is provided for rainbow and brown trout in the lily waters of the Bighorn River. Are trout catching good numbers? Then the disruption is for you.

As for tailwater, the divergence holds very good fish in standard tailwater types. Meadows, worms, and scuds are the main ones. The good news is that this river also has some extraordinary Memph Fly and Caddis Hatches along with some rocks.

The pale morning mornings in the form of 14-18 and the caddies in the evening on 14-18 will keep the dry fly girlfriend happy all day long.

Take some initiative to catch fish in the river. Since it is not close to other famous Montana waters, if you do not have a lot of time, Disturbed Travel A dedicated single destination travel trip Plan several days of fishing and go hiking.

18. Earthquake lake

The Quake Lake was formed by a strong earthquake in the 5th, the only natural lake in the Madison River. The quake blocked a huge landslide that created the lake along the Madison River Dam.

Permanent dead trees are found in most parts of the lake. Although some parts of the coast are accessible, this lake is the best fishing boat.

Here rainbows and brown trout can grow in large numbers. The best time to target them is during the annual Salmonfly hatch. Hunting dried flies among dead trees can be epic.

19. The Smith River

The Smith River is unusual because of the limited access and a limited number of boats available for opening each day. To be able to float the Smith River you need to enter a drawing for a permit and hope you get one.

If you are one of the lucky few, you get the opportunity to take a long-haul tour through some of the most beautiful scenery around. Fishing can also be quite good.

Although a few brook trout are found in the upper end, the rainbow and brown trout dominate. Use streamers to target the river’s brown trout. If you get the chance, try hitting the Salmonfly hatch here. This is probably the best fishing of the year.

20. Wade and Cliff Lakes

These two lakes are found near the Madison River on the Ison 3 bridge. If you take the time to drive the gravel road a few kilometers there, you will discover two of Montana’s most beautiful mountain lakes. Trout are grown here.

Records of the state of Montana were caught at Brown Trout Wade Lake and weighed about 30 pounds. These crystalline transparent lakes provide a spectacular fishing spot for crawling trout although most fishing is subsurface.

Calibatas and midges are the main bugs here. Fishing leaks and crayfish patterns on submerged lines are best if you want to get where the big trout are. If you are planning to fish in these lakes, you will want some type of cruise. A float tube or canoe is probably the best.

Best Places to Fly Fish in Montana

21. Yellowstone National Park

Only a small sliver of the Yellowstone National Park is actually in Montana. Although this is enough for us. The park itself can keep a fly-angler busy all his life.

It’s already up to them to spend at least a day or two here. Yellowstone is a wildlife sighting, geological feature, and, yes, fishing about the Rainbow, Brown, Brooke, Catherot and lake trout are all available in Yellowstone and Gray and Mountain Whitefish if you want to see where.

Do yourself a favor and read on the Madison River anytime. All of these big lake fish run to the park’s water at the end of the summer. The run gets stronger as the fall gets deeper. Best fishing usually coincides with the worst weather in mid-October. Let’s get ready for winter fishing conditions.

The northeast corner of the park is also a treat. Stay in Cook City Montana and take a short drive to the Lamar Valley. Here you can see famous lakes like Lamar itself, Soda Butte Creek, or Slaughter Creek. Yellowstone cutthroat trout are abundant here and often fly a well-presented dry fly. From mid-summer to mid-terrain fishing can be great.

Of course, the Yellowstone River is definitely a fish in the national park. Native Yellowstone cutthroats are abundant here and generally easy to catch.

If you want to go fishing in Yellowstone Lake, remember that you have to kill all the catching lake trout. These non-native fish have significantly affected the native cutthroat population, and the park service has gone far enough to remove as many lake trout as possible.

22. The Missouri River

Most of Montana’s best trout streams eventually find their way to Missouri. Originally explored by Lewis and Clark, the Missouri River has a long history as the main gateway to Western America.

Although researchers did not find refuge in the Pacific water route, they discovered some of the best trout streams in the country.

Today, anglers have come from all around to try out the larger rainbow and brown trout that call this river home. This river is famous for dry fly fishing so come prepared for big trout for fishing.

Where to Fly on the Missouri River

The Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin rivers are formed where there are three forks. There are many great places to fly fish along the Missouri River, but the best fishing is at the bottom of the Holter Dam.

The state of Montana provides many access points throughout this section. Stay at the Holter Campground below the dam which provides a boat ramp to launch your boat.

The Missouri River is a true bug factory. We recommend a stock fly box for success. Here are some flies that you should not leave home without.

Leopard head arrow tail nymph, size 14-20
Mild Morning Right, Size 14-16
Parachute Adams, sizes 12-18
From the middle of the summer, earthy places like beetles, hoppers, and ants

23. Yellowstone River

The Yellowstone River, one of Missouri’s major tributaries, also appears to be one of the best trout streams in the country. Its headwaters in Yellowstone National Park, the Yellowstone River flows north to north of Wyoming and into Montana as a world-class blue-ribbon fishery.

It is also the longest flowing river in the United States. Catherthroats, rainbows, and brown trout make up most of the catch above this river. Add in the numerous hatches that provide good dry fly activity and you have the dream of a fly angler.

Where to fish above the Yellowstone River

Access to the Yellowstone National Park boundary is great all over the Paradise Valley and beyond. Due to the large size of the river, float fishing is probably the best bet though walk and weed anglers can also find fish.

On the way down from Livingston, the trout started to decline, although there are some large trout and even some sections where there is still high density.

If you are looking for the famous Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout, keep your Fishing Gardens near. Rainbows become more common as you approach the downriver, especially as you enter Paradise Valley.

Recommended fly for the Yellowstone River

Hopper imitations sizes 2-8 from the end of the summer to the middle
Golden Stonefly Nymphs, June and July, size 4-6
Streamers, almost anytime, but especially the fall of big brown trout

Recommended gear for fly fishing in Montana

For most of your fishing in Montana, a standard fast action nine-foot-five-weight fly rod is best. For most applications, a weight-forward floating line will work. If the wind is blowing and you’re fishing in the big water, it might be a good idea to bring in six weights as well.

If you plan to fly fish with streamers for larger trout, a seven-weight fly rod with a submerged or submerged tip line is a good choice.

In lakes, sinking lines will help deep water. However, if you want to target these cruise gallopers, a four-weight best bee is sometimes quite sloppy and so the ability to lighten is ideal. The same goes for spring clippings where three or four weight rods are best if there is no harsh air.

If you are planning to spend a lot of time on streams like Gallatin or Rock Creek, a longer rod can be a good idea for increased reach. Weighing ten feet three or four is a great choice as long as the air is not flowing very strongly.

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Be sure to match the various hatches and bring lots of flies to the right size 14 and 16 hatches in the morning on most Montana rivers and streams. Caddis are also very common.

The 14-18 size tan and olive caddis should be covered in most situations. Salmonflies, golden stoneflies, and yellow stitches are found on many streams and rivers. For the lakes, make sure you come up with Colibatis and Trico patterns as well as some yachts and crawfish patterns.

Bring different leaders and tippet components. If you are dry fly fishing, you will probably want a long leader in many rivers and lakes. Leaders of twelve to fifteen feet ending in a 5x tippet are most common in these waters. Depending on the time of year and the time you throw, you will be able to get heavier.

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