Bitterroot Valley Montana Fishing, Fly Fishing

Fishing

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Ask any local and they'll tell you there is no doubt that best fishing around is along the Bitterroot River.

Where can I go fishing in the Bitterroot Valley?

Bitterroot River
The Bitterroot River begins at the confluence of the West and East Forks of the Bitterroot River just south of Darby and runs north the length of the Bitterroot Valley before it empties into the Clarks Fork River.

  • Fish Species: Primarily rainbow trout, but brown and cutthroat trout frequent the upper river.
  • Seasons and Flies:
    • Between early March through April, the Skwala stonefly hatch makes for great, although sometimes very cold, fishing.
    • The river swells in May and sometimes into June due to spring run-off, making the water almost un-fishable.
    • June and July are some of the best months to fish the Bitterroot as the spring runoff recedes and the effect of irrigation doesn't kick in until later in the summer. During June and July, stop by a local fly shop and pick up a few local fly patterns.
    • From July through September, grasshoppers do the trick.
    • In September and October, fishing becomes difficult, but tiny flies and long light leaders are best.
  • Access:
    • East Fork of the Bitterroot River: Beginning high in the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness, fishing is fun and easy to access.
    • West Fork of the Bitterroot River: Beginning near the Idaho border, the West Fork is a small, fishable stream until it enters Painted Rocks Reservoir at Painted Rocks State Park. Below Painted Rocks Reservoir, the West Fork Bitterroot River grows larger as do the trout. Access is quite good until the river enters private land. Float traffic is higher than the East Fork Bitterroot River.
    • From Cannon, Montana to Wallace Crawford: This section is ideal for wading as the river is smaller in size. The fish are smaller than downstream, but the scenery is fantastic and the crowds are thing. This is a great section to fish in the heat of the summer.
    • From Wallace Crawford to Victor (Bell Crossing Access Site): The many channels and braids in this section are great for wade anglers as well. You can float this section as well but beware of many diversion dams.
    • From Victor to Florence (Florence Bridge Access Site): The river grows in size here making floating the best option for access. This free flowing section has no obstacles or dams. The downfall of this section is how busy it can become in the heart of summer.
    • From Florence to the the Confluence with the Clark Fork: While also busier than upriver, the section is great for floating. In the late summer, the water is much warmer and you can fish for bass and northern pike.

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