Missoula Fly Fishing Report

Missoula Fishing Report 9/28

Fly Fishing Report Brought To You By Our Missoula Fly Fishing Guides And Fly Shop Staff.

Enjoy and Good Luck!

Bitterroot River

The warmer weather has kept the Bitterroot fishing strong for the last couple of days, and we expect this to continue for the next couple of weeks. The Mahoganies have finally established, and are a consistent hatch in the afternoon. A Tiltwing Mahogany or a Brooks Sprout have been very successful. The October Caddis are now a significant presence, and can be fished pretty much throughout the day. Make sure to have a size 12 Orange Stimulator or an Orange Elk Hair caddis in a size 8 or 10. Tricos are still strong in the morning, but the trout are well trained on that hatch. The Sunken Trico is really working, while the spinners and duns are being received in a fussy manner. Be ready with a wide selection of spinners and duns. The BWO’s are starting to hatch even with the sun. A simple parachute or Last Chance cripple will take fish consistently. Make sure you know if it’s a BWO or trico in the morning, or you might have some fruitless fishing.
If you’re not sure what to throw, tie on a Brindle Chute and let it hunt. This is the time of year that fly shines. Or use a Pink Morrish Hopper. The warm weather in the forecast is keeping the hoppers active, so the trout are still looking at them.
Nymphing has been strong, with a Duracell or Pheasant Tail Jig working very well for the Mahogany nymph. Look for a Red Fox Squirrel nymph to imitate the October caddis. A Black SR Bullet or Olive SR Bullet are taking fish as a trico or BWO nymph. If you need a fly to get the smaller fly down quickly, the 20 Incher or the Pat’s Rubber legs in a 10-12 are working as a stonefly nymph.
The streamer fishing has been good on the Bitterroot, but not fantastic. Run a smaller, more natural colored streamer due to the clarity of the smaller water, like a size 8 Sculpzilla or a Skiddish Smolt. No need to drop your tippet, but the smaller streamers have been working well.



Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips for each hatch

Blackfoot River

The Blackfoot has been hot, and the warm weather is going to keep the Blackfoot fishing right on into October. The streamer fishing has been dynamite along the entire length, and most streamers shown are at least getting a turn. If you can, go big or go home with a Dungeon or a Gonga. For those with lighter rods, a size 4 Sculpzilla and the Kreelix have been very good. Don’t sleep on a Sparkle Minnow either, as they’ve been extremely successful as well.
The October Caddis are being seen with some regularity, and a size 12 Orange Stimulator or a big Orange Elk Hair Caddis have been great searching patterns. The mahoganies are establishing, but finding them on foot can be problematic. From a boat, make sure to have some Brooks Sprouts and a HotSpot ParaWulff Brindle. Have tricos and BWO’s with you as well, but again, you’ll need to hunt those hatches out. Not the prime fly. A prime fly is the Henneberry Hopper in a Tan Size 10. Warm weather is good for hoppers as well, so the trout are still actively looking for terrestrials.
When you go deep with a nymph, have some 20 Inchers and TJ Hookers to cover the bigger nymphs. A Pink or Orange Hot Spot is working well, as is the SR Bullet Quill. Get the fly down deep. The warm weather is great for water temperature, but the sun pushes the fish deeper. Make sure your dropper gets down where the fish are.
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Clark Fork River

The Lower Clark Fork has gotten hot in the last couple of days, with mahoganies, tricos and some BWO’s being taken with regularity. The fish are podding up for tricos and Mahoganies. The Sunken Trico has been money down here, while the Hi-Viz Spinner has been taking its fair share of fish. The Mahoganies are still new enough that a Parachute Pheasant Tail or Tiltwing Mahogany are taking fish regularly. The BWO’s are starting to be seen, but not in great numbers. Make sure you have your BWO’s with you, but don’t expect magic yet. Give it a week. The October Caddis are sporadic, so again, have them with you but it won’t be a prime fly. When the fishing slows down late afternoon, pop on a Sweetwater Hopper or a Tan Parachute Hopper to keep the fish coming to the surface.
The streamer fishing on the Clark Fork has been really good, and will stay there for the duration of the season. Pick your poison for the Clark Fork. If you have a dedicated streamer rod, throw some big bugs off the bank to move the large browns defending territory. For those with a smaller rod, the Rusty Trombone and Baby Gonga have been moving trout as well.
The nymphing is consistent as always, and a Pat’s Rubber Lweg or T.J. Hooker are working quite well deep. In the Shallower water, run a Pheasant Tail Jig or a Duracell to mimic the Mahogany nymph. A Yellow Hot Spot and Pink Hot Spot are also taking fish. Add a little more to the dropper with the warm sunshine. It moves the hatches, but keeps the fish nearer to the bottom when the hatch isn’t going on.
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Rock Creek

The Mahoganies have established along the length of Rock Creek. Start with a Tilt Wing Mahogany, and if that doesn’t get it done, switch to a Mahogany Sprout or a Red Quill CDC Mahogany. Tricos are still hatching up here, so make sure you have them with you. October Caddis are starting to get consistent, so an Orange Elk Hair Caddis or Orange Stimulator will work well as a searching fly. Start looking for BWO’s, but they haven’t started, yet. But they will, so make sure they’re in the vest. Hoppers are still flying, and the warm weather in the forecast will keep the hoppers in the air and on the water. Make sure you have your hopper box.
Nymphing has been very good on Rock Creek, with big and small nymphs working equally well. Go big with a Pat’s Rubberlegs or a Speckled Double Bead Hare’s Ear. Drop an SR Bullet Quill or a Brush Hog of the big nymph for a highly effective double nymph rig. If you go Hopper/Dropper, the smaller nymph is the natural choice. Add a little length to the dropper, to get where the fish are in the brighter sun.
The streamer fishing has been consistent, and we expect that to continue as the weather stays consistent. A Sculpin Sparkle Minnow continues to work, while a White Sculpzilla or White Sparring partner will move the territorial Browns. Don’t go giant with your streamer, keep the fly a little smaller to move more fish on Rock Creek.
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Missoula Fly Fishing Report

Missoula Fly Fishing Report 8/15

Fly Fishing Report Brought To You By Our Missoula Fly Fishing Guides And Fly Shop Staff.

Enjoy and Good Luck!

Bitterroot River

The Bitterroot river fly fishing has improved a lot over the last few weeks with longer and colder nights. The tricos have firmly established along the length of the Bitterroot, and are moving some big fish. Ron’s Trico is the top performer, quickly followed by the Clear Wing Spinner and the Brooks Sprout. Bring your light tippet- the Bitterroot is low and clear. We’ve had our eyes open for Hecubas, but haven’t seen them yet. Maybe the Fall temps next week will get them moving.
Terrestrials are very important through 2:00 PM, and Hoot Owl hours move anglers off the water. No surprise, the Antacid in Purple and Purple Morrish Hopper are moving fish from about 11 AM on. So is the Jake’s Gulp Beetle. Small attractors, like a Micro Chubbie, are also working, especially dropping a small SR Bullet Olive or Quill in a 16 or 18.
The Firestarter has been taking fish, as has the Purple Lite Bright Perdigon. With the low water, trout are moving well underwater to find food, and most smaller jigs are working.
Remember, Hoot Owl hours are in effect on the main stem. The East Fork and West Fork aren’t regulated, and are fishing well throughout the day. The weather forecast is shaping up to be a great late august and September fishing. Cooler water temps and much happier fish.
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips for each hatch

Blackfoot River

The Blackfoot river has been fishing well through the heat, and when the weather breaks, it’s going to get really good. There’s a few spots on the lower section where the tricos are being seen, but be ready to get off the river early to beat the tubers. Hoppers and other terrestrials are working from late morning on in the heat. Look for a Purple Morrish Hopper to move some fish, as well as a Streambank Hopper or a Henneberry. The Black and Purple Antacid have proven useful, along with Micro Chubbies in all colors.
The big droppers have been moving fish in the deeper runs, while smaller jigs are working along the edges. Dark TJ Hookers have been very good throughout the day. When it comes to jigs, we haven’t heard of anything super hot, but your choice of brown jigs are working. The San Juan worm is also reasserting itself.
As always, streamers are moving fish along the length of the river. Even though the Blackfoot does not have Hoot Owl hours, in the heat of the day, we tend to take the streamer off about noon. When the cool weather starts next week, this will become less important, but in the heat, give the deep fish a break. No color has really stepped up, but the Mini Dungeons and Baby Gongas have been taking fish consistently.
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Clark Fork River


The Clark Fork River is rounding into late summer/fall shape, with strong trico hatches on the lower sections. The fish are podding up, and Ron’s Trico is moving fish, as is the Comparadun and Gould’s Sunken Trico. Long leaders and fine tippets are a must.
In the heat, look for hoppers to get moving just as the tricos end. The Henneberry Hopper in Tan and Green are really performing this year, and of course the Morrish Hopper shines as well. The hopper fishing will be short lived, as the Clark Fork River is on Hoot Owl hours, so anglers must stop fishing at 2:00 PM.
While the Clark Fork isn’t as well known for Ants and beetles, the Black Antacid has been moving fish on the lower river, as had the Amy’s Ant in Green.
Subsurface is holding steady with Smaller TJ Hookers and Pat’s Rubberlegs. Get them deep (6-7 feet) for maximum effectiveness. Drop a small SR Bullet in Olive or Quill off the back of the hopper. Feels like it’s being taken as a BWO or Trico nymph. The Firestarter is also moving fish on a regular basis.
If the 10 day forecast stays true, we might start to see some early Blue Winged Olives appear in the clouds and rain forecast for early next week. Not a guarantee, but have them with you if you’re on the river in the rain.
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Rock Creek

Rock Creek has been holding up extremely well in the heat, and cooler temps are only going to get the fish more active through the end of the month and into September. The tricos are on the water, but Rock Creek isn’t known for its massive hatches. But have them with you in case they show where you are. While the Tan Caddis are waning, an Elk Hair Caddis remains one of the best searching flies on Rock Creek.
The terrestrial and attractor fishing has been very good along the length of the river. The Purple Antacid and Purple Hippie Stomper have been performing well throughout the day, while the hoppers will get started around noon and fish for the rest of the day. Have Henneberry hoppers, as well as the Streambank Hopper.
Drop a Duracell Jig or a PT jig off the back of the hopper to get the fish count up. If you’re going to focus on nymphing, a small 20 Incher or dark Pat’s Rubberleg run deep are moving some larger fish.
Larger fish are also taking streamers early in the day. Of course the Sparkle Minnow Sculpin is working, but the Baby Gonga Rainbow and Gray Swim Coach are also producing well. Articulation works!
No Hoot Owl hours on Rock Creek, but in the heat of the day, think about taking the dropper off to let the resting fish stay resting on the bottom. Might be a moot point by mid next week if we start to see some Fall temps in August!
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August Hatches

Click any photo below to find out more information on each individual hatch. Includes life cycle, best fly patterns, helpful tips and where to find these hatches in your Western Montana fly fishing adventure.

Missoula Fly Fishing Report

Missoula Fly Fishing Report 7/25

Fly Fishing Report Brought To You By Our Missoula Fly Fishing Guides And Fly Shop Staff.

Enjoy and Good Luck!

Bitterroot River

The Bitterroot river fly fishing is in the process of changing over from early summer to summer fishing. The Golden Stones and Yellow Sallies are waning, though the trout still recognize them and will eat. The hoppers are trying to establish, and are working, but some are being taken as Goldens. The PMD’s are still strong enough to bring pods to the surface, but the hatch is less predictable than a week ago. Tricos are being seen, but not much moving to them yet. At dusk, look for Tan Caddis and Pale Evening Duns. The hotter the day, the later the evening rise. People are throwing attractors, but they haven’t taken off yet. Ants and Beetles are producing along the length of the river.
Subsurface, a streamer early in the morning will move fish, but slows down when the sun hits the water. The Yellow Spot Jig and the G Kes are still working, while the SR Bullet French is starting to produce. The Duracell and Copper Top are also moving fish.
Water temperatures aren’t super critical on the upper Bitterroot, with Darby staying under 68 for the last week. The lower Bitterroot is a bit different. The water temps above Missoula have been above 72 for the last 4 days. If you’re going to chase the evening rise, drive farther south than you’d hoped to find colder water. The afternoons are hot, if you haven’t noticed. The smoke continues to help keep the sun off the water, but the fish still need a break in the heat of the day. Fish early and plan to be off the water by 3:00, to give the trout a break.
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips for each hatch

Blackfoot River



The good news is the nights are getting colder, and the Blackfoot river hasn’t been above 68 for the last 6 days. The water isn’t cold, but it’s not in the danger level. Still fish early to be off early afternoon, to keep from stressing the fish in the heat of the day. If you end up on the river later in the day, cut the dropper off and stay on the surface. Dragging fish up from the cold bottom to the warm surface and shore will stress fish badly.
The Golden Stones and Yellow Sallies are hanging in well on the Blackfoot River. So are the PMD’s, Tan Caddis and Pale Evening Duns. The hoppers are being seen, and eaten as well. The PED’s and Tan Caddis are a dusk event, though a small Tan Caddis is moving smaller fish all day. Attractors are moving fish well enough to have them, but a TJ Hooker and Pats Rubber Legs are working well underneath a big Golden or Tan Chubby. Smaller jigs like the Pheasant Tail and Firestarter are also effective. Bigger jigs have been more effective than smaller in the last couple of days. A streamer in the morning is never wrong on the Blackfoot, though sun will end that fun.
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Clark Fork River


The Clark Fork River is the only local river with Hoot Owl hours. There’s no fishing between 2:00 PM and Midnight from the junction of Rock Creek east to Warm Springs. The warmer water is also affecting the lower Clark Fork as well, though there are no restrictions in place. However, if you can plan your day to be off the water before the heat hits, that will help the stress levels of the trout.
Goldens and Yellow Sallies are almost done, though the fish will still eat the occasional imitation. Hoppers are starting to establish, and are flying well later in the day, unfortunately. If you stay for the hopper bite, cut your dropper off and drop down a tippet size. Get the fish to hand as quickly as possible, and release it in colder water.
The PMD’s are getting the fish on the lower Clark Fork to pod up, and the dry fly fishing is classic lower Clark. Have some cripples and emergers, as well as classic dries to cover all aspects of the hatch. The Tan caddis and Pale Evening Duns are still coming off at dusk, with the heat of the day pushing them closer to sunset. Ants and Beetles are moving fish along the banks, though attractors have not yet started to make their presence felt.
Big droppers are still moving trout subsurface. TJ Hookers, Pat’s RubberLegs and Zirdles are moving fish deep in the morning. Smaller jigs are also effective, with the G Kes, Yellow Spot and Micro May PMD taking a large proportion of fish.
At first light, a big dry stonefly will take the cruisers still looking for the nocturnal stones. And if you get to the river prior to first light, have a mouse pattern with you. The big fish come out to play at night, and the big fish in the Clark Fork are BIG! Worth getting out of bed for.
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Rock Creek

Rock Creek is fishing very well right now, with a variety of flies working. Goldens and Yellow Sallies are still moving fish, and hoppers are being eaten as well. Purple hoppers and green hoppers have been the most effective. PMD’s are waning, but still being seen. The Tan Caddis are still prolific, and will take fish all through the day, as well as dusk. Attractors have been providing a lot of fun on Rock Creek, with Micro Chubbies really moving a few fish.
The subsurface action has been strong, with gray and brown jigs taking a lot of fish. The larger droppers have fallen a bit, but a size 12-14 Pats Rubberlegs is still moving trout. Don’t be afraid to run a streamer in the morning, with the Sculpin Sparkle Minnow being the number one contender.
water temps in Rock Creek are doing quite well, with nothing above 67 in the last 5 days. We still recommend cutting off the dropper for afternoon fishing, but Rock Creek is lone of the best local rivers for good water temps. The warmer water has made the bottom more slippery than usual, so safety first when wading.
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July Hatches

Click any photo below to find out more information on each individual hatch. Includes life cycle, best fly patterns, helpful tips and where to find these hatches in your Western Montana fly fishing adventure.

Montana Sunset

Angling and Ethics in the summer of 2021

It’s early July in 2021. After a winter of average snow pack, and a long, steady run-off that brought snow down from April 20th on, the freestone rivers of Missoula are feeling the effects.

Hoot Owl restrictions are in place on the Clark Fork River from the confluence of Rock Creek and going east to Warm Springs. The term Hoot Owl is derived from the early 1900’s logging industry, and when in place, there is no fishing on the affected waters from 2:00 PM to Midnight. Hoot Owl hours are put into effect when the water temps rise above 73 degrees for three consecutive days, or the water levels drop below the 5th percentile based on historical data.

Water temperature has a huge effect on cold water fish like trout. Warmer water holds less oxygen, (Trout Biology) which has immediate and obvious effects on trout. It defines where they are, how and when they move, and how they feed. When the water hits 73 degrees, trout are having difficulty finding areas in the river that keep them alive.

The flow levels for the Blackfoot River, Bitterroot River, Rock Creek and the Clark Fork River are running anywhere from 50-65% of what they should be at this time of year, and dropping daily in the heat. This pushes trout into fewer and fewer available holding lies. Crowding is extremely stressful to trout. They’re free roaming, and don’t like sharing space with competitors for food and prime lies. Lack of water pushes trout together, adding to the severe conditions brought about by warm water.

With no end of the heat in sight, we expect this situation to continue and intensify in the coming weeks. Paints a rather gloomy yet accurate picture. But it’s not all over, far from it.

The fishing is actually pretty darn good in the morning. At 5:45 am, the air temps are in the low 60’s, and if the wind is blowing, you need a light jacket. A far cry from 5:45 pm! The water has dropped in temps all night, and trout are active in the cool morning. All four Missoula trout rivers are fishing well at that time of day, so you have your pick. The water is staying within acceptable fishing temperatures until about 12:30 -2:00. The water is still warm especially in the upper Clark Fork, lower Clark Fork and lower Bitterroot, however, and there are things anglers can do to help alleviate the rigors brought about by the heat.

As an angler, There are things you can do to help alleviate the stress of high temps and low flows. To start, fishing isn’t so much a matter of where you go, but when you go. Make the effort to rise with the birds. Be on the water early, like 5:30-6:00 am early. Put your 6 hours in and then give the trout a break in the heat.

When you hook a fish, put the screws to it. Fight that fish to the limits of your tackle. Yes, you may lose a few, but the faster you get the fish to hand, the faster it recovers from its exercise. Trout recover faster from a shorter fight. Don’t lengthen the process.

The rivers are warmer near the surface and shore. If you pull a fish from the middle, or the middle and deep, you’re taking that fish from cool water into warmer (less oxygenated) water, while making it fight. A bad combo. If you can avoid that scenario, you should. If you do find yourself bringing a fish from cooler water to warmer water, fight hard. Make sure the fish is capable of swimming away powerfully. If it’s too stressed to swim upright, you’ll need to resuscitate the trout.

The best way to resuscitate is to hold the trout by the “wrist” (juncture of tail and body) and under the belly. Move to the deepest water you can comfortably get to. Face the trout into the current, and get the trout as deep as you can. Gently move the trout forward and backwards, moving it only enough to flare the gills. Depending on the fatigue factor, the trout may give a feeble attempt to flee. Keep resuscitating through the first attempt. Trust us, you’ll know when the fish is well and truly ready to leave! This process can take anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes, depending on the fatigue and fish.

When prospecting for trout, whether wading or floating, self-impose a three fish limit from each hole. The river has crowded the fish together. The trout are easy to find, and once you’ve located one you’ve usually found a few. But the fighting and crowding is very stressful. Limit your time at each hole to give the trout a break. If you come across a pod of risers, go for it. The three fish rule really only applies when you’re fishing the water looking for fish.

Now we go a little deeper. What are the ethics of fishing later into the day when no hoot owl hours are in place, but the water is getting up to 70 degrees. Where do you draw the line? The Missoulian Angler is opening at 6:00 am, to facilitate getting anglers on the water early. Our guides stop fishing when the water temps on their stretch hits 68-69 degrees. They run a dry only for the last hour or so.

Yesterday, we had two anglers in the shop just before closing. They’d just gotten off the water, and said they’d had a great afternoon of wade fishing on the Blackfoot with droppers. One guy said, “We were killing them!” in an excited voice.

All we could think about was how correct that statement was. Bringing a trout up from the cold bottom to the hot surface and then to shore…….. yes, they were killing them all right. We tried a bit of gentle reprimand, a bit of advice for fishing in the hot weather, but unfortunately it fell on deaf ears.

This is not about right now, this is not about being a downer, this is not to deter you from going fishing. What it’s about is how fishing will look in three years. Carrying capacity is a biological term used to describe how many fish a river can support at its worst time. Many fish won’t survive this summer, whether they are fished for or not. When carrying capacity falls, that affects spawning numbers for years to come. In three years, the recruiting class will be lesser than in good water years.

We write this blog to make sure anglers are aware of the ramifications of angling in the heat. What it does to the trout, how it will affect fishing for the next 2-6 years. As a shop, the Missoulian Angler takes the long view of the resources. The rivers are our lifeblood, the trout our business partners. More importantly, river and stream health are a Montana legacy, a legacy worth protecting now for the future generations who live in and travel to Missoula. We get it, it’s a wrench right now. It’s not how you envisioned your fishing day. But a little trout TLC when needed will pay big dividends for the rivers that provide us so much joy, peace and pleasure..

Missoula Fly Fishing Report

Missoula Fishing Report 7/8

Fly Fishing Report Brought To You By Our Missoula Fly Fishing Guides And Fly Shop Staff.

Enjoy and Good Luck!

Bitterroot River

The Bitterroot river fly fishing has remained good throughout the warm water temps. The upper stretches are running cooler than most streams around Missoula while the lower stretches remain warm and should be fished early morning and done by early afternoon. PMD’s, Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies and Hoppers are all on the menu.
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips for each hatch

Blackfoot River

The Blackfoot River has been fishing surprisingly well through the heat wave but water temps remain warm and you should focus your fishing in the morning and stop fishing in the afternoon. Dry fly fishing remains good early with Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies and Hopper patterns. Focus on heavier seems and outside bends where water is moving quicker.
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Clark Fork River


The fly fishing on the Clark Fork River has been decent lately. There is Hoot Owl restrictions above where Rock Creek comes in so you need to stop fishing by 2pm. The stretches below Rock Creek has no restrictions but water temps remain warm in the afternoon so it is smart to stop fishing as if there were hoot owl restrictions river wide. Morning dry fly fishing has been good with PMD’s, Golden Stone, Yellow Sallies and Hoppers. Focus on heavier seems and faster moving water where oxygen levels are highest.
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Rock Creek

Rock Creek fly fishing has been fishing good lately and is running cooler then a lot of our bigger streams. Oxygen levels are highest in the heavy seems and faster water which is where you want to focus your time. Water temps are still fairly high in the afternoon so get on the water early and off early. Hatches include Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies, PMD’s and Hoppers.
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July Hatches

Click any photo below to find out more information on each individual hatch. Includes life cycle, best fly patterns, helpful tips and where to find these hatches in your Western Montana fly fishing adventure.

Missoula Fly Fishing Report

Missoula Fishing Report 6/24

Fly Fishing Report Brought To You By Our Missoula Fly Fishing Guides And Fly Shop Staff.

Enjoy and Good Luck!

Bitterroot River

The Bitterroot river fly fishing has been good lately. Bugs have shown up in good numbers and fish are happy. Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies in the sun and Green Drakes and PMD’s in the clouds. The Bitterroot has been fishing good on the lower stretches all the way to the top from morning to evening.
Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips for each hatch

Blackfoot River

The Blackfoot River has been great lately with a Salmon Flies on the upper stretches and Golden Stones from top to bottom. We have seen some decent Green Drake and PMD hatches in the cloud and thick Caddis Hatches in the evenings. We’ve been throwing single dries all day long and loving it.
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Clark Fork River


The fly fishing on the Clark Fork River has turned the corner into some great dry fly fishing over the last week. Golden Stones, PMD’s and Green Drakes have been the main game. There has also been some impressive Caddis hatch in the evening. Fishing has been good from morning all the way in to the evening.
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Rock Creek

Rock Creek fly fishing has been good lately. Salmon Flies have tapered off but plenty of Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies, Green Drakes, PMD’s and Caddis to keep the fish interested in the dry fly. Rock Creek is coming into a great wade fishing level and boats have started to move to the bigger rivers as the flow drops.
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June Hatches

Click any photo below to find out more information on each individual hatch. Includes life cycle, best fly patterns, helpful tips and where to find these hatches in your Western Montana fly fishing adventure.