Four Great Fly Fishing Spots Near Missoula, Montana
Several towns in Montana claim to be the state’s fly fishing mecca, but none have the close-in river miles and diversity of Missoula. The opportunities within an hour of town are incredible, and you don’t always have to drive: You can realistically fish world class water right downtown. In fact, the FarWide app lists well more than 300 bodies of water to fish in Missoula County alone. Here are just a few of our favorites.
Clark Fork River
As the largest drainage in western Montana, the Clark Fork is ripe with history and fly fishing opportunity. From the small headwaters at Warm Springs to the big lower river near Plains, you will find excellent access and fishing. The river runs right through town with wade and float access in East Missoula and places like Kelly Island and Kona Bridge. Drive east or west on I-90 to follow the river. Nearly every exit has an access point. The river above Missoula is much smaller and meandering with undercut banks and good brown trout populations. After the confluence with the Blackfoot, the river gains volume and runs a broad course.
Running south to north, the Bitterroot is a world class dry fly fishery with some hefty trout. You can cross paths with rainbow, brown and cutthroats in the same waters. It does have diversion dams and floaters should always check the local conditions before hitting the water. A good portion of the river has spring influence and the many side channels offer wade fisherman the opportunity to really explore fly fishing. The Bitterroot joins the Clark Fork at Kelly Island in Missoula.
Famous from the film A River Runs Through It, or “The Movie” as many Montana residents call it, the cold freestone Blackfoot lives up to the fly fishing hype, cutting through a scenic valley where boaters and anglers can chase wild trout. Cutthroats, rainbows and browns are all well distributed here. Bull trout also roam the river, and although you cannot legally target these large predatory fish, they are incidentally caught on occasion and are even known to attack trout on the end of your line.
If you want to escape the crowds and really get away, try fly fishing the miles of dirt road that parallel Rock Creek. The road is littered with trails, and the majority run through Forest Service lands with easy fishing access. Numerous campgrounds also make this an easy escape. The river has a short float season during high water in June, and it becomes an incredible wade fishery when the flows drop. Cutthroats, rainbows and brown trout occupy the river and their population density is among the highest in the state. Your odds here are excellent, the scenery is amazing, and you are likely to see wildlife while roaming around this area.