Montana has a long list of world class rivers and those rivers often have tributaries that are excellent as well. We encourage anglers to explore and find their own secret spots while visiting Montana. There are a few rivers that jst stand out however and we are lucky to live in close proximity to a few of the best fisheries in the state and the country.
The Beaverhead River
This is our home river but it tops the list for a number of reasons. The Beaverhead is a tailwater fishery with spring influence so it stays cold throughout the hot summer months. While other rivers have low flows and closures, the Beaverhead experiences robust hatches and the high density fish populations create a target rich environment with some really big trout in the mix.
Big Hole River
When the conditions are right, the Big Hole is an incredible freestone fishery with big browns, great hatches and tons of character. From the upper reaches near Wisdom to the confluence, you will find unique opportunities, great access and plenty of places to explore.
Famous for good reason, the Madison is among the most scenic valleys in the trout world. The summer crowds are an issue on a few sections but the river is incredibly productive and resilient. It’s a long valley with room to move around and try out different access points. It’s really hard to go wrong with this iconic river.
Head over to the Horn for exceptional tailwater fishing. Known around the world for the trout populations, hungry fish and pretty much year-round productivity, this river is well worth the drive to southeastern Montana.
While there are plenty of freestone fisheries to explore, the Missouri offers another great tailwater. The constant supply of cold water and nutrient rich ecosystem means the river produces big trout and like the BigHorn, it has great numbers. It’s a technical fishery but once you get things dialed, your rod will be bent all day long. The trico hatch and evening caddis hatches are epic on the Missouri River.
Clark Fork River
Among the most diverse fisheries in the west, the Clark Fork has many different faces. The upper reaches offer a meandering river with deep undercut banks and explosive caddis hatches. There are a few sections with low fish counts but some big brown trout do live here. As you get closer to Missoula, Rock Creek pumps cold, clean water into the river and fish counts spike. The fishery from here through Missoula is productive. After Missoula, the river braids around Kelly Island and there is great wade fishing in the channels.Boaters beware because the channels are tricky and strainers can block entire sections. After Kelly Island, there are many miles of river to explore, including the Alberton Gorge whitewater section. The river will fish all the way to the confluence with the Flathead and beyond.
Flying under the radar is the Jefferson River. It doesn’t have the highest fish counts but it offers size quality and is a really nice option during the shoulder seasons when the water is nice and cold. We love this freestone and run trips when the fishing is prime. It’s the perfect place to experience after spending a few days on the Beaverhead or Big Hole.
There is an incredible amount of water to explore in Montana but these seven rivers are places to experience. You could easily spend a lifetime learning the intricacies of the Beaverhead and it always offers great fishing. We love having it as our home turf but we also stay busy pushing the limits of the exceptional regional options available.