Montana has been blessed with some amazing landscapes full of gorgeous mountains and hills, and our Big Sky Country moniker has taken center stage over the years. However, Montana is also home to gorgeous rivers that are perfect for spending the days on the banks relaxing or for partaking in one of Montana’s most prided pastimes, fishing. From glacial-fed lakes to roaring rivers, Montana has some beautiful waterways. Bretz RV & Marine has compiled a list of our favorite Montana rivers:
The Flathead River is a noted spawning stream for kokanee salmon. The Flathead River, in the northwestern part of Montana, originates in the Rocky Mountains near Glacier National Park and flows southwest into Flathead Lake, then after a journey of 158 miles (254 km), empties into the Clark Fork. The river is part of the Columbia River drainage basin, as the Clark Fork is a tributary of the Pend Oreille River, a Columbia River tributary. The river is a Class I river in Montana for purposes of recreational access. All of the headwaters forks are entirely or in part designated National Wild and Scenic Rivers. These rivers should be at the top of your destinations list for your next fly-fishing adventure.
The Middle Fork Flathead River is one of the premier wilderness rivers in Montana. Beginning in the Great Bear Wilderness area near Glacier National Park, the Middle Fork offers excellent fishing in its wilderness area, and spectacular floating once the river leaves the wilderness area behind.
Another must-see location can be found at Montana’s gorgeous Clark Fork River. You can spend the day fishing for some bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout, mountain whitefish, longnose and largescale sucker, northern pike minnow, peamouth, longnose dace, redside shiner, and Columbia slimy sculpin.
The Clark Fork River begins as Silver Bow Creek and on its way to the Columbia picks up water from other famed trout rivers, including the Blackfoot, Rock Creek and the Bitterroot. The Clark Fork has recovered from mining and floods in the early 1900s, to be one of the most productive trout rivers in Montana today. Hosting monster wild rainbows and (subjectively) the hardest fighting trout in the state, it should be at the top of your destinations list for your next fly-fishing adventure.
The Blackfoot River is arguably the perfect freestone trout stream. Gin-clear waters, native Westslope Cutthroat Trout, and great hatches make the Blackfoot River a favorite amongst all anglers fly fishing in Montana. The scenery alone makes a day spent fly fishing on the Blackfoot River worth the trip. And, from the upper reaches of the Blackfoot River down to its confluence with the Clark Fork River, anglers can find great fly fishing along the entire length. While Hollywood may have introduced the Blackfoot River to the world, it is still a top river in Montana for anglers.
All of the aforementioned rivers have amazing currents that are perfect for fly fishing, floating, paddleboarding, rafting, and/or kayaking.
The mighty ‘Mo near Craig, MT is without a doubt the finest tailwater fishery in Montana. 5000+ trout per mile, wild trout averaging 17-19 inches, and consistent hatches anglers have to see to believe. The Missouri River is also a true year-round fishery, one of the few in the Big Sky State. Our fly fishing guides consider the fly fishing in April, May, June, late September, and October to be the most productive in Montana. Anglers can count on great hatches of mayflies and caddisflies to keep the Missouri River trout looking up, often eagerly consuming dry flies in large pods of more than 20 fish at a time.
There is nowhere else in the state of Montana an angler fishing two dry flies could possibly catch two 20+ inch trout on one cast. We’ve seen it happen on the Missouri River. A few times. The Missouri River is also one of our most versatile and dynamic fisheries offering great nymphing and streamer fishing throughout the season.
The Yellowstone River is the last free-flowing river in the lower 48 states. Fishing enthusiasts flock to its waters for its beautiful trout. The river is also ideal for floats, kayaking, and more — all while taking in the views of rolling plains and limestone bluffs.
The Yellowstone River has always had a special place in our hearts and we, without a doubt, consider it the best river to fly fish in Montana. From its origins in Yellowstone National Park to its end just across our state line, the Yellowstone River is the longest undammed river in our country, running wild and free.
Populations of cutthroat trout populate the river upstream of Livingston, MT as well as wild rainbow and brown trout along its entire length. Fly Fishing on the Yellowstone River is freestone fishing at its finest. Great hatches of stoneflies, caddisflies, and mayflies, as well as the annual hopper bite, make for some of the best dry fly fishing anywhere in Montana. Anglers can fish dry flies from July through October every day and expect to do well.
Some of the largest brown trout caught every year in Montana come out of the Yellowstone River, from the many deep holes and cutbanks found along every bend. If our fly fishing guides had to pick one river to fish in Montana for the rest of their lives, the answer is the Yellowstone River every time.
The Yellowstone River also flows through Southeastern Montana
Boise, ID 83705
1608 Industrial Road
Nampa, ID 83687
2999 Old Hardin Rd.
Billings, MT 59101
4800 Grant Creek Rd.
Missoula, MT 59808