Fly Fishing the Blackfoot River
Nestled in the rugged terrain west of the continental divide, the Big Blackfoot River is a paradise for fly fishermen seeking a true Montana experience. Made famous by Norman Maclean’s novel, A River Runs Through It. Fly Fishing the Blackfoot River offers stunning scenery, abundant trout, and plenty of wildlife to view.
The Big Blackfoot River begins its journey high in the mountains northeast of the town of Lincoln and flows 132 miles through pristine wilderness. It passes small towns and historic sites before ultimately emptying into the Clark Fork River. Along the way, the river offers a variety of fishing experiences, from small side channels to deep, slow-moving pools.
A great way to experience the Blackfoot River is by float fishing. The river is home to several species of fish. Cutthroat trout, bull trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, and mountain whitefish. Summer is a great time to fish, as the runoff from snowmelt has usually subsided, and the river is clear and fishable through late fall.
Hatches on the Big Blackfoot River
There are several hatches throughout the year you should know about when fly fishing the Blackfoot River. Some of the most notable hatches on the Blackfoot River include:
- Terrestrials – Ants, beetles, hoppers and moths will be in play all summer. Hopper patterns are some of the most popular and effective. Foam-bodied hoppers in sizes 8-12 are a good choice, as they are buoyant and can support a dropper fly underneath. Ant and beetle patterns in sizes 12-16 can also be effective.
- Salmonfly – The Salmonfly hatch is one of the most anticipated events of the year on the Big Blackfoot. This hatch usually occurs in mid-June to early July and is characterized by the
- emergence of large, orange-colored stoneflies. Trout go crazy for these bugs, and anglers can expect some exciting fishing during this time.
- Golden Stonefly – Occuring in July and August and is characterized by the emergence of large, yellowish-brown stoneflies. These insects are a favorite food source for trout, and anglers can expect some great fishing during this time.
- Trico mayfly – The Trico mayfly hatch usually occurs in August and September. These insects can be difficult to imitate, but when done correctly, they can be very effective for catching trout.
- Caddis – Caddisflies are a favorite food source for Blackfoot River trout. Caddisflies are an important part of the ecosystem, as they serve as a food source for many other animals. Birds, amphibians, and other insects rely on the caddis fly. They can also help to break down organic matter in the river, playing an important role in nutrient cycling.
Access points along the Blackfoot River
Just a short drive from Missoula are a number of access points:
- Johnsrud Park Fishing Access Site: Located about 8 miles east of Bonner on Montana Highway 200. It has a boat ramp, toilets, and picnic tables.
- Clearwater Junction Fishing Access Site: 20 miles east of Missoula on Montana Highway 200. It has a boat ramp, toilets, and picnic tables.
- Harry Morgan Fishing Access Site : 3.5 miles south of the town of Ovando on Ovando – Helmville Road. Site has bathrooms, boat landing, and primitive campsites
- River Junction Fishing Access Site: This access site is located about 5 miles east of Bonner on Montana Highway 200. It has a boat ramp, toilets, and picnic tables.
- Russell Gates Fishing Access Site: This access site is located about 12 miles east of Bonner on Montana Highway 200. It has a boat ramp, toilets, and picnic tables.
- Nine Mile Prairie Fishing Access Site: Located about 28 miles west of Missoula on Montana Highway 200. It has a boat ramp, toilets, and picnic tables.
- Copper Creek Fishing Access Site: This access site is located about 40 miles west of Missoula on Montana Highway 200. It has a boat ramp, toilets, and picnic tables.
In addition to fishing, the Blackfoot River offers ample opportunities for hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing. The surrounding area is home to grizzly bears, elk, deer, and moose. Visitors should be prepared to encounter these animals while hiking or fishing.
Overall, fly fishing the Blackfoot River is a Montana adventure not to be missed. Stunning scenery, diverse fishing opportunities, the Blackfoot River is a must-visit destination for any fly fisherman.