The Missouri River is known for its incredible fly fishing, particularly in the section known as the Land of Giants. This section of the river is located just north of Helena and is home to some of the largest Trout in Montana. This iconic stretch of river begins at Hauser Dam flowing north through a steep canyon and eventually into the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness Area.
River Access to the Land of Giants
The best way to experience fly fishing the Land of Giants is by jet boat. Jet boats are shallow-draft vessels that help navigate the fast currents and shallow waters of the upper River. Guided fishing trips depart from the Gates of the Mountains marina every morning beginning in April. These boats are used to travel across Holter Lake and up the river providing quick access to areas that are unreachable by foot travel. Upon arrival, guides will row using oars, just like a drift boat. The use of oars helps the guide to manage the drift and avoid hazards like submerged rocks and shallow gravel bars.
Fly Fishing the Land of Giants
One of the most impressive features of the Land of Giants is the sheer size of the trout. Rainbow and Brown trout measuring up to 24″ are not uncommon. These massive fish are a true testament to the health and vibrancy of the fishery. In my personal experience, most fish over 30″ are caught on the lower reaches of the river. These trophy fish like the slower areas of the river where they don’t have to expend unnecessary energy.
Best Time to Fish the Land of Giants
One of the best times to fly fish in the Land of Giants is during the annual PMD and Caddis hatch. These hatches begin in June and run through August. During the Caddis hatch, the Missouri River is alive with large trout feeding aggressively on the surface. Following the Caddis is the Pale Morning Dun hatch. This hatch typically begins mid summer and offers exceptional dry fly fishing on the Land of Giants. Pods of rising trout can be seen sipping these pale yellow mayflies in the slicks or back eddies.
The Land of Giants fishes best from ice -off in April until ice-on in December. The summer, trout will move out of Holter lake and begin to swim upriver looking for cooler and more oxygenated water. During the fall, the weather cools down, and the river becomes less crowded. The trout also become more active as they prepare for the winter, feeding heavily in preparation for the colder months. Fall is a great time to fish with sinking fly lines and large streamers. Big brown and Rainbow trout become more aggressive and are more likely to chase after large streamers.
Fly Fishing Methods
Fly fishing is the most popular method used on the Missouri River, and anglers typically use a variety of tactics. Dry flies, nymphs, and streamers can all be used to fool these large trout. Anglers should be prepared to use heavier, 6-weight rods to find success on this stretch of water. The stillwater fishing on Holter Lake is world-class, and the lake provides epic Chironomid and Callibaetis hatches. Sight fishing with large dry flies or stripping buggers or leeches can all produce large fish.
Indicator Fishing Subsurface
The Land of Giants is a place where you can get deep into your backing. I recommend 9’ 6″ rods to help manage the drift from a boat. Reels with smooth drags are also essential for protecting lighter tippets and small flies. Nymphing is a very effective way to target these fish. When nymphing, we’re often fishing two nymphs on a 4X tippet 4-5′ from the split shot to the indicator. Adjusting depth as needed.
Streamer Fishing the Land of Giants
Streamer fishing is my favorite type of fishing at LOG. It can be very effective and provides an exciting visual experience. Watching a two-foot brown trout chase and inhale a streamer is what gets me out of bed in the morning. Streamer rods should be 7-8 weights. These stouter rods really help when chucking and ducking larger flies on full sinking fly lines. A 6 weight is sufficient when casting smaller wooly buggers and leeches.
Dry Fly Fishing the Land of Giants
The Dry fly fishing at the Land of Giants can be fantastic with the right weather and time of day. Swarms of Caddis, PMD and Trico hatches can be epic. Not to mention the hopper fishing during the afternoons. Seeing one of these giants slurp a big foam dry fly can be an exhilarating experience.
While the Land of Giants section of the Missouri River is known for its impressive trout, it’s important to note that the river and lake is also home to a variety of game fish. Mountain whitefish, Kokanee Salmon, Northern Pike, Perch and Walleye. Infact state record Walleye was caught in Holter Lake not far from the marina. Anglers looking for a unique fishing experience will not be disappointed with what this fishery has to offer.
In addition to fly fishing, the Land of Giants is also known for its abundant wildlife. It’s not uncommon to see bald eagles, osprey, beavers, otters, and other wildlife along the river. The area is also home to several species of big game, including bears, deer, goats and bighorn sheep. The Land of Giants section of the Missouri River is a must-visit destination. Breathtaking scenery, crystal-clear waters, and massive trout, this stretch of river is truly a fly-fishing paradise. Our fishing guides have an intimate knowledge of this fishery, ensuring a safe and memorable experience.