Copyright 2013 James Marsh
Fly Fishing The Bitterroot River, Montana
The main stem of the Bitterroot River is formed by the
confluence of the West Fork of the Bitterroot, a tailwater,
and the East Fork of the Bitterroot, a freestone stream.
The main river flows through the Bitterroot Valley on its
way to the Clarke Fork River in Missoula, Montana. The
Bitterroot Mountains form the western skyline and the
Sapphire Mountains form the eastern skyline. Fly fishing
the Bitterroot River is usually a very neat adventure.
Each of the two forks provide about twenty miles of
fishing. The main stem of the river flows for seventy-five
miles through a fairly well developed area of Montana on
its way to Missoula. Most of the Bitterroot Valley is used
for agriculture purposes but there are a few ranches.
Both grass and timber line the banks of the stream.
The Bitterroot is an excellent trout stream consisting of
diverse water and some quality hatches. Cutthroat,
brown, brook, and rainbow trout can all be found in its
waters. The Bitterroot River overall is approximately
seventy-five miles long from the junction of the East and
West Fork just below the little town of Conner to where it
meets the Clark Fork River near Missoula, Montana.
You will find some beautiful riffles, shallow and deep
pools, and some fast, deep runs. It has just about
everything that makes it a good trout stream.
There are Special Regulations area's, so where you fly
fish the Bitterroot River can make a difference in the
The uppermost section of the Bitterroot, running from
Conner to Hamilton, consist mostly of fast pocket water
and it offers excellent dry fly, nymph, and streamer
fishing opportunities. The river tends to stay cooler in its
upper section. It's headwaters of both forks stay cold
year-round. Below Hamilton, the river slows somewhat
and more and more riffles become available for the dry
Once the river reaches the valley, it flows fast large
trees consisting of cottonwood, aspen, and fir.In the
lower section, the river flows past some ranches and
Both the East Fork and the West Fork of the Bitterroot
offer great trout fishing opportunities. These two forks,
along with the larger main stem, provide a tremendous
diversity of water. There's small stream headwater
fishing, tailwater fishing, and varying water types in the
main steam that ranges from long, slow moving deep
pools with short sections of riffles connecting them to
faster water with lots of riffles and runs.
From Conner,near where the two forks join, downstream
to Hamilton, the water is usually best fished using very
short, up and up and across presentations. Below
Hamilton, you will find larger water that moves slower
and longer cast may be needed. Both types of water
provide excellent fishing.
Below the little town of Hamilton, the Bitterroot flows for
about twelve miles to the town of Victor. This section is
good dry fly and nymphing water. There are lots of pools
connected by short sections of riffles and a few fast
runs. You will find some fallen timber in the river,
providing cover for the brown trout. There's also some
braided channels and plenty of undercut banks. Below
the town of Victor, the Bitterroot flows about thirty-five
miles before it enters the Clarks Fork River. This section
gets warmer in the summer because the water flows
slower and the stream is much wider.
Access to the entire Bitterroot River is great because
highway #93 following the main stem and the East Fork
throughout their lengths. The West Fork is accessed
from County Road #473.
Special Regulations apply. You should check the current
After the runoff subsides, springtime is the most popular
time to fish the river.
Fishing can be great in the first part of the summer, but
can slow down in parts of the river during late summer.
The West Fork stays cool year-round.
Early fall can be another popular time for fly fishing the
It is possible to fish the West Fork during the winter.
Fly Fishing Guide to the Bitterroot River
The methods and strategies you use for fly fishing the
Bitterroot River depends on the section you are fishing
and the time of year. (Click Here To Continue)
Bitterroot River, Montana
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