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Fly Fishing The Middle Fork Flathead
Before we get started, please note that understanding
how the Flathead River system is made up can be a little
confusing for those that are not familiar with it. This is
about the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. There are
three other Flathead Rivers that are completely
separate rivers. They are the North and South Forks of
the Flathead River and the Main Stem which is just
called the Flathead River. Each of these three other
rivers are covered in a separate section of our Perfect
Fly Stream section.
The Main Stem of the Flathead River is formed by the
confluence of the North Fork of the Flathead River and
the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. The South Fork
of the Flathead River enters the Main Stem of the
Flathead about five miles below Hungry Horse Dam. Fly
fishing the Middle Fork Flathead River ranges from easy
to very difficult, depending on the section you choose to
The Middle Fork Flathead River is a 92 mile long river
part of which forms the southwestern boundary of
Glacier National Park. Its drains an area east of the
South Fork Flathead River. The Middle Fork Flathead
River starts in the Bob Marshall Wilderness at the
confluence of Strawberry Creek and Bowl Creek. It
receives some small tributaries along its way including
some from the Glacier National Park.
The Wilderness section of the river is very remote and it
is a very fast flowing river known for its whitewater. To
reach it requires a long hike or horseback ride. This
section is about 25 miles long. Fly fishing the Middle
Fork Flathead River in this section is more of an
adventure than anything. The fishing opportunities are
good but not spectacular. The water stays very cold
from melting snow.
The wilderness section contains plenty of cutthroats up
to 16 inches but again, requires a long hike or
horseback trip. Outfitters are available for trips into this
section of the river.
Access to the Middle Fork Flathead River near Essex is
good. The river parallels U.S. Highway #2. The river
flows for several miles through a twisting, narrow area
but as it reaches an open valley at a lower elevations it
begins to spread out and become braided in places.
Downstream below the valley it again flows through a
canyon like area. It finally meets the North Fork of the
Flathead River to form the main stem.
Middle Fork Flathead River Hatches and Trout
The Middle Fork Flathead River is a cold river.
Compared to other Montana trout streams nd even
other Flathead River sections, it takes a good while to
warm up and consequently, the hatches usually run
later. Some anglers think the fly isn't important because
it is possible to catch the trout on various generic and
attractor flies. We sell all of them at Perfect Fly but to
not mislead you, it is important to understand you will
always do much better if you imitate the most plentiful
and available trout food at the place and time your
We have studied the insects in the Middle Fork and
have taken samples of the larvae at various times. We
have developed hatch charts we use to help customers
select flies for their trips to the Flathead. It is important
to know the species of insects vary from the freestone
sections and tailwater. Streamers and midges are king in
the tailwaters but there are other insects.
The two most important mayflies by far are the
Blue-winded olives and Pale Morning Duns. Several
different species are called BWO and they range froma
hook size 20 to 16. Both the mayflies hatch over a long
period of time. Others species include Green Drakes,
Small Western Green Drakes called Flavs, Pink Ladies
or Yellow quills, Gray Drakes and others including the
little Tricos (white winged curse) in some areas.
Caddisflies consist mostly of various species of Spotted
Sedges, Little Sister caddis and Green Sedges. There
are a lot of the little Short-horned sedges, as well as
October Caddis for a short time in the fall. There are
other species of less importance.
Stoneflies are very plentiful and include the huge
Salmonflies. Golden Stoneflies and Little Yellow
stoneflies. All three of these are very important insects
to imitate, especially during a hatch.
During the hot months you will find imitations of the
Japanese Beetle, Black Carpenter ants and various
sizes of Grasshoppers work well. Midges are everywhere
year-round but most important in the tailwaters. Sculpin
are by far the most plentiful species of fish the trout eat.
Seasons follow the general Montana fishing season.
Late springtime has decent fishing opportunities.
Summer time is the best time for fly fishing the Middle
Fork Flathead River..
Early Fall presents some good opportunities.
Fly Fishing Gear Tackle and Trout Flies
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1. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.
2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.
3. Email us (email@example.com)
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.
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Middle Fork Flathead River Fishing Report:
02/10/16 The seasons is currently closed on the Middle Fork Flathead River. The reason for
this post is to let you know that it isn't too early to start planning your next fly fishing trip. We
have taken samples of the aquatic insects from the Middle Fork using professional equipment.
We know what aquatic insects and other foods are present. We don't go by trial and error in
selecting flies or guess at it. Let us help you plan your next trip there: Send us an email at:
Middle Fork Flathead River Fishing
(see bottom of page)
06/16/16 The runoff is still underway but is down a lot and low enough that it can be fished. It
got an early start and maybe that indicates it will be ending early. It may also just be the cooler
weather slowed it down. Keep in touch.
08/09/16 We are getting very good reports from customers. There are lots of hatches taking
place and trout being caught. Goldens and little Yellow stoneflies, two caddis species, Pale
Morning duns, Tricos and others. Terrestrials are also doing good.
08/16/16 Customers are catching a lot of cutthroats. There are still a lot of hatches taking
place. They depend greatly on the section of the river being fished. Send us an email with
the dates you are fishing and we will send a list of recommended flies.
08/23/16 Conditions are still very good. Remember, the hatches vary greatly with the
elevation. The range from stoneflies to different mayfly and caddisfly species.
09/06/16 We didn't receive any reports for the wilderness sections of the river, but conditions
should be very good. The stream levels and weather forecast looks good for the coming week.
10/13/16 The Middle Fork has been in good shape the last two week, but low and warm prior to
that. We had three good reports and a couple that were not so good from customers we set up
with gear and flies.
11/09/16 The stream levels are very hgh right now - blown out. It is going to take a few days
for it to get back into good shape.
11/30/16 Today is the last day of the regular trout fishing season.
12/28/16 Happy holidays. It won't be long before a new season begins.
01/25/17 The river is still closed to trout fishing but it isn't to early to send us an email and let
us help you plan your next trip to the Flathead. Just let us know the dates you plan to fish.
04/19/17 Just a note to remind you that the season isn't far off. Send us and email at the
above address and let us help you plan that next trip.
06/04/17 Runoff is underway and will likely last for two weeks or more. Keep checking back with
us and we will keep you informed. You can email us and let us help you plan that next fishing
trip to the Flathead.
06/21/17 The runoff is still underway and the stream not in condition to fish. Stay in touch and
we will keep you informed as to the status of the runoff.
07/12/17 The river is in good shape. Stream levels are okay and the water is clear. There are
Pale Morning and Evening duns, Callebaetis, Salmon flies, Golden stones and little Yellow
stones hatching. There ae Spotted and Green sedge caddis hatching.
07/26/17 We received a good report from the lower section of the river. Good numbers of
trout and lots of hatching insects. We have yet to hear anything from the wilderness section.
08/08/17 The lower section of the river is in good shape with lots of trout being caught. We get
some good reports from that section. We do not have any reports as of yet from the
wilderness section of the river.
08/23/17 Conditions are as good as they are going to get. We received one good report from
a wilderness expedition. There were good hatches and lots of trout being caught.
09/27/17 The cooler weather has changed the hatches to mostly Blue-winged olives, Mahogany
Duns, Dark Red Quills, Spotted Sedges and October caddis. There may be a few terrestrials
left in place.
10/19/17 We received two good reports during the last couple of weeks from the lower river.
There were good numbers of trout being caught and some good Blue-winged olive hatches