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Fly Fishing The Flathead River Montana
Before we get started, please note that understanding
how the Flathead River is made up can be a little
confusing for those that are not familiar with it. This is
about the main stem of the Flathead River. There are
three other Flathead Rivers that are completely
separate rivers. They are the North, Middle and South
Forks of the Flathead River and each of these three
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 that
forms the big Hungry Horse Reservoir on the South
Fork. This river's drainage is huge, including a large
part of Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall
The Flathead River flows for about 158 miles. The huge
Flathead Lake divides the river into two sections, the
upper and lower section below the lake. From Flathead
Lake, the largest lake in the West, the Flathead flows
into the Clarke Fork River. Fly fishing the Flathead River
can vary greatly depending on the exact location you
fish. It's a big river.
The upper section of the river is a big, cold fast flowing
river. It is deep, and difficult to wade in most places and
during most of the season. Its water is cold even during
the Summer because it comes mostly from melting snow.
There are several braided sections of the river where it
divides into channels. It can be fished best from a drift
boat but attention to the stream flow is warranted. The
upper section has a population of rainbows and
cutthroats. Access to this section is good.
The lower section of the Flathead River is a tailwater.
Kerr dam regulates its flow which can change very
quickly. Like all tailwaters, special attention is needed.
Trout consist of browns and rainbows. It is considered a
prime pike stream but there are some larger size
rainbows and brown trout. The best fishing is just below
the dam. The river flows through a canyon called Buffalo
Flathead River Hatches and Trout Flies:
Contrary to what you might read, the fly your use is
important. It is true the trout will take the generic fly
patterns and attractor flies (we do sell those at Perfect
Fly) but if you imitate the most plentiful and available
insects (subsurface or top water) at the time you are
fishing, you will substantially increase your odds of
success. We have studied the aquatic insects in the
Flathead and have taken samples of the larvae to
develop reliable hatch charts.
There are variations in the tailwater sections and
freestone sections. There are variation in terms of the
time of hatches from the headwaters to the lower
sections. Midges are king in the tailwaters but other
species of insect exist.
Of all the mayflies, Blue-winged Olives and Pale Morning
Duns are the most common and important ones. There
are others including March Browns, Yellow Quills, Dark
Red Quills, Tricos, Green Drakes, Small western Green
Drake and others of far less importance.
In the caddisfly lineup you will find several different
species called Spotted Sedges as well as Green
Sedges. There are also Short-horned Sedges, Little
Sister caddis and October Caddis that can be very
important. Most of the other species are not so
abundant. The population is very diverse.
Stoneflies are very plentiful and they include the huge
Salmonflies, Golden Stoneflies and Little Yellow
Stoneflies. All three of these are plentiful and very
important especially during a hatch. .
During the summer you will find imitations of Carpenter
ants, Japanese beetles and various size and colors of
hoppers work well.
Seasons follow the general Montana fishing season.
Late springtime has decent fishing opportunities and
hatches as good as they get on the Flathead River.
The Summer would be best time for fly fishing the
Early Fall presents good opportunities for big browns..
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Photo Courtesy Steven Lamb
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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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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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Flathead River (Main Stem) Fishing Report:
02/10/16 The seasons is currently closed on the Flathead River but it isn't too early to start
planning your next fly trip. We have taken samples of the aquatic insects several times from
the Flathead River using professional equipment and gear and know what aquatic insects and
other foods are present. We don't go by trial and error in selecting flies and we don't guess at
it. Let us help you plan your next trip there: Send us an email at: email@example.com.
Flathead River Fishing Report:
August 23, 2016
(see bottom of page)
06/16/16 The runoff still has the river very high and dingy and this is likely to continue for the
next couple of weeks. We hope it ends earlier than normal this season. It started early.
07/12/16 Two good reports from the past week from customers fishing the river. The stream
levels are fine and wading possible in the normal places. There are a huge number of insects
hatching. Golden and Little Yellow stones, Green drakes, Yellow Quills, Spotted sedges,
Green sedges and more. Send us an email for a list of flies.
07/19/16 The Flathead is in very good shape in all sections. We are getting some good
reports from customers. There are a large number of hatches taking place.
07/26/16 Stream levels are still okay. The water is getting warmer and the Golden stoneflies
about done. Little Yellow stoneflies are hatching good. PMDs, Yellow Quills, Green drakes,
Spotted and green sedges (caddis) and other insects are hating good.
08/02/16 Spotted sedges, Green Sedges, Pale Morning duns, Yellow Quills and Little Yellow
stoneflies are hatching. Customers are sending in some good reports.
08/09/16 Two good reports from the past week. Sculpin streamers are working good early
mornings. Late afternoon egg laying caddis are bringing a lot of trout to the surface to feed.
08/16/16 There are lots of insects hatching and lots of trout being caught. The weather is
going to be much cooler near the middle of the week. Send us an email for a list of insects
hatching and flies to match them with.
08/23/16 Most anglers are using terrestrial imitations, hoppers, etc, but there are still a lot of
hatching insects. During the hatch, egg laying or spinner falls, imitations of these will
outperform the terrestrials.