Copyright 2013 James Marsh
Fly Fishing Guide to Rock Creek
Fishing in the headwaters of Rock Creek is typical of most headwaters. The fish are generally
very plentiful but small compared to those downstream. Cutthroat, brown, brook, rainbow and
bull trout exist in Rock Creek. Most of the fish in the headwaters are brooks, cutts or rainbows.
There are few brown trout.
Below Montana highway #38, the river flows through the forest. Riffles, runs and deep pools
make up what would be best described as pocket water. As mentioned, Rock Creek Road
follows along the creek for its entire length. For the first few miles below the bridge at highway
#38, the fish population seems to be mostly a mixture of cutthroats, rainbows and cutbows or
hybrids. The fish are much larger in this area than they are in the smaller headwater streams.
They seem to increase in size the further downstream you go although that may be more of a
coincidence than fact.
Several small creeks join Rock Creek on its way to the Clark Fork River. Below Harry's Flat
Campground, the creek looks more like a river than a creek. The river gets wider and slows
down some. The lower section has both rainbow and brown trout but the rainbows decrease in
numbers and the browns increase the closer the stream gets to it's confluence with Clark Fork.
The wildlife along this creek is incredible. Our first trip there, Angie video taped two Bighorn
sheep crossing the creek just below me. I was not aware they were behind me and she was
staying quite because they were close to us. When I noticed her continuously shooting
downstream of me, rather than the whitefish I had on, I yelled to ask what she was doing. The
Bighorns went into high gear and I only got a short glimpse of them until I reviewed the tape
later that night. I was not aware that she had been shooting the sheep for the past few minutes.
Many anglers think that Rock Creek is purely a nymph fishing stream and that the trout want
generally feed on the surface or take dry flies. I think that is probably because several articles
have been written that more or less state that. In our several trips there at different times of the
year and during several different years, we have not found that to be the case. I certainly
wouldn't go so far as to say that Rock Creek is a top dry fly stream. I am just saying that they
seem to feed on the surface there as well as most other places.
Another reason I suppose that stuck with some is that the creek has a lot of deep pools. Other
than the normal pools that may be less than five feet deep, for example, there are many that
are much deeper. In fact, it is difficult to get a nymph down to the bottom in many places.
I'm not suggesting that anglers should fish a dry fly when nothing is hatching. I would tend to
always use a nymph or larva imitation under the "no hatch to match" situation. That said, I
haven't found that the stream necessarily has any fewer hatches than any other freestone
stream of its type in the western Rocky Mountains. In fact, it may have more.
Stoneflies are very plentiful in Rock Creek. Most of the time you will get far better results
fishing a stonefly nymph than you would an imitation of the adult, but that is no different on
Rock Creek than anywhere else.
If you pay attention to the hatch times, you should do well fishing dry fly imitations. We have
been able to catch more trout on the dries than nymphs, but of course we usually fish them
more often than we do wet flies or nymphs. We think the "nymph" stream is an unfair and
inaccurate label for Rock Creek. We hope you will be the final judge of that.
Rock Creek, Montana
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Notice the Big Horn Sheep in the center