Southwest Montana Rivers
Our corner of Montana is famous for its quantity and quality of trout. Within a couple of hours' drive, you can access numerous Blue Ribbon trout streams and, at the same time, enjoy the beauty and hospitality of western Montana.
Craig Jones | Outfitter #17520 and Lia Jones | Outfitter #44488 are licensed on the Big Hole River, Beaverhead River, Blackfoot River, and Madison River. We also have access to the permitted Smith River and Rock Creek through arrangements with other licensed outfitters. Interested in seeing some of the other rivers in Montana? GDO fishes the Jefferson, Ruby, Clark Fork, Flint Creek, Bitterroot, Missouri, Yellowstone, Stillwater, Deerborne, and other fabled rivers across the state. We are happy to arrange a trip for you that allows you to fish rivers all across the state. Contact us for more info!
Big Hole River
The Big Hole River: 150 + miles of free-flowing water originating high in the Beaverhead Mountains outside Jackson, Montana. As it flows from the rugged peaks, it meets the lush Big Hole Valley and descends through the valley toward the small town of Wise River. Many small streams flow into the river above Wise River, helping to keep the river cool while providing an excellent spawning ground for the trout. Below Wise River, the surrounding river banks turn into a rocky canyon. This provides excellent riffles, deep pools, and some fast water. The canyon section lasts about 13 miles before opening into the arid, high desert near Melrose and Glen. This part of the river has tall cottonwoods that provide shade and shelter as it flows through farmland before meeting with the Ruby River and Beaverhead to form the Jefferson.
The Big Hole is a “text-book” example of prime trout fishing water. Various bugs hatch throughout the year, starting with Skwallas in early spring, Caddis in May, the famous Salmon fly & Golden stone hatch in June, and don’t forget tricos and spruce moths in mid to late July. Year-round, fishermen can throw streamers at aggressive trout. The Big Hole also has a variety of trout to catch, in addition to the beautiful fluvial arctic grayling.
To learn more about conservation efforts and water quality monitoring on the Big Hole River, visit these pages:
Big Hole River Foundation: a science-based organization that works to protect the Big Hole River watershed through water quality monitoring, education outreach, and advocacy on behalf of its unique culture, fisheries, and wildlife.
Big Hole Watershed Committee: watershed group and central hub of diverse viewpoints on resource and community concerns.
The Ruby River is a tributary of the Beaverhead River, and about an hour drive from the fly shop. It flows north, through the Ruby Reservoir, and continues north until it meets the Beaverhead near Twin Bridges. The Ruby is a terrific brown trout fishery, with trout that aggressively rise to hoppers in late summer. The Ruby is in a remote location, and at times access can be difficult. A day on the Ruby is a perfect compliment to your angling vacation.
The name originates from the ‘Beaverhead Rock', a rock located on the river between Dillon and Twin Bridges, that was named by Sacajawea during the Lewis & Clark Expedition. The river originates at the outflow of Clark Canyon reservoir, about 20 miles south of Dillon, and flows north where it meets with the Big Hole in Twin Bridges, Montana. The Beaverhead is a much smaller river than the neighboring Big Hole, its banks lined with willows that provide nice cutbanks as it winds through the valley.
The Beaverhead is a tail-water fishery with prolific hatches of caddis, mayflies, yellow sallies, and midges. All of these bugs create a massive food source for the fish, resulting in fat, healthy trout. During the hot summer months, the fish also enjoy terrestrials such as hoppers, ants, and beetles. Occasionally aggressive trout will eat mice and frogs, and chase large craneflies skated across the surface of the water. In addition to the nearly year-long dry fly action, a fisherman can have good luck dropping nymphs in the deep holes in the upper river. Spring and fall produce terrific streamer fishing, especially in the less crowded stretches of the river near Dillon.
Sometimes referred to as the “Big Blackfoot River”, and famously known for its depiction in “A River Runs Through It”, the Blackfoot is a gem of Western Montana. The Blackfoot is located on the west side of the Continental Divide, which gives it different characteristics than rivers east of the divide. It originates 10 miles northeast of Lincoln, Montana, and flows for 75 miles through rugged Ponderosa and Pine forests until it meets with the Clark Fork River near Missoula.
The gin-clear water and deep holes are home to a variety of trout, including browns, rainbows, cutthroat, and bull trout. A day on the Blackfoot will provide you with glorious scenery and ample fishing opportunities. Big, aggressive fish love to chase large streamers, and a healthy forest provides huge hatches of salmonflies, golden stones, caddis, and spruce moths.
Take advantage of this opportunity! Outfitter Craig Jones spent his childhood fishing the Blackfoot, which provides anglers a stellar opportunity to get on world-class fish. If you are flying into or out of Missoula, we can schedule a day on the Blackfoot that works with your flight schedules.