FLY FISHING FOR TROUT ON THE CLARK FORK RIVER IN MONTANA
The Clark Fork River begins as Silver Bow Creek in downtown Butte, Montana when Basin and Blacktail creek converge less than 5 miles from the Continental Divide. It flows northwest until its confluence with Warm Springs Creek where it then officially becomes the Clark Fork River. From there it flows across the state towards Missoula, Montana when the Blackfoot River joins in. Further north and west just outside of Paradise, Montana, the main stem of the Flathead meets the Clark Fork alongside a rock cliff wall often speckled with Big Horn Sheep. The river sprawls wide for miles on its way toward Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho. At 310 miles, the Clark Fork River is the largest river by volume in Montana.
The Clark Fork is home to all of Montana’s sought-after trout species including rainbow trout, brown trout, and our native westslope cutthroat trout. There is also the opportunity for some non-trout species like the native mountain whitefish or some smallmouth bass.
A float here will expose you to some of Montana’s most impressive landscape, where the mountains seem to shoot straight up out of the water.
FAMOUS CLARK FORK RIVER BUG HATCHES
Through most of July and into August you will see numerous Golden Stoneflies. You can imitate the dry fly using a golden chubby chernobyl or Pat’s rubber legs nymph pattern.
This river also provides a variety of mayfly hatches giving an angler ample dry fly opportunities.
WHEN TO FISH THE CLARK FORK
You can fish the Clark Fork River most of the year, however, this river is affected by spring runoff. Every spring in Montana is a little different but once the air temperature starts to rise and we start getting some rainy days. This starts to melt the mountain snowpack and all that water starts filling up the alpine creeks. As the tributaries flow towards the big river they pick up silt from the banks that turn the water chocolate brown. This period usually only lasts for a couple of weeks and once the water clears up the bite is on.
For most years this happens around May and June. During this time for the best fishing opportunities, you will want to head over to a tailwater like the Missouri River as it is not affected by runoff.
When the water color clears up but the flows are still high, the fish tend to hang out near the banks out of the heavy current. This is a great time to target the banks. By mid-July through the beginning of October, the Clark Fork is one of our favorite destination trips. When the water levels come down you can start to see all the underwater ledges. Watch your dry fly get crushed as it flows over one of these drop-offs.
CLICK FOR DIRECTIONS FROM YOUR LOCATION
Our favorite guided section begins near St. Regis, Montana and goes downriver to Paradise. This long stretch offers a great two-day adventure with one of Montana’s best hot spring resorts halfway down. Quinns Hot Springs is a destination on its own, after a soak in the healing waters, an award-winning meal, and a great nights sleep, we’re sure you will agree.