Copyright 2017 James Marsh
Fly Fishing On The Bitterroot River In
The main stem of the Bitterroot River is formed by the
confluence of the West Fork of the Bitterroot, a tailwater,
and the East Fork of the Bitterroot, a freestone stream.
The main river flows through the Bitterroot Valley on its
way to the Clarke Fork River in Missoula, Montana. The
Bitterroot Mountains form the western skyline and the
Sapphire Mountains form the eastern skyline. Fly fishing
the Bitterroot River is usually a very neat adventure.
Each of the two forks provide about twenty miles of
fishing. The main stem of the river flows for seventy-five
miles through a fairly well developed area of Montana on
its way to Missoula. Most of the Bitterroot Valley is used
for agriculture purposes but there are a few ranches.
Both grass and timber line the banks of the stream.
The Bitterroot is an excellent trout stream consisting of
diverse water and some quality hatches. Cutthroat,
brown, brook, and rainbow trout can all be found in its
waters. The Bitterroot River overall is approximately
seventy-five miles long from the junction of the East and
West Fork just below the little town of Conner to where it
meets the Clark Fork River near Missoula, Montana.
You will find some beautiful riffles, shallow and deep
pools, and some fast, deep runs. It has just about
everything that makes it a good trout stream.
There are Special Regulations area's, so where you fly
fish the Bitterroot River can make a difference in the
The uppermost section of the Bitterroot, running from
Conner to Hamilton, consist mostly of fast pocket water
and it offers excellent dry fly, nymph, and streamer
fishing opportunities. The river tends to stay cooler in its
upper section. It's headwaters of both forks stay cold
year-round. Below Hamilton, the river slows somewhat
and more and more riffles become available for the dry
Once the river reaches the valley, it flows fast large
trees consisting of cottonwood, aspen, and fir.In the
lower section, the river flows past some ranches and
Both the East Fork and the West Fork of the Bitterroot
offer great trout fishing opportunities. These two forks,
along with the larger main stem, provide a tremendous
diversity of water. There's small stream headwater
fishing, tailwater fishing, and varying water types in the
main steam that ranges from long, slow moving deep
pools with short sections of riffles connecting them to
faster water with lots of riffles and runs.
Bitterroot River, Montana
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Recommended Tackle & Gear
4, 5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 &12 ft., 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 71/2
ft., 3 or 4X, Streamers 0-2X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly Supreme Four, Superb Five or
For 4/5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
From Conner,near where the two forks join,
downstream to Hamilton, the water is usually
best fished using very short, up and up and
across presentations. Below Hamilton, you will
find larger water that moves slower and longer
cast may be needed. Both types of water
provide excellent fishing.
Below the little town of Hamilton, the Bitterroot
flows for about twelve miles to the town of
Victor. This section is good dry fly and
nymphing water. There are lots of pools
connected by short sections of riffles and a few
fast runs. You will find some fallen timber in the
river, providing cover for the brown trout.
Special Regulations apply. You should
check the current Montana Regulations
After the runoff subsides, springtime is
the most popular time to fish the river.
Fishing can be great in the first part of
the summer, but can slow down in
parts of the river during late summer.
The West Fork stays cool year-round.
Fly Fishing Guide to the Bitterroot
The methods and strategies you use for fly
fishing the Bitterroot River depends on the
section you are fishing and the time of year.
The East Fork of the Bitterroot River is a
freestone stream subject to the whatever
Mother Nature brings to it. It flows for about
twenty miles before joining the West Fork to
form the main stem of the Bitterroot. The
upper part is followed by the East Fork Road
through National Forest Land. Highway #93
follows the East Fork from Conner to near
Sula. There are several fishing access sites
along the road and some private property in
this section. This is a small stream that
contains mostly small Westslope Cutthroat
trout. The fish are plentiful and the stream
provides an action packed, fun filled fishing
The West Fork is a tailwater below Painted
Rocks Lake located near the Idaho and
Montana border. There are approximately ten
miles of the stream above the lake. It
contains small brook, cutthroat and rainbow
trout. It can be accessed from the
West Fork Road. Most of it lies on National
Forest land. To your right is a
thumbnail image of Painted Rocks Lake. The
West Fork tailwater runs about
fifteen miles before its confluence with the East
Fork. The water below the dam runs clear all
year long and can even be fished during the
spring runoff. It has some good sized rainbow,
brown and cutthroat trout. Most of the water is
of moderate flow. It is easily waded.
The two forks of the Bitterroot join just above
the little town of Conner. The main stem,
downstream of Conner, is still a small size and
provides excellent wading and floating
conditions. It has a good population of
rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout. There's a
public access just below Conner, the Hannon
Memorial Fishing Access. This upper section is
still cooled during the summer from the West
Fork flows of cold water released from the
bottom of Painted Rock Lake.
There's also some braided channels and
plenty of undercut banks. Below the town
of Victor, the Bitterroot flows about
thirty-five miles before it enters the Clarks
Fork River. This section gets warmer in the
summer because the water flows slower
and the stream is much wider.
Access to the entire Bitterroot River is
great because highway #93 following the
main stem and the East Fork throughout
their lengths. The West Fork is accessed
from County Road #473.
It has lots of riffles and is surrounded by
some very nice scenery. Its fish may not
be quite as large as they get downstream,
but you most likely won't be crowded.
The next section flows between the towns
of Hamilton and Victory. There the water
is often used for agricultural purposes
and the river can get rather low. It is
broken up in many areas with split
channels. This is a good section to wade.
Most of the time the flows are slower than
most everywhere else. There are many
gravel bars along the river, along with
several diversion dams in this section.
Fishing access sites are available.
From Florence to Victor, the river can get
too warm for good trout fishing during the
late summer, but its great most any other
time. There are no diversion dams and
the river can be floated fairly easy. The
fish population is probably slightly higher
than it is upriver. There is plenty of deep
water in large, slow moving pools that can
hold trout. The fish in this section are
larger than most of them found upstream.
The biggest problem is the traffic during
the late spring and summer created by
From Florence to the Clarke Fork River,
the Bitterroot River takes on a slightly
different appearance from the section
above Florence. The braids, channels
and islands return. The stream doesn't
have as good of a population of trout as
the section above Florence, but it does
hold some very nice trout. Large rainbows
have been caught in this section. The
river slows down again, and the water can
become too warm during the late summer.
Our information on aquatic insects is based
on our stream samples of larvae and nymphs,
not guess work. We base fly suggestions on
imitating the most plentiful and most available
insects and other foods at the particular time
you are fishing. Unlike the generic fly shop
trout flies, we have specific imitations of all the
insects in the Bitterroot River and in all stages
of life that are applicable to fishing. If you
want to fish better, more realistic trout flies,
have a much higher degree of success, give
us a call. We not only will help you with
selections, you will learn why, after trying
Perfect Flies, 92% of the thousands of our
customers will use nothing else.
The hatches on the Bitterroot River varies
with the sections of the river. Some of the
insects are only found in certain types of
water, so keep that in mind. You want find
Trico mayflies in the fast water of the
headwater sections, for example.
The Blue-winged Olives are among the most
important hatches. The BWOs start hatching
about the middle of March. It can last until the
end of April. A second hatch takes place
starting about near the end of September. It
can last until the first of November, depending
on the weather.
Another important mayfly is the Pale Morning
Dun. They hatch starting about the middle of
June and lasting until as late as the first of
August. There is a Brown Dun hatch that
takes place about the last week of March and
through the month of April.
The only other substantial hatch of mayflies
are the Tricos. These hatch on the slower,
smoother sections of water during August and
Caddisflies can be the most important insects
at times. Spotted Sedges are the most
plentiful species. They start hatching around
the middle of July and can last through the
month of August. There is a Little Black
Caddis hatch, called the Mother's Day Hatch,
that starts in mid April and last through the
month of May, depending on the section.
The big October Caddis hatch from about
the middle of September through
October. There are several other species
of caddisflies in the Bitterroot River but
they usually don't exist in plentiful
About the first of March you will find two
species of stoneflies on the Bitterroot
River. The Winter Stoneflies hatch until
about the middle of April. Skwala
Stoneflies start abut the middle of March
and last through the middle of April. The
Salmonflies usually start about the first of
June and last through July, depending on
the section of the river. About the first of
June the Golden Stoneflies start hatching.
They hatch through the month of July,
depending on the section of the river.
Yellow Sallies, or Little Yellow Stoneflies,
hatch from the middle of May all the way
through the middle of August, again,
depending on the section of the river.
Make sure you have a good selection of
streamer flies. The river has plenty of
minnows, baitfish species and sculpin.
Streamers work great early and late in the
day, and when the water is stained from
Terrestrials become very important during
the months of July, August and
September. Imitations of ants, beetles,
and grasshoppers work great at times.
Midges hatch throughout the year but are
most important during the months of
March and October.
Use our "Perfect Fly" hatch chart" and
select your flies for the time you will be
fishing. Please give our flies a chance to
work for you if you haven't done so
already. We feel confident that you will be
more than satisfied with them.
Early fall can be another popular time for
fly fishing the Bitterroot River.
It is possible to fish the West Fork during
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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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Headlines:: The river is in very
good shape from the headwaters to
the lowest section. The stream
levels are getting a little low, but i
makes it easy to wade most places.
You do have to use caution not to
spook the trout. The West Fork is
also low but with great PMD hatches
and plenty of trout being caught.
There are still some Golden stones
and Drakes in the higher elevations.
Keep up with the latest by clicking
our weekly updated Bitterroot River
fishing report link above. .
Bitterroot River Map
Fishing Report Headlines Archive:
Click Here for the Current Bitterroot River Fishing Report
01/05/16 It is still cold in Montana but the weather will be better this coming week than it has
been. There is snow every day but warmer temperatures. We are still recommending the
West Fork of the Bitterroot River but you do have to check the discharges to make sure they
are not running too much water. Midges, Winter stoneflies and the White Belly Sculpin are the
flies you need to use.
01/12/16 With the current conditions, I would forget about fishing any part of the Bitterroot
except the West Fork tailwater. If the discharges are low and you can wade, it is always a
good wintertime destination. You should have a 4 wheel drive even though the road is paved.
There is a lot of snow forecast for this coming week. Midges and winter stoneflies are the
main insects you need to imitate.
01/19/16 The weather is warming up a little for this coming week. Of course, that means more
snow and or rain. The melting snow keeps the water stained and cold. We are recommending
the West Fork tailwater because it is warmer water. The discharges from the dam should be
low all week but be sure to check them.
01/26/16 As I mention in the attached stream report, the only section of the main stem warm
enough to have a chance of catching trout is the lowest section of the Bitterroot. We are still
recommending the West Fork tailwater. It has the warmer water because it is a bottom
discharge. You do need to check the levels though.
02/02/16 Midges are the main insects you need to be imitating. Winter stoneflies are also
hatching but the cream and red midges are hatching good as long as there is some cloud
cover. It is possible to catch some mid afternoon on the surface on the adult imitation.
Otherwise, fish the larva and pupa in tandem.
02/09/16 For a change, the weather is going to be warmer for a few days. Don't expect any
big changes in the water temperature but it should help some. We still think the West Fork
tailwater is the best option. Midges, winter stoneflies and little size 20 BWO nymphs are the
flies we recommend. The locals are reporting some good midge hatches in the lower river mid
02/16/16 What a great time to be enjoying the mid winter season on the Bitterroot River. The
weather pattern is still unseasonably warm but the water cold from melting snow. It is also
stained in many sections. I guess you could call it a mini-runoff. Midges are still the key insect
to imitate. Remember, it is still the middle of the winter. That is difficult to keep in mind when
the high temperatures are in the fifties.
02/23/16 The warm weather is melting snow and ice throughout the Bitterroot watershed and
keeping the water temperature down and stained. We are still recommending fishing the West
Fork. The flows remain good and you can wade and catch trout. Fish as close as you can
legally to the dam. The water is at its warmest there. Midges and winter stoneflies are the
insects you need to imitate.
02/23/16 The weather is going to be warmer than it has been all week but with snow and rain.
The warmer weather will melt a lot of bank snow and stain the water again. We still think the
best section to fish will be the West Fork tailwater. Just check the stream levels to make sure
they are not making heavy discharges but they are usually low. Midges, winter stoneflies,
black flies and Sculpin are the foods you should imitate.
03/08/16 The stream levels are a little high right now, and with a forecast for rain and snow
every day for the next week, they are unlikely to be getting any lower. Streamers are about
the only fly option for the main river. You might check the levels on the West Fork tailwater. It
may be low enough to fish but could be high as well. Midges and little BWOs are the flies you
will need to use if it is down low enough to fish.
03/15/16 The unseasonably warm weather has ended, at least for a while. Snow and more
normal early spring type weather conditions are returning. The West Fork is a good choice as
to where to fish this coming week, but the water in the lower section of t he Bitterroot is a little
warmer and should also begin to produce some trout.
03/22/16 The stream levels are in good shape from the headwaters to the Clark Fork River.
The water is clear but cold. If you fish the mainstem, fish the lowest section of the river. The
West Fork tailwater is still the best choice. Notice we added Skwala stoneflies, as they should
begin to hatch in the near future. Midges is still king right now.
03/29/16 The river is in very good shape for this time of the year. The weather has been
rough lately, namely the high wind. The water is getting a little warmer and we can expect
Skwala stoneflies to start hatching soon. Right now it is midges and little Blue-winged olives.
Sculpin streamers have been catching some trout for our customers.
04/05/16 Don't get your bathing suits out yet, but it is going to be very warm for Montana
during the coming week. The warm air is melting snow big time and the stream levels are on
the rise and the water highly stained in most sections. We again think the West Fork tailwater
is the best option, provided the discharges are fairly low.
04/12/16 The river is running high and stained at this time. There is rain in the forecast every
day through Friday, so this is unlikely to change anytime soon. The West Fork of the river
may offer better opportunity but it is a tailwater also subject to high levels. The water is warm
and Blue-winged olives and midges are hatching good. The Brown sculpin streamer would be
a good fly choice right now.
04/19/16 The Bitterroot is down from last week but still higher than you can wade in most
sections. We still recommend the West Fork tailwater, provided the discharges are low. The
water is a little warmer and Little Black Caddis are hatching in some sections. Skwala
stoneflies will soon be emerging as well. Right now, midges and Blue-winged olives are the
main insects to imitate.
04/26/16 The warm streak is over and the weather back to normal on the Bitterroot River.
Melting snow and rain has the water dirty and high and it will most likely continue. There is a
lot of rain in the forecast with much cooler temperatures. Midges and little BWOs are the only
insects you need to imitate. The West Fork tailwater may be the best bet, if the discharges
05/03/16 The Bitterroot is down a lot but still a little high and slightly stained in some sections
but mostly clear. The Blue-winged olive hatches have been good the past week. it is getting
near the big Mothers day Caddis hatch. It usually starts when the water temperature get
about 50 degrees. Conditions ar improving each day and anglers caught some trout the past
couple of days.
05/10/16 Melting snow in the watershed has the water high and badly stained. Even the West
Fork tailwater is high and dingy. There is little chance of rain the coming week with cooler
weather and that may slow what appears to be an eary runoff conditions. The Mother's day
hatch and March Browns will continue to be the prime hatches when the water drops and
05/17/16 The stream levels are down a lot from last week but still too high to wade safely.
Drift boats may have some opportunity. There is rain in the forecast everyday for the next
week and the river likely to rise some. The water varies from stained to clear depending on
the area. Lots of insects are hatching. The West Fork may be a good option but watch the
05/24/16 High, stained water continues to hamper the fly fishing opportunities. Some drift
boat anglers are picking up a few trout on streamers but the water is stained in most sections,
with low visibility. The West fork tailwater is often the best section to fish when the runoff in
underways but you always have to check the discharges and levels.
05/31/16 The levels are still high but not too high to fish in most places. The water is slightly
to heavily stained depending on where you are fishing. We are expected the levels to
increase by the end of the week, due to much warmer weather in the forecast. Check out the
West Fork discharges. It may be the best option if they are not running water.
06/07/16 The river is back up high and dingy due to more runoff and rain. The high
temperature is forecast to be 98 degrees on day this week. There is rain forecast every day
for the coming week. Lots of insects are hatching but it is doing little good. Several should
start hatching anytime now. You may check the West Fork discharges. It should give some
opportunity at times.
06/14/16 The Bitterroot is in much better conditions than last week, but the runoff isn't over
yet. The weather has turned much cooler but there is a lot of rain in the forecast. The river is
low enough that it can be fished from a drift boat. Streamers may get you some trout. One
customer caught some nice trout on the West Fork this past week. Lets hope the lower levels
is a sign the runoff will end early this year.
06/20/16 The river has gotten into pretty good shape. The water levels have continued to fall
and clear. The West Fork discharges are low and it wadable most of the time. Parts of the
main river can be waded but much of it is still a little too high for that. It is prefect from drift
boat fishing. There are numerous hatches taking place and our customers are catching
plenty of trout.
06/27/16 The Bitterroot is in good shape from its headwaters to the confluence with the Clark
Fork river. Anglers are catching trout in all sections including the two branches that form the
main river. There are several insects hatching including the large stoneflies, three species of
mayflies and three species of caddisflies. Our customers reported good results this past
07/05/16 The river is in great shape in all sections, from the headwaters downstream to the
Clark Fork. Many sections can be waded with the lower stream levels existing right now. We
expect them to remain in decent shape even though there is rain in the forecat later on this
week. There are many insects hatching and dry fly fishing the past two days was great
according to our customers. It is a great time to fly fish the Bitterroot.
07/12/16 The Stream levels are up some from last week but still about normal for this time of
the year and in good shape. The West Fork tailwater is a little low and easy to wade now but
check the levels and discharges. Much of the headwaters and some of the middle section of
the main river can be waded safely. There are still a lot of aquatic insects hatching and most
of our customers are having good success.
07/19/16 The Bitterroot is in the best shape that it has been all year. Our customers are
sending in good reports about every day. There are a huge number of aquatic insects
hatching but they vary greatly depending on the section of th Bitterroot you choose to fish. All
sections are in good shape with good stream levels and flows.
07/26/16 The river is getting a little low but it is giving anglers plenty of good wading
opportunity. In places you have to be careful not to spook the trout. There are a lot of
hatches still taking place including some Green drakes, Pale Morning duns, Spotted Sedges,
Green sedges, little Yellow stoneflies and others. Tricos have also started to hatch. Fish early
and late in the day. The last three hours of daylight is a great time.
08/02/16 Hoot Owl restrictions are in place. The stream levels are getting low. You can wade
about anywhere you wish but it is very easy to spook the trout your trying to catch. Dress to
match the background, stay low and use all the stealth you can come up with. All sections are
in good shape except for being low. The west Fork tailwater is fishing good as well. Pale
Morning duns and caddisflies are the main insects to be imitating.
08/09/16 The Bitterroot is under Hoot Owl restrictions from Tucker Crossing FAS near Victor
to the confluence with the Clark Fork River. You can only fish until 2:00PM each day. Pale
morning duns, little yellow stoneflies, spotted sedges, green sedges and tricos are hatching
good. Fish early mornings using Sculpin streamers like our Olive Matuka sculpin.
08/16/16 The Hoot Owl restrictions have been dropped for the Bitterroot river. We were
getting some very good reports from customers fishing and we expect that to continue now
the restrictions are dropped. There are still a lot of insects hatching. They vary depending on
the section of water being fished. Imitations of the terrestrials insects such as ants, beetles
and grass hoppers are also working good.
08/23/16 The stream levels are still in good shape in all sections of the river. We are getting
some good reports from customers. You can wade many sections easily thanks to good
stream levels. The weather is cooler and so is the water temperature. There are still a lot of
insects hatching but keep in mind they vary greatly with the section of the river you fish.
Terrestrials insects are also working good.
08/30/16 The stream is in good condition for its headwaters to the Clarke Fork river. Anglers
are catching plenty of trout. Fish early mornings using streamers like our Brown sculpin. Fish
the last three hours of daylight imitating the egg laying caddis. Tricos are hatching in most of
the moderate to slow water sections of the river.
09/06/16 Everything is back to normal on the Bitterroot River, and that means the stream is in
good shape in all sections. Our customers reported catching a lot of trout over the long
weekend. There are still a lot of insects hatching and imitations of ants, beetles and grass
hoppers are working good as well. The stream levels are in good shape in all section and the
water temperature running about normal.
09/13/16 The Bitterroot is in good shape in all sections of the river from the headwaters to
the lowest section. Our customers sent in two good reports this past week with good numbers
and a few large ones. They were fishing a variety of places wading. The West Fork was one
they mentioned that produced especially well. Terrestrials and BWOs were the two main
things they were using.
09/20/16 It is raining as I write this and will probably continue through Saturday. You may
want to watch the levels. All sections are just a little low now and otherwise in great shape.
The cooler weather has really helped the fish get active. Mahogany duns and October caddis
have begin to hatch. Baetis species of Blue-winged olives are also hatching.
09/27/16 The river is flowing at the normal level for this time of the season and the water is in
good shape in all respects. The little West Fork has been producing a lot of trout this past
few days but all sections are doing well, including the lowest section. The weather is
remaining on the cool side and October Caddis, Mahogany duns and other insects are
10/04/16 The river is in the best shape it has been in for the past two months. You can catch
trout from the headwaters to the Clark Fork river. Brown trout are getting near the spawning
stage and very aggressive. They will take the Brown Sculpin streamer and the Black Matuka
sculpin very well. Blue-winged olives are hatching very good. There is rain forecast everyday
this coming week.
10/11/16 The stream levels are up and wading will be tough to impossible. The drift boat guys
are still able to fish. We recommend the West fork tailwater but you do need to check the
discharges and stream levels there. It is usually lower and in good shape. There are
spawning brown trout and lots of Blue-winged olive hatches taking place right now.
10/26/16 The river is currently blown out, with very high level. The West fork tailwater may
have some low discharges, but that is doubtful. You will just have to watch the levels. There is
more rain on the way with a chance every day except today.
11/03/16 The stream levels are very high in all sections. The rain is over except for one day
this coming week, so the levels should continue to fall. You cannot safely wade most places
at this time. You can fish it from a drift boat but the water is running high and fast and it isn't
very productive. Streamers will be the best option. The West Fork tailwater may provide some
11/10/16 The river is in much better shape but still a little above normal levels. It was high all
of last week and we didn't receive any reports from anyone fishing. The West Fork is always
an option when the main river is high. Of course, it can be high as well but it is controlled by
the dam. Blue-winged olives and Cream midges are hatching good.
11/17/16 The river levels are a little high but okay, especially if you are fishing from a drift
boat. The West Fork has been producing some nice trout. The Sculpin streamers are
catching the larger trout. Midges and Blue-winged olives are hatching good, and with the
coming week's cloud cover, should be good ones.
11/24/16 The river is running a little low but that isn't a bad thing. The water is cold,
averaging in the low forties. We do recommend fishing the lower section of the river. The
higher up, the colder the water. The West fork tailwater is a good option. There is snow in the
forecast from Saturday to the next weekend. Midges, creams and reds (blood) midges and
little Blue-winged olives are the only insects hatching.
12/01/16 The river is in good shape for the first of December. The stream levels are down low
enough that wading is possible most places. The water temperature is cold, down to as low as
39 degrees. It is a little warmer in the West Fork tailwater. Midges and Blue-winged olives are
hatching good with the heavy cloud cover. Sculpin streamers should still catch the larger size
12/08/16 I cannot recommend fishing the freestone section of the river this coming week. The
weather will not go above freezing all week and there is snow forecast everyday. The West
fork tailwater is the only feasible option. The water from the bottom discharge will be about 40
degrees. Midges, Creams and Red, are hatching. Fish the larva and pupa imitations in
12/15/16 It is going to be very cold again this coming week. The air temperatures isn't going
above freezing all week and the water will be just barely above freezing in the freestone
section of the river. The West Fork is warmer, thinks to the bottom discharge, but make sure
you check the stream levels. They most likely will be low, but could be up.
12/22/16 The weather is going to be a little warmer this coming week, but with lots of snow.
The air temperature isn't going above freezing, so the freestone section or main river water
temperature isn't going much above the low to mid thirties, or staying very cold. We
recommend fishing the West Fork tailwater. Check the levels and if okay, fish midges. It
should be about 39 degrees.
12/30/16 The freestone section of the Bitterroot River is still very cold with water
temperatures of 36 or less. The best choice at this time is still the West Fork tailwater. It
averages about 37 or 38 near the dam. You do have to keep a check on the discharges but
they should remain low and you should be able to wade. Fish midges, creams and reds, in
tandem. The pupa should be the top fly.
01/05/17 We had a customer report catching a few trout, including two good ones, from the
West Fork this past week. It is about 37 degrees at the dam but drops down depending on
how far downstream you fish. They used Cream midges with the larva and pupa fished in
tandem under an indicator. Winter stoneflies are also hatching. Fish the nymph near the
banks late in the day.
01/13/17 The freestone section of the river, or main river, is just too cold to provide any real
opportunity to catch trout. There is ice in the lowest section before its confluence with the
Clarke Fork. The West Fork of the river is a tailwater and much warmer. It is about 37
degrees at the release and then drops the further you fish downstream. Right now, the
discharges are low and the levels low and the best choice as to where to fish.
01/19/17 There is little change from the past week. The West fork tailwater is still the best
section of the river to fish. There is ice in the water on the lowest section of the freestone or
mainstream. Watch the discharges but otherwise, you should be able to wade. The levels
usually remain low in the winter months. Midges, Creams and Blood midges (Reds) are still
the most important insects to imitate.
01/26/17 There is little change in the main stream. The water will remain very cold with lots of
slush and bank ice, even in the lowest section of the river. The air temperature won't exceed
freezing or 32 degrees this coming week. The West Fork tailwater is the only decent option
and it can be good when the discharges are low enough to wade. Midges and Winter
stoneflies are sill hatching good.
02/02/17 The main river is very cold with lots of shelf, bank and slush ice in the water, even in
the lowest section. There is heavy rain and snow forecast for the coming week. The best
section continues to be the West Fork, but make sure you check the discharges and stream
levels. Midges, creams and reds, continue to hatch. Fish the larva and pupa in tandem for
the best results.
02/09/17 The good news is the weather and water is warmer. The bad new is, snow is melting
big time and there's more falling along with some rain raising the water levels fast. The West
Fork may still be the choice section to fish, provided the discharges are low. It is going to take
a few days for this to clear up. Streamers like the Black or Oive Matuka sculpin work good
under the high or stained water conditions.
02/16/17 We didn't receive any reports from anyone fishing this past week. The water levels
have been and still are high from the rain and melting snow and ice. That is likely to continue
this coming week. There is rain or snow in the forecast everyday. The discharges from the
West Fork have been high as well, but changes, so keep a check on that. Lots of snow and
ice has melted but that is keeping the water cold.
02/23/17 The river is flowing at a good level but very cold. The water is barely above freezing
even at the lowest section. There is more ice accumulating in the water, both shelf ice and
slush. The West Fork is the best option. The tailwater is warmer but you will need to check
the discharges and stream level. Midges, Creams and Reds, are the main insects to imitate.
Streamers will also work when it is snowing lightly or cloudy.
03/09/17 The Bitterroot is high and stained from rain and melting snow and ice. The water is
muddy in some places. The discharges from the west Fork dam is also running high right
now. This isn't expected to change much. There is rain forecast everyday for the coming
week. If you fish, streamers would be the best option. The Black or Olive Matuka sculpin work
good in stained water.
03/16/17 The river is blown out, or flowing extremely high. It is ranging from muddy to highly
stained. This includes all sections. It is going to take a few days for this to clear up. All you
can do is check back with us and watch the stream levels. This is due to the warm weather
melting snow and ice and rain.
03/23/17 The stream levels are down a lot from last week's flood but still very high and too
high to fish anywhere. There is rain forecast everyday for this coming week, so this condition
is unlikely to change. The West Fork tailwater is usually the first section to clear up and get in
shape to fish, but you will have to check to know for sure. We don't see much opportunity for
fishing this coming week.
03/30/17 The river is still flowing very high. I won't say blown out but it wouldn't be a bad
description. There is more rain and snow in the forecast for the coming week, and the warm
temperatures will keep the mini-runoff going. I don't see any opportunity for fly fishing this
coming week. Skwala stoneflies and Little Brown stoneflies are hatching but not doing anyone
but the fish much good.
04/07/17 The river is still very high, too high to fish, in all sections. There is rain and snow in
the forecast again for the coming week. Even the little West Fork tailwater is running high, to
high to wade or fish. All you can do is keep checking back with us to see the stream levels.
Fishing should be very good when the water gets low enough to fish.
04/14/17 The Bitterroot is in much better shape than the past week, with stream levels not far
above normal. Some places can be waded with caution. Most of it is still too high. The lower
river can be fished from a boat. There are Skwala and little Brown stoneflies hatching, little
Blue-winged olives, little Black Caddis and lots of light Green Midges. The West Fork in in
good shape but being a tailwater, it is subject to change anytime.
04/28/17 The stream is in better shape than it has been in a long time but still high, too high
to wade in most places but okay in some. The West Fork is in good shape. The weather is
turning colder with rain or snow in the forecast this coming week but one. There are some
Skwala and little Brown stoneflies hatching. We didn't receive any reports from anyone fishing
this past week.
05/04/17 The river is in good shape with good stream levels making wading easy and safe in
a lot of places. The West Fork tailwater discharges and flows are also low and producing
trout. We had two good reports from this past week. March Browns, Little Black Caddis, Blue-
winged oives and little Brown stoneflies are hatching.
05/11/17 The river levels are back up high in all sections. Even the West Fork discharges are
high. All sections are too high to wade and too high to fish from a drift boat. The water is
highly stained to muddy. This is both due to runoff and lots of rain. There is more to come
this coming week. All you can do it to stay in touch. We will keep you informed.
05/18/17 The stream levels are down and the river getting into very good shape. The water is
lightly stained to clear. The West fork is in very good condition. There are lts of hatches
taking place and more to start very soon. It is a good time to be headed to the river to fish.
There is little rain in the forecast for the coming week.
05/25/17 The stream levels are back up high again, to high to wade anywhere and too high
and stained to fish from a drift boat in our opinion. The discharges at the West Fork are high
again. It will likely be the first section to get into shape to fish. All you can do is to keep
checking back with us. We will keep you informed as to the conditions.
06/01/17 The river is very high or blown out, in all sections. It is muddy to highly stained and
not worth fishing under these conditions. All you can do is to stay in touch with us. We will
keep you advised as to the status of the runoff. You can send us an email at the address
across this page and we will help you plan that next trip to the Bitterroot.
06/08/17 The runoff is still in control of the Bitterroot. Stream levels are very high and the
water badly stained in all sections of the river. All you can do is to stay in touch with us. We
will keep you informed as to the status of the runoff. You can send us an email and let us
help you plan that next fly fishing trip on the Bitterroot.
06/15/17 The river is still very high from runoff. It is down just a little from last week and
falling. Hopefully, it will fall fast and get back into good shape soon. The West Fork is still high
from high discharges as well. All you can do is stay in touch. We will keep you informed as to
the status of the runoff.
06/23/17 The river is still running very high and off color from runoff. The West Prong is still
discharging heavily and not in condition to fish. All sections are too high to fish in our opinion.
Hopefully, it will drop down to good levels and clear up soon. Stay in touch and we will keep
you informed. There are a lot of insects hatching but little good it is doing.
06/29/17 The river is in good shape in all sections. The stream levels are down a lot from last
week and still falling. You can wade some areas safely now, and by the end of the week,
probably about anywhere. All sections of the river are in good shape with lots of insects
hatching. The upper and middle sections are running a little lower that the lower part of the
07/05/16 The river is in very good shape in all sections. Our customers are sending in some
very good reports. There are lots of insects hatching and we have also added terrestrials to
the fly list. They can be important at times. The stream levels are just right and wading easy
and safe most places. It is a good time to be fishing the river.
07/13/17 The stream levels are down and wading safe and easy in about all the sections of
the Bitterroot. We received several good reports from customers this past week. There are
still a lot of insects hatching but they vary some from section to section. Terrestrials are also
working but we don't recommend this in priority to anything hatching.