Copyright 2016 James Marsh
Fly Fishing On The Blackfoot River In
Fly fishing the Blackfoot River was made a lot more
popular when the movie "A River Runs Through It" came
out in 1992. Since then, the river has gained national
recognition as a quality trout stream. Fly fishing the
Blackfoot River can be done by wading or using a drift
boat. It has a variety of species including rainbow, brook
and brown trout. It also has one of the largest
populations of bull trout there is in the United States.
West Slope Cutthroat trout are also present in many
areas of the river.
Throughout its length of over 120 miles of the river, you
will find the best fishing is in the Blackfoot River
Recreational Corridor. It also provides several excellent
campsites. This section is roughly thirty miles long, so
there's plenty of good water to fish. The single biggest
disadvantage is that during the summer, there are many
recreational floaters that use the water.
This also happens be the best section of the river to fish
from a drift boat. Although much of the slower water
upstream of the Corridor can be floated using small
personal pontoon type boats, most of the river inside the
Corridor area would probably require larger boats.
There are several access points along the river inside
the Corridor as well as in the last section of the river
above Bonner Dam. That means there are several
options when it comes to floating this section the river.
Here are some of them.
The Blackfoot River starts out quite different from most
other western trout streams. Its headwaters are not the
typical, beautiful small stream that has a lot of smaller,
eager cutthroats or brook trout. In fact, the first twenty
miles or so of the Blackfoot River has few, if any fish.
Anaconda Creek and Beartrap Creek flow together to
form the river. To put it bluntly, the river isn't worth
fishing above Lincoln. Below Lincoln, it changes to more
like what is expected of a trout stream. The next section,
we will call it, from Lincoln to the Mineral Hill access, flows
through more of a mountainous type tertian. It is
bordered for most of its length by highway #141. The
water in this section can become very low at places
during the summer. It is more of a moderately flowing
stream with long pools and short runs between them. It is
basically brown trout water. The farther downstream you
get in this section, the more the river starts looking like a
The next section, down to Cedar Meadows, is a twisting,
winding section that is about nineteen river miles long. It
cannot be easily accessed from a road. You have to hike
in or float this section of the Blackfoot. The river still
flows on a gentle or moderate slope for the most part. It
is still better suited to brown trout that rainbows. It can be
accessed from the Aunt Molly Fishing Access.
Blackfoot River, Montana
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From Cedar Meadows Fishing Access down
to the junction of the North Fork of the
Blackfoot River, the Blackfoot changes
again. Its flows increase and it tends to
straighten out. This is a twelve mile long
section. Road #124 road crosses the river.
From our perspective, the only section worth
wading is the section from Lincoln to Mineral
Hill. I am certain the river provides a much
better experience if you drifted it in a small
boat or pontoon type boat, or maybe even a
canoe in certain areas.
At the confluence of the North Fork of the
Blackfoot River and the main Blackfoot River
downstream for the next dozen or so miles to
the Clearwater Bridge, the river changes
from a moderate flowing valley stream into a
fast water section that flows through a
canyon. This canyon, called the "Box
Canyon" is about five miles long. From the
canyon it exits into another valley. Fishing
varies through this section due to the
changes in the speed and type of water.
Rainbow trout become more plentiful in the
fast water section of the box canyon. Brown
trout begin to decrease.
From the Clearwater Bridge downstream, the
river changes character yet again. This
section would best be described as pocket
water. It consist mostly of fast water runs,
riffles and pools.
You can fish the Blackfoot River throughout
Springtime can be one of the best times for
fly fishing Blackfoot River.
The spring runoff occurs in June, but as
soon as it has ended, the fishing becomes
Fly Fishing Guide to the Blackfoot
How you fish the Blackfoot depends on two
big things - when and where you fish it.
The Blackfoot River can be fished by
wading or from a drift boat. Some areas of
the uppermost sections can be fished from
small pontoon type boats or even a canoe.
It's a classic freestone stream that's full of
large boulder. Most of the river consist of
About half of this river’s headwaters are is
in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Much of it
has been logged in the past. There's even
been some mining. You will notice the
difference at the forks of the upper river.
One is usually clear and the other dingy.
Thanks goodness, most of it is
undeveloped and properly protected.
The Blackfoot River flows through a series
of canyons. The easiest way to fish them is
by boat. There's some wading access
points but much of the river would be
inaccessible to the wading angler without a
Much of the Blackfoot River 's pocket water
consist of complex currents. Getting a good
drift isn't easy. Mending will fix the situation
but it is by far better to use a reach cast or
a reach mend. It's about the only way to get
a good drift in much of the stream.
There are some white water sections. This
is the most popular section to fish. It is also
used by recreational float trips and white
water enthusiast. Most of the fish are
rainbow trout. There's also a good
population of Mountain Whitefish. This is a
beautiful area. The river flows through
forest of Ponderosa Pine. Prairie Road, a
nine mile long dirt road, follows along part
of this section. This section isn't a great
distance from Missoula, Montana, making it
a popular area for many other types of
From Johnsrud Park downstream, the river
flows along highway 200, so accessing the
stream is easy. There are several access
sites along the road. The river is as big as it
gets in this section. There are a lot of long,
deep pools between short riffles. Both
rainbows and brown trout are present. The
river is also accessible from its opposite
side of the river from the main road in the
section. Roads are present along most of
the river. The Bonner Dam stops the flow of
the river about two miles upstream from its
confluence with the Clarke Fork. You can
fish the river below the dam but we are
uncertain of its quality.
About the only way to fish the Blackfoot
River successfully is to make short,
upstream presentations. The more fly line
you have in the water, the more difficult it
becomes to get a drag free drift. Due to the
currents, and broken surface of the water,
you can usually get fairly close to the trout
fishing in an upstream direction.
Staying hidden is important. By that I mean
you should wear clothing that blends in with
the background. Use the boulders to your
benefit and slip up behind them as often as
possible. The trout are not very selective
unless there's a good hatch taking place.
When that happens you will be far better off
matching the hatch.
Westslope cutthroat are the main trout you
will encounter. There's plenty of browns and
rainbows too and brookies are plentiful in
some areas of the headwaters. Don't forget
therfe's the threatened bull trout. Some of
these fish are huge. Some grow to lengths
over 30 inches. If you catch a bull trout by
accident, make certain you release it very
Blackfoot River Hatches and Trout
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
Blackfoot 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 river has an early season hatch of
Skwala stoneflies that takes place during
March and April. Winter stoneflies
(Nemoura) are also present these two
As with most all the streams in the area,
baetis mayflies (Blue-winged Olives) hatch
from mid March until mid June. There is yet
another hatch that takes place in
September, October and part of November.
In the slower sections of the river there is
usually a good hatch of Gray Drakes during
the last week of March and the month of
April. There is yet another hatch of the
Gray Drakes the last week or so in August
and during the month of September.
March Brown mayflies hatch starting about
the last week of March and through he
month of April. Another March Brown
species hatches starting about the last
week of August through September and into
the first week of October. Green Drakes
hatch from about the middle of June into the
first or second week of July. The runoff may
catch part of this hatch.
Pale Morning Duns, or PMDs, as they are
called, hatch from about the first of June all
the way through the month of September,
depending on the location. This is one of
the better mayfly hatches. The little
Mahogany Duns hatch in September and
Tricos hatch in the slower water sections of
the stream starting about the last week of
July all the way until the first week or two in
October. This is one of the better hatches
provided you can handle the small flies.
The river has a good Salmonfly hatch but it
may occur during the spring runoff period. It
occurs from about the last week of May into
June. Golden Stoneflies hatch during July
and August. Yellow Sallies hatch from about
the first of June through August. All in all,
stoneflies are very important insects in the
Blackfoot River.Several species of
caddisflies are present - the Spotted Sedge
being the most plentiful. It generally
hatches from the middle of May until the
end of August, depending on the particular
species. They are all very similar. Their
Little Sister Caddisflies hatch from about
the middle of June through August. Little
Short-horned Sedges hatch from about the
middle of June through July.
Different species of Green Sedges hatch
from about the middle of June all the way
through September. The Rock Worm, or an
imitation of their larva, works great just
about all year. The last big caddisfly hatch
is the October Caddis which takes place
from about the middle of September
through the middle of October.
Don't overlook terrestrial during the
summer. Grasshopper work from about the
first week of July though the month of
September. There are also plenty of
beetles and ants. There are even some
flying ants, but it is difficult to pinpoint the
time you will find them.
Midges hatch throughout the year but are
more important during March and April and
again in October when other hatches are
If you want to catch some big trout, don't
overlook streamers. The river has a good
population of Sculpin, minnows and other
If you haven't done so already, please give
our "Perfect Flies" a try. We are certain you
will find them not only the most realistic
imitations, but also the most effective flies
you can use on the Blackfoot River. Our
stonefly imitations have proven to catch
trout from this stream. Our hatch chart will
provide the flies you need for the dates you
plan on fishing the Blackfoot.
The water can become low and slow the
early fall season, but other than that,
fishing is normally very good..
Winter fishing can be rough, but it can also
be productive, especially on nice warm
Blackfoot River Fishing Report:
11/30/13 Don't forget the "catch and
release only" regulations that allow you
to fish throughout the year. That should
give anglers a few opportunities to fish
the Blackfoot on nice, warm days of the
Thumbnail Images: Click to enlarge
Thumbnail Images: Click to enlarge
Fishing Report Updated
December 01, 2016
(Archive at Bottom Of Page)
01/08/13 We have not had any reports
from anyone that has fished I guess due to
very low temperatures. The weather
outlook for the coming week is better.
01/15/14 Still no reports of anyone fishing
but the weather forecast is much better for
the coming week with no snow or rain.
01/22/14 One customer ordering little winter
stonefly nymphs, BWO nymphs and other
flies for the Blackfoot. Better weather is
forecast for the coming week.
01/29/14 Still no reports of any fish being
caught. Conditions are not that bad for the
middle of the Winter.
02/05/14 Very little opportunity for the
coming week due to very cold weather. We
suggest you forget it this week.
02/12/14 We still have no fishing reports
but the weather is going to be much warmer
this coming week and there will be some
opportunity for those that want to fish.
02/19/14 One local contact reported
catching a few rainbows in the lower end of
the river. The water was still in the mid
thirties according to him and this week will
return to the normal cold temperatures.
02/26/14 We didn't receive any fishing
reports from anglers this past week.
03/05/14 The weather is going to be much
warmer this coming week. Hopefully, we
will hear from some anglers fishing the
03/12/14 Only one report from anyone
fishing. He managed two rainbows. He
called to order some BWO nymphs and
duns and reported the fishing as very slow.
03/19/14 Same gentleman above fished 2
days and caught some trout both days
using our BWO nymphs. He reported
seeing some Skwala stoneflies on the
03/26/14 We didn't receive any reports
from anyone fishing this past week.
|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (email@example.com)
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.
All orders are shipped free in the
U. S. Orders over $50 are shipped via
04/09/14 The river is flowing high and off
color right now and no reports came in
from the past week.
04/16/14 No reports due to higher flows.
More rain is forecast the flows may
remain high for a while.
04/23/14 The Blackfoot river is high
and rising. No reports from anyone
04/30/14 Stream levels are still high. Rain
forecast for the weekend and early next
05/07/14 High stream levels have
prevented anyone from fishing this past
05/14/14 The stream levels are back
near normal levels and there is some
good weather in the forecast. Let us
hear from you.
05/21/14 Stream levels are high and will
probably be that way for the next few
05/28/14 Stream levels are still high
06/04/14 Stream levels have fell down
to just above normal levels and the
water is getting warm fast. Several
insects have begin to hatch.
06/11/14 Stream levels are still just a little
high. We still don't have any reports from
06/18/14 Several very good reports have
come in lately. Three anglers who have
been fishing were buying lots of
Salmonfly, Golden SF, PMD and other
imitations this past week. This is the best
report so far this year.
07/10/14 Several good reports from
customers came in the last few days.
Stoneflies and plenty of mayflies and
caddisflies are hatching and stream levels
are in good shape.
7/23/14 Stream levels are back in good
shape and plenty of trout are being caught.
Customers ordering PMDs and terestrials.
7/30/14 Two customers reporting some
good fishing. Lots of Little Yellowstone
flies and Spotted Sedges hatching.
Stream levels are still in good shape.
08/13/14 We received one report from a
customer last week that was catching some
trout and ordering more Pale Evening
Duns. Stream levels are in good shape.
09/03/14 Stream levels are good and it is
getting cooler. Two customers reporting
they are catching trout in good numbers.
09/23/14 Customers are reporting
catching lots of trout. Conditions are
good. October Caddis, Spotted Sedges
and BWOs are hatching.
10/08/14 October Caddis are hatching good.
Anglers are catching trout as long as the
stream levels are not too high. Blue-winged
olives have started hatching againl.
10/15/14 The Blackfoot river stream levels
are in good shape and fishing should be
great. Blue-winged Olives are beginning to
10/22/14 We didn't receive any reports from
the last week but conditions remain good.
10/29/14 Two customers reported they are
catching plenty of trout including some
nice browns. Good stream levels.
11/05/14 Another good report from an
angler catching a large brown trout on our
12/13/14 The weather has been cold up
until the past week and the coming week
looks even better. We didn't receive any
reports but conditions are not bad and
trout could be caught on midges and small
BWO nymphs. Stream flows are back in
12/24/14 No reports from the last two week.
Much colder weather and lots of snow.
12/31/14 Still no reports. Conditions haven't
been all that bad.
01/14/15 A customer reported catching
some nice size browns on the lower end of
the river using our Brown sculpin the past
two days. Conditions are good for this time
of the year.
01/21/15 No reports from the past week
but conditions remain very good.
01/29/15 Two good reports from yesterday.
Much better weather is in the forecast and
good stream levels exist.
02/02/15 We didn't receive any reports
from anyone fishing last week but
conditions remain very good.
02/17/15 The weather has been nice and
we received two good reports this past
week. Midges and streamers were working.
03/03/15 It is snowing right now but will
clear up for another week. Another good
report came in a few days ago.
03/10/15 There is extremely warm weather
in the picture for the next week. The water
will warm but melting snow may also be a
03/17/15 The river is high and off color
and will take some time to recede.
03/24/15 The river is still blown out and will
take a few days to clear up and drop.
03/31/15 Still flowing high and off color.
04/28/15 The river is flowing high and off
color. Very warm weather is in the forecast.
05/19/15 Little Black Caddis, BWOs, and
March Browns are hatching.
05/26/15 No reports from anyone fishing
but conditions continue to be good.
06/09/15 Still in runoff but falling.
07/07/15 Runoff is over and the stream
levels back in good shape. Lots of insects
are hatching. Golden stones, PMDs,
Spotted sedges and lots more.
08/11/15 Sorry for the lack of reports, but
it wasn't because the fishing wasn't good.
It has been great. Good stream levels and
08/18/15 Stream level a tad low but in good
shape with much cooler weather coming
08/25/15 The stream levels are still low and
the weather has warmed back up, so we
recommend fishing the uppermost sections
of the river.
09/01/15 Two good reports from
customers catching rainbows and browns
using terrestrials. The Japanese Beetle
was a top fly for them.
09/08/15 The Blackfoot river is a sleeper,
often producing better fishing than many
of the bigger name streams in the same
part of Montana. Don't overlook it
09/15/15 The river is a little low now but
rising because it is raining and will
continue to do so through Friday. It will
also be much cooler.
09/25/15 Two good reports of rainbow and
brown trout caught recently on Mahogany
Map of Blackfoot River
09/29/15 Watch the stream levels. There's
more rain coming. The weather is going to
be much cooler. October Caddis are
10/06/15 Two good reports from local
customers. They are catching both
rainbows and brown trout and some big
10/13/15 Brown trout are spawning. October
Caddis are hatching. Stream levels are good
and so is the weather.
10/20/15 The river is in great shape from top
to bottom with Blue-winged Olives starting to
hatch again. You have the river to yourself.
10/28/15 There is rain or snow in the forecast
just about every day for the next week. Watch
the stream levels. Blue-winged olives are
hatching very good. Brown trout are spawning.
11/03/10 Winter warning in effect. We
recommend waiting a short time
11/10/15 Stream levels are in good shape. The
hatches are mostly midges and Blue-winged
olives. Brown Sculpin have been the most
productive fly. The weather is decent.
11/17/15 Raining now but stream levels are
good and shouldn't change much. Snow is
forecast the rest of the weekdays but nice this
weekend. The Brown Sculpin is the hot fly.
11/24/15 There's a winter storm warning in
effect but it will clear up by Thanksgiving day.
Midges should get you some trout if your brave
enough to fish the lower end of the river.
12/01/15 It is going to be a little warmer than
last week. Fish the lower end of the river and
midges should work. The Brown sculpin
streamer has been catching a lot of trout.
12/08/15 We are adding Little Winter
stoneflies to the list of flies you need. They
have started hatching in the upper part of the
river. Midges will still be most important.
12/22/15 The lowest end of the river still has
about 38 degree water temperature. It does
have some ice around the banks. Midges and
Winter stonefly nymphs may catch some trout.
The stream levels are running a
little high, too high to wade safely
in most places. The water is very
cold, down to the mid thirties. You
may catch trout on midges, but I
recommend a tailwater.
01/05/16 The water should warm up just a little
this coming week. It will be slow mostly likely
but you can catch some trout with midges and
some persistence. Fish the holes in the bottom
out of the current.
01/19/16 The weather is going to be a little
warmer but it won't bring up the cold water
temperature averaging about 36 degrees.
Melting snow cools it and stains it.
01/26/16 he stream levels are fine but the water
is cold, of course, You should fish cream or red
midges, pupa and larva in tandem, in the slack
current, or holes in the bottom, pockets, etc.
02/02/16 The weather is back to its normal
winter cold with air temperatures not exceeding
freezing and a lot of slush ice in the water. You
could select a better destination for this next
02/16/16 It is warming us this next week. Melting
snow on the banks will stain the water. Stream
levels are fine but rain and snow will resume
Friday and the first of next week. Midges are
king right now.
02/23/16 The water levels are down near
normal but the water is still stained from
melting snow in the watershed. The water is
still cold, averaging about 35 degrees. Midges
is the only good option.
03/01/15 The Blackfoot is in good shape
stream level wise but warmer weather is
melting snow and staining the water.
Streamers are the best option at this time.
03/15/16 The river is in good shape, with
good levels and clear water. It is still cold and
midges the main insect to imitate. Skwala
stoneflies will be hatching in the near future.
03/22/16 The river is in as good of shape as it
could possibly be at this time of the year. The
weather is going to be warmer this week and
that will melt snow and keep the water cold.
03/29/16 The stream levels are in good
shape and the water clear again. The
weather is returning to a more normal early
spring pattern. Midges and Winter stoneflies
04/05/13 The weather is going to be much
warmer and melt a lot of snow, stain the
water, but make catching trout on the sculpin
streamers a lot easier. Good conditions exist
04/12/16 The river is running high right now
and there's more rain in the forecast. You will
just have to watch the levels to know when
you have a good opportunity to fish.
04.19/16 The river is still high and dingy
due to melting snow. It is going to continue
this week with even warmer weather. The
uppermost section may be fishable with
04/26/16 The warm spell is over but it melted
a lot of snow and that and the rain has the
stream levels high and stained. This is likely
to continue this week with rain forecast every
05/03/16 The water is high and dingy with
little fly fishing opportunity. The Mother's Day
caddisfly hatch has started in the lower end
of the river.
05/10/16 The river is very high and badly
stained from runoff from the previous warm
weather. There will be little opportunity for the
next few days.
05/24/16 The runoff is still underway in full
stream and likely to remain high for several
days. Just keep checking back with us.
05/31/16 The stream levels are down in good
shape and the water clear. There is some
rain in the forecast this week, so what the
levels. Otherwise, conditions are good.
Skwala stoneflies are hatching.
06/07/16 The river level is down a lot but the
runoff isn't over yet. It should end earlier than
normal. The weather is going to be much cooler.
06/20/16 The stream levels are down a lot from
the past two weeks, not yet low enough to
safely wade in most places but maybe some.
The water is mostly clear and there are a lot of
06/28/16 The flows are down to 1140 cfs and
much of the stream can be safely waded. The
water is mostly clear with lots of hatching
insects including the big stoneflies, Salmonflies
and Golden stones.
07/05/16 Stream levels are lower than normal,
flowing at 880 cfs. It is easy to wade and easy
to spook the trout in many areas. There are
still a lot of insects hatching. This coming week
07/12/16 The stream levels are still down
below normal for this time of the year, but
that's not a bad thing at all. You can wade and
fish from a drift boat where permitted. Little
Yellow stoneflies are hatching big time.
Spotted sedges, Green sedges and other
caddis. Green drakes and PMDs are hatching.
07/19/16 The river is in good shape with good
flows and stream levels in all sections. There
are a huge number of insects hatching but the
hatches vary from section to section. There are
a lot of recreational boaters in some sections.
07/26/16 The stream is getting a little low but
there's still plenty of water. You do have to stay
hidden from the trout in some sections. There
are several hatches going on. Pale Morning
duns, two species of caddis and little Yellow
stoneflies. Tricos have begin to hatch.
08/02/16 The river is still a little low but
otherwise in good shape. Hoot Owl restrictions
are in place. We recommend fishing the upper
and middle sections of the river. It is getting
warm in the lowest section. Terrestrials are
beginning to work but there are still plenty of
hatches taking place.
08/09/16 Under Hoot Owl restrictions.
08/16/16 The Hoot Owl restrictions have
been dropped in all sections of the river. Our
customers are catching trout in good
numbers in the corridor section.
09/08/16 The levels are just a little below
normal and the water much cooler. Our
customers are catching trout in all sections.
Sculpin streamers, BWOs, little Yellow stones
and terrestrials are working good.
09/13/16 The stream levels are still low and
the water warm. Fish the upper part of the
recreational section. Tricos and caddisflies
are the main insects hatching
09/20/16 The flows are low but not too low to
fish. Wading is easy most places and you still
could float the lower section. BWOs,
Mahogany duns, October caddis and other
insects are hatching. .
09/27/16 Excellent conditions exist in all
sections. The stream levels are a little low but
there is a chance of rain in the forecast most
of the coming week. Mahogany duns,
Blue-winged olives and October Caddis are
10/04/16 The river is still in good shape with
stream levels a little low but coming up. There
is some rain in the forecast. There are still
some good BWO and October Caddis
10/11/16 The Blackfoot is flowing a little below
normal levels in great shape and our
customers are catching good number of them.
This includes some large brown trout. There
are some great Blue-winged olives hatches.
10/26/16 The stream levels are still a little
high. It is tough wading conditions in most
sections. Drift boats should do fine. There are
some huge Blue-winged olive hatches taking
place. There is a lot of rain in the forecast, so
watch the levels.
11/03/16 The stream levels are still running
high and wading not feasible in most places.
There is only a day of rain forecast for the
coming week, so the levels should continue to
11/10/16 The stream levels were high most
of the past week. We didn't receive any
reports from anyone fishing. It is still a little
high but falling and can be fished in most
11/17/16 The stream levels are still high, too
high to safely wade in most places. You can
fish the lower river from a drift boat. We
recommend the Sculpin streamers. BWOs
and Midges are hatching.