Copyright 2013 James Marsh
Fly Fishing Guide to the Blackfoot River, Montana
The Blackfoot River starts out quite different from most other western 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 trout stream.
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
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.
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 recreation use.
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.
Blackfoot River, Montana
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