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Best Fly Fishing in Montana


Best Fly Fishing in Montana

Rock Creek provides some of the best fly fishing in Montana.

Brian Milne

Everyone knows Montana offers some of the best fishing in the world, but where’s the best fly fishing in Missoula?

Well, if you watched the movie “A River Runs Through It,” you’d think it was the Blackfoot River, no questions asked.

But 20 years after “A River Runs Through It” changed the fly fishing landscape in Montana, the Blackfoot is no longer considered the best of the best in the state, at least according to locals.

Don’t get me wrong, Missoula, Mont. still offers some of the best fly fishing in the world, but that’s because of all of the great blue-ribbon trout waters that are nearby.

Waters like Rock Creek, an overlooked creek that’s personally my favorite in the Missoula area. The streamer fishing for brown trout here in the fall, particularly on game days when much of Missoula is focused on the Montana Grizzlies, is second to none.

And with the Bitterroot and Clark Fork rivers within casting distance, Missoulians are definitely spoiled , for nine months out of the year at least.

The President likes the East Gallatin

But if money were no option, and you could fly fish anywhere in Montana, where should you go?

Well, the President’s decision, when he went on his first real fly fishing trip as Commander in Chief, was the East Gallatin River, so there you go.

The Vermillion brothers, who run Sweetwater Travel and Fly Shop in Livingston, Mont., were the first to take with President Obama and his staff fly fishing on the East Gallatin River near Bozeman, Mont.

But “what’s the difference between Gallatin and East Gallatin?” you ask. While they share the name, Montana’s Gallatin and East Gallatin rivers have major differences when it comes to fly fishing.

Beautiful Fly Fishing Destinations

Then there are a handful of classic trout waters that if they’re not the best fly fishing destinations around, they’re certainly among the most beautiful getaways the state has to offer.

The Madison River, for example, has a diverse stretch that’s known as the "50-mile riffle" and is as beautiful a stretch of water as a fly fisher will ever drop a fly on.

And if you thought that stretch was long, wait until you stumble upon the Missouri River. The longest river in the U.S., the Missouri River begins at Three Forks – where the Gallatin, Jefferson and Madison rivers converge – and flows more than 750 miles into North Dakota.

With all of that water, it’s no surprise the Missouri is known as one of Montana’s most diverse fisheries as it’s home to dozens of species of fish – including brook, brown, cutthroat, lake and rainbow trout.

But the most beautiful of them all might just be Yellowstone River, a major artery that supplies nourishment from the headwaters within the Wyoming side of the Yellowstone National Park on into southwest Montana.

Classic Waters Bouncing Back

We’ve mentioned the trials and tribulations of the polluted Blackfoot previously, but the river is slowly returning to a more natural state thanks to projects like the removal of the dam just outside of Missoula in 2005.

And many organizations are making a strong push to end the pollution caused by the various mining activities across the state.

But the Blackfoot isn’t even the most endangered river in the state. That’s title goes to the North Fork of the Flathead River. Thanks to mining, it’s considered one of the Top 10 Most Endangered Rivers in the U.S.

The river is also receive a bunch of recognition and exposure of late, so more is being done to help conserve this fishery and improve the many great fly fishing opportunities it provides.

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