Best Fishing In Montana – 10 Places Anglers Can’t Miss

Are you thinking about fishing in a new and rugged place that is teeming with lakes and rivers full of fish? Planning a fishing trip and don’t know where to go? Don’t worry; you are not alone. As an angler, one is always looking for new and exciting places where there are a plentiful amount of fish with great scenery. Lets face it, half the reason people go fishing is to enjoy natures and the great outdoors! With so many places in the country to go to, it is a bit hard to choose which one is the best. We’re going to give you a breakdown of some of the locations and cities that will give you the best fishing experience in Montana!

Montana is a state in the United States and its a place that tops many hardcore anglers bucket list places to go, especially for fly fishing! A place with cold clear water making it a perfect home for trout including other fish species and best habitat for fishing. People mostly target areas near reservoirs and lakes where these species spend their largest time of the year.

Spring season starting from April through mid of May when the water temperature rises, these trout are far more active in this season. Montana has plenty of lakes for fly fishing and these are located anywhere from valleys to deep in the mountain ranges, just depends on how much effort you want to spend getting to your spot!

Most of the best lakes for fishing in Montana are in different reservoirs created by dams. Numerous natural lakes also exist here, providing never-ending opportunities for fishing. The rivers in Montana are worth fishing especially for anglers that prefer rivers where fish can be caught with ease.

Idaho Fishing Lake

If you’re looking for some of the best rivers, lakes, and reservoirs for fishing in Montana you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to break out some of the most popular and sought after locations in Montana for fishing, so you can plan out your next fishing trip with ease!

Big Hole River Fishing

Missouri River Fly Fishing Image

The Big Hole River, most famous for trout streams is also tagged as the prettiest river of Montana. When people think of the best spot to fish in Montana, we can guarantee the Big Hole River comes up in the conversation. It starts at Skinner Lake 7,340 feet high in the Beaverhead Mountains in southwest Montana, but that is not the only place that dumps into the Big Hole. It is also getting water from the Pioneer and Anaconda Mountains. It has four species of trout and the only population of fluvial arctic grayling. But the river is best known for its giant brown trout.

There are huge brown trout, rainbow, cutthroat and brook are all present in this river. If the snowpack on mountains is light, the river can have sections of lower water but the expanse of this river is so huge it provides a wide range of conditions, and Big Hole River fishing is different in each condition. Floating down the Big Hole River is the best way to enjoy this stream full of trout and can make for a full day adventure on the river. 

The area of the river in the mountains, as well as the small parts flowing through valleys, is of uniform spectacular beauty. Fly-fishing in the Big Hole River is truly a rare experience. The Big Hole River is not like other ordinary river hosting trout as it is situated at a much higher elevation than you’d think. People come here from all over the world to fish this stunning mountain river, that has such a varying landscape depending on where you decide to cast off!

Big Hole River Fishing Tips

Big hole river is a fantastic place to set up a line.  There are multiple designated fishing areas and roads all along it.  If you want to go for Brook Trout, start further up the river.  More trout can be found around the Big Hole River Canyon!  Once you make your way to the lower Big Hole River, Brown Trout will outnumber Rainbow, although both can be found!

Types of Fish In The Big Hole River

Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, Brook Trout, Cutthroat, Whitefish

Missouri River Fishing

Missouri River Fly Fishing Image

Missouri River was originally explored by Lewis and Clark and was previously considered a major gateway to the western United States. The fourth-largest drainage in the world having headquarters is Craig Town. The average fish here is a 17-inch rainbow found in 25 miles between Holter Dam and Pelican Point. It’s a food factory for fish because of plenty of insects found per square meter. All the bugs are very useful for fly-fishing. Here are a few of the flies you shouldn’t leave home without.

  • Pale Morning Dun
  • Parachute Adams
  • Terrestrials such as hoppers, beetles, etc

The river is home of trout and rainbow anglers from all over the world call it a heaven for fishing.

Rock Creek Fishing

Rock Creek Fly Fishing image

Rock Creek is an 84 km long river in Missoula and Granite County, Montana. It is a smaller but classic western dream stream flowing between the Sapphire and Garnet mountain, and a world class place to fly fish in Montana.  Here you can found brown trout, rainbow, and cutthroat trout gorge, and Rock Creek holds the highest number of trout in the region! The hatch of June salmon fly is epic and attracts anglers from all over the world, and it’s even possible to catch 5 different species of trout in a single day. This is seriously one of best spots to fish in Montana and in contention for number one for fly fishing!

If the water is high, you can easily fish from a raft or drift boat. There are many campgrounds along the river just off the road to set up and spend a weekend exploring and fishing Rock Creek! This is a classic river close to Missoula, one of the famous rivers hosting anglers from all over the world. The river is not too complicated for fishing; there are tons of spots and areas to fish from the shoreline. It also flows through National Forest Land, providing access for fish and camping spots for families there.

 One of the best places to stay is the Ranch at Rock Creek!

Big Horn River Fishing

Big Horn River Fishing Image

Bighorn River, in southeastern Montana, is considered to be the finest and the best fishery in the state. This river holds 6,000 fish per mile, and most of them are 20 inches long! This river is different from some of the other rivers in Montana because fishing is open here all year long.

The months of summer, from July through September, are the most popular for fishing. In August, there are hatches of morning duns and caddis (species of fly) which help to attract a ton of fish. The upper 13 miles of the river are considered to have the best spots for fishing the Big Horn river. The Bighorn river flows pretty quick at 2,000-5,000 cubic feet per second.

Fishing the Bighorn River is possible only if you are committed to doing it. You can camp here for a few days and have a good time. If you have plenty of time and wish for a long fishing trip with the family bighorn river is a can’t miss choice!

Bitterroot river located in the southwest part of Montana and is the third most fly fished river in Montana! The riverscape here is eye-catching and rainbow trout are the main treat for anglers here. Some cutthroat and brown trout can also be found in the Bitterroot River which is on average 7 – 10 miles wide.

Anglers from all over the world enjoy fishing here and some say its the best fishing spot in Montana. March, the month of celebration for anglers after a long winter in Montana flock to Bitterroot to get after Trout season!

The lower side of the river is famous for fishing in winter. Most of the anglers will tell you that there no such thing as dry fly-fishing in the Bitterroot, as you’re almost always going to come up with something. The Bitterroot river is famous for dry fly-fishing, as the trout will aggressively pursue them during the hatches, which make fly fishing here a dream! At the Bitterroot river, there is rarely a chance throughout the year that any aquatic insect or fly in not hatching on the surface, which gives you dry fly-fishing opportunities all summer long!

Midges hatch all year long, and mayfly, caddis, and stonefly constantly hatch from March through October. Try to time your visit to the Salmonfly hatch or the Skwala hatch for an amazing experience!

Best Cities for Fishing in Montana

Idaho has contributed a major role in enhancing the economy of the United States of America by its endless breathtaking and awe-inspiring fishing lakes and rivers. Idaho gives its visitors a charm that makes them hooked to the place. Some of the cities that will make your fishing trip to Idaho more enjoyable, or if you just need to stock up on some more bait are described below!

1. Missoula, Montana Fishing

Entering Montana, you’ll see stickers all around the town saying a very catchy phrase, “keep Missoula Weird”. Missoula is a city of almost 700,000 people and this is a place where hunting and fishing is embraced. Outdoor enthusiasts are in for a treat with tons of rivers close by to dip the hook in the water and start fishing in Montana!

The university in Missoula keeps people busy, but besides this, there are also plenty of things to do. Missoula and the valleys surrounding it is connecting with the Clark Fork River, Blackfoot River, and the Bitterroot River. The city welcomes anglers from all over the world and serves as a great jumping point to get to some of the best fishing spots in Montana!

These rivers surrounding Missoula is definitely the big attraction for fishing in Missoula and are open throughout the year. Cross-country ski trails in Pattee Creek Canyon is another point of interest for visitors in the winter months. Missoula hostsa bunch of festivals every weekend during the summer fly fishing months. Missoula is on its way towards one of the most sustainable cities in Montana, introducing pedestrians and bicycle paths throughout the city. Also, its devotion towards recuse and recycling, making it a very clean and pollution-free city.

2. West Yellowstone, Montana Fishing

If you found the city of Bozeman too far away from Yellowstone National Park, choose West Yellowstone as your next spot to visit. It is located in the southern part of Montana, and is a relatively quiet town of fishing enthusiast! The major attractions here are hiking, hunting, skiing, fishing, rafting, horse riding.

Outdoor activities are appreciated and enjoyed not only by the residents but also by visitors from all over the world mainly in the summer months. There is plenty of entertainment at night if you’re looking for it, the Playmill theatre has been operating here for the past 50 years featuring live family-oriented performances!

Rafting in the Gallatin River, cross-country ski trails, and Yellowstone Zipline Adventure Park are some of the main attractions around the city. Fly fishing in Hebgen lake, which is fifteen miles long and four miles wide, is a special treat for any angler!

It is the Stillwater fishing lake that is another huge draw and it is known for a ton of Gulper Rainbow Trout. There is a ton of accommodation options around the lake for families and fisherman alike, with the Kirkwood Resort and Marina provides boats, fishing equipment, and snacks if you need it!

3. Whitefish, Montana Fishing

Whitefish, Montana, is the home to the most breathtaking views and pristine fishing spots in Montana, ocated at the entrance of Glacier National Park, Big Mountain, Flathead Lake, and Whitefish lake! Flathead Lake and Whitefish lake are two of the main fishing spots and a super popular spot for families to come fish and boat in the summer months!

The fish species in these lakes are plentiful and include trout, pike, yellow perch and whitefish. The best thing about fishing in Flathead lake is that the trout found here can be huge, exceeding twenty pounds and give you an exhilarating fight trying to land them. Arctic Grayling, smallmouth bass, and walleye are also found in the lakes around Whitefish, making it a popular fishing destination!

Fishing is a daytime activity, but what to do at night, you may wonder. This city has plenty of bars and restaurants both for families and those looking for live music. This is a place with a population under 10,000 and has a booming tourist industry in the winter and summer months. 

4. Bozeman, Montana Fishing

Bozeman, Montana is located close to Yellowstone National Park, which is famous for fly-fishing and anglers from all over the world visit here to fish west slope cutthroat, Yellowstone cutthroat, rainbow, brown trout, brook, and lake trout. The city is called the most “livable” place in Montana for its plethora of outdoor activities including fly fishing, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and skiing!

The park’s fishing season runs from May onwards into late fall. Bozeman, Montana has a population of 38,000 people, and is definitely a college town but is also considered a ski town in the winter, fishing town in the summer. 

Some of the top fly fishing spots near Bozeman are:

  • Gallatin River
  • Hyalite Reservoir
  • Lower Madison River
  • DePuy’s Spring Creek
  • East Gallatin River

5. Helena, Montana Fishing

Helena, Montana, is a pretty quiet and cozy town located between the Big belt mountains and the Elkhorn Mountains. The population is just over 28,000 people and is a great city to base your epic fly fishing trip in Montana!

Helena is the capital city of Montana and its a outdoor enthusiasts paradise with activities ranging from hiking, camping, bicycling, and horseback riding all which makes this place a heaven for families. Helena is also a place very concerned about its sustainability and development, with most of its services and initiatives very environmentally conscious for people residing here. Major fishing attractions near Helena are Spring Meadow Lake State Park and Black Sandy State Park, and there is close access to all the great Montana rivers including the Missouri, Blackfoot, and Clark Ford. 

Spring Meadow lake covers 61 acres just  west of Helena and is commonly visited for swimming, fishing, and also for scuba diving. Yellow perch, walleye, and rainbow trout, and spring spawners draw anglers to the river below Canyon Ferry Dam and Lake in Helena, annually.

Wrapping Up The Best Fishing in Montana

For beginner and advanced fly fisherman, there is something for everyone in Montana with a ton of variety in their rivers and species of fish! One of the best parts of fishing in Montana is you can easily fish three word class rivers in as many days by staying in a central location and really get the best bang for your buck! Anglers rave about Montana as there are constantly insect hatches throughout the summer, so the fish are almost always biting and expecting your line!

Make sure you have plenty of flies for fly-fishing, a ten-foot-long rod, and a perfect spot. Salmonflies, yellow sallies, and golden stoneflies are also found on many streams and rivers. You do not have to bring them with you. If you are looking for all in one package for your vacation trip then Helena, the capital of Montana is the best dream place to visit. If you’re looking for a more remote and laid back fly fishing trip for the hardcore angler and adventurist, it might be a good idea to get off the beaten path and check out West Yellowstone!

You can find activities from fishing to skiing to hiking to scuba diving and many more. But all of the above 10 spots in Montana are our picks for the best fishing spots and cities in Montana!