Flathead National Forest

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Fly Fishing the Flathead

Experience Montana fly fishing at its finest with Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness and National Forests as breathtaking backdrops.  The Flathead River system of northwestern Montana offers memorable fishing opportunities. From sites of easy access to those of remote wilderness, the Flathead waters can provide diverse fishing experiences.  Three main branches, the North Fork, Middle Fork and South Fork, eventually come together to form the main stem of the Flathead River that flows into 28-mile-long Flathead lake.  Access to the three forks and the main Flathead is readily available in places, but to effectively fish the best of the Flathead, floating is suggested.  The hardest thing about fly fishing this part of northwestern Montana is keeping your eye on your fly and not the spectacular scenery.

The Fish

West slope cutthroat trout are the predominant fish species.  These indigenous trout have adapted well to the cold, glacially fed Flathead waters.  Because of their cooperative nature, cutthroats are just plain fun to catch.  It is easy to become fond of this native species.  Rainbow trout numbers have increased dramatically and provide the power and energy this species is known for.  Area waters also provide fishing opportunities for grayling, brook trout, lake trout, perch, pike, bass and whitefish.  The Flathead system is one of the last strongholds for bull trout.  Many an angler, while reeling in a cutthroat, has had a large bull trout come up and take possession of the cutthroat.  That’s when the real fun begins.

The Insects/Flies

Because of the clear, cold characteristics of the Flathead waters, insect hatches are not as prolific as those found on other rivers.  But specific hatches do occur, and if hit just right they provide a bonus.  Green drakes appear in July, and caddis all summer.  But generally speaking, Flathead fish are opportunists.  This is dry fly country and the bigger the fly the better!  Refer to the hatch chart [link to http://lakestream.com] for additional information.

Equipment

Fly fishing the Flathead is best done with a four-, five- or six-weight fly rod.  A standard nine-foot 4X or 5X leader will work fine.  Waders are essential before July and after August, but during the heat of the summer, many anglers “wet wade” in shorts and their wading boots.  Because of these freestone waters, felt-soled wading boots are highly recommended.

Seasons

Dry fly enthusiasts will be in heaven during the months of July, August and September.  Your best weather is during these months, though it’s always good insurance to bring cool and wet weather gear at any time of the year.  Spring run-off can vary, but typically occurs at its heaviest during June.  From ice-out until the rivers clear, lake fishing opportunities abound.  Because of the sheer number of river miles and the many valley and high country lakes, crowding is not a concern.  This is definitely a place to get away from it all. 

Fishing brochure

Fishing in the Flathead National Forest www.fs.fed.us/r1/flathead/fishing_site/fishing/index.htm

 

We welcome you to the Flathead Valley to experience "Montana Fly Fishing" at its best.

Fishing related businesses


Hidden Lake Overlook
Gateway to Glacier National Park
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Flathead Lake
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About the Flathead Valley

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