Bitterroot River Fishing Report

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Despite pressures from developers, ranchers and farmers, the Bitterroot, a Class 1 river, remains a haven for fly fishers. Flowing through the scenic Bitterroot Valley, the river is often referred to as the “banana belt” of Montana, famous for its year round mild climate. Although the river tends to flow through populated areas and is located within the fastest growing area of the state, it’s still possible to see a wide array of animals along its banks including waterfowl, osprey, bald eagles, heron, white deer and mule deer. Wildlife is especially abundant within the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge, located between Stevensville and Florence.

 

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Like other rivers in Montana, this too has an interesting history. Bitterroot Valley was the ancestral home of the Salish Indians, more commonly known as the Flatheads. The area acquired its name from a plant (later to become Montana’s state flower) that the Salish cultivated and counted on as a major source of food. Father DeSmet, a Jesuit priest, established St. Mary’s Mission here in 1841, and a few years later sold it to John Owen. Owen opened a trading post that over time became Montana’s first permanent, European based settlement, eventually growing into the town of Stevensville. Throughout the remainder of the 19th century, trees were harvested and the river was used to carry logs downstream to Missoula as well as used to support a wide array of agricultural products. Now, aside from sub-divisions, alfalfa is nearly the riverside’s exclusive crop.
 
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Famous for its prodigious insect hatches, the Bitterroot teems with trout. The river carries about 1000 trout per mile, twice that of most similar size rivers, including rainbows, browns and a healthy population of native west-slope, cutthroat trout. This insect rich environment is attributed to the Sapphire Range’s calcium rich, feeder streams that join the Bitterroot and give rise to a large menu of stoneflies, mayflies and caddis. For anyone that might be interested, the river also supports northern pike and largemouth bass in some of its slower moving, backwater currents. A mere 75 miles long, the river passes through several towns including Darby, Hamilton, Corvallis, Victor, Stevensville, Florence, Lolo, ending at Missoula where it combines with the Clark Fork River.
 
Tributaries:
Bitterroot is a tributary of the Clark Fork River.
Source:
Confluence of East Fork Bitterroot and West Fork Bitterroot
Mouth:
Confluence with the Clark Fork River
Length:
75 miles
Basin:
2,814 sq miles
Seasonal Conditions
Season
Temperature
Hatches
Spring
40 - 67
 F
Mid-March Skwala stonefly hatch
Summer
48 - 81
 F
Rising temps yield June mayfly, caddis, Isoperla & Salmon fly hatches; Aug. hoppers
Fall
25 - 44
 F
Cottonwood leaves drop followed by Giant, Orange, caddis
Winter
22 - 41
 F
Tends toward temperate winters compared with other areas of Montana
Game Fish Opportunities
Guide Reports
The Bitterroot River is fishing very well right now. In the mornings, the fish are down deep so keep your nymphs on the bottom. Using a grid, hit every inch as these fish are not moving ... moremuch in the mornings. Look for slow seams and bends. It is fishing well through out the day with dries working best in the afternoon with midges being the top choice.
Fishing Water Report:
Date:
Monday, 1 Feb, 2016
Fish Caught:
1-3 fish
The temperature is dropping through the week and then warming up into the low 40’s on Friday and Saturday. Keep away from the Midges and Nymphs till January but a Prince with ... morea Pheasant Tail could do the trick. Streamers are also a good choice. Bell Crossing Fishing Access was a good choice through the deep pockets on stray fish moving upstream.
Fishing Water Report:
Date:
Tuesday, 15 Dec, 2015
As we move into the winter, you will get more productivity in the afternoon as it warms up. Put away your midges and nymphs until January and get out your princes with a pheasant tail. ... moreMake sure they are on the bottom as the trout are not going to move much. Look at the slower tail outs for rising fish. The recent weather has improved the water levels of the river making for better fishing.
Fishing Water Report:
Date:
Tuesday, 1 Dec, 2015
Because of the significant change in weather, the fishing has been slow recently. Streamers, midges, tiny baetis, and lots and lots of nymphs are hitting.
Fishing Water Report:
Date:
Sunday, 15 Nov, 2015
Fishing Trips
  • Expert guide
  • Shuttle service
The Bitterroot River, just outside of Missoula is one of the top blue-ribbon rivers in Montana. The guide staff at the Upland Angler is an extremely qualified, experienced group of ... moreprofessionals who have grown up fishing the local waters. We specialize in the Bitterroot River and provide a variety of skills from beginner anglers, to experts alike. No matter where or how you choose to fish, we will strive to make your experience a truly enjoyable one.
Destination:
Current Forecast
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Top Fly Fishing Rivers in the US
The Bitterroot River is rated as one of the top trout fishing rivers inthe US by Bob Mallard, author of 25 Best Towns - Fly Fishing for Trout
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