Montana Fly Fishing
Deadman's Basin Reservoir

Deadman's Basin Reservoir

Deadmans Basin Reservoir
Photo Use Guidelines

The name is one of the more intriguing things about this reservoir. Lying out in the middle of nowhere in the vast prairie of central Montana, near the Musselshell River and the small town of Ryegate, MT, Deadmans Basin Reservoir is not slated to become a Montana fly fishing destination anytime soon. The reservoir itself is more than 2000 acres and up to 100 feet deep at normal water levels. As Deadmans Reservoir lies in a drought stricken area of Montana, and heavy irrigation use severely draws down the water by late summer, water levels can become quite low - often leaving the boat ramp well out of the water. Few trees are found in this part of the state once away from a river and the lake reflects this - predominantly grassy hillsides surround the reservoir. While the surrounding countryside is basically devoid of trees and consists of rolling prairie, the Crazy Mountains and the Belt Mountains loom in the distance, providing for some nice scenic vistas.

The bulk of the use on Deadmans Basin Reservoir comes from recreational boating, swimming and camping. A nice fishing access site has been developed around the southwest part of the lake, making for a nice place for nearby fisherman and pleasure seekers to come on pleasant summer days. The busiest times on this reservoir will be on summer weekend days, especially when the reservoir is full. While some out-state people manage to find their way to this isolated reservoir, the bulk of the use on the reservoir comes from locals. Seeing an out-state license plate in the parking lot is a rare thing.

That all said, Deadmans Basin Reservoir has some decent fishing for both rainbow trout and brown trout. The reservoir is heavily stocked with rainbows each year. The low fishing pressure, coupled with the lakes isolation, give the fish an opportunity to obtain some decent sizes - often exceeding 2 pounds, with the average rainbow trout averaging 12-14 inches.

Deadmans Basin Reservoir
Photo Use Guidelines

As this is lake fishing, and Dead Mans Reservoir is fairly large, a boat or float tube comes in handy to cover the most water. Just beware on the float tube - it can get awfully windy in this region of the state, making for interesting conditions for tubers. Streamers are an excellent fly choice, fishing them down deep, and offer the best chance of catching a large trout. A sinking or sink tip line can be handy to take these flies down to depth. Wet flies are also effective. When the trout are actively feeding on top, standard dry flies such as the Elk Hair Caddis and the Parachute Adams can also be effective. Finally, spin fisherman can make effective use of spoons and spinners as well as using standard live baits.

Anyone venturing out to Deadmans Basin Reservoir will be along way from any major town and should thus bring everything they will need. The largest town in the area is Harlowton (about 20 miles away), which does offer some services, as this town serves as the hub of the surrounding area. Beyond Harlowton, though, little will be found. Most of the towns found off Highway 12 (which parallels the Musselshell River) are exceedingly small, often with little more than a small gas station/general store.

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