Montana Fly Fishing
Martinsdale Reservoir

Martinsdale Reservoir

Martinsdale Reservoir
Photo Use Guidelines

Martinsdale Reservoir is located at the edge of the mountains in Central Montana, near the headwaters of the Musselshell River. Although the reservoir itself lies in a grassy, open area, the Crazy Mountains and Belt Mountains tower above the landscape, making for a pretty setting. Similar to other nearby reservoirs, such as Deadmans Reservoir, it has been hit hard by five years of drought in this region as well as extensive drawdowns for irrigation use. By August, it is not uncommon for this reservoir to be very low - well below the level of the boat ramp (see picture below).

Fishing pressure on the reservoir is low. Its isolated location far from any major population or tourist area keeps it virtually unknown by all but the local anglers. Since few people live in this section of Montana, the use by locals is also not very heavy. The busiest times on the reservoir will be on summer weekends when water levels are high (high enough to launch motorboats at the boat ramp). Martinsdale Reservoir also plays home to a large variety of waterfowl, providing an excellent opportunity for wildlife viewing in a scenic setting.

Martinsdale Reservoir has a very nice recreation site built up around it. The fishing access site encircles about half of the lake, allowing for excellent camping opportunities. For some strange reason, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks charges for camping at this site (which is generally only done at "high visibility and high usage" sites such as is found along the Madison River and Yellowstone River), which undoubtedly keeps some of the campers away.

Martinsdale Reservoir, at full pool, is over 100 feet deep (significantly shallower by late summer or during dry years), and covers a sizeable acreage. Due to the reservoirs large size, fly fishing from a boat (inflatable when water levels are low) or float tube is the best way to cover the water. Just be aware that high winds can make floating a challenge, especially in a float tube. Shore fishing can be productive, however, near the inlet to the dam.

A dry boat ramp in August at Martinsdale Reservoir
Photo Use Guidelines

Despite the drought and drawdowns for irrigation, Martinsdale Reservoir is stocked yearly with rainbow trout. In the warm and somewhat fertile waters of this reservoir the trout can get quite large. Catching rainbow trout exceeding three pounds is not uncommon, with average sizes running between 12-14 inches. Brown trout are also found in decent numbers and size in the reservoir. Streamers, particularly on sinking or sink tip lines, are the flies of choice.

The best time to fish Martinsdale Reservoir will be in May or June as the water begins to warm up and before irrigation starts to dramatically lower the level of the lake. Fall also opens up fishing opportunities as the cooler temperatures cool the water, spurring feeding activity. Fall also presents the best time to catch the large brown trout that are found in this reservoir.

Services near Martinsdale Reservoir are next to non-existent. The very small town of Martinsdale has a few services, but beyond gas and a few other items, anyone visiting this reservoir who needs something will either have to drive into While Sulphur Springs or Harlowtown, each of which is a considerable distance away.

Visiting Montana? Visit our book section to find various books about Montana Fishing, Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Fly Fishing Technique and General Montana Travel Books.

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