Montana Fly Fishing
Fly Fishing the Marias River

The Marias River

Marias River below Tiber Dam
Photo Use Guidelines

The Marias River begins at the confluence of Cut Bank Creek and Two Medicine River, near Cut Bank, Montana. The Marias River twists and turns for more than sixty miles through rolling prairie, before spilling into Lake Elwell, a twenty-seven mile long lake formed by Tiber Dam. Although the river flows through prairie, it is still enjoyable, as cottonwood trees line its banks.

Below Tiber Dam, the Marias River continues to flow through the Montana prairie, with small sandstone cliffs and cottonwood trees marking the rivers course. The countryside below Tiber Dam is very remote. Access to the river is difficult, and the distance between access points is often considerable. The Marias River flows for an additional eighty miles below Tiber Dam to its confluence with the Missouri River near Loma, Montana.

Marias River from top of Tiber Dam
Photo Use Guidelines

There are no rapids or whitewater on the Marias River. While a raft will work for floating the Marias River, a canoe or inflatable kayak are the best boats to use. Pockets of slow water, combined with potentially high winds, can lead to difficult floating for rafts.

The upper stretch of the Marias River, between its origin and Lake Elwell, has limited trout fishing but can provide decent fishing for walleyes, bass, large catfish and lots of whitefish.

The best trout fishing will be found in the first twelve miles or so below Tiber Dam. Below the dam, large brown trout can be found in fair numbers, averaging over three pounds with some approaching ten pounds. Rainbow trout can also be found, although their numbers and sizes are well below that of the local brown trout population.

The prime trout waters of the Marias River, below Tiber Dam
Photo Use Guidelines

Fishing pressure is very low on the Marias River below Tiber Dam. The bulk of the fly fishing that ooccurs on the Marias River is just below the dam.

In this stretch below the dam, the Marias River has many deep pools, some runs and a few small riffles, as well as a number of braids. Cottonwood trees also line the bank, with an occasional downed tree providing much needed cover for the trout. The river is also quite wide and deep, limiting a wade fisherman's ability to reach the productive fishing spots on the river, which is an important consideration. Unlike some other Montana rivers that have fish seemingly crowding all along the stream bottom, the trout on the Marias River are generally very dispersed. When fishing the Marias River, focus in on those deep pools and other prime waters, ignoring the rest of the river.

The flies of choice for fishing this stretch of the Marias River include minnow imitations such as the Muddle Minnow. Not surprisingly, as the river runs through prime hopper country, hopper imitations become very important come mid-summer and work very well through mid-September. Since fly fishing pressure is low, standard dry fly imitations also work well for the smaller fish, but are unlikely to catch the really large brown trout that are found in the Marias.

Beginning about twelve miles or so below Tiber Dam, productive trout fishing tapers off due to the warming waters, irrigation and slower flows of the river. While some large brown trout can still be found, the Marias River turns over into a warm water fishery, with shovelnose sturgeon, walleye, pike, catfish and bass being the primary species. As smallmouth bass are lods of fun to catch fly fishing, don't rule out this stretch of the river. Use a crayfish, dragging it along the bottom.

Marias River : River Miles

Origin: 107
Shelby Golf Course Access: 142
Old Highway 91 Bridge Access: 140
Highway 417 Bridge Access: 117
Tiber Reservoir Inlet: 107
Tiber Dam: 80
County Road Bridge Acces: 75
County Road Bridge Access: 69
Highway 223 Bridge Access: 60
Rudyard Road Bridge Access: 39
Highway 87 Bridge Access: 2.4
Confluence with Missouri River: 0


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