Montana Fly Fishing
The Muselshell River

Musselshell River

The Musselshell River : Overview

Musselshell River : Overview

Musselshell River at Selkirk Fishing Access Site
Photo Use Guidelines

The Musselshell River begins at the confluence of the North and South Forks Musselshell, in a broad valley that lies north of the Crazy Mountains and to the east of White Sulphur Springs, MT. From its origin, the Musselshell River twists and turns slowly through wind swept, wide-open and sparsely populated prairie. The river ends on the south shores of Fort Peck Lake, near the southern tip of the UL Bend Wilderness, 360 miles later.

Access to the Musselshell River can be difficult. The river primarily flows through private land, limiting access points to the various road crossings. However, as roads have a tendency to be few and far between in the Musselshell River country, the access points along the Musselshell River tend to be widely spaced apart.

For an angler or floater who is seeking solitude, look no further than the Musselshell River. The river is seldom fished by anyone but the locals. While the upper twenty-five miles hold smaller numbers of large brown trout, the Musselshell River is primarily a warm water fishery. In addition to the brown trout that are found on its upper reaches, the river has strong populations of both catfish and smallmouth bass, particularly down near Fort Peck Lake.

The Musselshell River, despite its length, is not a big river. The river is easy to wade, and the river itself is usually less than thirty feet wide. The banks of the river have lots of brush in its far upper stretches, with attractive cottonwood trees lining the banks for the rest of its length. While the rivers vegetation can make fishing somewhat difficult on its upper stretch, the vegetation can be helpful in other ways. As the vast majority of the roads in this part of Montana are dirt roads, are frequently in poor condition and often are not marked, simply finding the various bridges that cross the Musselshell River in order to gain access can be an exercise in map reading and navigation. Which is where the rivers vegetation comes in helpful. When in doubt as to the location of the Musselshell River, just look for a thin line of vegetation that stands out among the otherwise generally treeless prairie.

Musselshell River at Shawmut, Montana
Photo Use Guidelines

Of all the rivers in Montana, the Musselshell River must rank up near the top as far as irrigation use. More than thirty diversion dams are found throughout its entire length. The irrigation use on the Musselshell River can be so intense that in past years, coupled with the regions recent drought, parts of the river have actually run completely dry. Particularly, the middle section of the Musselshell River during the summer can turn into nothing but scattered deep pools.

Overall, don't plan a visit to Montana with the Musselshell River as the primary destination for fishing, except for perhaps the excellent smallmouth bass fishing it provides near Fort Peck Lake. However, a visit to the Musselshell River and its very remote and isolated country can provide a nice diversion away from other scenic and more popular places in Montana.

Next Page : Fishing the Musselshell River

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