Middle Fork Flathead River
Fishing Details

Middle Fork Flathead River

Fishing the Middle Fork Flathead River

Salmon Forks Outfitters / Wilderness Fly Fishing : Fly fish the South Fork Flathead. Horseback into our Wilderness fishing camp, five & seven day fishing trips, very remote, great fishing, no crowds. Outfitter #1990.

Middle Fork Flathead River near Chantilly
Photo Use Guidelines
The Middle Fork of the Flathead River, like its cousins the North Fork and the South Fork, is fed predominantly by snowmelt. This keeps the level of nutrients in the river low. As a result, the Middle Fork is not noted as a top trout stream.

That said, the wilderness portion of the Middle Fork contains a healthy amount of decent sized cutthroats up to 16 inches. And they aren't picky about what they eat. The fishing pressure in the wilderness section is very low compared to other Montana waters, and cutthroats themselves are not known as the most finicky fish around.

The result is that a fishing excursion into the wilderness portion of the Middle Fork, whether it be by foot, plane, or horse, provides outstanding scenery, chance encounters with the local fauna (this area is prime Grizzly Bear habitat, so be prepared), and solid action for average sized fish.

Middle Fork Flathead River at McDonald Creek confluence
Photo Use Guidelines

For the fly fisherman, pretty much any dry and bushy fly, floated around the usual likely spots will produce consistent results. Another technique to try is to use a weighted sink tip line, dragging wet flies or streamers through the deeper pockets and pools that are found periodically along the river.

Like the North Fork Flathead River, the Middle Fork is prime water for the bull trout. These fish, which are illegal to intentionally fish for or take by the way, are not picky about what they eat. While fishing for cutthroat trout in pools, especially if using streamers, an angler has the opportunity to hook into one of these monster fish, which frequently get up to twenty pounds.

Below Essex, the fishing on the Middle Fork dries up considerably. While there are numerous cutthroats, most tend to be in the 8-10 inch range. Action will be fast and furious for these fish, but the results may are likely to be less than desired for the angler pursuing larger fish.

Larger cutthroats can be found in this section, but it will usually require a hefty hike along the river or a float trip using a raft to find the spots that hold the larger fish. While fishing pressure is generally light along this portion of the river, and access for the wade fisherman is excellent, as a general rule, the bigger fish will be found in the best structure - particularly in the many very deep pools that are found behind the massive rocks that lie in the river - as far away as possible from the easiest and most heavily used access sites.

Next Page : Floating the Middle Fork Flathead River

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