the Beaverhead River
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The Beaverhead River, particularly the upper stretch between Clark
Canyon Reservoir and Barretts Diversion Dam, is perhaps the most difficult river
to fish in Montana. Heavy use, large and fussy brown trout, small nymphs,
delicate tippets, frequent difficult water conditions and the twisty
nature of the river all conspire to make fly fishing the Beaverhead River
a difficult experience.
But the difficulty is not without rewards. The Beaverhead River is prime
water for fly fishing for large brown trout - real large brown trout.
A common brown trout, particularly on the upper section, ranges from
twelve to fifteen inches. Larger browns, stretching well past the twenty-inch
mark, are also present in high numbers. For the angler looking to chase
trophy-sized brown trout, the Beaverhead River should be on the top of
Before heading out to the Beaverhead River, a word should be said about
its flows and how they are regulated, as they greatly affect fishing.
Canyon Reservoir regulates the flow of the Beaverhead River. During
the late winter period and in spring, the reservoir fills up, slowing
the current in the river down substantially (water is witheld from the
river to fill the reservoir). In the summer, the reservoir releases
significant flows of cold water that are siphoned off for irrigation
at Barretts Diversion Dam. This diversion dam frequently takes half or
more of the water in the river, thus leaving the stretch below the diversion
dam with low water throughout much of the summer.
Prime float fishing flows between Clark Canyon Reservoir and Barretts
Diversion Dam is considered to be 600-1000 cfs. At this flow rate, wade
fly fishing is difficult. Wade fishing is not particularly easy on the
upper stretch to begin with, and with high flows, wade anglers are frequently
not able to fight the fast and deep current to cross the Beaverhead River
to prime fishing holes. Better wade angler flows occur when the river
drops to 300 cfs. When the river flows over 1500 cfs, fishing becomes
next to impossible for wade anglers and exceptionally difficult for float
anglers. At these high flow rates, the Beaverhead River can become muddy
and very turbid, limiting flyfishing success. Additionally, the high
flows only add to a normally fast current that whisk the float angler
downstream that much faster, making presentation difficult.
Typical flows on the Beaverhead River in winter range between 100-300
cfs, but can fall to as low as 50 cfs or less, leading to winter kill.
In May and early June, flows average around 1000 cfs, but can balloon
1500 cfs in high water years. The river then begins to creep down, settling
into August with flows around 600-800 cfs, although it can be substantially
lower during drought conditions. As the water is released from Clark
Canyon Reservoir, the summer flows are still cool.
Next Page : Fly
Fishing the Beaverhead River, Page 2
Eagle Inflatable Kayaks -
An inflatable kayak is a wonderful way to both float and fish the
many rivers in Montana. You can also learn more about inflatable
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Kayak Guide, too. I own a Sea Eagle Kayak and highly
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