Montana Fly Fishing
Fly Fishing the Blackfoot River

Bitterroot River

Fly Fishing the Blackfoot River

Blackfoot River : Cedar Meadows FAS to River Junction FAS

This section of the Blackfoot River runs for twelve-miles. For anyone who ends up on this section of the water by way of floating down from further upstream, this stretch of the Blackfoot will be a relief. The river straightens out significantly and the flow increases somewhat. While some stretches of slow water will still be found, they are not nearly as extensive as found just upstream.

Blackfoot River near Corrick River Bend FAS
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Once again, brown trout dominate in this section of the Blackfoot River, although some more rainbow trout will start to show themselves just upstream from River Junction. Similar to fly fishing further upstream, streamer imitations fished in the holes, along the undercut banks and around downed timber and other natural cover provide the best fishing spots.

Access on this stretch of the Blackfoot River is also spotty. No designated fishing access sites between Cedar Meadows and River Junction, although one bridge crossing on Road 124 can provide access for the wade angler.

Blackfoot River: River Junction to Clearwater Crossing

Beginning at River Junction, refreshed as it is by the flows of the North Fork Blackfoot River and a steeper gradient, the Blackfoot River begins to have excellent rainbow trout fishing. The Blackfoot in this section flows through a wide variety of terrain. Initially it continues flowing along the southern end of the broad valley that it entered into way back at Mineral Hill FAS. This section in the valley lasts for twelve miles. The river then enters Box Canyon, a five-mile long section of river with lots of riffles, pools, larger waves and one whitewater section near the end. Following its emergence from Box Canyon, the Blackfoot River travels through another small valley for a couple of miles before reaching Clearwater Crossing FAS.

Blackfoot River at Thibodeau Bridge
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For anglers willing to brave the fanciful weather of a Montana spring, fly fishing on this section of the river can begin as early as the middle of March, assuming spring-run off hasn't started yet (usually spring-run off begins on the Blackfoot anywhere between mid-April and mid-May and can last up until late May or early June). During the spring, before spring-run off occurs, this section of the Blackfoot River (as well as the sections found further downstream), dry fly fishing with common flies such as the Parachute Adams, Sparkle Dun and Olive Cripple all work well, although good presentation is important. Popular nymph imitations for early season fishing on the Blackfoot River include the Hare's Ear Nymph and the Pheasant Tail Nymph, all in sizes 16-20.

Following this short period of fishing, the Blackfoot River generally turns turbid as spring-run off hits. However, during some years (warm springs or low snow years) spring-run off can happen early, leading to clear water by late May. When this happens, it is perfect timing since a salmon fly hatch occurs on the Blackfoot River in June. If you happen to be lucky and be on the Blackfoot in late May through the middle of June with clear water, large salmon fly imitations such as the Bitch Creek Nymph and the Stimulator (sizes 2-8) all work well when fished on the bottom right along the riverbanks, especially around deep holes, gravel banks and undercut banks.

Eventually, spring-run off will end. When it does, the Blackfoot River joins Rock Creek as one of the premiere summer dry fly fishing rivers in Montana. Common caddisfly imitations such as the Elk Hair Caddis and the X-Caddis all work well. Additionally, attractor dry flies such as the Olive Stimulator and a Green Renegade also work very well. Finally, common mayfly patterns such as the Adams also work on this section of the Blackfoot River. Dry flies can be fished successfully on the Blackfoot River all summer long, although the best success during the middle of the summer will generally be found in the mornings and evenings when the water temperature is cooler.

When fly fishing dry flies during the summer, it is worth remembering that presentation is very important on this section of the Blackfoot - particularly between River Junction and Russell Gates FAS. The current is still fairly slow in this section, giving the trout some time to look a bit more closely at the fly than is the case further downstream. Thus, a drag free float on light leaders can mean all the difference between success and failure when fishing dry flies on this stretch. In Box Canyon, due to the riffles, waves and faster current, perfect presentation, while important (its always important!), is not as crucial as found just upstream.

If you grow tired of fly fishing dry flies or really want to increase your chances of tagging into a large rainbow, then get rid of that dry fly and put on a grasshopper imitation. Like seemingly everywhere else in Montana, grasshopper imitations work very well from July to early September on the Blackfoot River. Grasshopper imitations are best fished right along the shore, essentially imitating a grasshopper that got stuck in the water. It also never hurts to put a few twitches into the hopper through light jerks on the line (this imitates a grasshopper struggling to break free). That said, if you see an appealing place further out in the water, don't be bashful about hurling the hopper imitation out into the middle of the river. Large trout will readily come off the bottom of the river for a large meal like a hopper. Hopper imitations work best in sizes from 2-8.

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