Montana Fly Fishing
Fly Fishing the Blackfoot River

Bitterroot River

Fly Fishing the Blackfoot River

Blackfoot River : Clearwater Crossing to Johnsrud Park

The character of the Blackfoot River changes markedly in this stretch. Gone is the wide open valleys and gently, twisting river slowly flowing through a thick growth of trees. Instead, it is replaced by a rock and boulder-strewn environment, with fast current and some whitewater. Numerous deep pools are found all along this section. The extensive riffles and whitewater also provide lots of pocket water fishing. Beautiful forests of ponderosa pine come right down to the riverbanks.

Blackfoot River near Whitaker Bridge
Photo Use Guidelines

This is the most popular section on the Blackfoot River, and is used extensively by both anglers and recreational floaters. So, especially on a summer weekend, be prepared to share the water with lots of other people.

This section of the Blackfoot River flows through the Blackfoot River Recreation Corridor. Numerous designated fishing access sites exist on this stretch, and access is also possible off a good condition dirt road (Ninemile Prairie Road) that closely follows the river on the northern side. A number of special fishing and camping restrictions (allowed only in designated areas) are in place on this stretch of the Blackfoot River, so be sure to check the latest fishing regulations before heading out.

Fly fishing from shore or wading can be a challenge on this portion of the Blackfoot River. Lots of slippery boulders await the unsuspecting wader, and the faster current guarantees an interesting ride for anyone who happens to lose their balance.

Float fishing can also be interesting on this stretch, as lots of large waves, boulders and some short whitewater sections (Class II) can provide for a fun float trip. It is also a very scenic float, as the Blackfoot River weaves its way through a mountainous, rocky and forested environment. Many beaches also provide a great place to stop and have lunch or to just sit back and enjoy the day.

Lower Blackfoot River
Photo Use Guidelines

The fly fishing in this section of the Blackfoot River is similar to what is found upstream between River Junction and Clearwater Crossing. The difference is that the faster current and roiling water allow for a more sloppy presentation. Thus, while fly fishing conditions might be more difficult in this stretch of the Blackfoot River due to faster current and rocky terrain, the trout are not quite as finicky as they are between River Junction and Russell Gates Fishing Access Site.

Similar to upstream, dry fly fishing and hopper fishing predominate during the summer on the Blackfoot River. Dry flies should be fished around the holes and in the extensive pocket water sections. An occasional undercut bank is also found. Colorful attractor patterns such as the Parachute Adams or Royal Wulff (in sizes 12-16) work particularly well in the riffles and pocket water sections. For the angler who enjoys fishing nymphs, the Hare's Ear Nymph and the Pheasant Tail Nymph, sized 14-16, also work well and can catch the larger fish, especially when weighted and fished on a sink tip line in the deeper holes.

Blackfoot River : Johnsrud Park to Clark Fork

Beginning at Johnsrud Park, Montana Highway 200 rejoins the Blackfoot River, providing excellent if somewhat noisy access. Several other designated fishing access sites are also found along this stretch of the river. The Blackfoot River Recreation Corridor ends at Johnsrud Park, removing the special restrictions found just upstream.

This section of the Blackfoot has both very large rainbow and brown trout. This stretch of the river has lots of riffles and many deep pools, along with many boulders lying out in the middle of the river. When fly fishing this section, use the tactics described above, although the larger trout will be caught using larger nymphs down deep in the holes.

Trout fishing on this section of the Blackfoot River ends two miles above the Clark Fork due to the presence of the Bonner Dam, which backs up the river for about a mile.

Next Page : Floating the Blackfoot River

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