Rock Creek
Fishing Informaiton

Rock Creek

Fly Fishing Rock Creek

On the previous page, general information about the famous Rock Creek was provided as well as fishing on the upper reaches of the river. On this page we'll go over fishing the middle and bottom section of Rock Creek, which is by far the most popular.

Rock Creek : Highway 348 Bridge to Dalles

The Dalles area on Rock Creek
Photo Use Guidelines

Beginning at the Highway 348 Bridge, the Rock Creek is very distinct from its upper section. Just downstream of the Highway 348 Bridge, Rock Creek leaves the valley behind and begins to cut through the mountains for the rest of its journey to the Clark Fork. The section of river covers twenty-eight river miles.

Fish in this section become noticeably larger, with fish running thirteen to sixteen inches being common, and above twenty-inches not to far out of the ordinary. Trout habitat is much better on this section than further upstream, as there are many more deep pools, run, riffles and excellent pocket water. The current is also significantly faster. A mix of rainbow and cutthroat trout are found in the upper stretch of this section, while rainbow trout make up the bulk of the fish on the lower stretch.

As in the upper section of Rock Creek, the biggest fish are likely to be found in the deeper pools. Using the technique described earlier works well. However, for those who must fly fish on top, or where fishing the bottom can't be done effectively, the real large fish can be caught on top. Use large flies (sizes four to ten), using whatever fly matches the most current hatch of the season (see seasonal hatches below). Large attractor patterns also can work. Buggers in particular can pull up trout from the deep holes.

This is not to say smaller, tradition flies such as the Adams and Elk Hair Caddis won't bring in large fish. They will, especially during specific hatches. However, as a very general rule, anglers using smaller dry flies will catch lots of fish, but few will creep over fifteen inches.

This section of Rock Creek, particularly the lower stretch, is heavily fished. In order for an angler to catch the larger fish, excellent presentation is important. The river often works against the angler in this regard. The current moves frequently fast, and the rocks in the river are very slippery, which can lead to less than stealthy approaches when wading. Fly fishing from shore is not always an option, as the riverbanks are frequently steep and heavily forested.

Rock Creek : Dalles to Clark Fork

The lower stretch of Rock Creek, between Dalles and the river outlet at the Clark Fork, offers a excellent mix of rainbow and brown trout fishing on the upper half and primarily brown trout fishing on the lower half. Rock Creek Road is paved for much of this stretch of river. The combination of a paved road and closer proximity to the Interstate and the city of Missoula make this stretch of river the most heavily fished on all of Rock Creek. The river flows for fourteen miles between Dalles and the Clark Fork Confluence.

Braids and Channels on Lower Rock Creek
Photo Use Guidelines

The upper portion of this stretch of Rock Creek, in the Dalles area, has a distinct personality all its own. Massive boulders in and along the river, very quick currents and exceptionally deep, clear pools, characterize this stretch of river. Huge boulders on one side and very fast moving water on the other usually surround the pools, creating very difficult fishing conditions for anglers who are after the large trout found in the pools. Even when using weighted streamers with sinking lines, anglers will frequently find it difficult to get flies to depth.

Below the Dalles area, Rock Creek flattens out into a nice combination of scattered pools, runs and riffles as it makes its way towards the Clark Fork. The mountains pull back from the river as it flows through a narrow valley with a mix of cottonwood and evergreen trees along its bank. Several feeder creeks provide interesting fishing possibilities.

This stretch is prime brown trout water. Large streamers pulled along the undercut banks and through the deep pools are an excellent tactic to use. Excellent presentation is a must, as fishing pressure is heavy and the trout in this section of the river feed selectively.

Top water fly fishing for the brown trout is best during the specific season hatches. Normal dry fly fishing techniques will catch fish. However, top water dry fly fishing for these brown trout is difficult, and is not likely to bring many large fish to the net. Getting skunked is also a distinct possibility, as my first experience on Rock Creek can attest to.

Next Page : Seasonal Hatches on Rock Creek


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