The Swan River
Detailed Fishing Information

Swan River

Fishing the Swan River

Swan River above Bigfork Dam 
Photo Use Guidelines

The Swan River above Swan Lake is an excellent place to fish for native Montana fish. Cutthroat trout, Rainbow Trout and Bull Trout are all found in the Swan. Between Lindbergh Lake and Swan Lake, the Swan holds healthy numbers of fish. The fish tend to be on the smaller side, 8 to 12 inches on average with a few approaching 16, which prevents the Swan from being over-run with anglers.

Fishing the Swan River poses some challenges. The river flows through heavily forested, brushy areas, making wade fishing difficult. Back casts are next to impossible in most places, and the brushy shores make walking along the river an exercise in patience and agility.

As a result, the angler frequently ends up walking in the river, which also poses problems. The current is often very fast, and numerous deep holes are found along the riverbanks. To further complicate things, the Swan has countless logjams and downed trees.

The floater also doesn't necessarily fare better, either. All those logjams lead to many portages and unexpected run-ins with trees. As the current is fast, getting out of the way of a logjam can be difficult at times, and the twisty and forested nature of the river cuts down on visibility.

Photo Use Guidelines

The Swan River is not heavily fished by Montana standards. Most of the fishing pressure is isolated around the bridges that cross it. For the angler willing to brave the tangles of timber or brave a walk in the river, isolation and decent fishing can all be found just upstream or downstream from these access points.

The fish in the Swan River aren't especially picky eaters. Early in the summer, stonefly hatches occur. Using small stonefly imitations, assuming the river isn't blown out by run-off, will bring fish to the net. Beginning in July, attractor patterns, particularly hoppers and ants, become the choice of anglers on the Swan River. Other flies for the summer months include attractors and stimulators such as the Wolly Bugger, Elk Hair Caddis and the Humpy, sizes 12-16.

For the trout fisherman, the section of the river below Swan Lake doesn't hold much interest. The Swan River slows considerably and can become very warm during the summer, pretty much killing off trout fishing. However, below Swan Lake, decent pike fishing can be found along the banks, especially in backwater areas where there is no current.

Next Page : Floating the Swan River

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