The name is one of the more intriguing things about this reservoir. Lying out in the middle of nowhere in the vast prairie of central Montana, near the Musselshell River and the small town of Ryegate, MT, Deadman’s Basin Reservoir is not slated to become a Montana fly fishing destination anytime soon.
The reservoir itself is more than 2000 acres and up to 100 feet deep at normal water levels. As Deadman’s Reservoir has heavy irrigation use during the summer, by late summer the boat ramp is often well out of the water. Few trees are found in this part of the state once away from a river and the lake reflects this—predominantly hillsides surround the reservoir. While the surrounding countryside is basically devoid of trees and consists of rolling prairie, the Crazy Mountains and the Belt Mountains loom in the distance, providing for some nice scenic vistas.
Most use on Deadman’s Basin Reservoir comes from recreational boating, swimming and camping. A nice fishing access site lies around the southwest part of the lake, and makes for a pleasant location for nearby fisherman and pleasure seekers to visit on pleasant summer days.
The busiest times on this reservoir are during summer weekend days, especially when the reservoir is full. While some out-state people manage to find their way to this isolated reservoir, the bulk of the use on the reservoir comes from locals. Seeing an out-state license plate in the parking lot is a rare thing.
That all said, Deadman’s Basin Reservoir has some decent fishing for both rainbow trout and brown trout. The reservoir is heavily stocked with rainbows each year. The low fishing pressure, coupled with the lakes isolation, give the fish an opportunity to obtain some decent sizes—often exceeding 2 pounds, with the average rainbow trout averaging 12-14 inches.
As this is lake fishing, and Deadman’s Reservoir is fairly large, a boat is necessary to cover the most water. The reservoirs large size and frequent high winds make using float tubes an iffy proposition. However, if you lack a motorboat, inflatable kayaks and pontoon boats work well for fishing this reservoir.
Streamers are an excellent fly choice and offer the best chance of catching a large trout. Fishing the streamers down deep. A sinking or sink tip line is helpful to take these flies down to depth. Wet flies are also effective. When the trout are actively feeding on top, standard dry flies such as the Elk Hair Caddis and the Parachute Adams also are effective. Finally, spin fisherman can make effective use of spoons and spinners as well as using standard live baits.
Anyone venturing out to Deadman’s Basin Reservoir will be far from any major town and should thus bring everything they will need. The largest town in the area is Harlowton (about 20 miles away), which does offer some services, as this town serves as the hub of the surrounding area. Beyond Harlowton, though, little is found. Most of the towns found off Highway 12 (which parallels the Musselshell River) are exceedingly small, often with little more than a small gas station/general store.