RIVERS WE FISH
MONTANA'S RIVER SYSTEMS
This is a visual layout of many of Montana's famous rivers. To learn more about each of these fisheries you can go to (The Nature Conservancy - Image). The places we focus on are listed below with a short description.
You can also download the fishing access sites and map here. Go to the Central Fishing District Maps (pages 30-38) for the sections we most frequently fish - Courtesy of the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks website.
Toston Dam to Canyon Ferry Reservoir – Mainly known for it’s fall fishing for trophy brown trout, this stretch has a short season for rainbows that run up from Canyon Ferry in the Spring and early Summer. Later in the heat of the summer, this stretch also turns into a world-class carp fly fishery where you can hook up with an 8-15lb. fish that fight like a bone fish.
Canyon Ferry to Hauser Reservoir – This very short stretch of the Missouri River becomes a lake, “Hauser” almost as fast as it comes off the dam. We fish this mainly in the Spring using a jet boat for large rainbows that will test your drag.
Hauser Dam to Holter Reservoir – Because there are no boat ramps on this stretch (AKA, Land of the Giants) it is fished best by starting at The Gates of the Mountains Marina and motoring across Upper Holter Lake and up the Missouri toward Hauser Dam. This part of the Missouri is what dreams are made of due to it’s abundance of large trout and it’s jaw-dropping canyon wall views.
Below Holter Dam – This stretch of the Missouri, loaded with rainbows and browns, is the most popular due to 35 miles of river with many public boat ramps and walk-in access points. This year-around fishery also has some of the largest aquatic insect hatches that a river can produce and this at times will make sight-fishing for large trout with a dry fly as good as it gets.
The Reservoirs Themselves - At certain times, fishing the lakes can be where it’s at. This slower-pace fishing can produce some action-packed trophy trout fishing that will test your arm strength.
The Madison is one of the three headwaters of the Missouri River. This year-round fishery has it all with winding meadows, riffles and pocket water, a tailwater stretch between two lakes and weed beds that are loaded with shrimp and crayfish. You can walk-wade the upper stretches, anchor a drift boat to high-stick behind a boulder for a jumping rainbow, or float through the weed beds in the lower stretch with a crayfish pattern looking for that hungry brown.
Starting in Yellowstone National Park (YNP), this freestone river winds through meadows where you can walk-wade fish for rainbows, cutthroat, browns, whitefish and cutbows. The lower river also holds great walk-wading opportunities and a short float stretch you can seasonally strip streamers for large brown trout. This river is also one of the three headwaters of the Missouri River.
Known as the “Jeff”, is a freestone river where you can get away from crowds when it comes to fisherman. This very scenic river does not hold as many trout per mile as the Madison or Gallatin, but the trout that do lurk in this seasonal fishery are large. The Jefferson River is one of the three headwaters of the Missouri River.
Beginning in Yellowstone National Park, it becomes the longest section of trout-filled float fishing in Montana. The Yellowstone is also known for it’s amazing dry fly fishing. You can catch browns, Yellowstone cutthroat, rainbows and whitefish in this incredibly scenic fishery.