Bitterroot River Fishing Report

Bitterroot River Fishing Report

Bitterroot River Fishing Report

Updated Saturday, April 20 at 10:59AM
Noted for exceptional dry fly fishing throughout its 80 mile course, the Bitterroot wonders through cottonwood bottoms in the shadow snow capped peaks.  Major hatches of stone flies, mayflies, and caddis start early in March here and continue on right through November.  The braided nature of the Bitterroot provides for delightful combination float/wade trips affording anglers to get out of the boat periodically to ply oft overlooked side channels and backwaters.  Fly fishing the Bitterroot seldom disappoints.

Conditions At-a-glance

Our Report

Tip of the Week:

With temperatures dipping below freezing overnight and colder water in the system this week, try fishing a deeper dropper (think 3-5’ long) to get your fly further down! 

*See our 7 Day Outlook for updates on blockages jamming up the Bitterroot. 

7 Day Outlook: 

This weekend will have normal spring temperatures throughout the Bitterroot and then temperatures will start to warm up as we get into the middle of the week.

The rivers have mostly stabilized after the big bump in flows last week and you can expect more consistent conditions going into this week. Dry fly fishing should be decent and improving!

If you are floating please use extreme caution. This river changes rapidly and is known for producing fatal log jams. Give us a call for an updated obstruction report. If you see any issues be sure to call us or send pics so we can share the same. Thanks.

*There are currently MANY obstructions on the Bitterroot.

Hannon-Wally: New sweeper to be aware of below Lonepine below the split at river left! Several sweepers in this section. It is getting tougher as water drops.

Wally-Anglers: flows over Sleeping Child dam are always dicey!  Don’t consider running after a scout unless you are highly skilled.  The channel around the left side is too low to consider.

Vets-Woodside: More wood down between New Bridge and Blodgett Park.  The river right channel will require careful scouting and likely boat dragging. 

Woodside-Tucker:  New tree down in right channel need to stay left here. The left channel at the split is open but be sure to choose your splits wisely, and the right channel over the diversion dam may need to be portaged. Have a look before you run it.

Tucker-Bell: Very sketchy in the channel through the woods now that the water has come up.  Consider going somewhere else until runoff subsides.

Bell-Stevi: Follow the sign that says “GO LEFT” to miss the log jam.  A new log is exposed in the “clear” channel so proceed with caution.

Stevi-Florence: Clear.  Follow the water at any splits.  As the river fluctuates it is smart to pull over and check for any potential changes.

When In Doubt, Eddy Out! As always, we want anglers to know that they are responsible for their own wellbeing when they are on the water. As an outfitter, we will try our best to bring known dangers to light, but conditions and obstructions are always changing and we can't possibly keep up with every danger that may present itself. When in doubt, eddy out and walk downstream to get a good look at what you're dealing with! 

Best Techniques:

We should see good dry fly fishing conditions on the Bitterroot again any day now, with abundant Skwalas and Blue Wings available for feeding trout. In addition to good dry fly conditions, nymphing and streamer fishing are also favorable tactics to target fish when the fish aren’t feeding on the Skwalas. As the afternoon comes around this weekend, don’t miss a good opportunity to throw a dry-dropper setup. It’s a good chance to break out your favorite foam Skwala pattern and a moderately weighted nymph, which paired together will give you ample opportunity to target rising fish as well as those hiding out lower in the water column. As temperatures heat up in the afternoon you can remove the dropper and fish a single or double dry rig. Streamers are best fished as in the mornings before it heats up and when things start to cool down in the evening. Although Skwalas get a lot of the hype, mayflies are out there as well! Bring a few of your favorite parachutes and cripple patterns.  #16-20 for BWOs and #12-14 for March Browns.

*Traveling or in a hurry?  Let our knowledgeable staff pick a fly selection for you!

*The Online Store is updated daily!  Check it out!

*Call us for up to the minute updates at 406.542.7411 or if you are in the area stop in for all your Orvis gear and the right bugs.

Local Forecast

Deer Lodge, MT, USA

Conditions

Good

The Hatch

Skwalas. Nemouras. March Browns. Grey Drakes. BWOs. Midges.

Fly Patterns

DRIES

  • Purple Haze #12-20
  • BWO D&D Cripple #18-20
  • March Brown D&D Cripple #14-16
  • Rogue River Skwala #10-12
  • Trina's Skwala #10-12
  • Fools Gold #10-12
  • Plan B #10-14

NYMPHS

  • TJ Hooker #8-12
  • Duracell #12-18
  • Jig Pheasant Tail #12-18
  • Jig Prince #8-12
  • Frenchie #12-14
  • Perdigons and Bullets #12-14
  • Soft Hackle Hare's Ear #12-14
  • Rubber Legs #8-12
  • San Juan Worm #8-10

STREAMERS

  • Lil' Kim #4
  • Wooly Bugger/Thin Mint #6-10
  • Sparkle Minnow #4-8
  • Kreelex #4-6
  • Chicago Overcoat #8-12

USGS Water Charts

Specifics

Water Flow

3070CFS (average for this time of year)

Visibility

36"+

Water temperature at mid-day

49F

Water Condition

Clear

Best time of day to fish

Afternoon

Best stretch

The upper river will have better water clarity and more consistent dry fly fishing. See our fishing report above for the most updated information on obstructions.

Best access point

Multiple fishing access points along the river.

Fish Species

Rainbows, browns, cutthroats, cutbows, pike minnows, suckers, pike and whitefish.

Fishing Season

All Year

Nearest airport

MSO (Missoula International Airport)

Recommended fly fishing leader

From a boat - 7.5' 3x-4x. Wading step it up to 9'

Recommended fly fishing tippet

3X, 4X and 5X will cover 90% of our fishing applications. 1-2X is great for punching out large, wind resistant dries in high dirty water. Don't drop lower than 12lb for streamers (we recommend a 4-5' 12-16lb tapered leader with a sink tip fly line). Leave the 6X at home.

Best fly fishing rod

The 9' 5WT is our do it all rod. Fast action rods will be best for most of our fishing; foam dries, dry-dropper fishing and nymphing. A fast action 6WT will be useful for large foam dries, small streamers, heavy nymph rigs and punching bugs through the afternoon wind. Bring a 7WT if you plan to fish large articulated streamers.

Best floating fly line

Scientific Anglers MPX or Rio Grand

Best sinking fly line

Scientific Anglers Trout Express or Rio Predator F/I/S3

Recommended Gear based on this report

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HALF-SIZE HEAVY LINE     The Amplitude Smooth series of lines are, simply put, the highest-performance smooth fly lines in the world. With up to five times less drag and eight times the durabilit...
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Made for anglers who have to see what’s around the next bend, the Carbon Jacket’s fully waterproof, four-way stretch shell will keep you dry without slowing you down. Built for anglers who demand f...