Bitterroot River

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Bitterroot River

Updated 04/02/2021 at 4:09am

Conditions At-a-glance


Weather Forecast

Our Report

Bitterroot River spring fly fishing

BRO’s Tips of the Week:
Skwalas are here, together with little brown and black stones, but most active in the afternoon. With the crazy bump in stream flows last weekend (WTH?) everyone was pushed on to the Root so it’s busy. This creates opportunity for dry fly action tight to the logs, grassy banks and rocks. In the spring longest, best drift wins – make yours count.
7 Day Outlook:
Some warmer weather is on the way this weekend. High in 50’s and even 60’s this weekend. We are hopeful this weather won’t give us too large a bump in water levels. If not partly cloudy warm conditions equate to good potential dry fly and nymph fishing on the Root for the weekend and coming week.

Our Recommendations for the Best Techniques and Patterns:
For dries the Brown Wing skwala or Rogue are good low riding options. For dry-dropper you’ll need the higher floating chubby style dries that’ll float a more substantial nymph. Nymphing Princes, Rubberlegs/TJ Hookers, and Double Bead Stones will work well as a skwala imitation. Perdigons/Spanish Bullets and San Juans are also fooling fish right now. Streamer fishing has been productive. Sparkle Minnows, Mini Dungeons, Kreelex, and Peanut Envys should entice an eat. If you’re not getting into them try changing to a contrasting color and switching up your retrieve.

Goings on at World Headquarters in Missoula:
April starts our month long Raffles ending in an Orvis H3 fly rod!!! See our Social or call for detes.
Call or email us for up to the minute updates at 406.542.7411 or if you are in the area stop in- WE HAVE MOVED TO OUR BRAND NEW LOCATION AT 275 N. RUSSELL STREET IN MISSOULA- for all your Orvis gear and the right bugs.

USGS Water Charts


Conditions are great on the Bitterroot and fishing has been good! Fingers crossed that doesn't change with the warming weather.

The Hatch

Skwalas #10-8, brown stones #12-14, black stones #16, BWO's #16 under clouds, March browns #14 any day. Fish are eating dries in the afternoon, but the dropper will still be more reliable for all day action.

Fly Patterns

DRIES - Brown wing, Rastaman, and Rogue Skwalas #8-12 NYMPHS - Worms - Red or Pink, Princes #10-#16, Rubber Legs or TJ Hookers #8-#12, Jig Perdigons in #14-16, Frenchies #12-16, Duracells #14-16, Jig Yellow spot, Pheasant Tails #14-16, Spanish Bullet #14-16. STREAMERS - Sparkle Minnow #6 (Sculpin color is a favorite), Zonkers #6 & #8 in Natural, Olive, or Yellow, Kreelex Fly #6 in Copper/Gold


Water Flow

940cfs (about normal flows for this time of year)



Water temperature at mid-day

40-43 degrees

Water Condition


Best time of day to fish

Mid-day to evenings, give the mornings a bit to warm up if you want dry action or fish droppers fairly deep. We have seen windows in the afternoon where fish are eager to eat dries.

Best stretch

The whole river is fishable, flows are solid throughout. Lately, larger fish size but lower numbers below Hamilton, more fish but smaller up stream. Tree down about 3/4 mi below Tucker that you can drag your raft around on river right. Two drags between Wally Crawford and Hannon. Mid river has been very crowded on the weekends.

Best access point

Multiple fishing access points along the river.

Fish species

Rainbows, browns, cutthroats, cutbows, and whitefish.

Fishing season

All year

Nearest airport

Missoula international Airport (MSO)

Recommended fly fishing leader

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

Recommended fly fishing tippet

3x top bug and 4x for second or 4x to 5x for smaller rigs

Best fly fishing rod

9ft 5 or 6 weights for nymphing and dries - 7wt for streamers

Best floating fly line

WF 5wt or 6wt

Best sinking fly line