Bitterroot River

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Bitterroot River

Updated 09/30/2022 at 11:49pm

Conditions At-a-glance


Weather Forecast

Our Report

BRO’s Tips of the Week:

Dry fly fishing is all about timing on the Bitterroot. On bright, clear days we’re seeing most of the action after midday with BWOs, Mahoganies, Tricos, and Hecubas all attracting fish. If you’re seeing Blue Wings, fish a nine foot leader and taper down to 5x to get the best drift in water this clear. Recent rain will also make San Juan worms a great option for droppers. 

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


7 Day Outlook:

Rain heading into the weekend will give rivers a nice bump before clear, cool weather returns next week. With highs in the 70s, we should see some great dry fly fishing by the afternoons, and there’s no rush to start your day early in the morning when the water is still cold. 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.


*There are currently several obstructions on the Bitterroot. 

On the West Fork, take the left channel near High Bank – even though flows on the left are low, the right channel is impassible. 

Darby-Wally: one big sweeper down just below Lone Pine requires a drag to the right on the Darby-Wally float. As of today, 7/29, there is also a tree blocking the river near the cliffs above Wally. 

Wally-Anglers: flows over Sleeping Child dam are extremely low, producing dangerous conditions and a high chance of getting stuck. 

More wood down around the Blodgett Park area will also require careful scouting and some possible dragging. 

Veterans Bridge-Woodside: take the left channel below the bridge, as the right channel is blocked and requires a portage. 

Tucker-Bell is currently un-floatable. Many blockages and portages in here. It’s not worth it.

Bell-Stevi: one new tree about one mile downstream of Bell Crossing has already sunk one drift boat and will require staying far river left and doing a long drag.

Lastly, one new tree is down as  ¾ through the Stevi-Florence float. It is across the river and will require a drag to get around.


Our Recommendations for the Best Techniques and Patterns:

This time of year, it’s a good idea to change your setup throughout the day as river conditions change. If you aren’t seeing many bugs in the morning, nymphing or a dropper rig can be a good place to start. Once the bugs start showing themselves, patterns like the Brindle Chute, Purple Haze, and Sparkle Dun Mahogany will work for Mahoganies while the Zelon Cripple, Nyman’s DOA Cripple, or standard Hecuba dry fly will also be effective. Blue Wing Olives in parachute or thorax patterns are good to carry too. A few lingering tricos like the Indicator Spinner or Polywing in #20-22 along with October Caddis dries will round out your selection. 


If you aren’t seeing many bugs, Hopper-Dropper setups are still producing with smaller nymphs like the Frenchie, black/tan TJ Hooker #12, and Perdigon. Try a smaller San Juan dropper on days after a rain shower. 


Nymphing is still a good option in deeper runs and on colder mornings. TJ Hookers, the Hot Bead San Juan, Two-Bit Hooker Mahogany, Jig PT’s, Prince Nymphs, Duracells, Spanish Bullets or Quill Perdigons in #12-16 are what we’re fishing right now.


Fall is streamer time! Conditions should just keep getting better as we head toward October. Sparkle Minnows, Kreelexes, Mini Dungeons, Gongas, and Thin Mints/Buggers should get chases from bigger fish.

See our staff pick fly selection here


Goings on at World Headquarters in Missoula:

The new Online Store is live!  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.  WE HAVE MOVED TO OUR BRAND NEW LOCATION AT 275 N. RUSSELL STREET IN MISSOULA.

USGS Water Charts


The whole river is fishing well, but there are lots of hazards for floaters to be aware of.

The Hatch

Tricos, Mahoganies, BWOs, Hecubas.

Fly Patterns

DRIES - Indicator Spinner Trico, Polywing Spinner Trico, and CDC Spinner Trico #18-22. Parachute Mahogany, Purple Haze, Brindlechute, Flash Cripple, D&D Cripple #14-16. Parachute BWO, On Point BWO, Flash Cripple, D&D Cripple #18-20. NYMPHS - 20 Incher, TJ Hooker, Girdle Bug, San Juan #06-#10. Perdigon, Spanish Bullet, Frenchie, Brillon’s Mean Machine, Duracell, Prince Nymph, Jig PT #14-18. STREAMERS - Sparkle Minnow #06-08, Zonkers #06 & #08 in Natural, Olive, or Yellow. Buggers #06-12, Mini-Dungeon or Mini-Peanut Envy in Black, Olive and White.


Water Flow

397cfs (average for this time of year)



Water temperature at mid-day

60 degrees

Water Condition

Clarity is good, but there are many blockages.

Best time of day to fish

Early morning to early afternoon.

Best stretch

The Upper Bitterroot is fishing best, and the lower sections can be decent too - access is the main challenge right now. 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

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 5wt or 6wt for nymphing and dries - 6wt or 7wt for streamers

Best floating fly line

WF 5wt or 6wt

Best sinking fly line