Big Hole River

Loops up through Southwest Montana about 2 hours from Missoula.


If anglers are asked to close their eyes and envision what a Montana trout river looks like, chances are a portrait of the Big Hole River comes to mind.  Lush hay meadows and cottonwood valleys framed by the Pintlar Mountains with a wide river winding through.  Over 150 miles of free flowing trout water – you get the picture and yes, this is one river you must fish.

As one of the most prolific free stone rivers in Montana, the Big Hole’s fish grow big quick here.  Eating a virtual smorgasbord of stones, caddis, and mayflies combined with plenty of sculpins and other bait fish, Big Hole browns grow to proportions usually seen in tailrace waters.  What is more, the last self sustaining population of fluvial Artic grayling is found in the upper reaches and small tributaries. Perhaps the most limiting factor of fish here may be at the same time the largest draw for anglers in that the surrounding ranches historically dewater the Big Hole to a pitiful trickle every summer yet maintain the rural character and rugged beauty of the drainage.  Dedicated members of the Big Hole River Foundation continue to work on solutions to this dilemma which occurs through out Montana and across the West.

All guided angling here is limited by state statute and though we have a permit to outfit on the Big Hole, we only have a few user days in mid summer and dole them out on a first come first served basis.  Having limited peak season days is fine with our guides as we prefer to fish the Big Hole River during the shoulder seasons anyway.  We are convinced that late March – May or again September – October are the best times to lock horns with these broad shouldered bait chasing browns.  And, the number of anglers (the Big Hole is a very popular river) out of the summer season falls way off.   Ice out fishing here can be simply ridiculous with the largest trout still stacked up in their winter runs and eager to eat swinging streamers and bottom bouncing nymphs. This is a perfect warm up for those looking to hone their switch/spey rod skills.  Though known for its salmon fly hatch, the Big Hole also boasts a delightful and little known skwala stone fly hatch in April and an outrageous caddis hatch in May.  Late season blue winged olives together with fall mahogany duns provide for exceptional dry fly action every autumn.

The Stats

  • Typical Catch

    The Big Hole slam possible here; including native grayling 9-13”, brooks 9-14”, rainbows 12"-18", browns 16"-20"+ and an elusive westslope cutthroat. We hope to see around 20 opportunities per rod/per day.

  • Total Area of Drainage

    2,800 square miles.

  • Total River Miles We Guide

    About 100

  • Travel Distances from Missoula

    2.5-3 hours from Missoula

  • Bank-side Accommodations

    Cabins available for rent along the Big Hole.

  • Primary Style of Fishing

    Early season streamers and nymphs; large attractor dries with beadhead dropper throughout the summer and small dries in the fall.

BRO’s Top Six Patterns for Big Hole River