Clark Fork River

Runs right through downtown Missoula in Western Montana. Watch the Video View Fishing Report


The Clark Fork of the Columbia River, named after Captain William Clark of the Corps of Discovery, is the mother of all our local rivers. Removal of a hundred year old dam in 2008 kicked off an unprecedented clean up of a river suffering from decades of mining abuses imposed upon her by a less than conservation-minded state. In proving her maternal resolve, the Clark Fork today flows clean and vibrant, while harboring Western Montana’s most powerful trout.

Often described locally as two distinct rivers, the Clark Fork provides decidedly different characteristics on its upper and lower reaches. In the snaking meanders upstream of Missoula, butter-bellied browns explode on baitfish darting from deadfall snags and hoppers haplessly bumping along grassy undercuts. Following her confluence of the Blackfoot and Bitterroot, the Clark Fork through and below town widens and slows. This is the ultimate for anglers hunting line-ripping rainbows and cutthroats on light tippets. Here, the biggest fish sip little duns and chase swimming nymphs around over knee-deep gravel bars. No matter your passion – #20 trico spinners delicately placed in rise ring lanes, dangling a needle-thin phez tail under a big bushy hoppers, or chuck’n and duck’n zonkers – the Clark Fork offers a season and section for you.

The Stats

  • Typical Catch

    On the upper river are browns from 10"-20", plenty of bows, cutties and cutbows averaging 13" with a number over 16". The lower rainbows average 15"-18" and cutthroats of similar size with the occasional 18"-22" brown. We look for at least a dozen opportunities per rod/per day.

  • Total Area of Drainage

    Nearly 21,000 square miles! 11,000 sq miles before the Flathead River drainage adds another 10,000.

  • Total River Miles We Guide

    About 150 miles - 80 above Missoula and 70 miles below.

  • Travel Distances from Missoula

    Range from a coupla minutes to 1.5 hrs, typically 30 minutes or less.

  • Bank-side Accommodations

    On river camps, various local Missoula hotels, B&B's and cabin rentals.

  • Primary Style of Fishing

    The Clark below Missoula consists of matching the hatch with little dries when conditions warrant and searching with big attractor dries and droppers in the down time. Above town attractor dries go on first but streamers under the clouds can be great!

BRO’s Top Six Patterns for Clark Fork River

  • Chubby Chernobyl #10-6 (tan, gold and purple)
  • Pheasant Tail Nymph #16-14
  • High-viz Parachute Adams #18-14
  • Kiwi Muddler #6-2 (olive, black or brown)
  • Noble Chernobyl #10-6 (red or tan)
  • Montana Prince #14-8 (green or christmas)