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Blackfoot River Fly Fishing

Blackfoot River
Fly Fishing

Formed in part by glaciers, this gorgeous river winds through towering cliff lined canyons and ponderosa forests just north of town. You will find deep emerald green pools, boulder strewn pocket water, rapids, and long riffled runs all occupied by eager cutthroat, rainbow, brown, and the occasional bull trout. Blackfoot River fishing gained fame in Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It, and as a result intense conservation and rehabilitation efforts have returned this watershed to its former glory. This is big bug water where trout are ready to ambush anything that lands on the surface. Immense stonefly hatches get this river going in the spring and terrestrials along with a sprinkling of mayflies and caddis keep the trout well fed throughout the year. While a great dry fly river, this is also our favorite streamer water as well. Lots of opportunities are the norm on the Blackfoot, and while the average size trout is a little smaller than the Bitterroot or Clark Fork, there are true giants lurking here. Rainbows and Browns to 25+” are not unheard of and the chance to tangle with a bull trout over 30” is a possibility at any moment. A trip through the box canyon of the Blackfoot is an experience not to be missed. Simply put, Blackfoot River fly fishing offers world class opportunities at classic BIG Montana fish!

  • Skwala stoneflies (#8-10)
  • Grey Drakes (#12-14)
  • Blue-wing Olives (#18)

The Blackfoot is our coldest area river, and as a result does not typically offer great early season dry fly fishing. The warmer days in April will provide a few chances at dry fly fishing with Skwalas and mayflies, but it is mainly a nymph and streamer fishery early on.

  • Skwala stoneflies (#8-10)
  • Caddis (#12-16)

Normally unfishable in May due to run-off. During low water years fish will be looking for Skwalas, and this can be some of the best Caddis fishing in the area. The upper river has a prolific caddis hatch and anglers lucky enough to fish it are able to find huge numbers of trout feeding on the surface.

  • Salmonflies (#4-6)
  • Golden stoneflies (#8-10)
  • Green Drakes (#8-10)

This is the Blackfoot at its best, boasting one of the best and longest Salmonfly hatches in the state. These giant bugs will start to hatch on the lower river at the beginning of the month and make their methodical migration upriver each day. Many of our largest fish taken on this river come to Salmonfly patterns fished tight to the willows. By mid-month Golden stones and Green Drakes join the mix as well, offering three big bug options to fool hefty Blackfoot trout.

  • Golden stoneflies (#8-10)
  • Green Drakes (#8-10)
  • Pale-morning Duns (#14-16)
  • Caddis (#14-16)

Amazingly Salmonflies can still be found in the canyon stretch early in the month, and Golden stones and Drakes will take fish well into July. PMDs will hatch well in certain stretches mid-day and the evening caddis hatches are consistent fish producers throughout the month. The Blackfoot is a premiere attractor pattern river and all kinds of crazy flies will start to dupe trout in July and the attractor fishing will last through the rest of the season.

  • Grasshoppers (#6-10)
  • Tricos (#18-22)
  • Pale-morning Duns (#14-16)
  • Spruce moths (#12-14)

One of our best terrestrial rivers, the Blackfoot fishes great in August with all sorts of hoppers, ants, and beetles. There’s nothing like watching a cutthroat come out of the depths of an emerald green pool to crush a hopper. There is also an excellent but short-lived Spruce moth hatch. Large Blackfoot trout go nuts for these bugs, and if you’re fortunate enough to be on the river during those two weeks it can produce truly unbelievable dry fly fishing. This is not the best mayfly river in the area, but there are some specific spots where PMDs and Tricos hatch daily and get big numbers of fish looking toward the surface.

  • Grasshoppers (#6-10)
  • October Caddis (#8-10)
  • Mahogany Duns (#12-16)
  • Blue-wing Olives (#16-18)

Hoppers and attractor patterns dominate the dry fly fishing well into the Fall. Add to that the best October caddis hatch in the area and the Blackfoot offers plenty of big fly options. Magoganies and Blue-wings will motivate the fish to the surface as well during this last push to feed before winter. Fall is another great time to fish streamers for large, aggressive trout.

Blackfoot River Fishing Access Sites & Boat Launches

Fly fishing the Blackfoot River is a must-do for any angler visiting Montana and is fished well from the boat or on foot. See below for information on Blackfoot River fishing access and boat launches.

Blackfoot River Fly Fishing Flies

With our Montana fly fishing guides hitting the Blackfoot River during most of our Missoula fly fishing season, we have expert insights into what’s working. See below for guide recommendations on flies that work on the Blackfoot River.

Blackfoot River in fall with text overlaid

Blackfoot River Fishing Report

Interested in staying informed about Blackfoot River fly fishing? Dive into our Blackfoot River fishing report for the freshest details on successful fly choices, river flow levels, current conditions, and expert guidance to elevate your Blackfoot River fly fishing trip.