Fly Fishing

Montana Fly Fishing

Fly Fishing the Flathead

Experience Montana fly fishing at its finest with Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness and National Forests as breathtaking backdrops.  The Flathead River system of northwestern Montana offers memorable fishing opportunities. From sites of easy access to those of remote wilderness, the Flathead waters can provide diverse fishing experiences.  Three main branches, the North Fork, Middle Fork and South Fork, eventually come together to form the main stem of the Flathead River that flows into 28-mile-long Flathead lake.  Access to the three forks and the main Flathead is readily available in places, but to effectively fish the best of the Flathead, floating is suggested.  The hardest thing about fly fishing this part of northwestern Montana is keeping your eye on your fly and not the spectacular scenery.

The Fish

West slope cutthroat trout are the predominant fish species.  These indigenous trout have adapted well to the cold, glacially fed Flathead waters.  Because of their cooperative nature, cutthroats are just plain fun to catch.  It is easy to become fond of this native species.  Rainbow trout numbers have increased dramatically and provide the power and energy this species is known for.  Area waters also provide fishing opportunities for grayling, brook trout, lake trout, perch, pike, bass and whitefish.  The Flathead system is one of the last strongholds for bull trout.  Many an angler, while reeling in a cutthroat, has had a large bull trout come up and take possession of the cutthroat.  That’s when the real fun begins.

The Insects/Flies

Because of the clear, cold characteristics of the Flathead waters, insect hatches are not as prolific as those found on other rivers.  But specific hatches do occur, and if hit just right they provide a bonus.  Green drakes appear in July, and caddis all summer.  But generally speaking, Flathead fish are opportunists.  This is dry fly country and the bigger the fly the better!  Refer to the hatch chart [link to] for additional information.


Fly fishing the Flathead is best done with a four-, five- or six-weight fly rod.  A standard nine-foot 4X or 5X leader will work fine.  Waders are essential before July and after August, but during the heat of the summer, many anglers “wet wade” in shorts and their wading boots.  Because of these freestone waters, felt-soled wading boots are highly recommended.


Dry fly enthusiasts will be in heaven during the months of July, August and September.  Your best weather is during these months, though it’s always good insurance to bring cool and wet weather gear at any time of the year.  Spring run-off can vary, but typically occurs at its heaviest during June.  From ice-out until the rivers clear, lake fishing opportunities abound.  Because of the sheer number of river miles and the many valley and high country lakes, crowding is not a concern.  This is definitely a place to get away from it all. 

Information courtesy of Lakestream Fly Fishing Shop

Fishing brochure

Fishing in the Flathead National Forest

Fishing in Northwest Montana:
Family fun for all ages

Anglers love the Flathead Valley. New anglers, children and fishing experts all will find plenty of choices for casting and catching. Flathead Lake and the North, Middle and South forks of the Flathead River are famous for their abundance of fish, but off the beaten path, many smaller lakes and streams offer excellent fishing opportunities as well.

The smaller spots are good for introducing children to the rewards of fishing. Don't know how to fish? A professional guide can teach you and your family the best ways to fish - and the best places, too. A professional can also teach you how to identify different fish species, how to 'catch and release' safely, and many other valuable tips you can use for a lifetime of rewarding fishing.

Lion Lake, one mile from the town of Hungry Horse (just off U.S. Highway 2 on the way to Glacier National Park), is just one example of an easy-access lake that's perfect for taking children on their first fishing trip. Rainbow and west slope cutthroat trout are plentiful here, and the lake is open for fishing year-round. The daily limit is 10 trout.

Experience Montana fly fishing at its best in Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness and the National Forests, where you'll enjoy some of the world's finest scenery while you cast your line. You don't need a license to fish in Glacier National Park. To fish elsewhere, you can purchase a fishing license at most sporting goods stores and marinas. Some convenience stores also sell licenses.

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