Fly fishing comes with an inherent set of problems that must be overcome. Knots, flies, line, leader, gear, casting, waders, and access, to name a few. Fly fishing the Flathead River comes with those same problems and a couple more…
I come from an area where river accesses are a dime a dozen. The rivers and streams never get over 7,000 CFS and wading these fisheries can be the most successful way to target trout. 3 months ago I moved from that area and pitched a tent in the Flathead Valley, chasing love. Unbeknownst to me, the Flathead River is an enormous fishery. Flows this spring reached as high as 54,000 CFS! That’s over 7 times the amount of water I am used to. Needless to say this river isn’t set up for the wade fisherman.
This was overwhelming at first. I found myself scouring google maps looking for areas of the river where one could find good fishing while wading from the shore. After that, and some local knowledge from my coworkers at the fly shop, I nailed down a few good holes where I could target these trout from the banks of the river.
I was missing something, missing the feeling of a small river, I missed home. Missed the days where I could spend all afternoon meandering down the banks of the Gallatin River, crossing it where I could, to just explore.
Not far from Columbia Falls, On Highway 2 westbound you will find the Thomson River. More of a creek if you ask me but brimming with fish and plant life. This river is the perfect getaway for those looking to explore some smaller water. The river slowly moves along; headed south for another 50 miles until it eventually meets the Clark Fork River.
South of Polson, near Arlee, there is another small manageable river named the Jocko river. The Jocko river finds itself in the middle of the Flathead Indian Reservation. In order to fish this stretch of river you will need a reservation fishing permit. These can be easily acquired via https://app.mt.gov/als/index/index.html The Jocko is home to many large, eager rainbow trout.
Last but certainly not least is the Spotted Bear River. Getting to Spotted bear is no easy task, but the determined will find this creek very rewarding. Native Westslope Cutthroat trout fill the waters and if you catch it right, the fishing can be incredible.
When first arriving in the Flathead Valley I was chomping at the bit to fish these streams, and I still am. That’s not to say there isn’t a “boat load” of good fishing to be had elsewhere. Take the time and research your local area. Don’t be afraid to explore. You might stumble into the next best honey hole.