The Clark Fork River in western Montana is a beautiful spot for rainbow, brook, cutthroat and endangered bull trout. Although mining has had adverse effects in the past, this large river has recovered and, with help from the surrounding communities, remains a quality fishing area.
Thirty years ago there were almost no fish populations, but today there are over a thousand fish per mile in many areas. The trout average about 15 inches, but fish up to 20 inches are fairly common, with occasional surpasses that “trophy” mark. Check the special fishing regulations before venturing onto the river.
Beginning at the confluence of Warm Springs Creek and Silver Bow Creek near Anaconda, the Clark Fork winds its way northwest for about 275 miles before entering Idaho and eventually feeding Pend Oreille Lake (Idaho's largest lake).
It may seem like I'm sharing some of Montana's secrets, but I truly believe in sharing the best opportunities with fellow fly fishermen. I'll point out some of the best spots, starting closer to the headwaters and moving downstream
Kohrs Bend – meadows and meanders
Access is somewhat restricted in the headwaters areas. A unique spot just north of Deer Lodge is Kohrs Bend. This place can offer a few hours of fishing. I park at the bend and then walk up the creek to the gate and fish back. As always, be respectful of private property. The river here is warmer due to slow-moving water and limited spring water. Think Bass!
Bearmouth BLM Access – A day of wading
The more water the Clark Fork absorbs, the sooner it cools down. This place allows for more than a couple of hours of fishing. Pack a lunch along with a variety of flies. The river is easy to wade through, so try to read the spots with the most fishSHORTCUTand wade for the best cast and presentation LINK
Later in the year this area of the river gets these flowing grasses that are great for scud patterns and San Juan worms.
Depending on the air temperature and season, you will find a mix of warm and cold water species here.
Guide Pro-Tipp:One of the major cold water creeks that flows into Clarks Fork isRock Creek. I highly recommend taking a little road trip south from I90 on 102. Approximately 9 miles south of I90 you will come to the Dalles Campground, which is the start of many of the turnings that provide access to this creek.
If the little Montana creek wading in an area surrounded by mountains and the chance to see moose, bighorns and bears is what you love, Rock Creek is the place to be.
Favorite flies for Rock Creek include caddis flies, PMDs, and Golden Stones.
Access to the Kona Bridge
Below Milltown Dam, the river flows through the metropolitan city of Missoula on its way to the Idaho border. The best fishing in this stretch can be found from the dam to Thompson Falls. You'll find fewer pockets and "sweet" water in this stretch of beautiful scenery than in the upper section of the river.
Don't be fooled, there are good numbers of trout in this stretch, although the condition of the river would suggest otherwise. It's big water here and without a boat it can sometimes be difficult to find feeding fish. The small number of ripples, barrels and pockets makes it difficult to read the water. However, good quality rainbow trout can be found in good numbers.
Hiring a guide is a good choice, although wading is possible in much of this stretch. Below Alberton is an area of strong rapids that can be dangerous for rafts and drift boats.
Harper Bridge und Petty Creek Road Boat Launch
A poplar snack bar for drift boats and rafts. Both spots offer fast fishing for about an hour. Also, if you time your visit properly, you can get some "inside information" from the guides who travel these routes.
Access to the natural pier
One of the unique fishing spots is Natural Pier. Caution is advised when entering the water, this spot is deep and strong. The rapids provide a stopping point for fish migrating upstream.
Walk 200 meters downstream along Highway 90 and you will find rippled boulders. This spot works for streamers and drys.
Favorite flies for the Clark Fork
Dry fly fishing is usually exceptional from spring to fall. June to October is the high season for dry fly fishing. Salmonflies, golden stones, and olive stones make up the stonefly population.
The most productive mayfly broods include olives,Pale morning dunes, Gray drake, Green drake,Mahogany Duns, and tricos.Caddisare extremely important throughout the season, along with terrestrial species in late summer and early fall.
Streamers and nymphs are extremely prolific and can produce at any time of the year. Matukas, Woolly Buggers and Bitch Creeks are among some of the favorites.
Ventures Fly Co. 40 Fly Line has a wide variety of flies
This assortment contains most of the flies you need to lay the groundwork for an effective fly box. the most common dries, nymphs and streamers. Check out the video review on the water on YouTube -HERE
Slip chart for the Clark Fork
|name of the fly||Size||Start date||Final term|
|mosquito||22||all year round||all year round|
|WER||18||April and May||September and October|
|salmon fly||6||15. May||July 1|
|Gelbe Sally||14||15. June||15. August|
|PMD||16||15. June||15. August|
|earthlings||6||15th of July||1. September|
|T-shirt||22||15. August||1. September|
Annual current flow for Clark Fork
It is always best to compare average current flows to current flow. Obviously you want to avoid extremes, whether high or low. Click on the image below for aFLOW DATA IN REAL TIME.
Best fly rod setup for the Clark Fork
Montana winds and big waters call for a slightly heavier fly rod setup. You should consider a 6 to 7 weight fly rod. This size allows you to cast some larger flies and a heavier fly line to fight the wind.
You can also effectively nymph fish with this setup. With the different depths and current speeds, don't forget to vary your depths and weight. If you're looking for a recommendation -> get itSage Foundation Combo. It's a combination that just works.
Looking for the perfect fly rod combination for the Clark Fork?
TheSage Foundation fly rod combo comes with everything minus flies. The rod is made in the USA and comes with the typical lifetime guarantee. The fast action allows you to cast in the windy conditions along the Colorado. Even better - if your buddies see you throw a Sage, you'll get envious looks.
Guides and Fly Shops for the Clark Fork
- Grizzly Hackle Fly Shopin Missoula is a full service shop. With the Clark Fork about 300 meters from the shop you could say that the Clark Fork is their 'home water' offering everything from flies, gear, guides and even accommodation. Check out the multi-day packages. Missoula has plenty of water to fish beyond the Clark Fork.
- Missoulian Fly Shopis the oldest fly shop in Missoula. From experience, Flyshops that have weathered the ups and downs of the past 15 years have a solid reputation. Committed to guiding local rivers including Bitterroot, Blackfoot and Missouri.
The Clark Fork is a varied river with great fishing. There are also many other world class fisheries in the area for options and variety. When coming to the Clark Fork River, the nearest commercial airports are in Missoula and Butte. The Clark Fork is a beautiful river and can be rewarding for anglers of all skill levels.
Montana is a fly fisherman's paradise. If you want more check out my HUGE guide ->Where can you fly fish in Montana?
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HalloDavid HumphriesOwner Recommended by Guide. I love everything fly fishing related. casting, binding,Youtubeto write about and even teach about. At this link I have a FREE video workshop teaching how to dry fly fishLike 2 fly fish