Big Sky Country

Fishing in Montana has been a dream of mine for a few years now and though this trip wasn’t my dream trip, it did let me test the waters. On my way to a friends wedding by Flathead Lake I had to opportunity to stop and fish an incredible river that tumbled out of a wilderness area.

Upon entering Montana about the only thing I could notice was the smoke, it was everywhere. The usually scenic drive was coated in a brownish grey fog that hung in the valleys like a curtain. After winding along some narrow dirt roads I came to a trailhead into the wilderness area. That evening we only had a short time to fish but were not disappointed. To say the water was clear is an understatement, it was like looking through glass, every detail of the bottom was clearly visible with only the deepest pools beginning to turn an electric blue/green color.

Clear, cold waters near the trailhead.

Standing on a rock outcropping allowed me to see a line of small cutthroats rising on a seem behind a rock. I began the evening with a small purple haze to a stonefly dropper. It worked.

Before long it grew dark and rainy and the next morning couldn’t come soon enough.

As soon as it became light enough to start we began our 2 mile hike into the wilderness area. If ever there was a reason for a wilderness area, this river and the mountains around it are that reason. Without the designation of a wilderness area this river would surely have a road paralleling it and failed mining claims leaking tailings into it like too many other western rivers. The hike along the pristine stream reminded me to be thankful for the wilderness areas dotting the country and to continue fighting to keep them untouched.

The path in
Blue waters

We hiked around two miles up the trail and scrambled down a steep bank to the river. I immediately began fishing the same combination as the day before, but with no luck. There were a few spruce moths flying around the water and I switched up my dry to mimic them. After the first cast I knew these would be the only flies we needed for the day. Aggressive cutthroat trout would leap fully out of the water trying to inhale the moth, often missing it altogether. The visual of these fish coming out of the river and flashing their colors in the air was truly incredible. When these aggressive fish made contact and got into the main current you better hold on tight because they would test your tippet for all it was worth!

Native westslope cutthroat!
Little cutthroat
Smoke settling in for the day
Dry fly eating cutthroat!
Riverside finds


The spruce moth that did the trick all day long
Pocket water
The trail back to the car

Although my first trip to fish Montana was short, it did confirm that I’ll be coming back here someday to explore some more new water!

6 thoughts on “Big Sky Country

  1. Beautiful stream with nice westslope cutties. Glad you experienced a nice intro to MT. Although I live in New York State, I got out to this area of MT and the Flathead country, among other places.
    The forest fires were just starting then, around the beginning of August.


  2. Great post! Love MT, finally went adventuring there myself last year after dreaming of it forever. Where is this trail / what’s the name or is it a secret? (Want to go back soon!) And thanks much for stopping by my blog. Happy fishing!


    1. Thanks! That’s awesome you made it up there! And I don’t want to name names directly because a friend from up there let me in on the spot and wanted me to keep it secret. But a hint is that it is on the southern edge of the Scapegoat Wilderness east of Missoula. The good thing about that area is there seem to be a multitude of creeks and rivers that are very similar to this one so you really can’t go wrong! Thanks for checking out the site! And hope you make it back to Montana soon!!


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