Known for its plentiful population of rainbow and brown trout, Blackfoot River is a popular Montana fishing destination. Although it isn’t as popular as some of the other rivers in Montana, quite a few people still come here to fly fish. The Blackfoot River is primarily used for non-fishing activities, which means there are plenty of fish to be had. Much of the upper portion runs through public areas and is easy to access. The lower part of the river runs through Blackfoot River Recreation Corridor. This river is close to the city of Missoula – one of the fastest-growing parts of the state. This makes Blackfoot River the prime location for both fishing and having fun
There are several sections of the Blackfoot river that anglers should be familiar with.
The origin of the Blackfood river to Lincoln, runs about 20 miles. Fishing is not good here, as the river is narrow and shallow, and tends to completely freeze in winter.
From Lincoln to the Mineral Hill access site, fishing gets a little better. While the fishing is still not as good here as it is further downstream, this stretch of the Blackfoot river will not likely be crowded. Brown trout here are above-average in size, though somewhat challenging to catch. Wade-fishing produces your best results, because the river is too shallow and obstructed for easy floating.
From the Mineral Hill to the Cedar Meadows fishing access sites, there are 18 miles of twisting river with relatively slow current. While floating is the best fishing option because there is no road access to large sections of the river, using rafts or drift boats is not recommended. Canoes and kayaks are easier to paddle through this area. Brown trout are dominant here.
The section of Blackfoot river from Cedar Meadows to River Junction fishing access site is about 12 miles. This section of the river provides increased water flow but spotty access. Brown trout are still dominant but rainbow trout begin to appear just upstream from River Junction.
In each of these upper sections of Blackfoot River, the recommended technique is to fish streamers around undercut banks, downed timber and holes, and other natural habitat.
Beginning at River Junction, rainbow trout fishing improves a great deal. The best fly fishing begins in mid-March. Prior to spring runoff, remember to keep good presentation, using common flies like Parachute Adams, Sparkle Dun and Olive Cripple or nymph imitations like the Hare’s Ear and the Pheasant Tail. Spring run-off can occur anytime between mid-April until early June, turning the water turbid. Note that if spring runoff ends early, the river has clear water by late May, in time for a salmon fly hatch that presents an opportunity to fish large salmon fly imitations (like the Bitch Creek Nymph or Stimulator) on the bottom around deep holes, undercut banks and gravel banks.
The Blackfoot is a premiere summer dry fly-fishing area. Use caddis imitations, attractor dry flies like the Olive Stimulator and Green Renegade, or common mayfly patterns. Presentation is important because the slow current gives the trout more time to examine flies. Using a drag free float on a light leader can really help. Though the river can be fished successfully all summer, cooler water temperatures in the mornings and evenings will add to your catch rate. Grasshopper imitation flys work very well from July to early September to draw rainbows, even in the middle of the river.
From Clearwater Crossing to Johnsrud Park, the Blackfoot becomes rocky and the current fast, with some whitewater. There are numerous opportunities to fish in deep holes and pockets of water. This section of the river is popular for both waders and floaters. Summer weekends are extremely busy. Access is quite good with numerous fishing access points.
Wade-fishers should be cautious of the fast current and slippery rocks, but fish are not as picky about presentation. Dry fly fishing and hopper fishing are good choices. Fish dry flies around holes and in the pocket water sections. Colorful attractor patterns like the Parachute Adams or Royal Wulff work well in riffles and pocket water. To catch larger fish, try nymphs, weighted and fished on a sink tip line in the deeper holes.
The final section of the Blackfoot runs from Johnsrud Park to Clark Fork. This section has very large browns and rainbows. The terrain is loaded with boulders and many deep pools and riffles. These big trout respond to larger nymphs fished deep in the holes.