Streams Outside of Yellowstone National Park
.............................Fly Fishing Yellowstone National Park

12/26/08

Fly Fishing the Beaverhead River:

The Beaverhead River lies in the same general area of Southwestern Montana as the
Ruby River which joins it at Twin Bridges Montana. It is a tailwater of the Clarke Canyon
Reservoir. The tailwater is approximately fifty miles long. The Big Hole River joins it just
north of Twin Bridges and together they form the Jefferson River. I will be writing about
both of those streams in the near future.

About twelve miles below the dam is another dam that diverts water to be used for
agriculture purposes during the summer months. The diversion of the water usually
starts in July. The flows below this dam (Barretts Diversion Dam) are quite different
than the flows above the dam. When the water is being diverted, the flows are much
less below the diversion dam than they are coming from the dam at Clarke Canyon.
Most of the trout below the diversion dam are brown trout because the water gets quite
a bit warmer than it does upstream of the dam.

It is very difficult to find anywhere on the upper part of the river to wade. Another factor
that must be taken into account is that most of the banks are lined with bushes making
casting from the banks out of the question in many areas. For this reason, the stream
is normally fished from a drift boat. The Beaverhead is not a wide, big western river.  It
is basically a small to medium size tailwater that is rather narrow in places.

We have only drifted the river on one occasion. Other than that we have fished it just
below the dam from the banks and at a few other places downstream of the dam. For
the most part, wherever you want try to fish it from the bank, you will have a very limited
area to fish. We have still been able to catch a reasonable amount of trout even from
the banks.

Rainbows are the main species you will catch in the upper part of the river above the
diversion dam and as I said, browns are the main species you will most likely catch
below the diversion dam. It is possible to wade the lower section when the water is low
during the late summer. Fishing wise, the lower section  just doesn't rank with the
upper portion unless you are just wanting to catch a large brown trout. The best part of
the river is the upper part above the diversion dam.

The river seems to have a very good population of aquatic insects for a tailwater.
There is just something about the tailwaters in this part of Montana that creates a
better habitat for mayflies and stoneflies than most other tailwaters. The Beaverhead
doesn't quite equal the Madison in terms of hatches or fishing in my opinion, but it is a
different type of stream that does hold some very good fish. It is usually not as crowded
during the prime months as some of the other streams. It is a stream I could
recommend to anyone visiting the Southwestern part of Montana but not in priority to
some of the other streams in the area.

Now please don't misunderstand me. The Beaverhead is a very fine trout stream. It
would rank higher or better than most tailwaters. It just happens to be in the same area
as the best streams in the United States. During prime times, those streams could
become very crowded and the Beaverhead may be the best option you have.




Copyright 2008 James Marsh     
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