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

01/02/09

Fly Fishing the Bitterroot River, Montana - Part  2

The East Fork of the Bitterroot is also an excellent stream. It is much smaller than the
main river, of course, but it has some very good small stream rainbow, brown, cutthroat
and brook trout fishing. Its water comes from the Anaconda-Pintlar Wilderness area. As
mentioned yesterday, it is a freestone stream that joins with the West Fork tailwater to
form the main Bitterroot Rover.

The East Fork Road follows closely along for almost the entire length of the East Fork
headwaters making access easy. Much of the river flows through National Forest
property. There is an area near Sula that is mostly private property. From Sula to near
Conner, the river follows highway #93. Like most all small headwater streams, the East
Fork produces mostly smaller fish. They are generally easy to catch but that is exactly
what makes small stream trout fishing a lot of fun.

The upper part of the main stem of the Bitterroot River has some very long riffles. It is a
good section to wade as well as float. The stream in this area gets cold water from the
West Fork tailwater and remains cool throughout the hot summer. There is no drainage
of the water for agricultural purposes in the upper area like there are downstream of
Hamilton. This section is ideal during the late summer when water temperatures are
high most everywhere else but the headwaters and West Fork tailwater.

From Hamilton to Victor, the river splits into side channels in many areas. You can wade
most of these side channel streams or smaller flows, without getting in the main drift
boat lane, so to speak. This section also has a lot of long gravel bars. There is a limited
number of access points. However, it is fairly easy to walk up and down the edges of the
river. Under Montana law, you can cover about as much water as you want to in many
areas, staying in the streambed without getting on private property. There are a lot of
canals that divert the water for irrigation purposes in the section and the flows are
affected greatly when a lot of water is being diverted for irrigation.

From Victor to Florence, the river becomes wider with slower flows and deeper water in
many areas of the stream. There are not as many places that you can wade as there
are upstream. This is a very popular area of the river to float. Rainbows are the main
species you will catch in this section. During the hot summer, this section can become
too warm for good fishing. The best times to fish this part of the Bitterroot is during the
spring and fall seasons. Recreational boat traffic can also be a problem.

From Florence to the intersection of the Bitterroot with the Clark Fork River, the
population of trout decreases considerably. We have not fished this section of the
Bitterroot. The locals claim there are some very large rainbows in this section and that
the fishing can be great during the spring and fall months. I'm sure it would also be
affected by the hot summer temperatures due to its relatively low elevation. I'm also
guessing that the local Missoula anglers have some secrets they keep about fishing the
lower sections of the river.

                                                                                                           Copyright 2008 James Marsh
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