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

01/04/09

Fly Fishing the Blackfoot River - Part One

The Blackfoot River starts out quite different from most other western streams. Its
headwaters are not the typical, beautiful small stream that has a lot of smaller, eager
cutthroats or brook trout. In fact, the first twenty miles or so of the Blackfoot River has
few, if any, fish. It is rather exposed to the harsh elements. It is shallow, too shallow to
keep fish from freezing during the winter. It doesn't have the fast pocket water you
would think a headwater stream would have. It flows on a gentle slope. Anaconda Creek
and Beartrap Creek flow together to form the river. To put it bluntly, the river isn't worth
fishing above Lincoln. Below Lincoln, it changes to more like what is expected of a trout
stream.

The next section, we will call it, from Lincoln to the Mineral Hill access, flows through
more of a mountainous type tertian. It is bordered for most of its length by highway
#141. The water in this section can become very low at places during the summer. It is
still a far cry from being pocket water. It is more of a moderately flowing stream with
pools and runs between them. It is better suited for brown trout. The farther
downstream you get in this section, the more the river starts to act like a trout stream.
There are some areas that look normal, with faster water and riffles and runs. We have
only seen this part of the river during the summer. I am sure it would act quite differently
if the water was higher than we have seen it.

We have only caught one trout, so I doubt you would consider us qualified to say much
about it, or especially how to fish it. My one trout was a nice, eighteen inch brown that
took me by surprise. I was expecting a small brown or cutthroat, not a larger brown. We
may have made a mistake, because not long after catching the fish, I decided to move
farther downstream. We didn't see anyone fishing the entire length of the river in this
section that day, even though it was during the prime Montana fishing season. I guess
that just proves how great the fishing is in Southwestern Montana. Anywhere else in the
nation, that section of the Blackfoot would be considered a very good trout stream. It
has good access from one end to the other and can be easily waded in most places.

The next section, down to Cedar Meadows, is a twisting, winding section that is eighteen
river miles long but only six miles as a crow flies. It cannot be easily accessed from a
road. You have to hike in or float this section of the Blackfoot. The river still flows on a
gentle or moderate slope for the most part. From what little of it we have seen, it
appears that it is still better suited to brown trout that rainbows. We have only fished
this section one time for about two hours and that was near its only access point, Aunt
Molly Fishing Access. The river looked very low but again, this was during the hot
summer near the end of July.

From Cedar Meadows Fishing Access to the junction of the North Fork of the Blackfoot
River, the Blackfoot changes somewhat. I assume from looking at a map, its flows
increase because it tends to straighten out. We have only seen this twelve mile long
section (other than its beginning and end) at one point and that is where #124 county
or state road (I'm not sure which) crosses the river. We have not fished this section at
all.

So far we have told you little about the upper Blackfoot River. From our perspective, the
only section worth wading is the section from Lincoln to Mineral Hill. I am certain the
river would provide a much better experience if you drifted it in a small boat or pontoon
type boat, or maybe a canoe in certain areas. More tomorrow.


                                                                                                      Copyright 2009 James Marsh
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