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

01/07/09

Fly Fishing the Little Blackfoot River, Montana

The first time we heard of the Little Blackfoot River, we were fishing the Frying Pan
River in Colorado. We meet a gentlemen that guided in Montana. He was also a
Psychologist. Later that year we tried to arrange to fish with him but it didn't work out for
us. We didn't forget what he said about the Little Blackfoot, however. He said the fishing
for brook and cutthroat trout was excellent and that in addition to fishing the big
Missouri River (the main place he guided) we should try the Little Blackfoot. We did, the
following year.

We studied the river on our maps and tried to find all the information we could, but little
was available. It flows from out of the Boulder Mountains near the little Montana town of
Elliston. The first fifteen miles or so of the Little Blackfoot flows through public land. A
forrest service road follows along much of the stream. Not far out of Elliston, the river
flows through a beautiful valley. Most all of the river is on private land from that point on
all the way to its confluence with the Clarke Fork. The river is similar in that respect to
the Blackfoot River to its West but that is about the only similarity. The Little Blackfoot is
much smaller as its name implies.

We fished the stream in the upper headwater area the first time we were there. We
stopped just above a bridge on the Forest Service road and gave it a try. It was late
July. The river is very small above Elliston. It is probably only ten or fifteen feet wide on
the average. I started the fishing and Angie was running camera. I caught a small
cutthroat trout on my first three cast. The fishing was incredible. You would think the
trout had never had anything to eat. They acted like they were starved to death. Of
course, they were not, they were just smaller cutthroats that were rarely fished. During
the next two days on our first trip there we never saw another angler. In fact, on our
next two trips during two other years there, we never saw an angler. In fact we have
never seen anyone fishing the Little Blackfoot from it headwaters for its entire forty mile
length. Much of the river is visible from a  road through its last twenty-five mile stretch to
the Clark Fork River. Our largest cutthroat in the upper section was probably only
thirteen inches long. There are also a huge population of brook trout. I didn't count fish
but I would be willing to bet any good angler could catch well over a hundred on a
summer day.

There are a lot of bridge access points along the river from Elliston to the Clarke Fork
River. There are also a lot of log jams along the river. It is not a fast pocket water
stream. Its flows are generally moderate. The trout in the lower section are mainly
brown trout. We stopped a several of the bridges and were successful at catching
brown trout and whitefish, at some of them. We have only fished the lower section one
time and then only a short time at the bridges. We did catch several browns although
none of them were over twelve inches. I am certain there are some large ones in the
river. We just haven't spent any time fishing it.

I doubt it could be floated. The river is rather small even at it widest points. The log jams
would be a problem. We haven't tried it but I would seriously doubt if the ranchers would
care if you did fish their property provided you ask them. From the looks of most of
them I have met, I would make certain I didn't damage anything. They live a rough, hard
life the best I can tell. I would not want to cross any of them. That said, every one I have
talked to in Montana were extremely nice and helpful.

The Little Blackfoot is a beautiful small stream and apparently it has plenty of trout. We
are told that there are several springs along the river and that prevents it from freezing
in its shallow areas during the winter. It also probably helps keep it cool during the hot
summer where it is openly exposed to the sun. The Little Blackfoot is a great small
stream. It just happens to flow through remote land where few travel but yet in a general
area of Montana with numerous blue-ribbon trout streams.

                                                                                                  Copyright 2009 James Marsh
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