A classic river
The Clark Fork is over 300 miles long and the largest river by volume in Montana. From the confluence of Basin and Blacktail Creeks, its headwaters are known as Silver Bow Creek in southwestern Montana near Butte. Besides numerous feeder streams, it receives the Bitterroot River just west of Missoula, as well as the Flathead River near Plains.
The Clark Fork, and in particular its headwaters, is infamous for toxic metals draining into it from mining. Thankfully, the mines have been closed, and various superfund sites have now cleaned up most of these toxins. In fact, remediation activities have already started to take effect in its headwaters, and they are becoming a popular fishing site.
Clark Fork River Fly Fishing
The fact that large swaths of the Clark Fork now exhibit excellent fly-fishing is a testament to both the clean up efforts and the resilience of nature. Plenty of large brown trout, rainbow trout and cutthroat are found in various places along the river. In fact, we think the Clark Fork may be the most underrated trout river in Montana, as it has some of the most productive fly fishing anywhere in the West. From the early spring season of dry fly fishing in April/May, to the early summer season in June/July of reen drake mayfly, pale morning/evening dun mayfly, caddis and terrestrial hatches, right through to the extremely productive fall season of Sept/Oct, the Clark Fork is very consistent and very good fishing.
Those who are unfamiliar with the Clark Fork may get frustrated because the fish can be hard to find if you don’t know where to look. Our guides know where the sweet spots are however. These areas contain the sorts of habitats that fly fishers dream of: from riffles and whitewater to deep-water pools, from fast currents to slow currents, and from high grassy banks to low elevation pine forested banks and cottonwood bottoms.
The lower stretches of the river turn into big water after the Bitterroot River joins it, just west of Missoula. Here the big fish tend to travel in “pods” and often feed aggressively on the river’s numerous hatches. It can be the best opportunity in the Missoula area for having consistently nice fish all day, with the average rainbow/cutthroat hybrid—the predominant trout in the river—ranging around 15″ to 16″.
The Clark Fork offers it all, so it’s important to know what you want in order to know where to go. For instance, if you’re an angler looking for a small river habitat, then you will not want to fish below Missoula; but if you’re looking to float fish, then you will want to put in downstream from Missoula.
Western Montana Area Day Trips
(Including The Bitterroot, Blackfoot, Clark Fork and Missouri Rivers)
Full Day Float Trip - $500 (2 anglers)
This is our normal full day on the water. We usually are out 8-10+ hours from when we pick you up at the hotel to when we drop you back off. Includes NA drinks and a full lunch and snacks, all the flies, tippet, etc. that will be needed for the day. A typical day starts with a pick up time of 8:30 AM, and a drop off at 5-6 pm. Sometimes we will shift those times earlier or later as fishing conditions dictate.
Full day float trip - $600 (2 anglers)
Wade Trips - -$450 (1-3 anglers)
Clark Fork River Lodge
CLARK FORK RIVER LODGE AND ALL FULL-SERVICE, ALL-INCLUSIVE CABIN PACKAGES:
(Missouri River / Blackfoot / Rock Creek)
# of Days # of Nights Price
1 2 $850
2 3 $1,400
3 4 $1,950
4 5 $2,500
5 6 $3,050
6 7 $3,600
Prices based on double occupancy rates. Single occupancy $125.00 surcharge rate.
Clark Fork River Lodge
In 2001, I finally completed one of my long time dreams of building a lodge on the Clark Fork. The Clark Fork River Lodge overlooks a national wild and scenic river section of the Clark Fork River, about 10 miles downstream of the small town of St. Regis. This secluded area is a great location that gives us access to miles and miles of good trout water, as well as puts us in close proximity to the Flathead River, an excellent small mouth bass fishery. The Flathead is also a pretty good sleeper river for northern pike, which at the proper times readily attack some of our special streamers.