Montana Fly Fishing Guides and Tours

Where is Rock Creek in Montana?

Nestled between the Sapphire Mountains to the west and the John Long Mountains to the east, Rock Creek MT is arguably the finest trout stream in Montana. This 52-mile blue-ribbon stream runs through Missoula and Granite Counties and is a tributary of the Clark Fork River. The river’s headwaters are found in Lolo National Forest near Philipsburg, Montana, and its confluence with the Clark Fork occurs in Clinton, MT. The heart of Rock Creek Montana fishing is a mere twenty-two miles east of Missoula.

Rock Creek borders National Forest for much of its run. Along the way, it offers beautiful deep holding pools, shallow and extensive riffles, serene rock gardens, fast runs, and a moderately long whitewater section. Thanks to these water features, wildlife abounds along Rock Creek. Amid its rocky bluffs and the green pastures, it is not uncommon to see Bighorn sheep, moose, bears, and mountain lions. In and around its waters, ducks and geese make their homes, while bald eagles and hawks keep watch overhead.

The Phillipsburg Valley

Rock Creek has three sections to it. First, The Philipsburg Valley, which is fished less than the other two, requires a bit of a drive up the Rock Creek RD. Rock Creek RD follows the river from Clinton to Phillipsburg as the river makes its way through the mountain. You can also reach this part of the river by going to Phillipsburg, MT. Additionally, this part of the river is hard to fish as there is quite a bit of river that is surrounded by private property.

The Upper Section

The upper section of Rock Creek contains many fish but they are smaller than fish in other parts of the river. You can catch fish here in the 8-12 inch range. It isn’t uncommon to hook a big one on any part of the river though!

The Middle Section

Starting at highway 348 the river changes. It begins to get faster, cutting through the mountainous terrain. This section goes for 28 miles until it reaches the lower section. The fish here are bigger. The average fish in this section is 13-16 inches. Here you will most likely catch fish that are much bigger though. You can catch large fish with a dry fly but it is much more effective to fish the bottom with nymphs or streamers. The deep pools are where the big fish are. If you are using dry flies make sure to pay attention to the hatch at the time, if there is one. In this section you want to use size 4-10 dry flies. You can also catch fish on buggers as well.

The fish in this area are smart. You must have the best presentation in order entice them! There are many parts of this section where your fly will not be presented correctly due to drag to try your best to make it look natural. In this section there are parts of the river where you cannot wade effectively so you will have to either float it or stay up on shore.

The Lower Section

The lower section of the river is from Dalles to where it meets the Clark Fork River. This part of the river is great for brown trout and rainbow trout. You will find more rainbow trout on the upper half and more brown trout on the lower half. This part of the river is heavily fished because it is close to the interstate and is easily accessed by the paved part of Rock Creek Road.

This part of the river is very different from the other parts too. The river has come out of the mountains, starts to meander a lot more, and you will find more boulders in the river too. Additionally as it goes further towards the Clark Fork you will see the terrain change from mountainous-forest terrain to fields and meadows, with the forested areas thin out substantially.

When fishing for brown trout make sure you fish with a streamer down low to the bottom of the river. Also make sure you pull them through the banks as well. Always get to the bottom of deep pools.

During a hatch dry fly and wet fly fishing can be a lot of fun. Use the flies that you have chosen for other parts of the river here too! Brown trout are notorious for wanting a dry fly so make sure you come with options! You will catch more fish if you fish the bottom of the river with the exception of having a hatch going on.

Fly Fishing with John Perry in Montana - Photo by Bill Delwiche
Fly Fishing in Montana with John Perry - photo by Bill Delwiche
Day trips fly fishing in Montana
Fly Fishing River Trips with John Perry Fly Fishing in Montana
Fly Fishing River Trips with John Perry Fly Fishing in Montana

Fly Fishing Rock Creek

Of course, the real wildlife bounty of Rock Creek is its fish populations, which is great for Rock Creek anglers. Rock Creek’s holding pools, undercut banks, and vegetation create the perfect habitat for several different species of trout, including cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout, and bull trout. But it’s the legendary extensive salmon fly hatches that makes Rock Creek a top-notch fishery. Solid hatches of mayfly and caddis occur consistently throughout the year and are best witnessed in person. Consequently, Rock Creek fishes extremely well on a daily basis. During June, Rock Creek has a very prolific salmon fly hatch, and has the most consistent dry fly action during this hatch than any other river, creek or stream in Montana.

All of this makes Rock Creek an excellent place for an early season float, or a late season wade trip when the big browns migrate into Rock Creek to spawn. Wading is easy on Rock Creek as the river is narrow in a lot of places, which makes it ideal to cross. Rock Creek is considered an ideal place to wade compared to all other rivers in Montana. Float fishing is not allowed after June 1st. We, at John Perry’s Montana Fly Fishing, are the largest permit holder of ONLY THREE OUTFITTERS permitted to do guided fly fishing float trips on this stream during the “float season”. We fish a permitted area within Lolo National Forest. You may be surprised to know that this area can average over 2000 hungry trout per mile. Believe us when we tell you, this is fly-fishing at its best!

This is why our Rock Creek Fly Fishing Trips are famous throughout the world… maybe throughout the galaxy! Rock Creek is where we live, where we spend the year, and where we hold more permits than any other fly-fishing guide company in Montana.

Fish in Rock Creek

Rock Creek Species: Rainbow, Cutthroat, Brook, Brown, and Bull Trout, as well as White Fish.

Rock Creek Hatches

Rock Creek Hatches: Caddis, Stoneflies (aka Salmon Flies), Leadwing Olive, Gray Drake, Brown Drake, Green Drake, Pale Morning Duns

Rock Creek Salmon Fly Hatch

The most exciting hatch is the salmon/stone fly hatch. These bugs are huge and trout go crazy when the pickings are good! It is not uncommon for the angler to get hit multiple times in the face with a live salmon fly and it really makes for an awkward situation. But it all adds to the fun and you will probably forget that you are in a swarm of bugs because the fishing will be on! This hatch happens every Spring. Mid May to early June is the time frame that you want to look out for when planning for this awesome hatch. The river becomes packed with anglers who are looking for a good time during the Salmon Fly hatch. The hatch starts low and makes it way up the river by five miles a day. Use salmon dry flies and nymphs to get the job done. You dont have to be there right as the hatch is happening, just when it has happened recently to take advantage.

Rock Creek Gold Stone Hatch

The Gold Stone Fly hatch happen late June through July.

Rock Creek Caddis Fly and Mayfly Hatch

During the summer this hatch occurs and if you are prepared you will catch a lot of fish.

Terestrial Flies on Rock Creek

During mid to late summer terestrial fly patterns do a great job of catching fish too. Hoppers do great in July and August, so bring a few with you if you are fishing during that time of year.

Rock Creek Fishing Techniques

When fishing for smaller fish in the upper section use standard dry flies sized 12-16. But when your goal is to get a lunker use nymphs and streamers to do the job! Make sure you get your nymphs and streamers on the bottom when fishing with them.

It is sometimes hard to get your nymph or streamer on the bottom so our recommendation is to use a sink tip line, a weighted fly, and if it still needs weight add a couple sinkers about a foot from the hook. With Rock Creeks fast current and deep pools, getting your fly on the bottom is a must have skill and approach to catch the big ones. In any part of the river, this technique should be used throughout the river.

During the Fall you can get some brown trout on the lower part of Rock Creek as it gets close to meeting up with the Clark Fork River. Brown trout move out of the Clark Fork and up Rock Creek upstream in large numbers. Streamers are your best bet for bagging and taking home (at least three) brown trout.

Rock Creek Fishing Regulations

Rock Creek Season: Open third Saturday in May through November 30.

• Closed to fishing Rock Creek Montana from boats July 1 through November 30.

• Extended season for whitefish and catch-and-release for trout open December 1 to third Saturday in May (aquatic insects, maggots, and/or artificial lures only).

• Catch-and-release for cutthroat and rainbow trout.

• 3 brown trout, none over 12 inches.

• Artificial lures only (anglers 12 years of age and younger may use bait).

During mid to late summer terestrial fly patterns do a great job of catching fish too. Hoppers do great in July and August, so bring a few with you if you are fishing during that time of year.

Rock Creek Trips

Full day float trip - $650 (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.

Wade Trips - $450 (1-3 anglers)

Clark Fork River Lodge

(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.

Learn more about Clark Fork River Lodge >>