Montana is home to many species of trout and Rocky Mountain whitefish. The primary species are brown, rainbow, cutthroat, and bull trout.
Brown and rainbow trout in Montana are wild trout—meaning none of the trout in our rivers are stocked. They were spawned in our local waters and have habituated Montana rivers for thousands of years. Pretty cool.
The Westslope Cutthroat trout, Yellowstone Cutthroat trout, and bull trout are Montana’s three native trout. Meaning they have always swam in our waters and were never introduced at any point. Bull trout are native a few drainages on the westslope of the Continental Divide, as are Westslope cutthroat. Yellowstone cutthroat are native to the Yellowstone River drainage on the eastslope of the Continental Divide. Because these are all native trout to Montana, special regulations are in place for all of these species.
Best Rivers for fly fishing for species:
Brown trout: Missouri River, Bighorn River, Yellowstone River
Rainbow trout: Missouri River near Helena, Craig, or Great Falls
Yellowstone Cutthroat trout: Yellowstone River and Yellowstone National Park near Bozeman and Livingston
Westslope Cutthroat trout: Blackfoot River near Missoula
Best Seasons for fly fishing for each species:
Brown trout: Spring and Fall
Rainbow trout: Spring and summer
Yellowstone Cutthroat trout: Summer
West slope Cutthroat trout: Summer
Out of the box and un-crowded Montana fly fishing:
Carp, walleye, smallmouth, northern pike, and the list goes on…
Carp can be found in the Missouri River and some lakes around Bozeman, Montana. This is an aspect of Montana fly fishing that is slowly catching-on. Carp a big. They eat dry flies. Need more? How about a beautiful Montana fly fishing river. The sight-fishing for carp is slowly gaining popularity in Montana.
Best Carp Rivers and Lakes in Montana:
Missouri River between Bozeman and Helena Montana
Bighorn River near Fort Smith Montana
Yellowtail Dam Afterbay and Big Horn Canyon Lake
Clark Fork River Below Missoula
About the Author
Patrick grew up fishing the Gallatin, Madison, and Yellowstone Rivers near Bozeman, Montana. After he graduated from Beloit College in Wisconsin, he returned to live near Yellowstone National Park where he began writing and fishing full-time. Today, Patrick lives outside Bozeman at the foot of the Bridger Mountains where he fishes and skis full-time. He is the author of the following:
The Orvis Pocket Guide to Streamer Fishing
Montana On the Fly: An Angler’s Guide
Montana: An Explorers Guide
The Frugal Fly Fisher: Bending the Rod Without Breaking the Bank
It Happened in South Dakota
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Fly Fishing But Where Afraid to Ask (2012)