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Big Hole River Anglers Fishing Guide

							Anglers fishing the Big Hole River near Glen, Montana

Big Hole River Fishing

The Big Hole River is an angler’s Montana fishing paradise, renowned for its healthy populations of wild rainbow, brown, and brook trout. Winding through 155 miles of breathtaking scenery throughout its course from the Beaverhead Mountains to the Jefferson River, the river offers diverse sections for every skill level.

The upper stretches boast calm meadows, ideal for dry fly fishing and wading, the middle sections feature canyons with rugged water, and the lower sections feature riffles, rapids, and pocket water, perfect for experienced anglers with drift boats.

Strict regulations and active conservation measures ensure a pristine environment and a memorable Montana fly fishing experience. Most of the Big Hole River is currently open to fishing in Montana from April 1 - September 30.

Big Hole River Sections

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The Upper Big Hole River

The upper river flows through the picturesque Big Hole River Valley filled with agricultural pastures and surrounded by the towering peaks of the Beaverhead and Pioneer Mountains.

The upper sections near Wisdom, MT. are ideal for wade fishing, Brook Trout are plentiful, and anglers may encounter one of the rare, native Arctic Grayling here as well.

Heavily forested mountains begin to encroach upon the river near its confluence with the North Fork of the Big Hole and the river turns east. Floating the Big Hole River between here and Wise River takes the angler through stunning scenery with trophy Brown Trout opportunities around every corner.

The gentle meanders, island pools, and willow tree-lined banks provide exceptional habitat for the wild Rainbow, Brown, and Brook Trout and are ideal for anglers of all skill levels.

							Salmonfly adult on the banks of the Big Hole River

The Big Hole Canyon Sections

The river’s character and surroundings change as canyon walls begin to enclose the river downstream of Jerry Creek.

The river closely parallels HWY 43, downstream to Divide, providing ample wade fishing opportunities for anglers fishing here. The Dewey Canyon section holds some truly world-class trophy Brown Trout for skilled anglers and oarsmen floating in these technical waters.

Floating the Big Hole River through the Maiden Rock Canyon, downstream of Divide, is a unique Montana fly fishing experience through varied water types and spectacular scenery away from the busy highways and interstate.

This legendary Big Hole River stretch is world-renowned for dry fly gulping trophy Brown Trout during the Salmonfly hatch of late June.

Upon leaving the mountains near Melrose, Montana, the Big Hole begins its slow meander for approximately 40 miles downstream to its confluence with the Jefferson River, near Twin Bridges.

							Angler fishing Montana on the lower Big Hole River

Lower Big Hole River

The final 40 miles of the Big Hole River meanders through expansive tracts of agricultural farmlands and Cottonwood Tree groves.

This section of the river is heavily braided with side channels being prone to sudden obstructions resulting from downed trees. Skilled oarsmen are constantly on the lookout for new dangers in this ever-changing waterway.

Anglers fishing the lower Big Hole enjoy exceptional dry fly and dry-dropper fishing from April through September. Attractor patterns that imitate hoppers and nocturnal stones either fished single or with a weighted nymph dropper are standard Big Hole River fly fishing setups.

Streamer fly fishing during the post-runoff weeks and in the early fall can be the best fishing in Montana for experienced anglers fishing in the lower Big Hole River.

Fishing Conditions Through the Seasons

April - May

The Skwala hatch is the Big Hole River fishing highlight during the early season months as winter gives way to the warmth of spring. These medium-sized stoneflies hatch throughout April in sporadic numbers along most of the middle and lower river sections.

Blue-winged olive, March Browns, and Caddis hatch in prolific numbers, creating exceptional periods of “match the hatch” dry fly fishing when conditions permit.


June is a season in itself when discussing fly fishing in Montana on the Big Hole River. Salmonflies are the name of the game and the sole focus of anglers fishing this legendary Montana river into early July. These giant flying insects congregate near the river’s edge before emerging en masse as the water warms in early June.

Fishing the Salmonfly hatch on the Big Hole River is a “bucket list” Montana fly fishing experience for many anglers.

July - August

Irrigation pressure from agricultural operations in the upper Big Hole River Valley invariably takes its toll on river flow once the summer heat settles upon Montana. Hoot Owl restrictions and river closures are common throughout the summer.

Anglers fishing the Big Hole River during the summer focus their efforts on the early morning hours. Dry fly fishing reigns supreme using large attractor patterns to imitate grasshoppers and nocturnal Golden Stones.


Autumn arrives early to the upper Big Hole quickly cooling water temperatures and reinvigorating the insects and wild trout. Blue-winged olive hatches appear on cloudy days, creating epic dry fly fishing.

Experienced anglers target trophy Brown Trout while streamer fly fishing in early Fall. Anglers fishing the Big Hole River should be familiar with the current Montana Fishing Regulations and closely watch for special closures throughout the season.

Big Hole River Fly Box Essentials

							Streamer fly fishing Montana on the Big Hole River

Big Hole River Fly Fishing Trips

With over two decades of outfitting Montana fly fishing trips, Fins and Feathers Guide Service is among the longest-tenured, active outfitters in the state.

Fly fishing the Big Hole River is an exceptional experience for anglers fishing in Southwest Montana with our team of seasoned Bozeman fly fishing guides.

Day Trips from Bozeman are possible on the lower and middle stretches of the Big Hole River, but those are long days best reserved for skilled anglers. Novice anglers are invited to add multiple days of fly fishing the Big Hole to their Montana fly fishing vacation, with an overnight stay in Dillon, Melrose, or Butte.

April and early May are quiet times on the Big Hole and can offer exceptional dry and streamer fly fishing for the experienced, solo angler on a guided trip. June through September Big Hole River trips are condition-dependent, and please inquire about availability before booking.

Montana Fish of the Big Hole River

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