The Dearborn River is a medium-sized Montana river that runs for approximately 65 miles. Originating in the Bob Marshall Wilderness as a small headwater stream eventually flowing into the Missouri River
The headwater sections are only accessible by foot as they are within the boundaries of the wilderness area. Anglers fishing here can expect small stream fishing scenarios for small, wild trout. The middle stretch flows through rolling hills and rocky outcroppings and is best floated between the HWY 200 and 287 bridges.
Floating the Dearborn River below Highway 287 is an unforgettable Montana fly fishing experience. This 19-mile stretch of river flows through rolling hills and dramatic canyons, joining the Missouri River about 6 miles east of Craig. This scenic stretch is the most popular section for floating and fly-fishing the Dearborn River.
"I have had the good fortune to fish many guides in all areas of our country and many bodies of water. I have never had a better experience than this trip..."
- Brent G
The Dearborn River originates in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, flowing southeasterly through central Montana. Access is limited to primitive means of transportation due to the wilderness designation.
Anglers fishing the upper Dearborn can easily access the river via a riverside hiking trails that accommodates both horse and foot traffic.
Relatively light angling pressure and an abundance of small to medium-sized trout can make for an enjoyable and solitary summertime experience while fly fishing in Montana.
The middle section of the Dearborn River flows for almost 10 miles through rolling hills and rocky outcroppings. Access is available at both highway bridges for both float and wade anglers.
This relatively mellow stretch of the Dearborn is a popular early-season float when water conditions are ideal. The river is closed to fishing until the 3rd Saturday in May and the best window for floating and fly fishing the Dearborn River is usually over by mid-June.
Water conditions vary year-to-year and are dependent on winter snowpack and spring moisture. Experienced anglers can wade confidently during the early summer morning hours and find success using dry/dropper and single attractor dry flies.
The 19 miles of Dearborn River - accessed at the HWY 287 bridge - is the most scenic and popular section to fly fish the Dearborn River in Montana. After meandering through a few miles of gently rolling hills, the landscape and water quickly change at the mouth of the upper canyon.
Towering canyon walls and mixed whitewater sections keep both anglers and oarsmen on "point' during this epic float along one of the most beautiful Montana fly fishing streams.
Streamer fly fishing the Dearborn River is our Bozeman fly fishing guide's favorite technique in high and off-color water conditions. Big dries and dry/dropper rigs are standard, clear-water setups.
Floating and fly fishing the Dearborn River is a reality - most years - between the 3rd Saturday in May and mid-June. Flows quickly drop as the runoff ends and spring rains subside.
Ideal flows for Dearborn River fishing and floating are between 600-900 CFS. The canyon stretch is 19 miles - it takes a long, full day to make it through this section while floating and fishing - even at higher flows. It is not recommended to attempt floating this stretch in a single day when flows are below 400 CFS.
Fly fishing with large attractor dry flies such as Chubby Chernobyl patterns in Gold, Pteronarcys, or Purple with a beaded generalist like a Pat's Rubberleg, Prince Nymph, or Lightning Bug dropper is standard when water levels are dropping and clearing.
Streamer fly fishing with mixed-density sink-tip fly lines like the RIO ELITE Predator is very effective during high flows, regardless of water clarity. Streamer fly patterns like a Double Gonga, Dungeon, or Sparkle Minnow are go-to patterns when packing a Dearborn River fly box.
The middle stretch of the river, between HWY 200 and 287 is a mellow float and conventional fly fishing techniques like indicator-nymphing and dry/dropper fishing are effective.
Anglers can expect March Brown and BWO hatches during overcast days. Golden Stones, Caddis, and Yellow Sallies will be around in late May if the weather is warm and dry for several days.
There are summertime fishing options on the upper Dearborn River, but the middle and lower sections become severely dewatered by July.
Anglers fly fishing Montana near Craig should focus their efforts solely on Missouri River fishing after June 15.
Fins and Feathers Guide Service has been outfitting Montana fly fishing trips for over two decades. Dearborn River fishing trips through the lower canyon section are a client favorite during late May or early June.
Easily one of the most scenic rivers in Montana, floating the Dearborn River with our Montana fly fishing guides will give an angler a lifetime of memories.
The short season to float the Dearborn coincides with our Missouri River Guide Trip season. We offer Dearborn River fishing trips as an option during this time to experienced and hearty anglers.