south fork of the flathead river fly fishing

Shaggy-maned mountain goats dance across granite cliffs, snubbing their snouts at gravity. Hike-in anglers are free to fish anywhere they please, however far away from the main trails their feet and mindset are willing to take them. All fish in the South Fork of the Flathead River are wild as the river is not stocked with hatchery fish. About 20 miles into its journey, after flowing down the gentle, south-sloping gradient of the Flathead Basin floor, the river empties into Flathead Lake. From numerous promontories, located a couple hundred feet above the South Fork, anglers peer into aqua-green holes, some that reach 30 feet deep, and imagine trout as long as their legs holding against the current. The South Fork is a cutthroat-trout laden stream that flows through the pristine, densely forested Bob Marshall Wilderness, a one-million acre chunk of protected turf that offers a quintessential western fly-fishing experience—a level of solitude in wild country with naïve trout taken on nothing more representative than bushy attractor dry flies. Take, for instance, a recent trip I took to the South Fork with a couple friends. We guide our fly fishing float trips on the Flathead River above Flathead Lake. That tally: 43 cutthroats, ranging between six and 17 inches, landed and released; at least 30 more lost via a thrown hook; and another half-dozen trout that leaped over the fly and missed it on the way down, an act that added amusement to a great day on the water. The South Fork of the Flathead is a freestone stream, vulnerable to the nuances of runoff, and typically unfishable until mid to late June. Hatches on the South Fork of the Flathead River include caddis, mayflies, spruce moths, … You will flip too, over the remarkable fly fishing here in Montana and the restful solitude found at this Orvis endorsed fly fishing lodge. They require of anglers a dedicated effort, a solid hike or a horseback trip to reach. The Flathead River takes work to learn. Fly Fishing Near Glacier National Park The Flathead River system is a unique fishery located around Glacier National Park and is made up of three forks which eventually drain into Flathead Lake. South Fork fly fishing really gets going at the end of June when huge salmon fly and golden stone hatches break out on the river. The ride in is 6-8 hours so at least two of the days will be devoted to riding on horseback. That most fish find conditions adequate in Hungry Horse Reservoir is the main reason why the South Fork’s fishery is in better condition that its sister streams, the Middle and North forks of the Flathead River. At camp, likely under phenomenal stars, we’ll stoke a fire, make hot chocolate and toast the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The river enters a narrow gorge, running north, then begins to enter the backwater of Hungry Horse Reservoir after receiving Meadow Creek from the left. Wilderness is wilderness and enforcement of that regulation is nearly impossible. The Flathead River system is comprised of the North Fork, Middle Fork, South Fork and the main Flathead River which is formed when the Middle Fork and South Fork come together just South West of Hungry Horse, MT. Areas suitable to camping with horses, such as the Big Salmon Lake area, endure serious angling pressure. The bull trout is a threatened species and can reach 40 inches long. Flathead River Fly Fishing Report. Salmon Forks is one of the few places to legally target native bull trout. First, Montana Fish & Game imposed strict special wilderness limits years ago. The next cast brought a fish from bedrock to the top. Flathead River Fly Fishing. Yes, some anglers say, cutthroats are beautiful fish and they are fun to catch. We start the trip with a two-day ride (or hike) through spectacular scenery to access the starting point of the float, then spend five days fly-fishing some of the most pristine water in Montana. These days when I propose a fishing trip they are likely to say, “For reasons outside my control, I can’t.” I want them to say, “Where do we meet?” When I hear the former I say, “Who wears the pants in your family?”. Some private anglers and even the commercially outfitted groups likely keep fish exceeding the legal size. It is one of the three main forks of the Flathead River, a tributary of the Clark Fork River. This river begins in the Bob Marshall Wilderness south of Glacier National Park, at the confluence of two streams, Danaher Creek and Young’s Creek, between the Flathead Mountain Range and the Swan Mountain Range. Discharge Large streamers are typically in order when targeting the bull trout. P.O. Cutthroats levitate for dry flies at a methodical pace that forces anglers to employ every ounce of patience before setting the hook. The South Fork of the Flathead River is a truly remote stream. Lake trout are particularly maddening because they prey heavily on the Flathead system’s cutthroat—in Flathead Lake and in 50 miles of the Flathead River above the lake—which keeps trout populations in the mainstem Flathead and the Middle and North forks much lower than they could and should be. One way to up your odds for a larger fish is to set sights on the South Fork’s other native specie, the bull trout. Bull trout are gorgeous, pale-sided, pink-spotted, orange-finned fish that frequent the South Fork’s deepest pools and they are prone to attack streamers, such as double-bunnies, muddler minnows and woolhead sculpins. Our shop is conveniently located just one block from the South River, and we’re open 7 days a week. Many sections of the Middle Fork of the Flathead are comprised of canyons as well as class II-III whitewater. Chubby chernobyls, PMXs, stimulators, and purple haze mayflies are our best selling flies for this river. Access is difficult on the South Fork of the Flathead River. They eat everything in sight because they have to. In fact, the South Fork’s trout are mostly modest specimens ranging between six and 14 inches, but 16-inchers are taken with regularity and 17-to 20-inch fish are occasionally landed. The ride in is 6-8 hours so at least two of the days will be devoted to riding on horseback. 3,483 cu ft/s (98.6 m3/s), Basin features The South Fork Snake River fishing is all about the dry fly. The Flathead River system is comprised of the North Fork, Middle Fork, South Fork and the main Flathead River which is formed when the Middle Fork and South Fork come together just South West of Hungry Horse, MT. In addition, they find an adequate winter food supply. The South Fork of the Flathead River is home to native Westslope cutthroat trout and bull trout. Adding intrigue to a South Fork foray is the method in which anglers access the river—by horseback or on foot, with heavy packs on their backs, following significant trails that course steep bluffs and lead into the wilderness. Between late June and mid-November the river runs so exactingly clear it appears that nothing greater than cellophane exists between the bottom rocks and the sky. The Flathead River begins at the confluence of the Middle Fork and North Fork of the Flathead River. Snow-pack, run-off, and weather conditions can alter the hatch times considerably. Maybe this is the summer to repeat that trip. It’s as if some cut-and-run logging company waltzed into Montana and whacked them down at the knees. The reason for that is two fold. Depending on the time of year, anglers could be throwing large foam flies, deer hair caddis flies, or tiny emerging mayflies. The native west-slope cutthroats found in the South Fork Flathead are gems, each fish carrying the genes and internal wiring of their ancestors, traits developed specifically for survival in a harsh northern Montana climate and the challenging South Fork Flathead River Valley. Fortunately, anglers atone for that average size in the number of fish landed and they find an overall experience they couldn’t dream of on the big-name streams, such as the Madison, Big Horn, Beaverhead or Yellowstone, where boat-launch lines are common and many fish wear multiple hook scars on their faces. Since the Flathe… Challenge is a perfect description for the life that South Fork cutthroats lead. Unfortunately, all they can do is picture those fish because few monster cutthroats are found in the Flathead. Best fishing is late June through October. South Fork of the Flathead River This is a video I shot, of a trip that Paws Up Outfitters offered. After it leaves the dam, the river enters a narrow gorge and, exiting the canyon for the final time, runs northwest past the town of Hungry Horse, then joins the Main Stem of the Flathead River. Hatches on the South Fork of the Flathead River include caddis, mayflies, spruce moths, and many terrestrials including hoppers, ants, and beetles. They live where brown trout and most rainbows can’t. Access is difficult on the South Fork of the Flathead River. Recall, brown trout came from Europe in the late 1880s and rainbows arrived from California. At that time the river warms and hatches of stoneflies, caddisflies, mayflies and terrestrial insects, such as ants, beetles and moths occur. It was a 2 day horseback, 5 day fly-fishing float trip back into the Bob Marshall Wilderness. south fork flathead fly fishing Let our professional fishing guides show you one of the most remote, trout-filled rivers in Montana on a fishing specific South Fork Flathead trip. South Fork Flathead River Fly Fishing is the best you will find anywhere – period. Trout reward that patience with a few moments of chaos and an occasional aerial display, followed by determined charges to the middle of the river. The river here is wide and frequently quite deep and … These hatches move up the stream and last until late July. South Fork of the Flathead River Long before I had a bucket list and two pack donkeys, I yearned to hike up the South Fork of the Flathead River. Average rate: This north-northwest trending river is about 98 miles (158 km) long, making it the second longest tributary of the Flathead River. The South Fork of the Flathead, located in the heart of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, is a horsepack in/float out trip of 5-7 days, putting you over feisty Cutthroats to 22″ and “Bull Trout” to 15 pounds. The South Fork, which is located east of Flathead Lake, is one of three major forks of the mainstem Flathead River. The three forks converge near Columbia Falls, Montana and become the main stem of the Flathead River. When the time comes, I’ll take my children to the river and teach them to fish dry flies for eager cutthroats. Stop by and introduce yourself. Despite my enthusiasm, some anglers say the South Fork isn’t anything like it used to be, that it’s declined to a point that doesn’t merit their time. You will flip too, over the remarkable fly fishing here in Montana and the restful solitude found at this Orvis endorsed fly fishing lodge. Grizzly and black bears tempt the conscious from their dark, forested lairs, just off the trail and behind camp. The South Fork of the Flathead is known in the fly fishing world as the mecca for dry-fly cutthroat trout fishing. When fishing the South Fork, anglers can raise fish to bushy, attractor dry flies, such as the classic Royal Wulff. The river is wide and frequently quite deep. Your email address will not be published. In doing so, those cutthroats exit prime feeding lanes and set up camp in marginal habitat. It has plenty of good size cutthroat and rainbow trout along with some grayling and some fully protected bull trout. This river flows through the Bob Marshall Wilderness and is loaded with native westslope cutthroat trout. The South Fork emerges from the renowned Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex flowing into the Hungry Horse Reservoir. Outfitter #7837 i was able to explore a few on my days off in july 2013. South Fork Flathead River Fly Fishing. It begins deep in the Bob Marshall and, ultimately, flows more than 40 miles through wilderness designation and another 20 miles through National Forest Service lands before losing itself to Hungry Horse Reservoir. Flathead River Fly Fishing Patterns. Montana Fly Fishing. The river also offers bull trout, which can range past 30 inches, and you can legally fish them in this river, if you have a special bull trout permit, which you can buy over the counter. Beginning in the Canadian Rockies north of Glacier National Park, the Flathead flows south through northwestern Montana into … Think about it: prior to construction of Hungry Horse Dam in 1953, the South Fork’s cutthroat wintered in Flathead Lake, an act that required a perilous 70-mile downstream journey. Each native trout—and any native fish for that matter—is a treasure. ... South Fork Flathead: ... 8:53. With compliance, anglers could see bigger fish in future years, but don’t count on it. The price is the same for a 5 or 6 day trip you can decide which is best for you. These days, most of the South Fork’s cutthroat descend the river and spend winter in Hungry Horse reservoir, a 35-mile long impoundment that separates the upper South Fork from its lower five miles. Here at Glacier Anglers, we fish both the Middle and North Forks. Midges #16-20 (Black & Green body, white wing) Dry Fly – Griffiths Gnat, Poly wing midge, purple haze Nymph – Brassie, Green machine, shop vac. Columbia River, Outfitted by Chris McCreedy It begins deep in the Bob Marshall and, ultimately, flows more than 40 miles through wilderness designation and another 20 miles through National Forest Service lands before losing itself to Hungry Horse Reservoir. Don’t forget your camera on this adventure. Home Trip South Fork Flathead River Horseback Fly Fishing Home of the native Westslope Cutthroat trout, “Montana’s State Fish” the South Fork of the Flathead River is born in the nation’s most beautiful wilderness, the Bob Marshall. It’s time to start dreaming about the best summer fly fishing trips for 2020, and if we are limited to doing so within our state borders this year, I drew a good card—Montana offers a lifetime of fly-fishing adventure and gas is cheap right now. Wolverines tromp across shale nine thousand feet above sea-level digging rodents from rock piles, crushing their prey in powerful jaws. Each of the three forks of the Flathead River (North, South, Middle) is discussed separately in their own sections, as each fork is a distinct river. The reservoir trends north then northwest, and the river then passes through the arched Hungry Horse Dam, just a few miles above the mouth. You’ll never release the memories you catch here. First day ride into Salmon Forks camp; next five days horseback rove, camp and fish at different locations that can include: Little Salmon, Salmon Lake, White River, South Fork Flathead River and Salmon Forks, five full days; ride out last day. Fish from those streams drop to Flathead Lake during winter, just like the South Fork’s fish used to do, where they compete with bull trout and non-native fishes, such as Lake Superior whitefish, lake trout (also called mackinaws), northern pike, and rainbow trout. The east side road (through Martin City) is straighter but gets more traffic. Required fields are marked *, You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

, All Time 10 Best Fly-Fishing Nymphs for the Rocky Mountains.  59911 Above the lake, the Flathead River flows through the upper Flathead Valley, home to such popular towns as Whitefish and Kalispell. An explosion occurred at the surface and moments later I twisted a fly from the mouth of an eight-inch cutthroat and set that fish free. fishing regulations help protect it even more. By July (usually by the Fourth of July), most of the South Fork’s cutthroat have spawned and they return to the main river just as high water recedes. We all agree that finding time to fish is more difficult than it used to be. It definitely belongs the list of Best Places in Montana to Fish. The Westslope cutthroat trout often hit dry flies with reckless abandon and are the perfect trout for beginner fly anglers to target. Remember, cutthroats are the only native trout found in Montana, minus a few smallish rainbows living in the northwest corner of the state. During that smorgasbord, cutthroats feed with abandon, pretty much rising to any insect passing overhead, desperately trying to replace lost weight, while building an energy surplus to sustain them through another challenging winter season. —GT, My forest of fly-fishing friends is thinning. If I remember correctly, the first cast rose a fish, but I was too startled to set the hook. (406)-249-1482, Copyright All Rights Reserved © 2018 – Website by FBP. It offers a true glimpse at what a pristine Western … Today, fishing for South Fork bull trout, which range to 10 pounds or more, is allowed between the third Saturday in May and August 15. They’re not stupid. Fifteen minutes later I’d released four or five more fish including a 16-inch, solidly built, firm-fleshed specimen. Access is via horseback, backpacking, or day hiking into the watershed. The price is the same for a 5 or 6 day trip you can decide which is best for you. July Bull Trout Fishing Trip. In addition, hair-wing Trudes, Elk-Hair Caddis, Parachute Adams, foam beetles, Humpies, and Renegades rarely meet refusal. Each of the three forks of the Flathead River (North, South, Middle) is discussed separately in their own sections, as each fork is a distinct river. Smaller Caddis patterns as well as terrestrials are my go to! Overall, the South Fork Flathead is a great trout stream, a place where anglers may expect good fishing, some solitude and gorgeous scenery. Westslope cutthroat trout are plentiful in the South Fork of the Flathead River and are eager to hit a dry fly. Several years ago I headed into the Bob with a pack on my back and a couple friends in tow, and we enjoyed phenomenal fishing on the South Fork. Most common fish species. Horses and mules transport us, our boats and gear 20 to 26 miles (depending upon which trail we take in and the itinerary). BWOs – #16-20 (pale olive body grey wing) Dry Fly – Para Adams, Para Haze, Sparkle, Dun, Marabou Cripple Typically, we start fishing both rivers in late June through September using dry flies. Included: We provide transportation from Kalispell to the river and back to Kalispell at the end of the trip. And, when you’re camping in the Bob Marshall, take all precautions with your food and camp—bears are numerous. Fishing Reports, South Fork The river helps the BWO and mahogany dun activity by having a near constant flow ( 6050 cfs at Irwin, 6700 cfs at Heise, 3550 cfs at Lorenzo) of clear, cool water for several days, but it looks like a drop in flow out of Palisades is coming up. We set up camp in a grove of aspens just 30 yards from the stream. The truth is, I respect the cutthroat more than its non-native cousins. This is when life gets good for the South Fork’s cutthroats and its fly-fishers. Throughout, the South Fork Valley is vast and offers a primeval feel. South River Fly shop is a full service fly fishing shop and guide service located in downtown Waynesboro, Virginia. Box 636 This 5 or 6-day fishing excursion is a once in a lifetime opportunity to fish the famous South Fork Flathead River drainage. It’s that enthusiasm, that backhand slap to caution, that propensity to crush every fly that floats overhead that, at once, celebrates and sabotages the cutthroat’s reputation. The South Fork of the Flathead River is pristine and virtually untouched, just the way it was 100 years ago. The South Fork, which is located east of Flathead Lake and south of Glacier National Park, is one of three major forks of the mainstem Flathead River. The South Fork of the Flathead, located in the heart of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, is a horsepack in/float out trip of 5-7 days, putting you over feisty Cutthroats to 22″ and “Bull Trout” to 15 pounds. Fly fishing the South Fork of the Flathead River should remain a favorite for the explorer type of angler for a long time. However, much of the South Fork sees little pressure. About 20 miles into its journey, after flowing down the gentle, south-sloping gradient of the Flathead Basin floor, the river empties into Flathead Lake. Here the Flathead River flows through the upper Flathead Valley, home to such popular towns as Whitefish, Columbia Falls, and Kalispell, MT. This information is a basic run-down of the hatch schedule for the Flathead River. One of the best Big Sky Country trips you could take is to the South Fork Flathead River in northwest Montana. Since the water is so cold and clear, you have to be a qualified angler to land fish. In addition, high flows signal a time for mature fish to push upriver and negotiate roily tributary streams, places where they find mates and pea-sized gravel conducive to their spawning effort. The South Fork is formed from the junction of Danaher Creek and Young’s Creek and runs for 45 miles due north, fed by dozens of small tributaries, where it … It almost seems like a prerequisite for the fishing trips we take is this: They must be sure-bets so we can strain as much from our time as possible. The South Fork of the Flathead River is stunning in its beauty. The Flathead River flows through the broad and beautiful Flathead Valley near Glacier National Park, Whitefish, MT, and Bigfork, MT. The South Fork of the Flathead River is one of the few places in the Lower 48 where it is legal to target bull trout. The Flathead River is unique among the rivers in Montana in that it is really three rivers in one, with two main sections that are good for fishing. Montana Fly Fishing Experience guides are the some of the most experienced boatmen on this beautiful stretch of river. The Bob has been on my radar for years, because inside The Bob is one of the greatest multi-day float trips in America: the South Fork of the Flathead River. Bigfork, MT. This 5 or 6-day fishing excursion is a once in a lifetime opportunity to fish the famous South Fork Flathead River drainage. There are some parts of the Middle, North, and South Fork Flathead River areas, which are part of government lands, so Montana Fishing Guides does not offer trips in those areas. I may have been the first person to handle that fish. And, without words, on a calm summer night in Montana we’ll agree that few fly fishing locals offer as much as the South Fork Flathead. The wilderness mountain settings, clear waters, campfires, wilderness lakes and streams, and superb fishing will wash away worldly cares. 8-Day South Fork Fly-fishing Trip ~ $5900.00 *Price subject to 7% Forest Service User Fees. Many people attribute the river’s decline to increased angling pressure and likely they are correct. 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