The Bitterroot At a Glance
The Bitterroot Range and Wilderness Area border the valley to the west, and the Sapphires roll toward the Continental Divide to the east. The landscape is dotted with stands of trees, log home companies, a winding river and its tributaries, family farms, and small towns. The largest, Hamilton, is still a "small town" in character, but in a way that offers pleasing amenities.
The fishing: There are 80 fishable miles in the Bitterroot River, another 40 in the East and West Forks.
Currents are gentle and easily fished by wading or floating. The forks are primarily waded fisheries. The character of the river is varied and intimate, with plenty of suitable habitat for larger trout.
There are five species of wild trout, primarily rainbows, and westslope cutthroats; browns are also available. Bull trout and brookies are also taken occasionally.
Dry fly fishing: There are abundant and varied hatches throughout the season, some of them unique to the area.
Through the course of summer, dry flies in larger sizes flies predominate, along with outstanding nymph and streamer opportunities.
This is a river, as one observer noted, to delight the beginner and challenge the veteran. We'd like to share it with you.
About the Bitterroot
The late Joe Brooks, pioneer international flyfisher and angling legend in his own time, once listed the Bitterroot among his top ten favorite rivers. His reasons could have had to do with the tranquil yet spectacular beauty of the river and the valley, but more than likely had to do with the variety and quality of the angling itself.
Today, the Bitterroot beckons a dedicated group of anglers to return annually. They might enjoy the warmth of non-touristy accommodations, ranging from quaint and rustic B&B's to deluxe full-service lodges, or camping in the wilderness -- which is surprisingly accessible. The idyllic valley is bordered by the jagged peaks of the Bitterroot Range, part of the largest wilderness area in the lower forty-eight. Over a dozen streams and trailheads are just minutes from the valley floor.
The Bitterroot winds for more than eighty varied miles through its valley on the western border of Montana. It offers superb fly fishing, much of it with dries, in a variety of conditions for three major species of trout -- Rainbow, Brown, and the beautiful and feisty West-slope Cutthroat. Brook and Bull trout are also available, and a few lucky anglers hit a five species grand slam every summer.
The East and West Forks of the Bitterroot are delightful small rivers, gliding through meadows or, more frequently, tumbling and bubbling through rocky runs and boulder-studded glides that are easy to wade and offer good numbers of fish, some of them sizable. The streams are for the most part gentle and intimate, yet cast in rugged and lush mountain settings.
Article by Chuck Stranahan of Riverbend Flyfishing. www.riverbendfly.com
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