We spent a couple of days fly fishing the Bitterroot River in Montana. My wife’s niece was getting married around Hamilton, MT and we planned to try our luck. We had never fished the Bitterroot before and were looking forward to the challenge of new water.

John Fishing the West Fork Bitterroot River. - www.johnkreft.com

Belle’s Crossing above Hamilton was our first stop. July 4th probably wasn’t the best day to try our luck because of all the floaty toys on the water. But we only had a couple of hours before wedding preparation and we made the best of it.

Bitterroot River - www.johnkreft.com

Turns out we didn’t do well at all. The only fish caught was by Karen’s cousin Kate. I think it was about 5 inches long, but it was the big fish of the day.

Kate with Bitterroot River Cutthroat Trout - www.johnkreft.com

A friend who lives around Hamilton recommend we stop at the FreeStone Fly Shop for up to date information and to give the West Fork a try.

FreeStone Fly Shop in Hamilton Montana - www.johnkreft.com

The West Fork was new to us and we drove to West Fork Dam to begin at the top of the tailwater. The West Fork is about 22 miles long before meeting the East Fork. The mainstem Bitterroot begins at the confluence of these two Forks.

Here is what the river looks like coming out of the dam.

West Fork Dam Outflow. - www.johnkreft.com

This is a spot we found along the road that looked fishy to us. It’s less than 2 miles from the dam.

West Fork Bitterroot River - www.johnkreft.com

Like many Montana streams, access can become an issue and that’s what we found along the West Fork.

West Fork Bitterroot River Run - www.johnkreft.com

We immediately began catching Cutthroat Trout. They weren’t big fish, Brown Trout were here too. 

I did move one big fish who did a quick “drive by” and looked at the fly.

West Fork Bitterroot River Cutthroat Trout - www.johnkreft.com
West Fork Bitterroot River Brown Trout. - www.johnkreft.com

I finished fishing the stretch. I fished a Purple Haze or Beetle Betty.

After a short break for a thunderstorm, I decided to put on one of the Euro nymphs I tied this winter, a Pheasant Tail Body Quill Perdigon. I caught whitefish after whitefish with this nymph.

West Fork Bitterroot River Whitefish. - www.johnkreft.com

I did hook a couple of trout, but they managed to get off the hook somehow.

We decided to try another spot downstream.

This too was some good looking water. A few smaller fish came to hand, but not the larger fish we had seen pictures of.

I did manage to hook a trout on the 14 to 16 inch range, but it slipped off the hook right at the net.

Not long after that, the thunderstorms started up again. We had planned to have dinner at a local brew pub in Hamilton, so we decided to stop for the day.

Since this was the third new-to-us river, we choose to head south and get an early start the next morning for the Big Hole river.

After leaving Hamilton around 8 pm, we found a spot on the upper East Fork Bitterroot. The mosquitos were thick and we choose not to fight them.

Here is an image of our view the next morning.

East Fork Bitterroot River at Sunrise - www.johnkreft.com

Off to the Big Hole. We plan to return to the Bitterroot River in late September and try our luck again.

Enjoy .. Go fish!

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  1. Sorry you did not do better but it relieves me to see experts not catching fish or catching small ones. Seems the story of my life.

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