What fish do you catch fly fishing in Montana

What Do You Catch Fly Fishing in Montana?

Montana is a haven for fly anglers as it is home to some of the world’s best fly fishing rivers, streams, and lakes. Montana is simply the best fly fishing destination for fly anglers, from some of the best tailwaters filled with trophy fish species to the country’s highest fish-per-mile count. So if you’re wondering what you catch fly fishing in Montana, please read on.

Montana has tens of thousands of miles of rivers and lakeshores, with most of the fly fishing centered around trout. Some of the trout species found in Montana include Brook, Rainbow, Brown, and Cutthroat. Montana is one of the capitals of trout fishing in the United States.

Montana has more than enough fish species for every angler, irrespective of their experience level. So you can capture a fish regardless of the season. The only thing you have to do is adjust your fishing style, and you will be guaranteed a catch most of the time.

Guide Tip: If you’re planning on casting a fly in Montana, you’ve got to read my article on -> Where to Fly Fish in Montana (with MAPS)

So in this article, we’ll show you some of the most common fish species in the Montana waters and the best fishing spots in this state.

Fly Fishing in Montana

Montana is home to some of the best fly fishing spots in the western parts of the United States. In fact, it has thousands of miles of rivers and streams that flow from the Great Divide, also referred to as the Americas Continental Divide, to the Mexican Gulf through Mississippi and Missouri rivers. (source)

This state has thousands of creeks and rivers, and about 450 miles of these water bodies are known for blue-ribbon fishing. (source)

This state has more than enough fishing experience to offer fly anglers. Plus, you are guaranteed a catch if you plan your next fishing trip correctly. Remember, Montana experiences winter from November to March like most states in the Western United States. So you shouldn’t plan your trip during this period if you’re not an experienced angler who can thrive in winter fly fishing.

The best time for fishing in Montana when the weather is warm is between June and September. Most folks plan a fishing trip for the entire family during this season. Some of the best fly fishing spots in Montana include:

  • River Beaverhead: this 69 miles long branch of River Jefferson that stretches between the Big Hole River and the Clark Canyon reservoir. This river is known for its medium to colossal fish. (source)
  • Big Hole River: the Big hole river is a 153 miles long branch of River Jefferson that has been a trout angler’s destination since the 1880s. (source)
  • River Bighorn: The Bighorn River is a 461 miles long river that stretches from Lake Bighorn to the River Yellowstone. Since it is too huge, the best option is to fly fishing from a boat for a better experience. (source)
  • River Blackfoot: River Blackfoot stretches from Bonner to Lincoln, and it features open meadows and interspersed forested banks. And a good thing about it is that it goes fast, deep, and cold, thereby offering a wide range of trout species. (source)
  • Gallatin River: this tributary of River Missouri is about 120 miles long. It is one of the three rivers that converge at Three Forks in Montana. Gallatin River provides exceptional wade fishing opportunities and lots of trout for fly anglers. (source)
  • Madison River: the famous River Madison flows for over 100 miles between Yellowstone National Park to where Rivers Jefferson and Gallatin converge. (source)

What Do You Catch Fly Fishing in Montana?

Trout Caught in Montana Fly Fishing
Trout Caught in Montana Fly Fishing

As aforementioned, Montana is one of the best fly fishing destinations in the United States. There are 59 non-games and 31 game fish species in Montana. Therefore, you should expect to find a wide range of fishes that vary in size. Some of the fish species that you can catch in Montana include:

1)   Trout

Montana is home to a wide range of trout species, both exotic and native. Therefore, if you love trout fishing, this is the state to visit. Some of the most common trout species that can be found in most rivers include:

Guide Tip: Everyone gets excited about big fish. Read the details about the BIGGEST rainbow trout. -> Record for Largest Rainbow Trout

Cutthroat Trout

Cutthroat trout is a pacific trout belonging to the Salmonidae family native to the branches of the Great Basin, Rocky Mountains, and the Pacific Ocean.

This trout is an excellent game fish loved by fly anglers all over North America. Its name “cutthroat” refers to the unique red coloration found on the lower side of the Cutthroat’s lower jaw.

This trout spawns and inhabits moderate large to small well-oxygenated, clear, shallow streams with gravel bottoms.

They tend to reproduce moderately deep, cold, and clear lakes. This trout is indigenous to the freestone or alluvial streams that form branches of the rivers traversing the Rocky Mountains, Great Basin, and the Pacific Basin. (source)

The cutthroats vary in habitat selections, coloration, and size. Their colors range from green to gray on their back.

And the main difference between the Cutthroat and the rainbow is the presence of a maxillary that extends past the posterior edge of its eye.

Another difference between the Cutthroat and the Rainbow trout is the fact that the latter has basibranchial teeth on the base of their tongues. (source)

Inland River Redband

The Inland Redband trout, also known as Columbia River Redband trout, is one of the redband sub-species belonging to the Salmonidae family. This rainbow trout species is indigenous to River Columbia and its branches in Montana, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. (source)

Other Trout Species Found in Montana

Other native game trout that you can find in Montana include Lake Whitefish, Pygmy Whitefish, Mountain whitefish, bull trout, and Lake trout. The exotic trout you can find in Montana are Brook trout, Golden trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout. (source)

Guide Tip: FELT WADING BOOTS might be banned. Read my article that details where felt is banned. HERE Plus, I’ve got some instructions for reducing the spread of invasive species.

2)   Bass

Another trophy fish found in Montana are bass fishes. The bass has been a gamefish for decades, with some anglers looking for the biggest ever trophy bass to date. Some of the bass species found in Montana include:

Largemouth Bass

The largemouth bass is exotic in Montana, and it is a popular freshwater gamefish belonging to the sunfish family. It is native to central and eastern U.S., northern Mexico, and Southeastern Canada; therefore, it was introduced in other parts of the U.S., including Montana.

This gamefish is greenish-gray to olive-green fish, with some blotches that form jagged stripes on the flanks. The Largemouth bass is the biggest of the black basses, and it can attain a maximum length of 29.5 inches. (source)

Black Crappie

The black crappie is one of the crappies found in the United States’ freshwater lakes and rivers. It resembles the white crappie, which you can find in Montana, shape, and size, but it’s darker and has some black spots. The eight spines identify them on their dorsal fins, plus their laterally compressed and deep bodies. (source)

3)   Northern Pike

The Northern Pike is a carnivorous species belonging to the genus Esox. You can find these species only in the fresh and brackish water bodies of the Northern Hemisphere. In the United States and Eastern Europe, the fish is referred to as the pike.

Pikes are large creatures that can attain a maximum length of about 22 inches. The biggest ever recorded pike weighed about 63lb, with the longest having a length of 59 inches. (source)

4)   Catfish

Another angler’s favorite that you can find in Montana is the catfish. There are a few species of catfish in Montana, with the common ones being the stonecat, which is native to North America.

Other exotic species include Yellow bullhead and black bullhead catfishes. (source)

The stonecat gets its name from its habit of hiding under huge stones in fast-moving rivers. Stonecats have a lifespan of about six years, and they can attain a maximum length of about 12 inches. The Stonecat weighs about 1.1lbs. (source)

Guide Tip: If you need to jump on a plane to fly fish in Montana, I’ve got a guide for Flying with Fly Fishing Gear


Is Montana Ideal for Fly Fishing?

Montana is the best fly fishing destination for anglers. It is home to some of the best fishing destinations in North America; plus, it has one of the highest fish-per-count in the United States. Therefore, you are guaranteed an exceptional fly fishing expedition every time you visit the state.

What Fish Can You Catch in Montana?

In Montana, fly fishing is centered on brookies, rainbow, Cutthroat, brown, and numerous trout species. This state has over 59 non-games and 31 game fish species; therefore, you’re pretty much guaranteed a catch every time you cast your line.

When Can You Fish in Montana?

Knowing the best time to fish in Montana can help you plan your future trips. Time affects the weather conditions. The weather does play a massive role in determining the right fishing season—the best time to fish in Montana is October, June, May, and April. Many trout species can be found in April, August, and July when the insects have hatched.

One More Cast in Montana

Montana is one of the best fly fishing destinations in North America, home to hundreds of rivers and streams. Therefore you should expect to find a wide range of fish species in this state; after all, it does have one of the highest trout per mile ratings in the United States. So if you are a trout, pike, catfish, or bass lover, and are still looking for your trophy catch, then Montana should be on your bucket list.

Hi David Humphries Owner of Guide Recommended. I love everything to do with fly fishing. Casting, Tying, YouTube, writing about it and even teaching. I’ve got a FREE video workshop teaching how to dry fly fish at this link How to Fly Fish


  1. Wikipedia contributor, List of Rivers of Montana, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_rivers_of_Montana/ Accessed January 18, 2022
  2. Wikipedia contributor, Montana, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montana#Geography/ Accessed January 18, 2022
  3. Wikipedia contributor, Beaverhead River, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaverhead_River/ Accessed January 18, 2022
  4. Wikipedia contributor, Big Hole River, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Hole_River#Angling_the_Big_Hole/ Accessed January 18, 2022
  5. Wikipedia contributor, Bighorn River, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bighorn_River/ Accessed January 18, 2022
  6. Wikipedia contributor, Blackfoot River (Montana), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackfoot_River_(Montana)/ Accessed January 18, 2022
  7. Wikipedia contributor, Gallatin River, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallatin_River/ Accessed January 18, 2022
  8. Wikipedia contributor, Madison River, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madison_River/ Accessed January 18, 2022
  9. Wikipedia contributor, Cutthroat Trout, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cutthroat_trout#Description/ Accessed January 18, 2022
  10. Wikipedia contributor, Columbia River, River Redband Trout, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_River_redband_trout/ Accessed January 18, 2022
  11. Wikipedia contributor, List of Fish of Montana, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fish_of_Montana#Trout/ Accessed January 18, 2022
  12. Wikipedia contributor, Largemouth bass, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Largemouth_bass#Description/ Accessed January 18, 2022
  13. Wikipedia contributor, Black Crappie, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_crappie/ Accessed January 18, 2022
  14. Wikipedia contributor, Northern Pike, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_pike/ Accessed January 18, 2022
  15. Wikipedia contributor, Noturus Flavus, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noturus_flavus Accessed January 18, 2022

Wikipedia contributor, catfish, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catfish/ Accessed January 18, 2022

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