About the Big Hole River
The Big Hole begins near the Beaverhead Mountains, whose heights separate Montana from Idaho. It begins its 153-mile journey to join the Beaverhead and Ruby River to form the Jefferson River at Skinner Lake. It then flows towards the hay meadows of the Big Hole Valley, cutting a brushy green line through ranchlands and Big Sky vistas.
The upper river is small and often brush-choked. Fishing access is limited to bridge crossings and select spots. Cold creeks such as the Mussigbrod, Steel, and the West Fork of the Big Hole join the Big Hole near Wisdom, increasing the stream flow.
Downstream from Wisdom toward Divide, there are numerous fishing accesses with boat launches for float fishing. The river above Divide is best floated in spring and early summer when river flows are higher.
Above Divide, the Big Hole leaves the valley and flows through tight canyons. In this mid-section the river often stays cooler in the dog-days of summer. Here, the river is a series of riffles and deep pools from Dewey to Glen.
From Glen to Twin Bridges, the river flows again into wide-open ranch lands, where the water succumbs to evaporation and irrigation needs.
Big Hole Fishes
The Big Hole is home to many species of trout. Rainbows, browns, and brook trout all can be caught on a good day on the river. Mountain whitefish are plentiful, which can be a good thing on a slow fishing day. But my favorite fish to catch on the Big Hole is the fluvial Arctic Grayling. These fish are unique as they are the only remaining river-dwelling grayling native to the lower 48 states.
Grayling have a beautiful iridescent dorsal fin and readily take dry flies. Their bodies are solid and flanked with soft scales of silver and purplish pink. You’ll find grayling in the upper river primarily but I have caught them downstream near Maiden Rock Fishing Access near Divide. We found their numbers plentiful at Fish Trap.