There is an amazing amount of public access on the Big Hole River. There are 20 boat launches in an 80 miles section of the river. The upper river near Wisdom has float restrictions most of the summer season, and to be honest about it, it is small water that is exposed to the summer sun.
Same is true for the lower river below Notch Bottom to the confluence with the Beaverhead. The river is wide open and exposed to summer sun. Here irrigation takes a toll on the summer flows. This section is often either closed or under hoot owl restrictions.
Mudd Creek Bridge
Starting at the Mudd Creek Bridge, the float fishing begins. Cliff swallows, that make their home on the underside of the bridge, swoop and dart above the water catching insects with constant chatter. River Mile 64.1
Unsigned and rough, there is a primitive launch 3.7 river miles downstream from the Mudd Creek Bridge. More importantly, there is nearly a half mile of unmarked river access with undeveloped spots to pitch a tent or park a camper. Wading is easy (I know, that’s an oxymoron) here with a good gravel bottom in many places. The river braids in several spots. To the north, the Pintler Mountains rise with their snow-capped peaks. Very beautiful, very fishy. River Mile 67.8
Oh, Fish Trap! One day a few years back, while trying to catch a grayling to photograph for the Silver Bow Club, I caught a monster brown on a tiny dry fly there on a summer afternoon. So I have a love of the place. Here you’ll find a good boat launch and several campsites. River Mile 71.9
This fishing access has a primitive boat launch and some places to wade fish along with a whole slew of places to camp. This thin strip of land between the river and Highway 43 has productive water. Upstream of the camping area there are a couple of places to pull off the road and park to access the river upstream. River Mile 75.2
For a nice, all day float put in at East Bank and take out at Jerry Creek. At 11.2 miles, this float will take most of the day and you’ll fish some amazing water – both in terms of fishing and scenery. At East Bank, you’ll find a concrete launch with camping. River Mile 80.5
A private launch owned by Troutfitter’s Fly Shop. Float to Jerry Creek from here or to George Grant Memorial Fishing Access in Dewey. Troutfitter’s sells flies and runs shuttles, which is really convenient. The Wise River enters the Big Hole about three miles downstream of Troutfitters. River Mile 86.7
Jerry Creek Fishing Access on the Big Hole River
Just downstream of the small town of Wise River you’ll find this nice boat launch with lots of parking. If you wade the river, try the highway side from the bridge on down past the fishing access. From here to Divide Bridge, if you have an option, opt to fish from a raft. There are rock garden sections below Jerry Creek, and especially going through the canyon, where a raft is preferred. The lower the river flows, the more important this becomes. River Mile 91.7
George Grant Memorial
This day-use area has a concrete boat launch with parking available. Downstream from here, you’ll enter the canyon stretch. River Mile 96.1
This unmarked area just off the highway and down a steep (and rough) gravel road you’ll find river access for wading with a primitive boat launch. In other years we’ve fished this section in the canyon with success. There are boulders in the river that offer a break in the swift current for feeding trout. This is a great spot to access the river in the canyon. River Mile 96.6
Take the River Bridge Road to cross the Big Hole to reach this fishing access. In this canyon stretch, the river drops in elevation and is moving swiftly, with numerous boulders. River Mile 99.2
Turn off the highway at the Divide Bridge into this lovely launch area that features picnic tables and ample parking. The river returns to its gentle meander after the drop through the canyon section. Downstream you’ll float past ranchland before entering into the Maiden Rock canyon. River Mile 100.9
Take the Frontage Road and head south from Divide. Turn at Maiden Rock, there is river access before the bridge – go over the bridge another 1/2 mile for the boat launch. A campground takes up the middle ground. * Keep an eye out for rattlesnakes here. Hop in a boat and drift this very pleasant section of river to the Salmonfly fishing access in Melrose. Stay river left when you get to Melrose to hit the take-out. Cliffs, caves, rock features, and great fishing in this section of river which is the last affected/not affected by hoot owl or closures in hot, dry summers. River Mile 106.3
This Melrose fishing access has a concrete launch with several campsites and picnic area.
One night a few years back, we were pulling our driftboat out at Salmonfly while another couple was launching. We were curious. It was 5:30 pm and they were launching. We got to chatting and they said their favorite Big Hole float was evenings in late June and July from Salmonfly to Browne Bridge. The sun is off the water due to the hills to the west and they fish caddis flies until dark. In Montana, it stays light well past 10 pm in June and July. River Mile 114.9
6 miles south of Melrose on the frontage road lies the Browne’s Bridge fishing access. Gravel boat ramp, camping, and trailer parking. River Mile 121.1
Downstream you’ll find walk-in fishing accesses and a boat launch with access at Glen. Check river conditions before floating as there are seasonal snags in the Glen area.
Next up is Notch Bottom, a really cool area. The terrain is very interesting. Also, watch out for rattlers here – we’ve seen them on the Burma Road.
From here there are three more access points but our knowledge has run dry. Talk with a shop in Twin Bridges as they would be the local experts below Notch Bottom.
Fishing the River
River flow will really dictate your approach to the Big Hole. It’s the perfect river in that you can wade, use a kick boat, float in a raft with a fishing frame, or use a hard boat (driftboat).
In spring, during run-off, and early summer a hard boat will work just fine. As the irrigation demands increase as the precipitation decreases, a raft will become the boat of choice.
Except during times of raging high water, this is a great river if you love to wade fish. Access is ample and easy.