Fly Fishing Missoula Montana

My name is Mike Masciangelo. I am a junior high math teacher in Mesa, Arizona, but I spend most of my summer and fall breaks in Missoula, Montana. Because teachers need a side hustle, my side hustle is a passion project. I am the owner and operator of M+M Trout Adventures. I provide turn key fly fishing vacations in Missoula Montana. I provide the ground transportation, lodging, all meals, and typically 3 days of guided float trips.  Let me explain to you why I chose this passion project’s home to be in Missoula.

At the intersection of 3 rivers sits the trout town of Missoula, Montana. Missoula is located in western Montana, less than an hour from the Idaho border. Drifthook.com calls it the 2nd best place in the US to land large trout. Missoula is the home to the University of Montana and the central location for anglers to fish the intimate Rock Creek, the majestic Bitterroot, the picturesque Blackfoot, and the grand Clarkfork. All of these waters offer peak fishing at various times of the year. You can fish the Bitterroot in June to take advantage of the legendary salmon fly hatch, Hopper fishing in September on Rock Creek, the Skwala hatch in April, and the Clark fork in October with the colors of fall leading to the BWO hatch.

How To Fish The Rivers

How to Fish it – dries, nymphs, streamers. Missoula is well known for it’s dry fly fishing, but many a days on the river you can choose from dries, streamers, double nymph rigs, and dry dropper rigs to see success. The Missoula area is so vast and the rivers so abundant that you could be 10 miles apart by the flight of the crow and fishing completely different flies at the exact same time.  The who’s who’s of flies consist of: caddis, yellow sallies, pheasant tail, pat’s rubber legs, prince nymph, perdigons, green drakes, Chubby Chernobyl, & the purple haze (which is a local adaptation of the parachute adams). Streamers can be used to tempt the big browns in the fall by throwing a muddler minnow, and several colors of the formidable wooly bugger.

Floating the Bitterroot River

Net Full of a Rainbow Trout

Montana Rainbow Trout

Montana Rainbow Trout

Missoula Montana Map

Success on the Bitterroot River

Success on the Bitterroot River

Floating and Fishing Montana

Floating and Fishing Western Montana

Fishing Access

Missoula is known in fly fishing circles for its availability in public water. There are hundreds of fishing access sites that you can pull into with your rig. Or just pull over on the side of the road and enter from any bridge in the state. The high water mark is the limit of where anglers can walk and wade on a stream, but if you can enter it legally, technically, you can fish most waters in the state.

Hatches

The Salmon fly hatch, which occurs in mid to late June, is by far the angler’s favorite and brings people from worldwide. It would be like fishing with your pinky. This clumsy flier makes the trout come up, ignore their survival instincts, and throw caution to the wind, but it is the stuff of legend. All you have to do is look on YouTube to see the splashes on the top water that rival the cannonball at any local pool. Otherwise, the standard western states hatches are the norm: the April Skwala Hatch, the Mother’s Day caddis hatch, Salmon fly, and Golden stone, just to name a few.

When To Fish Missoula

With Missoula essentially being in the Pacific Northwest, from November to March you can expect snow, and a lot of it. In fact Missoula is a budding ski town with nearby Snowbowl (30 min drive), but outside the winter months, there is plenty of water and plenty of hatches to be able to enjoy the sport 8 months a year. The area sees the most anglers on the water during mid June to the end of July. Yes that is when the summer vacation is most prominent but it is also prime time dry fly season. It is launched with the salmon fly and goes through a steady progression of Golden Stones, Caddis, Green Drakes, Yellow Sallies and PMD’s just to name a few. However the local angler prefer April’s Skwala hatch which is appreciated because the trout haven’t seen a big meal and now that the rivers are thawing out and warming up they are ready to feast. October is also a favorite because, to quote a local guide, “ All the anglers are hunter, and their heading up into the mountains, I have the rivers all to myself.”

Cutthroat Success

Cutthroat Success

Montana Brown Trout

Montana Brown Trout

M&M Trout Adventures Video

Local Experts

If you are looking for honest prices, good reports, and not the usual nose-in-the-air client, I recommend the Missoulian Angler. This fly shop is tucked into a neighborhood, right next to the local high school. I have observed teachers working at the shop in the summer to offset their already underpaid and underappreciated salaries. You can come here and get all the essentials. If your wants and needs are a lil more steep and your pockets are deep then Grizzly Hackle is a fine shop and right next to some great food options.

There are several hotels and Airbnbs in the area, but there are two that I like most. Anglers own both, and they are close to all the modern conveniences and easy access to all the local highways to get easily to your next fishing destination.

The Necessities

Do not leave town without visiting Sweet Peaks Ice Cream Shop. I’d prefer not to go into too much depth because I will drool on the keyboard, but in the summer, there is a reason the lines are out the door. If you like microbrews, it begins with the local pride and joy of the Kettlehouse Brewery and its amazing Cold Smoke. It is a Scottish ale that has a smoky coffee finish, which, whether mid-day or after a day on the river, is just amazing. The Conflux is another local brewery serving up some amazing brews and food. If there is anything that you can eat there that involves the Huckleberry BBQ sauce, do not skip it on the menu.

The food scene is growing, and if you’re in the mood for Pizza, this Native Ny Italian recommends Big a Pizza. Right next door to a wine bar, you can order the pie, and they will bring it to you while you sip a nice glass of your favorite grape. One unique place we always frequent is a farm where locals can rent space to farm their crops. Garden City Harvest. This amazing co-op also provides food to schools and food shelters. Jean, who runs it, has a true passion for the concept and is more than willing to give a tour. We never miss the opportunity to pick Raspberries and Garlic in July. The raspberries are wild and are amazing on French toast. There goes the drooling again.

My Favorites

If I had to pick a month, I would say mid-September would be my favorite. I have a group of 5 of us who love to fish together. Together is subjective because we generally don’t see each other once we leave the rig. Only for lunch and to head home at the end of the day. However, one such day in September, this group of 5 probably caught nearly 200 fish. This was such a memorable day that each angler even caught the prestigious Trout Slam (Brook, Brown, Rainbow, Cutthroat and Cutbow). I was also fortunate enough to add a Bull trout and a whitefish to my lineup for the day. I could tell you where I was fishing, but they would feed me to the fishes. And as an Italian, I don’t take that phrase lightly!

More To Do in the Missoula Area

If you would like to see Bison but do not want to make the 4-hour trek to Yellowstone, take a 45-minute drive north to the National Bison Range. For $10 per car you can take a 1 ½ hour trip around some gorgeous country and see Deer, Bison, Bear and Pronghorn. The two times I was there it was well worth the small donation.

Fishing Guidebooks

Go with knowledge! We keep guidebooks in the camper and the state atlas in all of our rigs. If you’re serious about fishing, here’s our recommended reading for this water.

*The link takes you to Amazon where you can read more about the titles and purchase the guidebooks if you choose. We do receive a small portion of the sale for providing the link which helps to support this site. We appreciate your support!

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