The Bitterroot River in Montana has
been Wapiti Waters’ home river for over three decades. During this
time we have observed not only the seasonal changes from summer to
fall or the daily changes in the pulse of a March Brown mayfly
emergence but also the annual changes associated with high water
run-off events. It is these events that sculpt and scour it’s banks
and channels as well as rearrange it’s fish. Erosion is a process
where new habitat is created or perhaps eliminated. Logs that have
been eroded from it’s banks and deposited somewhere along the
channel form the classic Bitterroot “holding water.” They
provide the necessary cover for daily survival and the shade to stay
hidden in the heat of a summer day. The Bitterroot
is home to a thriving beaver population which can aid
in the creation of new “log buckets.” Too many logs stacked upon a
heavy water bank can create treacherous floating hazards. Sometimes
a portage is necessary to be safe rather than sorry.
tributaries of the Bitterroot River headwaters originate in wilderness areas giving the main river a
good supply of pristine water up until late July. The West Fork,
it’s main tributary has a dam which releases cold, clean water
during the critical times of summer. The fisheries are a beneficiary
of these enhanced flows as is the rancher who can grow his hay crop.
Finding a balance between the needs of a fishery and human
activities has been an ongoing contentious issue as demands for
these cold water releases are increasing. Fortunately, the
Bitterroot River fish have an in-stream
flow reservation of water, i.e. the trout have been given a little
Despite increased recreational pressure which
not only includes fishing but also boating, tubing, and swimming,
the Bitterroot River seems to be thriving
and still produces good numbers of westslope cutthroat, some brown and rainbow trout as well as the cuttbow, a
hybrid between cutthroat and rainbow trout. Catch and release
sections have been a big help as is the in-stream flow reservations.
Based on the increased number of Missoula area guides who have an
option to fish elsewhere, I would have to say the Bitterroot River in Montana is
probably everyone’s 1st choice to fish. You might as well experience
it with knowledge and expertise. Call us soon to plan your Montana fly fishing vacation.
Use this link to visit Montana Fish, Wildlife &
Parks Bitterroot River description and facts! An
interactive map is available.