If one had the capability of going back in time, say
at least 100 years, and fish any river, my choice for Montana fly fishing would be the
Clark Fork River.
The last 100 years have not been particularly kind
to the Clark Fork. At the turn of the
century, the copper mining industry in the headwaters dumped mine
tailings into Silver Bow Creek. This practice released heavy metals
into solution now a part of the Clark Fork River sediment. The
Milltown Dam located just below the mouth of the Blackfoot
fortunately deposited in one convenient location much of this
mistake of the past. However releases of these heavy metals have
been helping suppress fish populations for the last 100 years. After
a heavy rainfall the flush of ions of copper, for example, would
wipe out the aquatic life of the river. It would bounce back time
and time again only to be knocked down.
Fortunately the Clark Fork restoration has begun in earnest to
remove these toxic deposits on the banks of the upper Clark Fork
(Slickens) as well as removing the 7 million cubic yards of sediment
behind the Milltown dam. The dam has also been removed and fish can
move freely upstream or downstream on the Clark
Fork and into the Blackfoot, just like they did over
100 years ago. During this sediment and dam removal process, it is
inevitable that there are some toxic releases downstream of the
construction site. This has had a deleterious impact on some of the
macro-invertebrates. Certain mayfly hatches are not as consistent as
they have been. Patience will be required to see the project through
the completion. Rewards will be watching it blossom into the river
we all know it is capable of becoming.
In spite of its history, the Clark Fork River is an amazing testament to the resiliency of
Mother Nature. Characterized by huge shelving riffles, long quiet
pools, as well as reaches of boulder pocket water, “the Fork” is an
angler’s paradise of variety. Some of the toughest, strongest trout
anywhere are found in these waters. Upstream of Missoula the
brown trout is predominant while downstream the
norm is rainbows, “cuttbows”, and the occasional pure cutthroat. Dry fly fishing can be exceptional on
any given day. Fishing “underneath” in the right water can also have
its rewards in the form of a “football shaped” torpedo-like trout.
In its back-waters the lower Clark Fork
River has populations of the highly predacious
Northern Pike. These fish make for some excellent sport for those
willing to cast a streamer. Call us soon to plan your 2011 trip for Montana fly fishing.
Use this link to visit Montana Fish, Wildlife &
Parks Clark Fork River description and facts! An
interactive map is available.