Big Spring Creek is a popular fly fishing destination in central Montana. Originating from an artesian spring, Big Spring Creek flows over thirty miles north and northwest, through (and at some points under) the town of Lewistown, MT before finally flowing into the Judith River. Along the way, the river flows through miles of parks, viewing areas, and grazing lands, and runs between the Big Snowy and Judith mountains, until it reaches its final destination.
Big Spring Creek is considered by many to be one of the premier trout streams in the central part of the state, so if you consider yourself any sort of angler, you definitely want to put this place on your bucket list. Why is it so great? Well, in addition to being easily accessible for just about its entire length, Big Spring Creek is chocked full of fair-sized brown and rainbow trout, with plenty of trophy-sized fish thrown in for good measure.
Fishing Access Sites on Big Spring Creek near Lewistown, Montana
Big Spring Creek is close to the town of Lewistown -- even underneath it at one point -- there’s virtually no worry about being trapped out in the middle of nowhere without supplies, or being stranded miles away from civilization when you realize you forgot your bug spray or something else you might want. Basically, you have about thirty miles of easily accessible, prime trout fishing that is located close enough to a town where you can easily pop back and forth (if needed) to your heart’s content. This makes this area great for first-time anglers who might not know exactly what they need until they get there, as well as experienced fisherman who are just looking for an opportunity and a prime spot to catch a few.
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As I said above, Big Spring Creek is about thirty miles, and practically the entire length of this stream is relatively easy to access. There plenty of spots where the stream flows right next to roads and trails, so getting there by car is a breeze -- no need to worry about long hikes or hauling tons of gear back and forth.
Montana FWP maintains seven public Fishing Access Sites on Big Spring Creek.
Fishing Access Site
Reed & Bowles
*Miles from confluence with Judith River.
The stream itself averages anywhere from 18 to 24 inches deep, so wading in anywhere along its length shouldn’t be a problem. The creek flows from an artesian spring, so the water at its head is very clear and cold. The temperature remains pretty constant throughout its run, but as it goes the water quality begins to degrade, until about the last ten miles when the water begins to cloud due to factors like erosion and water pollution. While the fishing on this end of the river is still okay, staying farther upstream is probably your best bet.
One note: because Big Spring Creek has plenty of public parking and access, it’s quite a popular destination, and this includes water recreation activities like tubing and wading. So, depending on when and where you go, you might have to walk a bit to find a more secluded spot.
Any time in the spring, summer, or fall is good to visit Big Spring Creek, but the best times is probably late spring. This time of year has the most hatches. Big Spring Creek has a large aquatic insect population as well as crustaceans, with several different species of mayflies and caddis in abundance. Hopper season, in particular, is very popular. This season runs from about the beginning of July through the end of August, and is sure to make the trip worthwhile.
While no special equipment is needed to fish this creek, it can be deceptively smooth. Clearer waters can hide swirling currents underneath, which can play havoc with your line if you’re not careful. It’s best to to make short casts and mend as needed. Because of the clear water, the trout can get a good look at your fly, which make them harder to fool and much more selective.
Still, if you’re up for that challenge, Big Spring Creek is an excellent place for some low-stress fly fishing that’s sure to reward the patient fisherman.
Dry fly fishing on Big Spring Creek is best done with a 3- and 4-weight, 8½- to 9-foot rod. These rods are perfect for delicate, accurate presentations at short distances. Spring creek trout are often wary, and longer, 9- to 12-foot leaders tapered to 5X and 6X tippets catch more fish.
A 5-weight rod is best for fishing nymphs and streamers, in particular for larger trout. For streamers, use a shorter leader tapered to 1X or 2X tippet. For nymphs a tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.
Thankfully, that’s easy to get to. The town of Lewiston is a moderately-sized town of about 6,000 people, and it’s also the seat of Fergus County. This means that getting there should be easy -- in fact, there’s a small municipal airport right outside of town.
If you’d prefer, though, flying in to Billings, and then driving in through Highway 87 is a perfectly acceptable and easy solution, although one that would take a little longer as that is about a two-hour drive.
Once there, the town of Lewistown offers plenty in the way of stores, restaurants, and hotels, so you’ll have no problem stocking up and finding a place to stay.
Looking for more places to fish in Montana? Check out our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in Montana.
Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and is on a quest to map the best places for fly fishing in America. He created DIY Fly Fishing and the DIY Fly Fishing App to share this information and help you find new places to fish. Have a question? You can get in touch with Ken here.
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