Montana Fly Fishing 5 min read

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Little Blackfoot River in Montana

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

March 9, 2024

Little Blackfoot River in Powell County, Montana

When you are planning your fly fishing trip to Montana, make sure that you don’t neglect some of the smaller streams like the Little Blackfoot River. Even though they might not be your main focus, maybe head to one of them for a day or so to see how you like it.

Below, you will find important information about fishing the river and a Little Blackfoot River map to help you navigate it.

About Little Blackfoot River

Fly fishing the Little Blackfoot River in Montana

One of the first things to get out of the way is that the Little Blackfoot River is not a tributary of the Blackfoot River. It doesn’t connect to the river at all. It is simply located nearby.

Don’t let this confuse you when you are making your fishing plans.

This is a relatively small stream that comes out of the Boulder Mountains and is not far from the town of Elliston. The first 15 miles of the stream are on public land, and there is a forest service road that follows it for most of that length.

The rest of the river flows to its confluence with the Clark Fork River in Garrison. This part of the river isn’t fished as much because it is mostly on private land. There are only a few county and highway road crossings where access to fishing is available.

What Is Little Blackfoot River Like?

The Little Blackfoot River originates in the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, south of Elliston, and flows 48 miles before merging with the Clark Fork River at Garrison.

The river that flows towards Avon passes through the national forest, and it is small yet charming, surrounded by a tranquil environment. As we move downstream, the fishing experience becomes even better, although it can be hectic due to the busy US 12 and the nearby railroad.

Type of Fish in Little Blackfoot River

This river is home to diverse fish species, including brook, brown, rainbow trout, mountain whitefish, westslope cutthroat, and threatened bull trout.

In most cases, the fish in the stream tend not to get overly large, so you shouldn’t expect to catch any prize-winning fish. However, it is still a lot of fun.

The exception is brown trout in the fall. They tend to get a bit larger, which can be fun. If you are after browns, you will most likely want to plan your trip for sometime in October or early November.

What to Expect at Little Blackfoot River?

You shouldn’t run into too many other anglers when fishing this river. As mentioned, they usually bypass this stream and head to one of the bigger ones.

The fishing season on this river is year-round. During the winter months, though, it is catch-and-release.

Little Blackfoot River Trout Fishing Map

Little Blackfoot River trout fishing map showing public fishing access sites and the best fishing spots.

Get Directions to the Fishing Access Points shown above with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

Best Places to Fish the Little Blackfoot River

Forest Service Road #227 provides easy access to the upper 15 miles of the Little Blackfoot River that flows through the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest. This is a beautiful area where you will likely have the river all to yourself.

Most of the lower river flows through private land, and access is limited to one public fishing access site and bridge crossings. There are quite a few between Elliston and the Clark Fork River. You will want to be careful not to inadvertently end up on a rancher’s private property.

Little Blackfoot River is a stream that you will want to wade. There aren’t too many places where it could be floated or canoed, as there tend to be a lot of downed trees to navigate around.

Best Time to Fish the Little Blackfoot River

This is a year-round river, but it does tend to be more productive in the summer and the early part of the fall. Winter can provide some entertainment, but remember that it’s all catch and release.

The springtime can offer some fishing opportunities for those who can’t wait to get out. However, you should wait until after the runoff.

You will have the best chance of catching good brown trout during the fall. These fish are more active, moving out of their hiding holes to spawn, which improves your chance of catching them.

Stream Flow and Current Conditions

Check the stream conditions before heading out to fish the Little Blackfoot River. The USGS stream gauge near Garrison, MT, provides a good indication of the current condition of the river.

The graph below shows the stream flow (discharge) for the past seven days. If flows are considerably above or below historical norms (yellow triangles on the chart), fishing conditions may not be ideal.

Little Blackfoot River near Garrison MT

  • Streamflow: 63.1 ft³/s
  • Gage height: 0.62 ft
Streamflow GraphGage height Graph
USGS

Best Flies for the Little Blackfoot River

The Little Blackfoot River experiences hatches similar to those in the upper Clark Fork and follows a comparable schedule. The summer caddis hatch is long and intense, much like the one in the upper Clark Fork.

The best flies will depend on the time of year you visit.

In the spring, dry fishing and using various types of caddisflies can work quite well. Caddisflies, mayflies, and PMDs can continue to be productive in the summer.

From around late July to late September, you can use grasshoppers. They are found along the river, and trout are used to going for them. It’s a natural choice to use these for your flies.

Small nymphs and other midges can be effective in the winter.

Here is a list of general fly pattern recommendations for the Little Blackfoot River:

Dry Flies

  • Yellow Sally (#12 – 16)
  • Yellow Humpy (#10 – 18)
  • Parachute Sulphur (#14 – 18)
  • Parachute Adams (#12 – 22)
  • Light Cahill (#10 – 18)
  • Elk Hair Caddis (#8 – 16)
  • Yellows Stimulator (#8 – 14)
  • Chernobyl Ant (#8 – 12)
  • Griffith’s Gnat (#16 – 24)

Nymphs

  • Pheasant Tail (#12 – 20)
  • BH Hare’s Ear (#12 – 20)
  • Rainbow Warrior (#14 – 22)
  • Pat’s Rubber Legs (#4 – 12)
  • Golden Stonefly (#6 – 10)
  • Tellico Nymph (#12 – 18)
  • Zebra Midge (#16 – 22)
  • WD40 (#16-20)
  • Y2K Egg (#12 – 16)

Streamers

  • BH Wooly Bugger (#2 – 6)
  • Sculpzilla (#4)

Gear Recommendations

A 9-foot 4-wt fly rod and matching fly reel with a floating line is perfect for fishing for trout on the Little Blackfoot River. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

Little Blackfoot River Fishing Report

There aren’t any area fly shops that regularly publish a Little Blackfoot River fly fishing report. However, if the weather is good and the river is not blown out from spring run-off, the fishing will likely be good. Grab your rod and go check it out!

Fishing Regulations

Montana requires all people 12 years and older to have a valid fishing license. There are resident and non-resident sport fishing licenses available.

You can purchase a Montana state fishing license and learn about the most current regulations through the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

Trip Planning Tips

Depending on which part of the Little Blackfoot River you are visiting, you will find different towns nearby. If you are close to the upper part of the river, you will be near Elliston. On the other hand, if you are near the confluence with the Clark Fork, you will be close to Garrison. You can find places to stay in and around both of these towns.

Camping is also a great option, especially in the national forest area. A camping spot could ensure you are close to the stream, so you don’t have to wake up early each day.

Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in Montana

Feature image by Rob Stutz