Missouri River Montana

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Missouri River in Montana

The state of Montana is not shy of angling options and fly fishing the Missouri River is top of the list. 45 miles from Helena, Montana is Holter Dam. This dam is the central focus of a 30 to 40 mile stretch of the Missouri River.

Many locals and well-traveled fly fishing connoisseurs consider it one of the best trout fishing sections of water in Montana. Possibly the lower 48 states. A short drive off of I-15 will place you at this fishing hotbed.

From the Holter Dam to the city of Cascade runs the Missouri River, and this 40 mile stretch is home to approximately 3,500 to 5,500 fish per mile. Rainbows and Browns aplenty, with many of them exceeding 16 inches, it is no wonder this section of the Missouri has the reputation that it does.

Rainbow trout average between 14-18 inches while the browns measure in a bit larger. Given the dense trout populations and their size, this section of the river is not a destination for the angler seeking solitude.

What you can expect during peak times is wading fly fisherman mingling with drift boats. Yet the sacrifice of isolation is worth the fish populations and the beautiful countryside.

Missouri River Map and Fishing Access Sites

River access is not a challenge from the Holter Dam to the city of Cascade. Numerous public access sites can be found coupled with understanding landowners. Please be mindful of the landowners requests, as this is a privilege, not a right for us. Wade fishing is aplenty, as are the options for floating the river.

Headhunters Fly Shop publishes an excellent Missouri River fishing map showing the location of MT FWS Fishing Access Sites, boat ramps and wade fishing areas.

missouri river fishing map

You can get directions to fishing access sites and boat ramps using the interactive map below.

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Missouri River (Montana) : 47.074155, -111.962893
Missouri River FAS (Fairweather) : 46.027727, -111.418313
Missouri River FAS (Toston) : 46.171991, -111.445203
Missouri River FAS (York's Islands) : 46.266866, -111.493562
Missouri River FAS (School Trust) : 48.048542, -106.364081
Missouri River FAS (Snowden Bridge) : 48.006354, -104.103234
Missouri River FAS (Lewis and Clark) : 48.068106, -105.537452
Missouri River FAS (Culbertson Bridge) : 48.122469, -104.475281
Missouri River FAS (Eagle Island) : 47.120907, -111.890185
Missouri River FAS (Pelican Point) : 47.200937, -111.779487
Missouri River FAS (Big Bend) : 47.389831, -111.340149
Missouri River FAS (Carter Ferry) : 47.755852, -110.898998
Missouri River FAS (Spite Hill) : 47.121123, -111.937345
Missouri River FAS (Cottonwood Grove) : 47.420614, -111.380695
Missouri River FAS (Bull Pasture) : 47.001490, -111.997877
Missouri River FAS (Mountain Palace) : 47.162554, -111.823094
Missouri River FAS (Devils Kitchen) : 47.138714, -111.851940
Missouri River FAS (Craig) : 47.072557, -111.963036
Missouri River FAS (Mid Canon) : 47.125477, -111.885083
Missouri River FAS (White Bear) : 47.434143, -111.291741
Missouri River FAS (Dunes) : 47.404424, -111.531399
Missouri River FAS (Dearborn) : 47.125849, -111.907353
Missouri River FAS (Prewett Creek) : 47.171286, -111.827038
Missouri River FAS (Stickney Creek) : 47.116249, -111.945760
Missouri River FAS (Hardy Bridge) : 47.168162, -111.835316
Missouri River FAS (Wolf Creek Bridge) : 47.019826, -112.011110
Missouri River FAS (Wing Dam) : 47.295247, -111.677645
Missouri River FAS (Widow Coulee) : 47.627845, -111.031870
Missouri River FAS (Ulm Bridge) : 47.429904, -111.498978
Missouri River FAS (Lone Tree) : 47.055695, -111.965334
MISSOURI RIVER AT TOSTON MT: 46.146572, -111.420278
MISSOURI RIVER AT CASCADE MT: 47.269486, -111.695231
MISSOURI RIVER NEAR ULM MT: 47.434967, -111.388444
MISSOURI RIVER AT GREAT FALLS MT: 47.506902, -111.314141
MISSOURI RIVER NEAR GREAT FALLS MT: 47.584444, -111.060581
MISSOURI RIVER AT FORT BENTON MT: 47.816911, -110.666142
MISSOURI RIVER AT VIRGELLE MT: 48.003783, -110.258822
MISSOURI RIVER NEAR LANDUSKY MT: 47.631431, -108.687744
MISSOURI RIVER NEAR OSWEGO MT: 48.033351, -105.881123
MISSOURI RIVER NEAR WOLF POINT MT: 48.067325, -105.533097
Beaver Creek: 46.785600, -111.902100

Download the DIY Fly Fishing App to get turn-by-turn directions to access points shown on the map above. 

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When is the Best Time to Fly Fish on the Missouri River

Amazingly fertile, with prolific hatches of mayflies, caddis, and midges, the Missouri River fishes well year-round. You'll see fish rising just about every day of the year.

June through August is the prime time of year for fly fishing this portion of the Missouri River. Make no mistake, you will be catching some trout. During the summer, caddis and mayfly hatches are so prolific that it looks as though there is a mini blizzard over the river.

The MO also fishes fantastically in the shoulder seasons of Spring and Fall with Baetis and midges for dries and big, ugly streamers! 

Gear and Fly Selection for the Missouri River

The Missouri River is a heavily fished waterway, especially from June through August. While the populations of fish are phenomenal, this does not mean that they are easy to catch. Lighter tackle will serve you well.

Due to the heavy pressure found on this waterway, a precise and delicate approach will be necessary to attract the larger trout. These finicky trout will respond better to lighter tackle and drag free floats.

Sizes 16-22 of the PMD Cripple, Sparkle Dun, and Parachute PMD have seen great results for topwater action during the PMD hatch for instance. If nymphs are your favorite, sizes 16-20 of the Pheasant Tail Nymph and Hare’s Ear Nymph satisfy the curiosity of the trout.

Spey fishing on the Missouri River with Headhunters Fly Shop

The team at Headhunters refers to the time from November to April as “swing season”. Why? Because it's fun and the Missouri River is on one of the best “swinging” trout rivers in the world. It’s also an effective – often deadly – method during the fall, winter and spring months on the Missouri River.

Missouri River Fishing Reports

A number of local fly shops, guides and on-line retailers publish Missouri River fishing reports.  A few to check out are listed below.

Missouri River Flow and Current Conditions

Missouri River USGS Flow, Gauge Height and Temperature

  • Water Temp: 34.52 ° F
  • Flow: 4860 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 3.37 ft

Monday 01/28 0%
Mostly clear. Lows overnight in the upper single digits.
Tuesday 01/29 0%
Sunny skies. High 29F. Winds light and variable.
Wednesday 01/30 0%
Cloudy skies. High 36F. Winds W at 5 to 10 mph.
Partly Cloudy
Thursday 01/31 10%
Partly Cloudy
Partly cloudy. High 41F. Winds light and variable.
Friday 02/01 0%
Cloudy. High 41F. Winds light and variable.

Planning a Trip to Fish the Missouri River

Helena, Montana has a regional airport, which you might be able to get a connecting flight into. Chances are, you will want to fly into Billings Logan International Airport and then take the 3 1/2 hour scenic drive into your fly fishing destination.

I always suggest to the anglers who make the trip to this beautiful part of the country to get a rental and take in all that Montana has to offer. The drive from Billings into Helena, which is where I would recommend you stay, is a simple one.

Leaving the airport you will spend 43 miles on MT-3, 70 miles on MT-3/US-12, 29 miles on MT-294, 8 miles on US-89, and then a short hour’s drive on US-12 which takes you directly into Helena.

Where to stay is not an issue while planning this fishing trip of a lifetime. The city of Helena, conveniently located 45 miles to the south of Holter Dam and right off of I-15, holds numerous hotels and restaurants.

Most of all, cherish the memories that will be made as they last a lifetime. Not many anglers are so fortunate as to have fished these types of waters in parts of the country such as this.

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

About the Author Ken Sperry

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 the DIY Fly Fishing App to share this information and help you find new places to fish.

lawrence Swnson says

looking for flyfishing opportunities with a river front cabin for 2 the first 3 or 4 days in July. Suggestions?

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