Montana Fly Fishing 3 min read

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Teton River in Montana

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

September 22, 2017

Teton River in Montana

The Teton River in northwestern Montana is a 150-mile tributary of the Marias River and Missouri River, starting on the eastern side of the Rockies and flowing eastward through the plains of Montana.

Much of this river is privately owned, and except for the upper branches close to where it forms, does not offer the best fishing opportunities.

Because of that, this guide is going to focus mainly on where the upper forks of the river (north, south, east, and west) originate and come together to form the main river. This is where the best fishing can be found, after all.

About Teton River

Teton River near Choteau, Montana

If you can reach it (and we’ll soon discuss why that can be difficult) you’re in for a real treat. This is a beautiful area of the country, located right along the eastern edge of the Rockies.

The landscape offers a beautiful vista of mountains and trees, with the Teton River branches flowing majestically through as they make their way east. Not only is it beautiful, but this area is also very remote.

If you’re looking for a destination without competition, this is the place for you. In fact, the chances are you won’t see much of anyone else while you’re out there.

This upper area of the river offers plenty of rainbow, cutthroat, and brook trout, which will willingly go after most dry flies you throw at them. Many pools, runs, and riffles can be found, along with some beaver ponds, which give you a great variety of places to fish.

The bottom of the river in this area is mainly gravel and rock, making it easy to wade. If you’re looking for majestic scenery, eager trout, and a bit of serenity, then this might be your ideal spot.

Teton River Map, Fishing Access Sites and Boat Launches

map of fishing access spots on the Teton River in Montana

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

River Flow and Current Conditions

Teton River bl South Fork nr Choteau MT

  • Streamflow: 197 ft³/s
  • Gage height: 4.63 ft
Streamflow GraphGage height Graph

Best Places to Fish the Teton River

In case you couldn’t tell already, the upper reaches of the Teton River is pretty remote. While there is limited road access to a few sections of the north and south branch, most of this area is only reachable by hiking or backpacking in. 

The good news is that there are numerous hiking trails, so it’s not like you’re completely going where no man has ever gone before. Still, it’s a relatively remote area, and there’s very little in the way of civilization or amenities close enough to make it a quick jaunt.

What that boils down to is a fishing trip to this area of Montana means you should be ready for some camping, and while there are plenty of places — official and unofficial — to camp, be ready for a rugged outdoor experience, as luxuries will be few and far between.

The river itself actually comes close to the town of Choteau, so you might be more tempted to try your luck a little closer to civilization. While this makes river access much less of a hassle, this section of the river has generally poorer fishing, due to low-nutrient water and irrigation demands.

Also, much of the river at this point is owned privately, so access is much more limited. However, you can still get to it from the bridges and the like.

Past Choteau, the fishing quality picks up a bit, and brown trout can be had using streamers or hoppers along the banks.

From this point, the river flows eastward through the plains of Montana, and the fishing quality gets worse as the river warms up, and other fish such as catfish and pike become the predominant species.

Best Time to Fish the Teton River

As this is Montana, winter is long and brutal, and summer is by far the best time to fish these waters. However, spring and fall both offer some good opportunities.

While this area doesn’t have any unique hatches, Montana itself has pretty regular fishing seasons that follow an annual pattern, so knowing the time you’re going, and doing your homework beforehand, should give you a pretty good clue as to what will work best.

In April and May, for example, the march brown and Mothers Day caddis are your best bet. Later in the summer, caddis, yellow sallies, pale morning duns, and golden stones dominate the area. As summer turns to fall, aquatic hatches wind down, and landborne bugs like hoppers take center stage.

Gear Recommendations

A 9-foot 4-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on the Teton River. For larger nymphs and streamers a 9-foot 5-wt fly line makes life easier. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

Trip Planning Tips

This upper part of the river is close to the town of Choteau, MT, which is a small town, but large enough to boast its own municipal airport as well as plenty of markets for food, fishing gear, and camping supplies.

Not too far away is Great Falls, and just a little bit farther down the road (about 100 miles away) is Helena, the state capital. So, getting to the region should not be that difficult. A quick stop in Choteau to pick up supplies, or to stay for the night before making an early start the morning, and you’re on your way!

We hope this guide has given you some great ideas for fishing the Teton River. What the river lacks in comfortable amenities, it more than makes up for with golden fishing opportunities. Plan ahead, though, and be prepared for a hike!

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