Enjoy a Guided Fly Fishing Float Trip on the Big Hole River in Southwest Montana
When you think of Montana fly fishing, the Big Hole River stands out as one of the best rivers in the state. From its humble beginnings in the Beaverhead Mountains to its confluence with the Beaverhead River in Twin Bridges, the Big Hole River is 160 miles of free-flowing beauty and fly fishing adrenaline.
The Fly Fishing Mecca in Southwest Montana
The Sunrise Fly Shop is located in what many consider to be the Mecca of trout fishing in Southwest Montana. We offer everything from half day guided Big Hole River fly fishing trips, to customized multi-day Southwest Montana fly fishing vacations. We have a variety of accommodations available to fit your needs and budget, as well as all inclusive guided Big Hole River fishing packages to make your Montana fly fishing vacation as easy to plan and enjoy as possible. With the Sunrise Fly Shop’s prime location, we can get you on the Big Hole River with an experienced fly fishing guide with very little drive time.
The Big Hole River is the very definition of a Southwest Montana fly fishing trout stream. Combine Big Hole’s unparalleled vistas with more than 3,000 trout per mile and hundreds of imagination-defying hatches, and it is no wonder the Big Hole River is nicknamed Montana’s Last Best River. If you dreamed up a perfect Montana fly fishing trout stream, the Big Hole River is exactly what you would create. The Big Hole River is one of the few remaining undammed trout fisheries that has a tremendous population of wild fish and unparalleled fly fishing opportunities.
Hatches Galore and Rising Fish on the Big Hole
The Big Hole River has some of the most prolific hatches of any freestone river in Montana. It is these amazing hatches that make the Big Hole one of the greatest blue ribbon trout streams for fly fishing in America. As you move up and down the river on a float trip with your guide, you will notice that not only do the hatches you encounter change, but so do the characteristics of the river.
Fish Three Different Rivers on the Big Hole
Having an experienced fly fishing guide to take you down the Big Hole River is very important considering the constantly changing nature of the Big Hole and the available fly fishing. The Big Hole has three distinctly different sections of river. The Lower Big Hole River runs through expansive ranch land, with beautiful braided channels that change on a yearly basis. The middle Big Hole River has the steepest gradient of the river while running through two beautiful and rugged canyons, the Dewey Canyon and the Maiden Rock Canyon. The upper section has a lower gradient, is banked by thick coniferous forests, and flows through some of the most picturesque scenery you will find in Montana. Our guides know each section of the river and will ensure you are using the right flies and casting techniques to land that monster brown.
The Fish of the Big Hole
The Big Hole River has 5 species of game fish. In our pristine fishery you will find brown trout, rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, arctic grayling, and brook trout. With the last remaining native strain of fluvial arctic grayling in the lower 48 states, the Big Hole is a diverse and unique experience for every angler. Our guides can help you shoot for that grand slam on the river, catching all species during your time with us.
With more than 150 miles of fishable water and about 100 miles of river to float, the Big Hole River provides any fly fisher the opportunity to fish uncrowded waters and unfished riffles. Since our shop is located near the Maiden Rock Canyon and Salmonfly fishing access, our guides are able to get you on the prime waters and fly fishing in a timely manner.
With three distinctly different stretches, the Big Hole River offers everything an angler could ever want when fly fishing on a single river. Whether it’s the magnificent mountain views and grassy banks of the upper river, the steep rock walls of the canyon section, or the braided stretches of the lower river, a guided fly fishing adventure on the Big Hole River will be the centerpiece of your next Montana fly fishing vacation.
Seasons on the Big Hole River
Spring – April 1st – June 1st
Hatches: Skwalas, Blue Winged Olives, Mother’s Day Caddis
In April we experience some of the best dry fly fishing of the season on the Big Hole River. Our season starts around the 1st of April, but that date is completely dependent on the weather. The hatch that gets us started is the Skwala Stonefly hatch, an event not to be missed! The Skwala stonefly will hatch once the water temperatures rises to about 42 degrees, and hangs around for a sustained period of time. Typically the hatch lasts for about three to four weeks and the time period is mid April into mid May. Smaller than the better-known Golden Stone, the Skwala stonefly is approximately a size #10 dry fly. Montana’s spring weather can be very unpredictable, and anglers must be willing to deal with various forms of weather. Daytime highs can range from mid 20’s all the way up to the upper 50’s. It is not uncommon to see rain, snow, or a mixture of both. Why would an angler travel to the Rocky Mountains in the middle of April to spend a day on the water in these questionable weather conditions? Because trout eat the Skwala stoneflies veraciously! The trout in the river have not had a meal of this size on the surface for quite some time, and they are extremely hungry after a long winter spent under the ice. This combination of hunger and opportunity create some of the best dry fly fishing of the year. With uncrowded waters and trout eating on the surface, spring fishing on the Big Hole River is a great way to enjoy the wonders of Southwest Montana Fly Fishing. A float trip with one of our guides will ensure you get to the skwala hatch wherever they are on the river.
Summer – June 1st – September 1st
Hatches: Salmonflies, Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies, Caddis, Pale Morning Duns, Hoppers, Spruce Moths, Tricos,
The summer season on the Big Hole is jammed packed with a variety of hatches. We start the summer with our famed Salmonfly hatch. The Big Hole River’s Salmonfly hatch occurs during a three-week period in June. What makes this hatch unique to the Big Hole is that it occurs over such a long section of the river. You can expect to first find this hatch on the lower river near the Glen fishing access, then it works it’s way up the river to the Maiden Rock canyon and then all the way up to the Fishtrap fishing access. Because the water on the lower river warms before that of the upper river, the hatch begins low and slowly makes its way up river. A lot of people refer to “chasing the hatch” when they talk about Salmonflies. This phrase refers to fishing a section further upriver each day, and actually following the hatch as it moves upriver. It is not uncommon to find fly fishing guides looking for shucks on willows, rocks, and bridges to get a better idea of where the hatch is going to thickest that day. The Salmonfly hatch is one of the only opportunities to catch the largest brown trout of your life on a dry fly larger than your middle finger. It is an experience like no other. Our guides are the most experienced on the river. Come catch the hatch with Sunrise Fly Shop!
In July the Big Hole’s best hatches are the Golden and Nocturnal stones. These stoneflies are a little smaller than the Salmonfly, but the trout seem to like them just as well. It is our opinion that the best dry fly fishing during this stonefly hatch is in the early morning hours before the sun hits the water. While still in the shade of the morning light, the trout seem much more active on the surface. The section of river in Southwest Montana that might have the best nocturnal stonefly hatch is the Dewey canyon of the Big Hole River. During the month of July you can also find Pale Morning Duns, Yellow Sallies, and Caddis. With so many hatches on the Big Hole in July, it is truly a dry fly fisherman paradise. Our guides can float you down the river early to ensure you catch this morning hatch.
Fly fishing in August on the Big Hole River is all about terrestrials. Our most noted terrestrials are Hoppers and Spruce Moths. We believe the best terrestrial hatch on the Big Hole River is the Spruce Moth. You will find fish cruising the grassy banks picking Spruce Moths off the surface of the low clear water. As great as this hatch can be, the spruce moth hatch does not occur on the entire Big Hole River. Spruce Moths, as their name would indicate, are found more commonly in areas with greater conifer tree concentration. The section of river from Jerry Creek to the Maiden Rock Fishing Access seem to be where the Spruce Moth hatch is thickest. When it comes to terrestrials, every year is different. Some years you will find the moths are more abundant and other years hoppers seem to be more prevalent. Size #14 and #12 tan elk hair caddis are the best imitation for the Spruce Moth.
In the morning hours of August we also get a great trico hatch on the Big Hole. You will find large trout sipping Trico spinners in the slicks between 9:00 11:00 in the morning. This is a great way to test your drag free drifts and fool a large brown trout with a size #18 dry fly. Once the spinner fall is over for the day, it is nice to throw on a large hopper with a nymph dropper to keep your rod bent.
Fall – September 1st – November 1st
Many anglers think that the fall season on the Big Hole is the best season of them all. Summer crowds have left our Southwest Montana Rivers and the cool crisp mornings with colorful foliage on the trees makes fall a wonder time to be on the Big Hole. Hatches definitely do start to wind down in the fall, but by no means does the fishing slow down. You can find some hoppers and Tricos still kicking around, but our main hatch of the fall season is the Blue Winged Olive. We enjoy floating from Glen to Notch on the lower Big Hole where you will find excellent Blue Winged Olive hatches in late September and into October.
The fall is also a great time to throw streamers on the Big Hole. The brown trout are getting ready to spawn and become very territorial, making streamer fishing a very successful tactic during this time of year. Maiden Rock to Salmonfly stretch always produces nice brown trout on streamers in the fall.
Montana Fly Fishing at its Finest on the Big Hole River
With so much water to cover when you fish the Big Hole, make sure you plan for at least a few days to experience this one of a kind River. Our guides are very experienced and will take good care of you on your float trip. Our lunches are delicious and filling—you won’t go hungry. A float trip with the Sunrise Fly Shop on the Big Hole will be the centerpiece of your fly fishing vacation in Southwest Montana. Call us today!