Missoula, Montana

Missoula River Lodge

Missoula, Montana

Missoula River Lodge

Why We Like It

This is Norman Maclean country. Anglers still experiences reminiscent of A River Runs Through It here on the Big Blackfoot River and many other streams. If you love dry fly fishing, you won’t find a better place to drop an anchor: super productive hatches begin in March with the skwala stonefly and end in late fall with the October caddis and blue-winged olives. Between those times you can catch fish on dries almost any day, whether you’re matching March browns, pale morning duns, green drakes, salmonflies, golden stones, TricosHecubas, many species of caddisflies, or countless terrestrials. And don’t rule out the big fish—streamer anglers here regularly take 20-plus-inch browns and 10-pound bull trout.

Season

March - November

Species

Brown Trout, Bull Trout, Cutthroat Trout, Rainbow Trout

Accomodations

Three uniquely crafted and private lodges all located on 120 private acres, all within a stone’s throw of the legendary Clark Fork River and rising rainbow trout

Occupancy

Trout Bluff Lodge (6 rooms; 8 beds); Rhino Cove (4 rooms; 4 beds); Riverfront Lodge (3 rooms; 4 beds)

Lodge Features & Amenities

Amazing Food

Beginner Friendly

Corporate Friendly

Couples Friendly

Wi-Fi

The Missoula River Lodge Experience

Few trout fishing locales anywhere in the world match the diversity of water that Missoula River Lodge offers. Within 25 miles of the lodge, anglers can float four different major freestone rivers that offer some of the most outstanding dry fly opportunities in the West. And you won’t find any hatchery-raised imposters here—Montana’s trout are super strong, wild, naturally producing rainbow, cutthroat, brown, and bull trout (which are actually a char). Abundant aquatic insect hatches and a favorable low-elevation climate bring trout to the surface nine months a year, starting with the skwala stonefly hatch in March, gaining intensity with salmonfly, green drake, golden stonefly, caddis, trico, and PMD hatches during summer, and wrapping up with Hecuba, October caddis, and blue-winged olive mayflies deep into fall. While floating the Clark Fork, Bitterroot, or Blackfoot rivers, or wade fishing Rock Creek, you can watch the stunning mountain valley scenery glide by and follow it all up with an amazing evening of fine dining and relaxation.

Few places offer more trout fishing variety than the rivers and streams surrounding Missoula, Montana. And you won’t find a better collection of freestone streams in the Western United States. Rock Creek and the Bitterroot, Clark Fork, and Blackfoot rivers offer trout fishing the way nature intended—on freestone rivers carving through dense, wildlife-rich forests with the only fluctuations in flows determined by rain and snowmelt.

In addition, you won’t be casting at pellet-fed, stocked fish here—Montana’s rivers are home to exclusively wild, naturally reproducing rainbow and brown trout, along with native westslope cutthroat and bull trout. The average rainbow stretches between 12 and 20 inches; the average brown ranges between 14 and 20 inches; the average cutthroat goes 10 to 18 inches; and the average bull trout stretches from 18 inches to well beyond 30.

Bitterroot River: Perhaps the most scenic river in the area, this stream offers beautiful views of the Bitterroot and Sapphire mountains along with lots of great fish. The Bitterroot begins south of Missoula with the marriage of the East and West forks (each of which offer great fishing). The mainstem Bitterroot continues for 70 miles before merging with the Clark Fork just west of Missoula at Kelly Island. The ‘Root, as it’s often called, hosts about 2,000 wild trout per mile, ample numbers for a great day on the water. These are a mix of rainbows, browns, and cutthroats, and they grow to good size—it’s not uncommon to catch 17-inch representatives of each species, and nobody would doubt you if you got off the water at the end of the day and said, “I caught a 22 incher.”

The Bitterroot’s hatches are prolific and offer a variety of angling situations during all seasons. If you want to drift along and hit the banks with a foamy dry and a dropper you can do that. If you want to target large fish and strip streamers, you can do that. If you want to cast tiny dry flies to technical trout sipping tricos off a flat-surfaced backwater, you can do that, too.

Clark Fork River: The Clark Fork can be intimidating to novice anglers—in the sections downstream from Missoula, before its confluence with the Flathead River, the Clark Fork is broad and strong with some major rapids that demand a guide’s attention to the oars. But between those sections are long, glassy glides, highlighted by braided channels, foam-lined eddies, seductive side channels, and long, grassy banks. The trout through this stretch are large and challenging but a well-presented fly will often do the trick. However, light tippets and small flies are sometimes mandatory.

The Upper Clark Fork above Missoula is a far different river. Lots of brown trout mix with rainbows and a few cutthroats as the higher sections the river runs through grassy pastures with deep cutbanks and pools—places where trout beyond 5 pounds are known to lurk. Below the mouth of Rock Creek, just 20 miles from Missoula, the Clark Fork has a classic freestone look with lots of riffles, definitive runs, and plunge pools. Anglers catch variety here, with some big rainbows and browns in the mix.

Rock Creek: What’s not to like? This small, steep freestone stream flows through a 60-mile wilderness corridor and offers wild trout throughout. These are mix of rainbows, browns, and cutthroats, with some brookies and bulls, and although they don’t run as large as you might find on the Clark Fork, Blackfoot, or Bitterroot, 18- to 20-inchers are entirely possible. This is a walk-and-wade fisher’s paradise where dry fly and nymph tactics hold equal appeal. When you’re looking for incredible canyon scenery, lots of wildlife sightings, and solid daily numbers of trout, Rock Creek is the place to be.

Blackfoot River: The Lower Blackfoot meets the Clark Fork 5 miles east of Missoula. Good fishing for browns, rainbows, and cutthroat extends upriver for 70-some miles. The average fish here measures 14 to 16 inches long, but know that much larger fish exist. Any given cast could bring up a 25-inch brown or ‘bow—or a 35-inch bull trout. You can’t deliberately target bull trout, but they do prefer the same streamers you’ll throw for rainbows and browns. If you do tangle with one of these protected char, make sure to fight it fast, keep it in the water for photos, and release it quickly.

Much of the Blackfoot runs beneath stunning canyon walls, providing pleasingly diverse scenery. And the hatches bring fish up in all of those places. Blue-winged olives are abundant on the Blackfoot, and the skwalas comes off in good numbers, too. You can find March browns, midges, and stoneflies as well. But maybe the most exciting way to fish the Blackfoot is with streamers when the water turns to beautiful green—not really clear but not blown out either. Fish can find your fly easily enough, and they aren’t too shy because that color in the water gives them mega-confidence. If you want to catch a large trout in the Missoula area, the Blackfoot during spring time, when water conditions allow, is the place to be.

You can fish the Blackfoot by wading the banks, but in many places it’s steep and rocky, and wading is a challenge. It’s best to let a guide pull the oars while you and a buddy or a spouse or kid cast from the bow and stern, working those Sparkle Minnows, Buggers, and Sex Dungeons along the banks, teasing big browns and massive bull trout out of the boulders and into the net.

Boats and Equipment
Missoula River Lodge guests fish out of a variety of boats, including super stable McKenzie-style drift boats and fiberglass skiffs. When floating Rock Creek or one of the Clark Fork’s whitewater sections, guides may use rafts with fishing frames.

Guests stay in one of three uniquely-crafted private lodges, all located on the 120-acre property within a stone’s throw of the legendary Clark Fork River and its rising rainbow trout. These riverfront properties are strategically located and offer wade fishing options just off the deck!

The Trout Bluff Lodge is perched on a high rock abutment over the Clark Fork and close to MRL’s private driftboat launch. Single luxury rooms are spacious, well appointed, quiet, and fit perfectly for groups of four to six anglers. The great room is the space for relaxing—look out over the river to catch nature’s drama or turn inward to catch a game on the large satellite TV.

The River Front Lodge is located at the west end of the property and enjoys expansive views of the Clark Fork watershed. Privacy is at a premium and the wildlife that calls the mouth of spring-fed Six Mile Creek home is constant reminder of a what a unique lodging experience this is. You can walk from the large, comfortable deck to the Clark Fork where you’ll find rainbows sipping adult mayflies and caddis. The occasional giant brown trout patrols the mouth of Six Mile, making each cast an adventure. This is a three-bedroom facility with four queen beds. A three-guest recommendation ensures each angler receives single-room accommodations. Wi-Fi for all rooms is standard and full work office solutions are available. The Rhino Cove offers the same amenities and conveniences found at the other two locations, with great fly fishing just a five-minute walk away. You’ll find privacy and luxury here, too—there are four separate bedrooms spread between two suites. Rhino Cove features a common lounge area and spacious patio where at the end of the day guests meet and socialize. Free Wi-Fi and satellite TV are available as well.

Cuisine
Enjoy some serious farm-to-table fine dining prepared by executive chef Carrie Nowlen, who was named one of America’s top 100 chefs by the Washington Post. Missoula River Lodge prides itself on excellent table fare drawing from locally grown and harvested ingredients, including some that are gathered on the property. The menu is fluid as local produce comes in and out of season and protein options come available from local butchers. MRL proudly serves Montana Angus beef, bison, lamb, and local poultry, all with an American bistro flare. Dinners are an adventure for your tastebuds with the seasons dictating the menu. After fishing all day, returning to the lodge for dinner is an equally satisfying adventure.

Connectivity
Wi-Fi and cell service are available throughout the lodge.

Missoula, Montana, might very well be considered the cultural center of the Rocky Mountain West. Frequent outdoors festivals, concerts, and farmers markets provide a taste of the local community, and myriad great restaurants could keep you busy for weeks. The full suite of outdoors activities are available in the area, from mountain biking to whitewater rafting to rock climbing. It’s an outdoor adventurer’s paradise with high class amenities to boot.

Missoula is one of the easiest places to reach in the Northern Rockies. You can jump on a flight from Seattle and be unpacking your bags at Missoula River Lodge two hours later. Or, if you choose to drive, you can reach Missoula from Seattle in seven hours. Direct flights to Missoula from Salt Lake City, Spokane, Denver, Las Vegas, and Minneapolis are available daily. Missoula River Lodge will pick up guests at the airport and return them to the airport on the day of departure.

At Gil’s Fly Fishing International, we are always happy to help you book a trip without charging any fees. We do not believe in extra payments, which is why even if you book a trip directly through the lodge, the amount will be exactly the same. Rates are indicated in U.S. dollars, per person.

3 Nights/2 Days $1,890 per person
4 Nights/3 Days $2,525 per person
5 Nights/4 Days $3,150 per person
6 Nights/5 Days $3,650 per person
7 Nights/6 Days $3,990 per person

INCLUDED
Single occupancy rooms
Ground transportation from Missoula, if needed
Guided float or wade fly fishing each day
Farm-to-table breakfast, lunch, and dinner with nationally-acclaimed chef Carrie Nowlen
Happy hour appetizers with paired wines and local microbrews
Daily maid service
Wi-Fi and satellite TV
One-hundred and twenty acres of on-site private ground for wade fishing
Private boat launch
Flies
Equipment for guided trips

NOT INCLUDED
Travel to Missoula, Montana
Montana state fishing license
Guide and staff gratuities

Bookings are confirmed with a 50% deposit, made no later than seven days after booking a trip. Balance must be received no later than 90 days prior to the first day of the trip. Notification of cancellation must be received 90 days prior to the first day of the trip in order to receive partial or full credit for an alternate date. All payments are final and nonrefundable, with the exception of a medical or family emergency, deemed reasonable at GFFI’s discretion.

Booking a trip or making a deposit represents that the client accepts all terms and conditions. GFFI’s terms are in addition to any terms and conditions of each individual lodge that GFFI represents. Please read those terms carefully—lodge terms, which may differ from GFFI’s terms, supersede any agreements between GFFI and a client.

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