MISSOULA RIVER LODGE, WESTERN MONTANA

Quick Facts
Season

March—October

Species

Wild rainbow, cutthroat, brown and bull trout

Accommodations

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

Max Occupancy

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

The Experience

This is Norman Mcclean country and anglers still find A River Runs Through It style experience on the Big Blackfoot River and many other streams. If you are into the dry fly you can’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-wing olives. Between those times you can catch fish on dry flies any day, whether matching March browns, pale morning duns, green drakes, salmonflies, golden stones, Tricos, Hecuba, myriad caddisflies, or terrestrials. And don’t rule out the big fish—streamers take 20-plus inch browns and 10-pound bull trout.

Missoula River Lodge, Western Montana

OVERVIEW

Few trout fishing locales—anywhere in the world—match the diversity that Missoula River Lodge offers. Within 25 miles of the lodge anglers can float four different 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 rainbows, cutthroats, browns and bulls (which are actually a char). Abundant aquatic insect hatches and a favorable banana-belt climate bring trout to the surface 10 months a year, starting with the skwala stonefly hatch in March, gaining intensity with salmonfly, green drake, golden stonefly, caddis, Tricos and PMD hatches during summer, and wrapping up with Hecuba, October caddis and blue-wing olive mayflies during fall. While floating the Clark Fork, Bitterroot or Blackfoot rivers, or wade fishing Rock Creek, you can watch the stunning mountain and valley scenery glide by and follow it all up with an amazing evening of truly fine dining and relaxation.

THE FISHING

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 it use to be—on freestone rivers carving through dense, wildlife-rich forests with the only fluctuations in flows being determined by Mother Nature.

In addition, you won’t be casting at pellet-fed stocked fish here—the Missoula area offers sleek and wild, naturally reproducing rainbow and brown trout, along with wild and native westslope cutthroats and bull trout. The average rainbow stretches between 12 and 18 inches; the average brown ranges between 14 and 20 inches; the average cutthroat goes 10 to 18 inches; and the average bull trout stretches between 18 inches and eight pounds.

Bitterroot River: Perhaps the most scenic river in the area, offering mad variety and lots of great fish. The Bitterroot begins south of Missoula with the marriage of the East and West forks (each of these streams offers great fishing). The mainstream 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 long 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 it offers a variety of angling situations during all seasons. If you want to drift along and hit the banks with a dry and a dropper you can do that. If you want to target large fish and hit the banks with 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. And, if you want to drop the anchor and stalk pods of rising trout with dries, 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, and long, grassy banks. The trout through this stretch are large and challenging but a well-presented fly is rarely refused. However, light tippets and small flies are often a must.

The upper Clark Fork, above Missoula, is a far different river. Lots of brown trout mix with rainbows and a few cutthroats and in the very upper sections the river runs through grassy pastures with deep cut banks and pools—places where brown trout to four or five-pounds often lurk. Below the mouth of Rock Creek, just 25 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 not to like? This classic small freestone stream flows through 60 miles of a wilderness corridor and offers wild trout throughout. These are mix of rainbows, browns and cutthroats, 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-fishers 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 about five miles east of Missoula. Good fishing for browns, rainbows and cutthroat extends upriver for 50-some miles. The average fish here measures 14-to 16 inches long, but know that larger fish exist. Any given cast could bring up a 20-some inch brown or ‘bow . . . or a 30-some inch long bull trout. You cant specifically fish for bull trout, but they prefer the same streamers youll throw for rainbows and browns.

Much of the Blackfoot runs between canyon walls. You can find every sort of trout water known to man. And the hatches bring fish up in all of these places. Blue-wing olives are abundant on the Blackfoot, and the skwala comes off in good numbers, too. You can find March browns and midges also. 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 most places it’s steep and rocky, and wading is a challenge. 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. Can you say, “photo opp.”

 

BOATS & 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 rubber rafts.

ACCOMMODATION

Guests stay at one of three uniquely crafted private lodges, all located on this 120-acre property and all 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 bluff over the Clark Fork and close to MRL’s private drift boat launch. Single luxury rooms are spacious, well appointed, quiet, and fit perfectly for groups of 4-to 6 anglers. The great room is the space for relaxing—look out over the river to catch natures drama or turn inward to catch a game on the large satellite TV. Wireless internet included.

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 spring-fed mouth of 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 and adventure. This is a three-bedroom facility with four queen beds. A three-guest recommendation ensures each guest 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.

CUISINE

Enjoy some serious farm-to-table fine dining, all 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 become available from local butchers. MRL proudly serves Montana Angus beef, bison, elk, 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.

TRAVEL

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. Missoula River Lodge will pick guests up at the airport and return them to the airport on the day of departure.

Feel free to contact us at Gils Fly Fishing International for more information.

RATES/PACKAGES

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

Guide float and 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

TERMS (DEPOSITS AND REFUNDS)

Bookings are confirmed with a 50 percent deposit. Balance must be received at conclusion of your trip. 

If you cancel your reservation more than 45 days prior to your arrival date, we will refund your deposit minus a 5% handling fee. Your deposit is non-refundable if cancellation occurs inside 45 days from your arrival date. We highly recommend that guests purchase travel insurance. We have adopted a flexible cancellation policy for trips impacted by COVID-19. Should you need to cancel your trip for any COVID-19 related reason (illness, border closure, mandatory quarantine) we will offer a full refund, less the 5% transaction fee, or the option to roll your deposit over to a future trip.