Zebra Midge, Black #18
Lightning Bug #16
Tailwater Sow Bug, Rainbow #18
Kreelex, Silver/Gold #6
Skiddish Smolt #4
Beginning about 20 miles from Bozeman, at the confluence of the Gallatin, Madison, and Jefferson rivers, the famous Missouri River starts at Headwaters State Park outside of Three Forks, Montana. Here it begins the long journey northward. For the first 18 miles, the grade is fairly flat, not the typical tail-water fishery we most commonly think of when picturing the Missouri River. This upper stretch of the river is home to some very large Trout, Carp, and in some spots even Northern Pike. Although there can be, at times, good trout fishing in this area, the fish numbers are not considered outstanding. This is however a popular stretch of river for those interested in sight fishing for Carp.
The Missouri River then heads downstream well over 100 miles and through several lakes and dams before it reaches the outlet of Holter Lake near the town of Craig, Montana. Here, the river is known as a serious tailwater trout fishery, boasting thousands of fish per mile. Don’t be fooled by that statistic though as the Missouri River in Craig doesn’t simply hand over big trout to anyone that wets a line; she’ll make you work for them. At times the fishing in Craig can be as technical as any spring creek you’ll find. With the daily hatch creating a cloud effect and tiny bugs covering the surface of the water, trying to convince any trout to eat your specific fly can be difficult, to say the least. That being said, there are plenty of days, when the stars and the moon align, and the fish will eat a well presented fly with reckless abandon. Those are the days we live for. Downstream from Craig, the fish numbers drop a bit as the river move’s its way towards Great Falls. Once the river hits Great Falls, the trout fishing stretch is considered to be mostly over.
From it’s headwaters in Three Forks, Montana, northward to Great Falls, Montana, the Missouri river covers 198 river miles, just 8% of its complete 2,341 mile journey to the Mississippi River.