As resident members of the Lewis and Clark Chapter, we live in the middle of some of the finest fly fishing and floating waters found anywhere in the world. Whether it is a fully guided trip on the Big Hole River or the Madison River, or a wading trip on the upper Ruby River, visitors can have the kind of experience that dreams (and tall tales!) are made of -- all within an hour's drive of Twin Bridges, Montana. Check out our Chapter waters:
Beaverhead River: Legendary for it's tailwater fishery below Clark Canyon Dam, big Browns and Rainbows are plentiful!
Jefferson River: Concerted local and TU efforts have rejuvenated the fish populations in the river hardest hit by drought.
Big Hole River: The water is up and so are the fishing opportunities on this world class river!
Ruby River: Not the classic fly-fishing stream with it's deep holes and close banks and willows, this river can humble you. For a real back-in-time Montana experience, try fishing in the Natuional Forest above the Ruby Dam. The Upper Ruby holds cutthroat, rainbow and grayling, the latter population the result of cooperation between local landowners and multiple agencies.
Madison River: River flows are great and opportunities to fish can be found all along this blue ribbon trout stream!
In addition to these famous rivers, there are any number of creeks and feeder streams, as well as mountain lakes, to feed the imagination of anglers and campers interested in bringing home some Rocky Mountain memories! Enjoy!
The Beaverhead River historically was formed by the confluence of the Red Rock River with Horse Prairie Creek. But, in 1964, Clark Canyon Dam was finished, and since then the river is formed at the outflow from the dam. The Beaverhead River meanders through the valley to the north and through the city of Dillon for 75 miles until it reaches its confluence first with the Ruby River and then with the Big Hole River, where it then becomes the Jefferson River. Clark Canyon Reservoir heavily influences the world famous tailwater characteristics of the river for at least 20 miles below the dam. Large rainbow and brown trout are common on these upper reaches, often next to banks heavily covered with willows. Mountain whitefish are rather common throughout the Beaverhead River. Other fish include brook trout, burbot, carp, three species of sucker, and an occasional Arctic grayling. As one moves downstream, the flow is heavily influenced by irrigation, although some trout are found the full length of the river. This is not an easy river to fish, and nymphs are often the fly of choice on the upper reaches of the tailwater. Muddy water and algae are common on the lower reaches of the river, mainly from Dillon down to Twin Bridges. The Beaverhead Watershed Committee, state and federal agencies, Trout Unlimited, and many others are working to restore the reaches of the river that have experienced heavy siltation over the last few decades. LCTU is active in Beaverhead River issues and has a member on the Beaverhead Watershed Committee. Lewis and Clark wrote in their journals that they passed by this river in August 1805. Lewis noted that the river just above the confluence with the Ruby River was 45 yards wide and waist deep on him (he was 6 feet tall). He also noted that the water was of a milky hue. Lewis further recorded that the flow of the Beaverhead was 2/3 that of the Big Hole River on that same day (August 4, 1805). There are nine public fishing accesses on this river. Floating is often the best and most popular way to fish this river.
The Jefferson formed by the Beaverhead and Big Hole River junction flows 77 miles till it meets the Madison and Gallatin Rivers and forms the Missouri River. It flows next to the Tobacco Root and Highland Mountains in the upper reaches and through an arid plain in the lower reaches with mountains in the distance. The Jefferson is mainly one channel on the upper part, but has many channels on the lower end. It has deep pools so floating is often the best way to fish it. Brown trout, rainbow and mountain whitefish are the main game fish. It also has burbot, three species of suckers, and carp. The river is heavily dependent on flows from Ruby, Beaverhead and Big Hole for its water and it has relatively few tributary creeks. Fish populations declined in the 1990’s and the Jefferson River Watershed Council was formed in 1999 to reverse that trend. Fish populations are improving especially rainbows from spawning waters which have been rehabilitated.
Irrigation withdrawals are a problem but irrigators have been very cooperative in helping to maintain the flows on the upper river above Cardwell. The watershed council has not worked yet below Cardwell. There are 11 public fishing access sites on this river. It is also utilized for scenic floating and waterfowl hunting. Lewis forded the river his first time on August 2, 1805 in the vicinity of the present town of Whitehall. He found the current very rapid, waist deep and about 90 yards wide. He said the bottom was smooth pebble with a small mixture of coarse gravel. LCTU members have been on the Jefferson River Watershed Council from the beginning and there is still much restoration that needs to be accomplished yet on the Jefferson watershed. National and Montana TU and Orvis among others have been very active on restoration projects on the Jefferson.
The Big Hole is one of the most scenic rivers in Montana, and contains a variety of pools and riffles in a high mountain valley, a canyon reach, and a lower high plains reach. The Big Hole River has its headwaters at the outflow of Skinner Lake, located in the Beaverhead Mountains south of Wisdom, Montana and flows 153 miles to its confluence with the Beaverhead River at Twin Bridges.
Lewis and Clark viewed the river in 1805 on their famous expedition while headed towards the Pacific Ocean; and Clark’s party traveled the upper reaches of the Big Hole on horseback in 1806. Lewis noted in his journal on August 4, 1805 that it was 50 yards wide at the mouth and extremely swift. Clark was impressed by the immense numbers of beavers he saw on the upper reaches in 1806, as well as the broad fertile valley. His reports triggered much activity by early fur trappers. Game fish present include Arctic grayling, brook trout, brown trout, burbot, mountain whitefish, rainbow trout, and rainbow-cutthroat crosses. This freestone river is the source for irrigation water for ranchers and farmers all along its length, as well as a renowned trout fishery. Droughts are frequent in this part of Montana, and in recent years there have been a number of fishing closures in the summer months due to low flows and high temperatures. Because of the special status of the grayling on this river, much work is being done to improve the bank cover and sustain minimum river flows at critical times for grayling survival. The Big Hole Watershed Committee, formed in the 1990’s, continues to focus on these and other important issues facing this beautiful and productive river. Chapter members keep a close eye on the work being done by the BHWC and have been active in their efforts to restore balance to the Big Hole River. It is agreed by all that there is much opportunity for better forest, range, and water management in the watershed of this outstanding fishing river.
There are 13 public fishing accesses on this river, in addition to federally-owned public land and good access through select parcels of private land. Floating is often the best way to fish this river, but there is also no shortage of excellent wading.
The Ruby River has its headwaters in the Gravelly Mountains and the Snowcrest Mountains of Southwest Montana and runs in a northwesterly direction for approximately 97 miles, where it joins the Beaverhead River near Twin Bridges, Montana. Its upper reaches are on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. As you move down the river you will find the Ruby Reservoir (approximately 7 miles south of Alder, MT), which was built in 1939 for the purpose of storing runoff water for irrigation on the farms and ranches of the Ruby Valley. The Reservoir typically fills each year at snow-melt (May-June) and provides river flows for the 45 miles of river below the dam. The reaches below the dam make for a nice tail-water fishery throughout the season. The upper river often has a milky color due material from erosive soils. Fish species present include brown trout, rainbow trout, mountain whitefish, rainbow-cutthroat crosses, Westslope cutthroat, white sucker, carp, and Arctic grayling. The Arctic grayling in the Ruby River represent a several year effort to establish this species outside of the Big Hole River watershed. The Ruby River fishes like a smaller Beaverhead River, and anglers typically fish it by wading. However, it is possible to float it with small float craft in a number of sections. A recurring issue on the Ruby River, angler access is by six (6) Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks managed sites. Flood irrigation is still common on this river and the return flows provide water throughout the dry summer season. In the recent drought years, the Ruby River and its Reservoir has provided the majority of the water that makes up the summer flows in the Jefferson River. LCTU is active on the Ruby River Watershed Council, with members working tirelessly on flow and access issues. One interesting and historic footnote on the Ruby River: Lewis & Clark reported on August 4, 1805 that the mouth of the Ruby (which they originally named the Philanthropy River) was 30 yards wide and had low banks. He said it appeared to be navigable with their log canoes for several miles.
The Madison River is created by the confluence of the Gibbon and Firehole Rivers in Yellowstone National Park. It flows 140 miles in a northerly direction until its confluence with the Gallatin and Jefferson Rivers in Three Forks, Montana. These rivers come together to form the mighty Missouri River at this location. The Madison River flows through forested country until reaching the Madison Valley in the vicinity of the West Fork of the Madison. It then flows through what amounts to high plains from here to its mouth with one notable exception. This is the Beartrap Canyon, located below Ennis Lake. The Beartrap is within the Lee Metcalf Wilderness area, which is accessible only at either ends of the canyon, and is famous for excellent fishing and rugged whitewater rafting. There are three impoundments on this river: Hebgen Dam, which is a storage dam for hydro-electric power; Quake Lake, formed from the earthquake in 1959; and Ennis Lake, formed by the Ennis Dam at the head of Beartrap Canyon, and also for the purpose of hydro-electric power. The Madison River is a world famous blue-ribbon trout stream and, consequently, receives considerable angling pressure, especially in the reaches from Hebgen Lake to Ennis Lake. The reach south of Ennis is often known as the Fifty Mile Riffle--fast water about three feet deep running swiftly over large, slick cobbles. Game fish angling opportunities include the popular brown and rainbow trout, as well as mountain whitefish. Also present, and sometimes caught, are brook trout, common carp, three species of sucker, Utah Chub, Yellowstone Cutthroat, and Arctic Grayling.
Current issues facing the Madison River include whirling disease, angling pressure, and continued drought conditions. LCTU has many members living on the Madison River, and our outfitter and guide members often bring their clients to this remarkable river. The water collected and stored in the dams is used to benefit the Madison River fisheries, as well as power hydro-electric turbines for electrical power production. Pulsed flows are often used in the hot summer months in order to cool water temperatures on the lower reaches of the river.
There are 14 major fishing access sites on the river outside Yellowstone Park, plus excellent access on public lands. While this river can be fished effectively by wading, by far the most popular access is by drift boats or inflatable rafts.
Date: xx Apr 2009
Sample Report can go here, as a repeating region via incontext editing.