Bitterroot River

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Bitterroot River

Updated 01/26/2023 at 10:47pm

Conditions At-a-glance


Weather Forecast

Our Report

BRO’s Tips of the Week:

Snowy, cloudy, and cold weather could make conditions challenging over the next week. Nymphing the slow water and buckets could make for decent fishing during the afternoon. Go deep with a pair of nymphs like TJ Hookers, Jig PTs, San Juans, your favorite perdigon, and Zebra Midges – patience, depth, and good drifts will pay off. 

*See our 7 Day Outlook for updates on blockages jamming up the Bitterroot.

7 Day Outlook:

Tomorrow will be a decent day to fish the Bitterroot with daytime highs approaching 40 degrees, but it’s about to become COLD this weekend and will stay that way until next week. Single digits during the day and sub-zero evening temperatures will produce poor fishing and conditions bordering on unsafe.

If you are floating please use extreme caution. This river changes rapidly and is known for producing fatal log jams. Give us a call for an updated obstruction report.

*There are currently several obstructions on the Bitterroot.  

Darby-Wally: one big sweeper down just below Lone Pine requires a drag to the right on the Darby-Wally float. 

Wally-Anglers: flows over Sleeping Child dam are extremely low, producing dangerous conditions and a high chance of getting stuck. 

More wood down around the Blodgett Park area will also require careful scouting and some possible dragging. 

Veterans Bridge-Woodside: take the left channel below the bridge, as the right channel is blocked and requires a portage. 

Bell-Stevi: One new tree is down half a mile below Bell. Another tree about one mile downstream of Bell Crossing has already sunk one drift boat and will require staying far river left and doing a long drag. Lastly, one new tree is down as  ¾ through the Stevi-Florence float. It is across the river and will require a drag to get around.

Our Recommendations for the Best Techniques and Patterns:

Subsurface angling is the best strategy for success on the Bitterroot right now. Running two nymphs together is a good way to get down deep, and add some split shot if you’re dropping the rig off a shelf. Try a TJ Hooker, Double Bead Stone, Hot Bead San Juan, Rubber Legs, or Wooly Bugger with a smaller option like a Jig PT or Zebra Midge to increase your odds. Spanish Bullets, Frenchies, Prince Nymphs, Duracells, Two-Bit Hookers, Dunnigan’s Panty Dropper, Fire Starters, and Perdigons will also hunt. Carry a midge or two in case you see any afternoon rises. Working over the best water with patience will pay off.  

Streamer fishing has been okay. Fishing with a slow retrieve is the way to go when temps are this cold. The Kreelex, Mini Dungeon, or Sparkle Minnow is what we’re fishing right now. 

See our staff pick fly selection here!

Goings on at World Headquarters in Missoula:

The new Online Store is live!  Check it out!

Call us for up to the minute updates at 406.542.7411 or if you are in the area stop in for all your Orvis gear and the right bugs.  WE HAVE MOVED TO OUR BRAND NEW LOCATION AT 275 N. RUSSELL STREET IN MISSOULA.

USGS Water Charts


It's cold out there, and there are lots of hazards for floaters to be aware of.

The Hatch

Midges, Gnats.

Fly Patterns

DRIES - Midges, Tiny Klinkhammer #16-20, BWO #18-20, Griffith’s Gnat #18-22. NYMPHS - TJ Hooker, Girdle Bug, Rubber Legs, San Juan #08-#12. Perdigon, Spanish Bullet, Frenchie, Brillon’s Mean Machine, Duracell, Prince Nymph, Jig PT #14-18, Zebra Midge #18-20. STREAMERS - Double Gonga #08, Zonkers #06 & #08 in Natural, Olive, or Yellow. Lil Kims. Buggers #06-12, Dungeon in Brown, Olive, and White.


Water Flow

400cfs (average for this time of year)



Water temperature at mid-day

33 degrees

Water Condition

Clarity is good, but there are many blockages.

Best time of day to fish

Late morning through evening. It's cold out there!

Best stretch

The Upper Bitterroot is fishing best, and the lower sections can be decent too - access is the main challenge right now. See our fishing report above for the most updated information on obstructions. Also, lots of ice at the moment.

Best access point

Multiple fishing access points along the river.

Fish species

Rainbows, browns, cutthroats, cutbows, pike minnows, suckers, pike and whitefish.

Fishing season

All year

Nearest airport

Missoula international Airport (MSO)

Recommended fly fishing leader

From a boat - 7.5' 3x-4x. Wading step it up to 9'

Recommended fly fishing tippet

3x top bug and 4x for second or 4x to 5x for smaller rigs

Best fly fishing rod

9ft 5wt or 6wt for nymphing and dries - 6wt or 7wt for streamers

Best floating fly line

WF 5wt or 6wt

Best sinking fly line