Bitterroot River

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Bitterroot River

Updated 05/18/2023 at 10:43pm

Conditions At-a-glance


Weather Forecast

Our Report

BRO’s Tips of the Week:

The Bitterroot doubled in flow over the past week. Flows made the water big, muddy, and not your best option for finding consistent fish. Creek and tributary fishing opens this Saturday, so smaller options and lakes will be your best bet for the next week.

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

7 Day Outlook:

Daytime highs are WARM over the weekend. We’ll have temps in the 80s before they dip back into the 70s next week. The river will be several days behind, though, so expect it to stay high for the foreseeable future.

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. There is also a tree blocking the river near the cliffs above Wally. 

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

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

Woodside-Tucker: the left channel at the split requires a short drag, and the right channel diversion dam is so shallow that it may need to be portaged. 

Tucker-Bell: a quarter-mile section of water before Victor may require scouting and one drag due to wood in the water. 

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 tree is down near the Osprey Cabin  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:

If you do attempt the Bitterroot, finding side channels and softer seams with slow water will be the best option. TJ Hookers in gold and coffee, San Juans, and Rubber Legs make a good first nymph, and double up with Prince Nymph, Duracells, Zirdles, and Spanish Bullets. If you throw streamers, olive and black patterns, Mini Dungeons, Baby Gongas, or Sparkle Minnows might get a chase tight to the bank. 

See our staff pick fly selection here!

Goings on at World Headquarters in Missoula:

The Online Store is updated daily!  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.

USGS Water Charts


The river has jumped back up and is running big and muddy.

The Hatch

March Browns, BWOs.

Fly Patterns

DRIES - March Brown #12-14, BWO #18-20. 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

9270cfs (average for this time of year)



Water temperature at mid-day

48 degrees

Water Condition

Clearing up - many blockages.

Best time of day to fish

Late morning through early evening.

Best stretch

Any stretch with a side channel, slow current, or any clarity to fish on foot. See our fishing report above for the most updated information on obstructions.

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