The “Mighty Mo” likely contains the most fish per mile of any trout river in Montana. Some sections are rumoured to host more than 5,000 fish per mile. These fish, mostly rainbow and brown trout, are well fed and healthy.
Topographically, the Missouri is like a giant spring creek. It is a broad river with riffles, holes, smooth flowing flats and weed beds. We fish the river from drift boats, with numerous opportunities for the wading enthusiast to work the water.
The Missouri’s rare combination of large fish, incredible hatches, and scenic beauty keeps fishermen coming back year after year.
The Land of the Giants
The Land of the Giants derives its well-known moniker from the size of the fish, often seen in the 18–23” range. Larger fish, up to 26”, are not uncommon either. Located on the Missouri River, about 20 miles from the historic city of Helena, Montana, this breathtaking section of the river is about three miles long and is set in a spectacular, steep canyon with large, rugged rock formations, requiring a jet boat to fully access the river. On the Clearwater has one of a limited number of Coast Guard Captain’s Licenses, enabling us to take full advantage of this amazing stretch of water. We launch the boat from Upper Holter Lake, just a stone’s throw from the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness. Even if you’re not fishing, simply taking in the view of the Gates and the canyon is worth the trip.
This fishery in this section of the river is unique. The fish benefit from all the best features of a tailwater and a lake. The fish move to and from the lake where they grow rapidly on a rich diet, resulting in fat and healthy browns and rainbows. In the river, the fish enjoy the cool, stable water temperatures of the tailwater delivered from the nearby Hauser Dam, and are accessible to fly fishermen. At times, the number of trout per mile exceed anything we have experienced in any river in North America. You’ll have to see it to believe it.
The river fishes well from mid-March until December, when the lake freezes. However, this is our “go to option” in the spring. Because it is a tailwater, the river has fairly constant flows and temperatures and is not “blown out” by normal spring snow melt conditions. As a result, it is much easier for travelers to plan a trip to the Missouri than other Western Montana options. On the Clearwater also offers half-day and full-day walleye and perch fishing excursions.
Near Craig, a small town nestled along the banks of the Missouri River, lies a renowned trout fishing mecca. Located downstream from Holter Dam, this stretch of water stays cool year-round, with stable flows and insect populations that are a fly fisherman’s dream. While the Missouri is a great option in the spring, when other rivers are blown out due to spring runoff, this section of river offers good fishing all year.