When most people think about fishing in Montana, they think of fly fishing for trout. This is true for both locals and visitors. However, below the confluence of the Clark Fork and Flathead River is a fantastic warm water fishery. Because it is off the radar for all but a few local fishermen, the area is largely uncrowded and the fishing pressure is light.
In this stretch between Paradise, Thompson Falls, and the Idaho border, we fish for smallmouth bass and large pike. Some of the pike we’ve caught hit 20 pounds on the scale. Both species are excellent game fish, known for their fighting prowess. The lower Clark Fork is home to tremendous populations of pike and bass, as well as trout, perch, and walleye in some areas.
The lower Clark Fork is at its best when the rest of the fishing in Western Montana slows down. As the Blackfoot and Bitterroot get warm in mid to late summer, the fishing slows; and, frankly, the fishing pressure is hard on the trout. However, the Clark Fork shines during the heat of the summer. Our best smallmouth bass and pike fishing occurs when water temperatures are between 60–75 degrees.
Something for Everyone
The Clark Fork offers a little something for everyone. Its diverse fishing opportunities lend themselves to multiple techniques, including fly fishing and conventional fishing. We fish with both fly and spin gear for both pike and bass, often using very large, 5–8” streamers on 8-10 weight fly rods. For bass, we often do very well casting soft plastic baits on jig heads.
This trip is great for families and less experienced fishermen. We catch a lot of fish and the techniques and equipment are easy to learn. The weather is good, the water is warm, and the beaches are plentiful. That said, this part of the Clark Fork is a favorite of some of our most experienced fishermen who enjoy the challenge of hunting large pike and smallmouth bass on fly rods.
The Jet Boat Experience
The lower Clark Fork is a big river, but has many braids and riffles. A jet boat is a necessity for optimum fishing on this stretch of the river. Due to our extensive experience and possession of the required Coast Guard Captain’s license, On the Clearwater is one of the few outfitters to offer this opportunity.