For an early-spring trout challenge, don’t overlook the Clark Fork River just outside Missoula. Some of the year’s least crowded and most productive flyfishing occurs here in March. (Don’t forget, you can fish with flies using a spinning outfit.) During March and April the Clark Fork is the site of baetis mayfly and midge hatches, and sporadic stoneflies. No need to get up early-wait until 10 a.m. when the air warms and the hatches get going (and the river is clear prior to runoff). Because the Lower Clark Fork is at about 3,000 feet elevation, 50-degree days are common in March, and even higher temperatures are possible in April. The best section of water is the Lower Clark Fork between Kelly Island and Petty Creek. Popular public access points are Kelly Island and Council Grove (10 miles west of Missoula). Luckily, last year’s wildfires spared this area. Check the regulations as to daily bag and size limits, as they may be different depending on the section of river you fish. Contact: Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop (800-297-8996); Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (406-542-5500).
Clark Fork River