Fishing in Montana in July

When you think of the perfect day on the water what do you think? Summer days are always lingering around in my head, sunny days in the 80’s, no wind and a beautiful river with trout that will eat your dry fly. Such a place and time exists… Fishing in Montana in July! 


I get lots of questions about when is the best time to fish in Montana? Every season in Montana is a good one but summer in Montana holds a special place in all our hearts. The official start of summer is July, so let’s talk about fishing in Montana in July. 


Fishing in Montana in July on the Flathead River

Let’s talk about fishing in Montana in July on the Flathead River. The Flathead River is one of my favorite rivers to fish in July. The river has cleared up from the annual runoff and is fishing great. In early July there is great bug activity on the Flathead River. PMD’s and Golden Stones are driving the dry fly fishing on the Flathead in July. Riffles are pumping out PMD duns and the fish stuff in the riffles. Lots of people I see fishing these riffles rush right in and start fishing. I’m a big fan of taking a bit of time and trying to find the bigger fish that are feeding. Give it 15 maybe 20 minutes of just watching. Sit in the boat, just watch and see what you can see. Sometimes it’s just a little nose that gives away it’s location. Sit and watch some more and you’ll probably see it again. After you get a dial on its location and you know exactly where it is. Watch some more and wait for it to get comfortable and feed with regularity. Then it’s time for that one perfect cast and drift.

Parachute style dry flies work great for PMDs, Purple Haze, Sparkle Haze, and Parachute Adams all work great when fishing in Montana in July. Golden Stones are also bugs to think about when fishing in Montana in July. A classic imitation of a golden is a Chubby. A big old foam dry fly that floats high and gets eaten. It’s a very versatile pattern to use, it floats high, is easy to see and makes a great lead fly when fishing two flies. Put a parachute behind it or drop a nymph below it and you have a versatile rig when fishing in Montana in July. 


Where would I stay if I was thinking about fishing in Montana in July? Head to the Flathead Valley! There are a few cool towns to stay that are conveniently located near great the Flathead River and are perfect locations for fishing in Montana in July. Whitefish is a great little mountain town located about 20 minutes from the Flathead River. Whitefish has a great food scene, great lodging options, and a great downtown scene. Kalispell is another great place to stay when fishing in Montana in July. Kalispell is about 20 minutes from the lower portion of the Flathead River, about 1:30 from the lower Clark Fork River and about the same to the Blackfoot River.  Kalispell has lots of great restaurants, great lodging options and is a perfect spot to stay when fishing in Montana in July. 


Fishing in Montana in July on the Clark Fork River

The Clark Fork River is one of my favorite rivers to guide on. The fish are bigger than the Flathead, they eat dry flies, the water is amazing and so is the scenery. A day on the Clark Fork River is like being on a whole different planet! Start from Kalispell and you drive past Flathead Lake, drive through a cool valley on the way to Plains MT, hang a left on Highway 200 and you’re at the Clark Fork River.

Fishing in July on the Clark Fork River is all about stoneflies. After the river clears up and starts fishing you can throw big stones, size 6 is not uncommon. Big bugs right on the banks, looking for the willows that the stoneflies migrate to. Find bug habitat, find bugs and find the fish! As the water drops through the month mayflies become more of a player. Big pale yellow Sulphers will be on the water in the mornings and the afternoons. Purple Haze and Parachute Adams work great to imitate the big Sulphers you’ll encounter on the Clark Fork River. 


Fishing in Montana in July on the Blackfoot River

The Blackfoot River is a must fish river when fishing in Montana in July. Let’s get started on bugs… The first major bug of the year is Pteronarcys californica, AKA  Salmonfly. It’s the largest North American stonefly and is most active in late June through mid July. Salmonflies are also great indicators of river health. These stonefly larvae are very sensitive to pollution and chemicals. Salmonflies need healthy rivers to live and so do trout! Salmonflies on the water mean a health ecosystem. Back to the big meals… You can count on Salmonflies poping from maybe the third week of June through the middle fo July.

Early in the hatch, I like to use a big royal chubby, then downsize as the fish get smarter and stop eating the big bug. Sizing down until the fish are too stuffed to eat anymore. Most folks will focus on salmonflies and overlook the other bugs on the water. Green Drakes and Golden Stones are all on the menu. Big size 10 purple haze behind your favorite Golden pattern are your cathing fish again.


Fishing in Montana in July is pretty much what fly fishing dreams are made of! The bigger rivers are full of water and big activity is strong. Salmonflies, Golden Stoneflies, Green Drakes, PMD’s, Caddis and tricos are all on the menu. The smaller waters are also full of water, plenty wadeable and fish great.  Wading when fishing in Montana in July is a great option. Getting off the beaten path and you can find seclusion and probably not see another human for days. A very important thing to keep in mind when wading… Bears! You must be bear aware in Montana. Bear spray must be on your hip or on your pack. Bear Spray can save your life and should be taken very seriously. Some folks think that a gun is the answer but I have to say that pulling bear spray would be my first choice, not the gun. It only takes one charge from a pissed off Grizzly bear and you’ll instantly wish you had it. With an angry Grizz chasing you down it’s very unlikely that you’ll have time to pull a weapon, aim and place a shot that will stop the creature from reaching you. It’s much more likely that you’ll be able to get that pepper spray in the general area of the bear and halt its activities. 


Where is the best fishing in Montana in July? Anywhere just get here!