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Flathead River


The Flathead River (Salish Indian: ntx̣ʷetkʷ, ntx̣ʷe) in the northwestern part of Montana, originates in the Canadian Rockies to the north of Glacier National Park and flows southwest into Flathead Lake near Bigfork, Montana, then after a journey of 158 miles (254 km), empties into the Clark Fork River. The Flathead River is part of the Columbia River drainage. With a drainage basin extending over 8,795 square miles (22,780 km2) and an average discharge of 11,380 cubic feet per second (322 m3/s), the Flathead is the largest tributary of the Clark Fork and constitutes over half of its flow.

The Main Stem of the Flathead River runs through the towns of Columbia Falls and Kalispell. The Flathead River is easily accessible from Whitefish, Columbia Falls, Kalispell, and Bigfork, Montana. The river’s location lends itself to allowing you and your family to play a round of golf, sightsee, shop, enjoy a half day of fishing, and still make your dinner reservations in one of the valley’s fine restaurants. Full and half day trips are available on the Flathead River and our guides are eager to lead you down the river both on 1/2 day trips or on a full day of instructional and fun fly fishing. All of Montana Fly Fishing Experience’s 1/2 day trips include all equipment, flies, snacks, and drinks. Full day trips include equipment, flies, and a stream side lunch or dinner prepared by your guide. You just need to bring along your sense of adventure, sunglasses, and a Montana fishing license. Your Montana Fly Fishing Experience guide will communicate with you prior to your trip for a meeting time, place, and any additional clothing you may need to bring.

There are many access sites on the Flathead River. Your guide will pick the best boat launch and meeting time to insure your best chances for success. With its many access sites, the river is large and wide with a powerful flow. The Flathead River is best fished from a drift boat with a qualified professional guide. Montana Flyfishing Experience guides are true professionals and love to get their anglers into fish.

The Flathead River can fish well all year, but our summer months are best for dry fly fishing. Your target species will be cutthroat trout and rainbow trout. The beginner angler can have good chances to catch their first fish on a fly rod, and the expert can work a tough riser on tiny dries. The Flathead River has something for everyone.

The Flathead River is fed primarily from glacial and snow melt. This keeps the water cool all summer. Because of the cool water, hatches are not huge. Typical Flathead River hatches include PMDs, drakes, caddis, and stoneflies. Once the summer gets rolling, terrestrials are the name of the game. Hoppers, ants, and beetles are on the menu, and your guide will often have you throwing a hopper/dropper combination. Whatever the season, your Montana Fly Fishing Experience guide will have you set up with the proper gear and flies on the Flathead River.

158 mi (254 km)

for near mouth, at Perma, MT; max at Polson, MT
 – average
11,380 cu ft/s (322 m3/s) [4]
 – max
110,000 cu ft/s (3,115 m3/s)
 – min
2,670 cu ft/s (76 m3/s)

Basin size
8,795 sq mi (22,779 km2)

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