Missoula small streams are largely overlooked in favor of the big name rivers like the Bitterroot, Blackfoot, or Clark Fork but there are literally hundreds of miles of small rivulets in the greater Missoula area. Some are loaded with small trout, some have big boys lurking, and others are not very productive, but there is no shortage of options. I love small streams. They are refreshing after days on end in the boat. I think I like the simplicity the best. There is no need for fancy two fly rigs, flurocarbon tippet, or perfect drag free drifts. A spartan assortment of dry flies in a shirt pocket and an upstream cast is usually all you need to find a tight line. It is remarkable how truly blessed we are here in western Montana. Many of the small streams I’ve fished would be considered prime fisheries in other states and would be overrun with people, but here those streams may not see another angler for a week or more. So how do you find these precious gems? Well, if you go into a local fly shop and ask about good small streams you will likely get a standard answer. That answer will take you to a gorgeous creek that may or may not fish well because it sees a lot of traffic. If you really want to find the good stuff you need to do your own homework. Start with the big name rivers and track the tributaries that feed into it. Look at road access next. If the stream is too easy to get to then it probably sees it’s fair share of pressure, too hard to get to and it may not be worth the effort. I have found that the small streams that aren’t obvious and also don’t require a 6 mile bushwack are best. The final thing to check off the list is to look at a topo map. That will tell you if it’s a mountain meadow stream or a tight canyon nightmare. Canyons and small streams don’t usually make for good fly fishing and neither does a creek chocked with willows and trees. A good topo map will give you the cluse you need. A little work on your part may reward you with a small stream loaded with 14″ cutts that greedily eat dry flies with no one else around. For the adventurous angler there are more Missoula small streams than can be fished in a lifetime.
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