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Fall Fly-Fishing Guide

Searching for Trout in the Flathead River System

After the heat of summer, cooler fall days usher in an array of dazzling autumn colors on the Flathead River System. With incredible views in every direction and lots of water to cover, now is the time locals deem the best fly-fishing of the year. However, it's not just the fly-fishing for native trout which makes this experience so special.

Hiring a guide gives you the best chance to land some fish. // Photo: Brian Schott
Hiring a guide gives you the best chance to land some fish. // Photo: Brian Schott

It doesn't get much better than floating the waterways surrounding Glacier National Park on a fall day. // Photo: Brian Schott
It doesn't get much better than floating the waterways surrounding Glacier National Park on a fall day. // Photo: Brian Schott

The 3-Forks of the Flathead (North Fork, Middle Fork, South Fork) was designated a Wild and Scenic River in 1976 and is a component of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. As such, it was deemed to have such remarkable values that it has been protected for the ages as part of monumental legislation to preserve the nation's most prized rivers. Below are a few ways to make the most of your fall adventure.

As water levels vary throughout the year, floating and fishing options change. Gathering local information is key and there is an abundance of it in Whitefish. Lakestream Fly Shop is the local full service shop with everything you need, including guided fly-fishing trips. Sportsman and Ski Haus in Whitefish also offers a full fishing section, information, and fishing licenses, as well as an array of all types of outdoor equipment.

Lakestream Fly Shop has all the gear you'll need.
Lakestream Fly Shop has all the gear you'll need.

Main Stem and Middle Fork Flathead

Rafts and drift boats are the best choice for fly-fishing the Middle Fork of the Flathead as well as the Main Stem of the Flathead. This allows for covering the most water efficiently and it also offers ever-changing spectacular views. We highly recommend hiring a local guide from Lakestream Fly Shop for both of these sections. Fall highlights include floating from West Glacier to Blankenship Bridge on the Middle Fork of the Flathead and Teakettle to Pressentine Bar on the Main Stem of the Flathead.

The pristine waterways of the Flathead River border Glacier National Park // Photo: Brian Schott
The pristine waterways of the Flathead River border Glacier National Park // Photo: Brian Schott

North Fork Flathead

The North Fork of the Flathead provides a picturesque day trip from Whitefish. The North Fork Road parallels the river for much of the drive up to Polebridge and offers a variety of wade fishing options. Make sure to practice proper animal safety while venturing here as this area is home to bears, moose, and mountain lions.

Searching for fish in one of the many pools
Searching for fish in one of the many pools

It's important to keep in mind that the Flathead River System is a fragile fishery with native species including westslope cutthroat and bull trout. Please practice catch and release and leave no trace ethics while recreating on the river system. If you do bring your own watercraft, please stop at mandatory aquatic invasive species check stations before putting boats into the water.

The beautiful colors of the native westslope cutthroat trout // Photo: Brian Schott
The beautiful colors of the native westslope cutthroat trout // Photo: Brian Schott