Fishing Season: Year Round Below Painted Rocks Dam (catch and release Dec 1 - 3rd Saturday in May)

West Fork Bitterroot River - MT

Fishing Outlook & Conditions

Water Temp:


Jim Mitchell's Tip of the Week

The River has come over the spillway at Painted Rocks. Keep your head up there are many new trees in the water. Some are extremely hazardous places. Go late and let it warm up. Nymphing is the best option early. Rubber legs with a dropper, Worm, Lighting bug, and Pheasant tail. Dry March browns, Purple or Copper Haze, or Brindle Chute later when the March Brown hatch comes off.

Directions open in app

Map of West Fork Bitterroot River

Water Flow Data

Orvis-Endorsed guides nearby

Bitterroot Fly Company
Triple Creek Ranch

5-Day Outlook as of 5/21/24

The River has come over the spillway at Painted Rocks and is increasing. Keep your head up there are many new trees in the water high water is here.

Techniques & Tips as of 5/21/24

Nymphing, drys when it gets warm. They are looking up when the hatch comes off.

Local Species Available Year Round Below Painted Rocks Dam (catch and release Dec 1 - 3rd Saturday in May)

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    Brook & Bull Trout Mountain White Fish

Jim Mitchell's Recommended Fly Patterns

"Must-have" fly fishing patterns in descending order of importance:

Name: Colors: Size(s):
Tunghead Hot Spot Pheasant Tail Jig Yellow, Orange 12/18
Bead Head Prince Peacock 10/14
Adams Parachute Dry Fly Gray 10/18
Adam's Purple Parachute Purple 10/18
Chubby Purple 10/14
Elk Wing Caddis Tan 14-16
Double Bunny Olive/White 6/2
Quigley Cripple peacock 14/18

Tunghead Hot Spot Pheasant Tail Jig

A barbless jig-style hook makes this pattern ride hook up, providing a snag-free drift.

Jim Mitchell's Recommended Gear

Description: About West Fork Bitterroot River

The West Fork of the Bitterroot River originates along the south west border of Montana. Flowing out of the Bitterroot mountain range it runs into Painted Rocks reservoir, a man-made lake created by Painted Rocks Dam. Below the dam the river flows for an additional fifteen miles to the confluence with the East Fork, creating the Bitterroot River. The West Fork above the dam is small and well suited for walk and wade fishing this mountain stream has good numbers of smaller wild trout. The fish here rise readily to almost any dry fly presented to them. Below Painted Rocks Reservoir, the West Fork consists of pocket water, riffles, runs and rock gardens. The river below the dam remains clear during spring run-off compared to the rest of the system until the water comes over the spillway. Fed by the reservoir, the West Fork maintains cool flows well into the fall. Feeding on prolific Salmon fly, Golden stone fly and spruce moth hatches the West Fork is home to sizable Wild West slope Cutthroat, Rainbow, Brown, Brook trout and Mountain whitefish. The West Fork, along with many of the other tributaries in the Bitterroot Valley hold bull trout, a federally protected fish that must be released immediately. Learn how to identify bull trout

Nearest Airport:

Missoula, MT (MSO)


March brown, BWO, Skwala, and Midges

Best Time to Fish:


Best Stretch:

Apple down

Best Access: