The Big Hole River Montana is an excellent trout fishery in southwest Montana. The river begins near Jackson and Wisdom and runs over 100-miles from Wisdom to it’s confluence with the Beaverhead River. The upper river runs at a low gradient between Wisdom and Wise River. Around the point where the Wise River enters, the gradient increases until the Melrose area. After Melrose, it braids and runs through a lower valley to the Jefferson.
Flows And Weather
Big Hole River bl Mudd Cr nr Wisdom MT
Big Hole River near Wise River MT
Big Hole River at Maiden Rock nr Divide MT
Big Hole River near Glen MT
Rapids and Float Notes
The upper river is very mellow. Even in high flows, the gradient is low and it runs through an open valley with few obstructions. When lower summer flows hit, it becomes too low in the higher reaches and is more of a wade fishery. Brook and brown trout are common and grayling also occupy the river.
After Wise River, the pace quickens and there are more drops and boulders. Just before Divide, there is some heavier water and a diversion dam. You can run the dam and punch through the big wave train. There is also a portage constructed on river right to walk around the diversion. The dam has flipped a few drift boats.
After the diversion dam, the river crosses the highway bridge at divide and continues at a fair pace to Melrose. There are some channel options through this area bu sticking to the biggest channel is always a safe bet.
Below Melrose, the river braids more and runs through some great looking big brown trout habitat. Going with someone who knows the braids and diversions in the lower river is a major advantage.
Boat Ramps and Access
– Mud Creek – Great for early season in the slower water. Easy ramp on a grass bank. This is the first boat access you will find in the higher valley.
– Sawlog – You will see a dirt road that makes a loop behind a fence. It’s not marked well but is a good boat access. Only 4 miles from Mud Creek.
– Fishtrap – Good access and camping available here.
– Lower Sportsman’s – Small grass pullout off the highway. Pay close attention as it’s easy to miss. You can launch through a gap in the bushes. Flat ground and easy place to launch or takeout.
– East Bank – Nice developed boat ramp with parking and a campground.
– Dickey Bridge – Not the greatest ramp and only a mile downriver from east bank. It is a good access point if east bank is crowded or you want to get the jump on other floaters in the morning.
– Jerry Creek – 10 miles downstream from the Dickey Bridge. Nice developed ramp with plenty of parking.
– Dewey – Also labeled as George Grant. Good access. High flows shoot you passed quickly so be prepared to back row hard and catch the boat. Otherwise it’s a nice access.
– Pump House – If you don’t want to deal with the diversion dam, takeout here. If you don’t mind the dam, it’s a great starting point for summer floats.
– Divide – You can see this access from the highway bridge in Divide. Tons of parking and a nice launching or takeout spot. Popular during summer and salmonfly season as well.
– Maiden Rock – Follow the road from the divide takeout and you’ll hit this access. Good option for a short float from divide, a long float from the pump house or a good access for downriver options.
– Fish and Game – Closer to Melrose on the dirt road. Also called The Dead Zone.
– Salmonfly – Campground right in Melrose with a popular boat ramp. Many people will float “Divide to Melrose” which is the salmonfly ramp and campground. It’s the perfect distance for a day. It also begins the lower river zone.
– Brownes Bridge – Small camp area with a primitive ramp. Don’t takeout here at high water. The bridge is a major hazard and you may not clear it.
– Glen Bar – Right behind the bar in Glen. If you want a cold beer right after floating, choose this one.
– Glen – Campground just down from Glen on the dirt road that follows the river.
– Notch Bottom – Dirt ramp that is popular for the lower river floats.
– Pennington – The last access point. It’s a pain for a takeout and is really just a drop-in ramp. If you put-in here, you can float into the Jefferson.
Big Hole River Shuttle Services
Sunrise Fly Shop – Based in Melrose, shuttles for the entire river. 406-835-3474
Great Divide Fly Shop – Right off the highway in Divide. Also runs the entire river. 406-267-3346
River Specific Fishing Regulations
Exceptions to Standard Regulations: Big Hole River
- Extended season for whitefish and catch-and-release for trout open December 1 through the third Saturday in May with artificial lures and/or maggots only.
- All float users are limited to a total of 2 launches at or near each official access site each day. See map for official access sites.
Headwaters to North Fork Big Hole River
- Brook trout: open entire year.
Headwaters to Mudd Creek FAS
- Closed to float outfitting from the third Saturday in May through Labor Day.
Headwaters to Dickie Bridge
- Combined Trout: 5 daily and in possession, no size restriction.
Mudd Creek FAS to Fishtrap FAS
- Closed to float outfitting on each Tuesday from the third Saturday in May through Labor Day.
Fishtrap FAS to East Bank BLM FAS
- Closed to float outfitting on each Thursday from the third Saturday in May through Labor Day.
East Bank BLM FAS to Jerry Creek FAS
- Closed to float outfitting on each Wednesday from the third Saturday in May through Labor Day.
Dickie Bridge to Divide Bridge (Divide FAS)
- Artificial lures only.
Jerry Creek FAS to Divide FAS
- Closed to float fishing by nonresidents and float outfitting on each Saturday from the third Saturday in May through Labor Day.
Divide Bridge (Divide FAS) to Melrose Bridges (Salmon Fly FAS)
- Closed to float fishing by nonresidents and float outfitting on each Sunday from the third Saturday in May through Labor Day.
- Artificial lures only.
Melrose Bridges (Salmon Fly FAS) to Glen FAS (bridges)
- Closed to float outfitting on each Monday from the third Saturday in May through Labor Day.
Glen FAS (bridges) to Notch Bottom FAS
- Closed to float outfitting on each Friday from the third Saturday in May through Labor Day.
Big Hole River Tributaries
Tributaries upstream from Divide Bridge (Divide FAS)
- Brook Trout: open entire year.
- Catch-and-release for grayling and cutthroat trout.