Updated: May 17, 2019
The Beaverhead River is located close to the small town of Dillon, Montana (Population 4257, Elevation 5240 ft). The area we fly fished was south of the town between Dillon and Clark Canyon Reservoir. There are several public access sites and fly fishing can be good throughout this section. We started at the Henneberry Fishing access site. This is Montana (Big Sky Country), so the scenery is always nice, but this time of year is particularly colorful with an abundance of reds, oranges and yellows intensifying the beauty of the landscape. The Beaverhead winds through a small valley with only a few rock formations close by. The best of which is near Barretts. There are more scenic areas in Montana for sure and that is why the biggest draw to the Beaverhead is its fantastic fly fishing.
When: First week of October.
Dillon is a six-hour drive from Spokane, Washington. We stayed at the Motel 6 in Dillon which has been remodeled. The rooms were decent and clean. If you live far enough away to fly, the closest Domestic airport is in Butte, seventy miles from Dillon. The Fall in Montana can get cold, but most years it is the best weather of the year in my opinion. Sunny days in the sixties are common. If you plan well and watch the weather, you can come from anywhere in the world and have a great fishing trip to the Beaverhead in late September and early October. And by the way, the crowds are way down from summer.
We fished in October, so we were excited to try streamers for Browns. It was a bright, beautiful Fall day in Montana that started out clear, crisp and cold. We began by plying the waters with nymphs and streamers resulting in a few small, well spotted Browns on each. The action improved in the early afternoon as the low angle sun finally started warming the water. Blue-Winged Olive(BWO) nymphs and emergers were the best. A few fish fed on the surface, but we were not quite skilled enough to catch them. The tricky spot they expertly chose for their slow sipping of Blue-Winged dries made it difficult to get a good drift. Smart fish. Throughout the hatch we switched off from the nymphs and dries to cast a good-sized brown and gold Zonker (I think a size 6). Sometimes we caught them dead drifting the Zonker and other times we were casting downstream and across and slowly stripping it back. We caught several Brown trout and Rainbow trout over 16 inches on the Zonker, BWO nymphs and emergers. The fishing was pretty steady all the way up until dark.
We fly fished with nine-foot five weight rods when casting the nymphs, dries and emergers. When casting the streamers, a nine-foot seven weight rod worked well even though it was probably not needed due to short casting distance. We fly fished with floating lines on all rods and 9 to 12 ft poly leaders. The fluorocarbon tippets were 3X for streamers, 4X for nymphs and 5X for the emergers. Always wear eye protection.
The Beaverhead River at this time of year is a great DIY walk and wade trip. The water levels are way down compared to summer, as you can see in the videos, resulting in easy access and fly fishing on your own. No boat is needed. However, some fisherman use drift boats this time of year too. There are a couple of fly shops and guide services in the area. That is always a good option, particularly if you are coming from a distance. If you are new to an area a local guide for at least one day can be very beneficial. We have purchased flies, materials and benefitted from great advice at Frontier Anglers Fly Shop in Dillon. We do not get money or free materials from any of the mentioned business in this article.