Monday, April 26th, 2021

Glacier National Park Fly Fishing

Tips on Fly Fishing Glacier National Park

Fly fishing around Glacier National Park is unlike any other experience. The excitement of the catch is intensified by the entrancing scenery and the true solitude of the wilderness. It is a serene, peaceful place that inspires anyone who appreciates the value of the outdoors. Seeing glimpses of wildlife while fly fishing only adds to the unforgettable memories of your fly fishing expedition. 

Spring begins the blue-ribbon trout fishing opportunities in the state of Montana. The trout streams are superb and unmatched for many anglers. While we are lucky to have many pristine fly fishing rivers flowing near Glacier National Park, we believe the best fly fishing is on the North and Middle Forks of the Flathead River, right outside Glacier Raft Company’s back door. This means we know all the tips and tricks.

Our Top Tips to Fly Fishing Near Glacier National Park:

1. Fly fish the Flathead River 

2. Take a guided fly fishing trip with Glacier Raft Co.

3. Best fly for fly fishing Glacier National Park

1. Fly fish the Flathead River 

Flathead River Fly Fishing


Glacier National Park is bordered by the two forks of the Flathead River.  The Middle Fork is south of the park and the North Fork is to the west.  These two forks of the Flathead River are protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.  The North Fork is designated as Scenic for 40.7 miles from the Canadian Border to the Camas Bridge and then it is recreational for 17.6 miles from the Camas Bridge until the confluence with the South Fork.  The Middle Fork is designated as Wild for 46.6 miles from its headwaters inside the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex to above Bear Creek. For the next 54 miles, it becomes recreational from above Bear Creek to the confluence with the South Fork.  With its own rugged beauty, the Middle fork traverses through the Great Bear Wilderness and winds along the canyon.  The water is cold but crystal clear.  This river is a prime habitat for wildlife and fisheries which makes it a perfect fishing and recreation destination. 

Underneath the surface of this stunning river is home to Montana’s State Fish, the native and wild Westslope Cutthroat Trout.  Because the forks of the Flathead River are protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, all fishery for westslope cutthroat and hybrids are catch-and-release only.  Rainbow trout limits are 5 daily and in possession.  With new Montana fishing regulations restricting treble and double hooks on the Middle and North Fork, only single hooks are allowed.  Another added benefit of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act is the restriction of motors on the sections of the river designated as Scenic and Wild. 

The reduced population of Westslope Cutthroat is due to the habitual degradation, over-exploitation, and the hybridization with non-native and invasive Rainbow Trout. They thrive in cold clean water feeding on a variety of aquatic macroinvertebrates (Mayflies, Stoneflies, Caddis Flies) and terrestrials including grasshoppers, ants, and beetles. 


2. Take a guided fly fishing trip with Glacier Raft Co.

Glacier Guided Fly Fishing Trip


If you’re not familiar with the area, it can be hard to find the honey hole or navigate the rivers and creeks. It is also important to become familiar with the regulations.  Whether you’re an experienced angler or want to learn a new skill, Glacier Anglers endorsed by Orvis will guide you to an unforgettable experience.

Our Glacier Anglers guides are your go-to experts for fly-fishing on the North and Middle Forks of the Flathead River in northwestern Montana. Learn the basics of fly-fishing on one of their many ponds.  Take your skills out on the river and enjoy a day of fishing for Montana’s native and wild Westslope Cutthroat trout. Are you looking for the adventure of a lifetime?  Choose one of their multi-day trips on the North Fork or experience true solitude in the Great Bear Wilderness.  

Explore our Fly Shop located in the Glacier Outdoor Center which is stocked with all the fishing gear you need from fishing licenses, waders, rods, reels, flies, packs, and much more!  We also have experts who can help you decide where to go and what to use.   If you’re in the market for a new raft, Glacier Outdoor Center sells AIRE rafts that are made right here in the USA! Outfit your new raft with a frame built for fishing from NRS.

3. Best fly for fly fishing Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park Cutthroat


Every avid angler has their preferences and opinions about which flies to use.  There are several factors that help you decide which type of fly to use at the end of your line.  Take a look at our Flathead River fishing report and consider the following:  River level and conditions, water temperature, water depth, fly hatches, time of the day, and what season you are fishing in.  

flies on the flathead

Because the Flathead River is known for its glacial influence, there is limited diversity with the insect population. After the runoff from the winter, Cutthroat are looking for an easy meal. Typically during this time of the year, the water is still cloudy but is beginning to clear up. We can use a dry-dropper setup.  This means we will tie on a large dry fly with a lot of floating capabilities up top and will “drop” a nymph (fly that sinks) off the back of the dry fly a few feet depending on the depth of the river.  Good dry flies this time of the year are larger Chubby Chernobyls (size 8,10,12) as well as Golden Stonefly patterns in the same sizes.  We also use other general attractor patterns.  Nymphs that work well this time of the year tend to be larger and flashier to catch a fish’s eye.  These include variants of Prince Nymphs (Batman, Psycho, Montana), as well as pheasant tails and lightning bugs all in sizes 12 and 14.  You also can never go wrong this time of the year tying a Stonefly Nymph on, endearingly called “turds” (more specifically called girdle bugs or rubber legs) by all anglers alike.  The trusty San Juan Worm in pink, purple and red do really well at this time as well.  

Caddies Flies and Mayflies typically hatch at the beginnings and ends of the day, they don’t show up much after 11 am-12 pm and don’t come out again until 7 pm-9 pm in the summertime.  Their hatches are very temperature and sunlight-dependent.  Good Mayfly patterns are Parachute Adams and Purple Haze/Craze.  Good Caddis fly patterns to use are Elk Hair Caddis and Goddard Caddis.  Stoneflies usually hatch all day long.  Good Stonefly patterns are any Golden Stone patterns, and Yellow Sally Patterns. 

During the summertime general attractors can help in the more difficult areas of the river.  Aquatic Macroinvertebrates only make up a portion of the trout’s diets around here.  Terrestrials are huge in midsummer. These terrestrials are grasshoppers, beetles, ants, and moths.  Hopper patterns to use are Yeti Hoppers or More-or-Less Hoppers.  Beetle patterns to use are Jake’s Gulp Beetles and AJ’s Beetles.  Ant patterns to use are Parachute Ants and Galloup’s Acid Ants.  

Fly Fishing Flathead River

The Flathead River is a dry fly paradise.  “There is really something special about watching a cutthroat come up from the bottom of the river to eat an artificial fly that you put there” -Abigail Smigaj, Lead Guide Glacier Raft Company 



When you’re ready to book your Glacier National Park Fly Fishing Trip, we hope you’ll consider joining Glacier Raft Company. Our love for rivers and their ecosystem, experience, and customer service make us the perfect match for your guided fly fishing experience. 


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