The Big Hole River, located in Southwestern Montana, is well known for its trophy size brown and rainbow trout. There is also a good population of cutthroat trout, brook trout, and grayling as well. The diversity of this river provides excellent angling for people of all skill levels bringing them to the Big Hole from across the country year after year to fish this spectacular piece of water. There a few Special Regulations sections throughout the river.
Starting upstream of the town of Wisdom, the Big Hole flows for over a hundred miles before meeting with the Beaverhead River near the town of Twin Bridges. The Wise River enters at the town of Wise River. Here the Big Hole is small and holds a good population of brook trout and grayling. The river flows northeast over a gravel bottom through grass pastures with scattered riffles and slow pools. This stretch is best for wade fishermen with a three to five weight rod which is ideal for this portion of the river.
Below the town of Wise River the Big Hole changes from a quiet meandering stream to a swift tumbling river with the influence of the Wise River. From the town of Wise river to the town of Divide, the Big Hole flows southeast and offers excellent fishing for rainbows and some brown trout. The river cascades through canyon walls past large boulders creating beautiful pockets and seams for trout to hold. Access to the river from Wisdom to Divide can be gained via Route 43. Parking along the road and taking a short hike down the bank will give access to anglers throughout this stretch.
The Big Hole Watershed Committee - Conservation through Consensus
The Big Hole Watershed Committee (BHWC), established 1995, is a consensus-based organization. The mission is to seek understanding of and agreement among individuals and groups with diverse viewpoints on water use and management in the Big Hole River watershed of southwest Montana. This is achieved through education and monthly meetings, research and planning, restoration projects, and preservation. Efforts fall into 4 focus areas: Land Use Planning, Water Quality & Water Quantity, Wildlife, Invasive Species
The BHWC developed the Drought Management Plan in 1997. State hydrologists monitor flow and temperature at a number of gages throughout the system. When flows decline or water temperatures raise to trigger points, specific voluntary actions follow to return water to the river and decrease fishing pressure.
Calendar of Events:
At the town of Divide the Big Hole turns south for approximately twenty miles to the town of Glen. The tiny town of Melrose falls between Divide and Glen, and is one of the more popular towns along the river. From Divide to Glen, most people choose to float the river although there are several access points where anglers can park and wade.
The river below Divide is big and moves swiftly past boulders and fallen trees. Big browns on the lower river are found in good numbers. Fishing large nymphs and streamers can be extremely effective on these trout that feed heavily during the season to fatten up for the following winter. Downstream from Glen the river turns northeast and flows for approximately another ten miles before meeting up with the Beaverhead River. Fishing the lower section below Glen is also very productive although access is a little harder to find. The Burma Road follows much of this section from Glen to Route 41.
Water flows on the Big Hole can vary greatly and making future arrangements is best done by researching what times of year the flows are usually optimal. The salmon fly hatch usually occurs between late May and late June. This large stonefly hatch brings people from all over to fish for the large browns and rainbows that feed on these big morsels. Caddis are the mainstay for the rest of the dry fly season. Nymphs and streamers are the norm on the Big Hole during other periods of the year.