Bridge to Kootenai Falls on the Kootenai River. The odds of catching these fish on a dainty dry fly, however, are very slim. The first dry fly fishing of the year begins in May, with the best dry fly fishing occurring during the summer. If you have any questions, or see something more you would like to see in our fishing report, contact us. During July and lasting through August, in addition to using the dry flies described above, terrestrial patterns are successfully used, particularly if the summer is a hot and dry one. Additionally, Highway 37 closely follows the Kootenai River for much of its length to Libby, providing easy car access. These two factors, along with no water diversions for irrigation, combine to allow the Kootenai River to avoid the “dog days of August” that often plague some other fine Montana trout streams. Except for two sections, floating the Kootenai River is not difficult, and offers a pleasant float. Running between mountains, through canyons and over falls, the Kootenai also has some of the most varied and beautiful scenery of any river in western Montana. Beyond this point, the river makes its way to the 30-foot waterfalls of Kootenai Falls. One bonus of the Kootenai River is that, since its flows are regulated by Libby Dam, the prime fishing portion of the Kootenai River generally runs clear even during spring run-off, although the feeder rivers can occasionally add some murk to the rivers clarity. A weekend in this area is great for moose viewing, fishing and even taking in the night sky. Spring presents good chances for streamer fishing and nymphing. However, for those who choose to brave the elements, the best fishing for large rainbow trout (other than the trophies found just below Libby Dam) can be had during this time. The town of Libby also has several access sites. Because the waters of the river are regulated by the dam, the flows and water levels can be erratic. Fall on this section of the Kootenai River continues to offer excellent dry fly fishing. A third area to look for are any noticeable deep pools. The Kootenai River begins in Kootenay National Park in British Columbia. Don’t pull up to the Kootenai River expecting to take home several large rainbow trout every day when chasing these trophy fish. Due to the low elevation the river flows through, this part of Montana can be surprisingly warm during the summer months—so be prepared for some potentially warm days during any heat waves that happen to hit Montana. The water will still remain relatively cool even in the middle of August, and this time of year can present some real opportunities for catching some of the very large trout in the Kootenai. If there is ever a good time to wade fish the Kootenai River, this high water period is it. Unlike most Montana rivers that can frequently run low and slow later in the summer, the Kootenai River generally runs high and fast through the middle of August. Learn more about these dedicated fishing rafts. Popular and successful flies include the Wolly Bugger and a Kokanee Salmon imitation, all heavily weighted and fished down deep on a sink tip or full sinking line. Additionally, its sheer size makes finding prime fishing areas a challenge, especially for anglers lacking a boat. When water levels are high, there will also be some good opportunities in the deep pools and submerged vegetation where fish will gather. Get directions to walk-in and boat access points,  real-time USGS stream flow data and more. As summer approaches, the water level will rise dramatically along the tailwater portions of the river. All anglers who plan to fly fish the Kootenai River, whether from shore or by boat, are advised to check the current river flows before heading out, especially in early summer when flows are high. Related Article – Kootenai River Photographs. Being a big, fertile river with fairly strict fishing regulations (all trout between 13-18 inches must be released, 13-24 inches right below the dam), it is not surprising that fish counts are also very high. The Kootenai River is a large and somewhat intimidating river. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 6X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard. Access to this section of the Kootenai River is excellent. For the angler who wants to increase the chances of catching a larger rainbow trout and who is skilled at nymph fishing, popular and effective patterns include the Hare’s Ear Beadhead nymph and the Prince nymph, in sizes 16-20. The west arm of Kootenay Lake has spectacular fishing for Rainbow and Bull Trout, and is perfect for beginners and experts alike. A 9-foot 5-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on the Kootenai River. The popular Wolly Bugger, in sizes ranging from 4 – 2/0, is an excellent fly to use at this time. Feel lucky and privileged if you catch one of these trophy-sized rainbows in a day, as many locals fish all summer long near the dam without catching any of the Kootenai River trophies. As a result, it is easier to locate shore and submerged structure that provide holding waters for trout. This area is similar to the upper portion of the river, but there are more rapids and less access points. Explore The Interactive Map — or — Search. The best fishing in the Kootenai will begin just below Libby Dam. The Kootenai River, due to its location in the far northwest corner of Montana, does not receive excessive amounts of fishing pressure. This is usually the most popular time for fishing, and rainbows will be available in abundance. Two miles below the rapid, the Kootenai River goes over Kootenai Falls and then enters a gorge. Below Kootenai Falls, the fishing in the Kootenai River is still good, but fish populations drop off somewhat. Successful fishing requires very long, light leaders (12 – 15 foot leaders are the norm on the Kootenai River) along with excellent presentation. With its peak flows being during the summer, fly fishing tactics are somewhat different than found on other Montana rivers. Below the rapid, the Kootenai River flows quickly but smoothly for twenty-two miles until it reaches the class III China Rapids. Just be careful where you hop. For anglers who aren’t interested in chasing after the trophy-sized trout that are found in the Kootenai River just below the dam, the Kootenai River has excellent populations of rainbow trout that average in the 12-15 inch range. The portion of the Kootenay River you will fish is from Canal Flats to the community of Skookumchuck just upstream of Lake Koocanusa. In May and June, several hatches will begin along the length of the river, and dry fishing will begin to heat up. Don’t try this without a whitewater kayak. The Kootenai River in this section is characterized by fast moving flows, is very wide and has a number of side channels and braids, along with many deep pools. A fine boat ramp is found just downstream from Libby Dam, and several other boat ramps are also found between the dam and the town of Libby. This section of the Kootenai River travels for seventeen miles. Like all rivers, the Kootenai River generally runs fastest in the middle of the river, with slower flowing sections found closer to shore. During early spring and late fall when water levels are lower, the river narrows significantly and there will be extensive gravel bars exposed along the banks.

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