Jefferson River

Flowing almost 80 miles through one of the most picturesque valleys in the state of Montana, the Jefferson is formed by three Blue Ribbon trout rivers — the Beaverhead, Big Hole, and Ruby Rivers. From the confluence of these great rivers just behind Twin Bridges, the Jefferson River winds through hay meadows, cottonwood forests and canyon walls before joining the Madison and Gallatin Rivers in the town of Threeforks, forming the Missouri River.

What the Jefferson offers:

  • 80 miles of floatable water, with good wading opportunities.
  • Early stonefly hatches.
  • Great streamer fishing.
  • Unparalleled wildlife and scenery.
  • Larger than average trout.
  • Low angler pressure.
  • Did we mention BIG brown trout?

Throughout most of those 80 miles you will find every type of holding water in the book. Although years of “bad press” labeled the Jefferson as dewatered and unfishable, the current truth is quite to the contrary. Multiple organizations, such as Trout Unlimited, The Jefferson River Watershed Council, and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks have gone to great lengths to ensure that the Jefferson never sees critical conditions again. Between the collaborative efforts of these entities, and radical improvements to the riparian area from current landowners, the Jefferson River is approaching what many of us may well consider “the good old days.”

Once thought to be a solely a brown trout fishery, the Jefferson River has also maintained a very healthy population of rainbow trout over the last 12 years. There are still plenty of brown trout to go around, and some really, really big ones in fact. But on the average day, you will land more rainbows than browns.

Techniques and tactics are typically in line with any other freestone river in the Rocky Mountains. Spring time and off colored water provides great streamer opportunities as well as nymphing annelids and leeches. Dry fly fishing, while not the norm, absolutely happens. There are great hatches of caddis, mayflies and Skwala stones on the Jefferson River, and cloudy days really bring them out. Summer months especially on dry years, can produce some great hopper fishing on the right banks!

As the Jefferson River is the product of three other drainages, we do fight water clarity during the month of June. If the clarity hangs in there, it will be great fishing, but historically we will start fishing the river again after the 4th of July.

Moving through summer, any variety of techniques will bring trout to the fly – my standard being a dry dropper style rig with any sort of bead head nymph being the main producer. We tend to fish the upper reaches of the river a bit more than the lower reaches, with the water from Twin Bridges down to the town of Cardwell being our favorite.

Jefferson River

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