Updated – February 2024
If you’re heading to Montana’s Bitterroot River to do some fly fishing, congratulations.
Fly fishing the rivers of Montana is an experience you won’t forget.
If you are new to Montana fly fishing, and could use some help with what gear you’ll need, this article is for you.
We’re no experts, but we’ve been fishing Montana rivers for over 30 years, with 20 years on the Bitterroot.
We have a pretty good idea of what you’ll need when you head to the river.
Here’s some essential fly fishing gear we think is perfect for Montana’s Bitterroot River.
Rod, Reel & Line
The most common fly rod for fishing the Bitterroot River is a 9 foot long, 5 weight rod.
Virtually every fly rod manufacturer makes rods in this configuration, so there’s plenty of good choices.
We prefer 4-piece rods that break down smaller for easy storage and travel.
There are many good fly reels, and you can’t really go wrong with most current models from established brands.
If you are a beginner, consider a quality rod and reel outfit with matching components that work well together.
If you plan to purchase individual components, be sure to match the weights of the rod, reel and line.
Here’s some examples of rods, reels and line perfect for the Bitterroot River, with different budgets in mind.
Waders, Boots & Pants
For much of the year you’ll want to wear waders while fishing the Bitterroot River.
But during the summer months, many people wear lightweight fishing pants rather than waders.
If you plan to fish in warm and cold weather, you’ll probably want waders and pants. That’s what we do.
You’re also going to need sturdy footwear to fish the Bitterroot River, especially if you will be wade fishing.
Getting around in the river without slipping or banging up your feet is really important.
Here’s some waders, boots and pants that are great options for fishing Montana’s Bitterroot River.
Pack & Accessories
A day on the river can last for many hours, and you’re often a long way from your vehicle.
A good day pack is essential to carry your fishing gear, snacks, and water.
You’ll want to fill it with a selection of common fly fishing accessories to help you catch and release fish.
Here’s a couple of our favorite packs, and some accessories that should be inside for fishing the Bitterroot River.
Flies & Fly Boxes
If you look in our fishing bags, you’ll find lots of fly boxes full of all kinds of flies.
You’ll see a box for hoppers, nymphs, streamers, bead heads, buggers, stimulators, stones, salmonflies, and more.
We built our collection by visiting local fly shops and buying flies from people who know what’s currently working, and we recommend that you do the same.
It’s a great way to learn about the sport and the river, and to support the local fly shops at the same time.
Here’s a couple of popular fly box styles you may want to have on hand to start building your collection.
A Few More Things
There are a few more things we wouldn’t want to forget on our Montana fishing trip.
Water bottle. Fly fishing is active and you need to keep hydrated.
Polarized sunglasses. They make all the difference in the world. Carry backups.
Hat. You’ll want a hat to block the sun, improve your vision, and keep you dry when it rains.
Lip balm. Fishing is hard on your lips with lots of sun and wind. We use lip balm with sunscreen.
Bath towel. We like standing on an old bath towel when we change in and out of our waders at the truck.
Plastic storage tub. We keep our wet waders and boots in a plastic storage tub to contain water, sand and mud.
Ziplock bags. Pack it in, pack it out. We keep gallon Ziplock’s in our pack for any trash we create.
Current Montana Fishing Regulations can be found here.
Montana Fishing licenses can be purchased here.