Big Hole River
Let your mind's eye envision a Western river, flanked by jagged, snowcapped peaks, towering pines, and whispers of wind through endless fields and rolling hills. You are thinking of a river originally named the 'Wisdom' by Meriwether Lewis, renamed the 'Big Hole' by fur trappers who referred to valleys as 'holes.'
From its headwaters near the Idaho border, the Big Hole meanders 150 miles; first north through hayfields along the Bitterroot and Pintler mountain ranges, then east past our lodge and south around the Pioneer range through a series of rocky canyons. In the lower Beaverhead Valley, it meets the Ruby and Beaverhead rivers to form the Jefferson.
The Beaverhead River
The Lewis & Clark Expedition, led by Sacajawea, headed up the Jefferson and found the Big Hole, Ruby and Beaverhead rivers. Sacajawea recognized her childhood home by the beaver-head-shaped rock at the north end of the valley.
Today, at the headwaters of the Beaverhead sits a reservoir, creating a premier tailwater, regarded by many as the best brown and rainbow trout fishery in the West. Near the dam, the river makes a series of sharp bends and wiggles through the Clark Canyon before cutting through the vast agricultural expanse of the Beaverhead Valley.
The East Fork and the West Fork of the Bitterroot cascade from high peaks on the Idaho border and meet to become the Bitterroot near the town of Darby. The drive from the lodge is one of the most spectacular scenic routes in the United States.
The lush grasslands of the upper Big Hole Valley are dotted with bread loaf-shaped haystacks and black Angus beef cattle. As you enter the timber, the Salmon and Bitterroot basins fall either side of the road. As you wind down the mountain into the valley, the trees turn from lodgepole to ponderosa pine.
Big Hole River
The Big Hole is a river rich not only in historical importance, but also in its ability to produce wild trout — and large ones at that. In certain sections of the river, there are approximately 2000 trout per mile with a substantial percentage in the 18-20" class.
The renowned beauty of the river, with towering peaks and secluded canyons, makes this more than just a blue-ribbon trout fishery. The Big Hole is really a special place, and as you float by a stretch like the Ralston Ranch above Wise River, you can almost picture the stagecoach stop the family operated in 1910 and the teams of horses that fed and rested there.
Nowhere else will you have the chance to catch a brown, rainbow, cutthroat and brook trout along with a grayling all in one day!
The Beaverhead RIver
A good cast can easily reach across any section of the river and its banks are lined with willows and cottonwoods, creating hazards for bank fisherman. For this reason, the upper river is most often fished by boat, though there are meadows where wading is feasible.
The Big Hole Lodge leases a private ranch in the mid-section of the river, complete with two miles of trophy water on the Beaverhead, a shallow channel which holds big browns and a 20-acre lake inhabited by monster trout.
The Beaverhead Ranch, as we call it, offers challenging dry fly fishing for the experienced angler, terrestrial action for the novice, and nymph and streamer fishing for anglers of all levels.
For its hot summer days and mild winters, the Bitterroot is known as 'The banana belt of Montana' and the feisty cutthroat seem to thrive on the Vitamin D.
At the Big Hole Lodge, we typically stay near the headwaters in search of cutthroat trout and dry fly fishing, in the tight canyons and wooded riffles. The river is swift and the fishing is in 'pocket' water and, if a fish has time to see your attractor pattern, he will most likely jump at the chance to eat.
As the river exits the timber and enters the valley the 'Root snakes back and forth through the valley floor, creating deep green pools where cutthroat, browns, rainbow and bull trout will lay.
The Bitterroot is a prime habitat for caddis, mayflies, stoneflies, and grasshoppers, and though the salmon fly hatch is the one most often written about, the dry fly fishing is fabulous all summer long on this mountain stream.