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Montana Rivers: Wise River
Fishing the Cold Clear Waters of the Wise River
Mention the Wise River Valley to tourist or anglers and few will venture to guess what state it resides in. Unbeknownst the beautiful valley bestows the romance of Montana's early history. The Wise River Valley is situated between the Pioneer and Odell Mountain ranges in Southwestern Montana. The river begins roughly 30 miles south of the rustic little town of Wise River. 
In late spring these large boulders provide fish a break from the Wise River's swift current during run-off.

Several mountain streams and springs from these two ranges converge in the valley, creating one of the fastest flowing tributaries in North America.  The cold crystal clear waters journeys north through beautiful valleys, and plush meadows until its convergence with Montana's famed fishery, the "Big Hole River". The Wise River Valley is abundant with wildlife such as elk, moose and deer and occasionally bears and mountain lions can be seen along the foothills.

The Wise River by no means is a large river, a more accurate description would be creek, but it has a certain mystic charm about it and its surroundings. Access to the river is fairly close from the scenic byway that runs along the river. This however does not mean one can simply pull off to side of the road and start casting line. Many good holding areas spotted from the highway require lumbering through some rather thick and deep brush.

Author with a large Wise River Cutthroat.

I dare say this may be a reason why many anglers elect not to fish some good holding areas.

The river is host to such species as rainbows, browns, cutthroats and brook trout. Rocky Mountain Whitefish are also present, as well as Artic Grayling. A large fish caught on the Wise will not turn heads in comparison to some daddys caught on the Big Hole.  On average a fish on the Wise will tend to be about eleven or twelve inches in length, plenty big enough when fishing with light gear.  On a few occasions fish in the four and five pound class are caught, a difficult task considering the Wise often requires 6x tippets to fish the crystal clear waters. During its 30 mile trek the Wise which is seldom more broader than thirty feet, will changes character a few times. The Wise is one the few rivers where the waters will tumble for hundreds of yards. Much of the river's banks are choked with willows and some areas host deep undercut banks. Fly-fishing anglers will find the river requires a touch of casting finesse and quite often it may be best using a dead drift.

While dry fly fishing appears to be the technique most anglers prefer,  streamers and nymphs are equally as effective. Hatches are normally in full-swing by mid June and July. Anglers should pay special attention to large boulders, undercuts and fallen timber as they harbor many fish from the rivers swift current. In the fall months baetis type flies work well in warmest part of the day.  Autumn is also when valley is at its finest as the crisp morning air and brilliant fall colors provide images that will not likely ever leave your mind. It's also this time of year ruthless browns from the Big Hole move in. These browns can be merciless on tippets and leaders, but are ever bit worth it.

Winters in the Wise River Valley can be quite severe. Temperatures are often brutal, dropping well below zero. When the river begins to thaw in spring, good fishing is not very far off.

If you like small rivers, the Wise River and its setting are very difficult to beat.

Tackle & Gear:

For most fishing on the Wise River an eight foot, two or three-weight rod is a good choice. The exception would be in fall when large browns move in for spawning.  For this a five or or six-weight system would be the wiser choice, keeping in mind that some of the browns can push 8 or 9 pounds.  Good insulated waders are advisable through June.

Wise River Montana Weather

Area Attractions

The History of Wise River

Big Hole National Battlefield

Bannock State Park

Area Map


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