Where to flyfish: West Fork Bitterroot

West Fork is a great place to flyfish south of Missoula

angler  with trout west fork bitterroot

Robbe Lindsay holds a cutthroat trout on the West Fork of the Bitterroot River. Dave Reese photo
By David Reese
Just two hours south of Missoula lies a gem of a river, and a gem of a fishing trip.
The West Fork of the Bitterroot runs out of Painted Rocks Reservoir, through canyon before opening up onto the foothills of the Bitterroot Mountains.
The river, not large by Montana standards, offers excellent fishing for cutthroat trout, a species native to Montana. The river is bordered mainly by private land, so floating is the best way to fish this river. (Check your Forest Service map for put-in and takeout locations.)
There are a couple of good Forest Service campgrounds along the river, and at night you can fall asleep listening to the gurgle of the water while watching the brilliant sky dotted with stars.
Above Painted Rocks Reservoir sits the Pepperbox Guest Ranch, a working ranch that raises Paint and Quarter horses, as well as a herd of Texas longhorns.
Guests at Pepperbox Ranch experience the Montana lifestyle, with activities catered to guests, including trail rides and big, hearty meals.
"Eating is an event of itself," says owner Kristy Gibbs.
In the winter, guests can cut their own christmas trees and put them in their cabins, or take a sleigh ride. In the summer, the fishing is also good, with the West Fork running right through the ranch.
The ranch is geared to children and families. "The kids have a great time," Gibbs said. "They can just run and be kids."

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