Twin Bridges, Mont.– it’s not your average fishing town. And Four Rivers Fishing Company is not your average fly shop. It’s a 50-year-old institution that has been the headquarters for phenomenal trout fishing. This is an authentic Montana-style fly shop. That means that the people who work here fish here. They know and love the water and the country. They know fishing because they fish. From our very first meeting, I’ve been impressed with these two young outfitters. Chris Knott and Seth McLean are not just gear salesmen. They’re people who know and care about their home waters and delight in teaching people to fish the heart of southwest Montana. And they do indeed fish the heart of it all.
The Big Hole River is Montana’s last best river. It starts in the Beaverhead Mountains south of Jackson at an elevation of 7,300+ feet and runs 160 miles through canyons and farmland. It’s a freestone river that changes its face several times before it reaches Twin Bridges. With over 3,000 trout per mile, it’s a world class blue-ribbon trout river.
The Beaverhead River is different. It’s only 30 miles to the headwaters, but there are over 100 miles of floatable, wadeable and fishable water. The upper reaches are a classic tailwater fishery, with reliable hatches of mayflies, caddis and yellow sallies. At the peak of a hatch, the sheer amount of fish food in the water can be mind boggling. That means big, strong, healthy fish. The middle and lower reaches of the Beaverhead are more like a spring creek than a tailwater. While fish numbers drop, the average size of the fish is often larger than you might expect. And with declining fish numbers, fishing pressure declines as well. You can expect to see big fish here. You can also expect challenging fishing. If one river in southwest Montana calls for the experience of a guide, this is the one.
The Big Hole and the Beaverhead come together near Twin Bridges to form the Jefferson River. It runs northeast for 77 miles to Three Forks, where it joins the Madison and the Gallatin to form the Missouri. The Jefferson has low angling pressure, gorgeous holding water and an ever-growing population of rainbow trout. This is water best fished from a driftboat, and it offers hatches of caddis, baetis, summer stoneflies, flying ants and (my personal favorite) hoppers. Techniques vary with season and water temperature, but the folks at Four Rivers can help you crack the code.
The Ruby River is without a doubt one of the area’s most under-fished rivers. It’s very accommodating to the wading angler, and there’s more public access (thanks in large part to TU and local ranchers) than you can possibly fish. A tailwater like the Beaverhead but smaller, it supports dense insect life and denser fish populations. The late summer and fall terrestrial fishing is awesome here, as is the streamer fishing. It’s a great place for a variety of fishing styles, with challenging lies, demanding casting and trout that can be fairly selective. But it’s a consistent fish producer, even when other rivers are fishing slow.
All these waters and more are the heart and soul of the fabled Missouri headwaters. But Chris and Seth know them like their own back yard. Because for Four Rivers Fishing Company in Twin Bridges, these waters are the back yard. We’re grateful that they’re a TU Business member.
Four Rivers Fishing Company
Chris Knott and Seth McLean
Twin Bridges, MT 59754