Winter Fly Fishing the Missouri River

Man outside a fishing boat holding a trout

Helena, Montana isn’t a secret for passionate anglers, and is most sought after for its close vicinity to world-class blue-ribbon fishing on the Missouri River.

Then what is the secret about fly fishing in Helena? Winter fly fishing! The slow ripples of the river and snow-laden banks of Missouri set a beautiful backdrop for fly fishing enthusiasts. For those looking for serenity and a low-key fishing destination, Helena’s Missouri River begs to challenge new and advanced fly-fishing anglers in Montana.

Winter fly fishing in Montana is weather dependent, but when conditions are right, anglers packed with the right gear head to the Missouri River for a beautiful day. How can you prepare for a winter fly-fishing trip in Helena, Montana?

Watch the Forecast

Fish tend to slow down, just like us, in the winter temperatures. The best time to come is November – January & March – April. Plan to fly fish during the warmest hours of the day, both for fish and anglers to stay warm. Try to plan for more overcast days.

The Right Fly-Fishing Gear for Winter Fishing

Montana’s winters are cold but can be mostly sunny in the Helena region. Remember to layer up to stay warm on the water with waterproof and insulated gloves, a waterproof jacket, the proper warm layers, sunglasses, and sunscreen.

When selecting flies, know that trout mainly eat midges in the winter. Scale back the fly size and call local outfitters for the latest conditions.

Three men in a boat fly fishing with a bridge in the background.
Fly Fishing on the Missouri River,. Wolf Creek, Montana


The meandering currents of the Missouri River allow beginners to expert-level fly-fishing anglers a chance to snag a beautiful trout. It does take the proper technique to fish; our friends at Adipose Boatworks suggest hiring a guide for beginner and intermediate fly-fishing anglers. Those seasoned pros looking for a drift boat and guide can contact Cross Currents or Headhunters Fly Shop in nearby Craig, Montana.

After Fishing

Planning an evening to recover after a day of drifting adds to the satisfaction of the experience. Be sure to book a hotel in Helena, land a reservation at one of our many fantastic restaurants, or create a game plan over a delicious beverage at one of Helena’s coveted breweries.

Once prepared, enjoy a drift along the Mighty Mo’, an unspoiled journey of fly fishing this winter season. See you on the water this winter!

A special thank you to Adipose Boatworks for the tips and photos.