Serving as both Montana’s state fish and the Flathead River’s primary species, the westslope cutthroat trout is a lively and magnificent fish well worth casting for.
You’ll find these native trout throughout our unimpeded freestone rivers — an increasing rarity throughout the country. Free from dams, diversions weirs and other thumbprints of human development, the Middle Fork and North Fork of the Flathead are truly spectacular rivers to explore, both by rod and raft. And in these pure, protected streams swims a species of fish that has made its home for thousands of years.
Having westslope cutthroat trout in the Flathead River is a remarkable indicator of water cleanliness and stream health. If the health of a river begins to degrade, westslope cutthroats are often the first fish to go. This sensitivity, combined with the decline of many western rivers, has resulted in a relatively small habitat range, primarily consisting of western Montana, Idaho and southeast British Columbia.
Cutthroat fishing on the Flathead can be an exceptional experience for anglers of all abilities. These fish offer beginners an excellent opportunity to catch fish, as they are quick to the fly and aren’t nearly as line shy as the residents of Montana’s more heavily trafficked trout streams. The challenge for the experienced angler is targeting the largest and wiliest of the cutthroats — some measuring 18 to 20-plus inches.