The Jefferson River begins in the small rural town of Twin Bridges, Montana. Here, the Ruby River joins the Beaverhead and flows through the small fishing town and then is joined by the Big Hole River. The river now begins its 82-mile journey to meet the Madison and the Gallatin rivers near Three Forks, Montana to form the mighty Missouri River.
From Twin Bridges to Whitehall, Montana, the river flows north through a beautiful and wide valley rimmed with the Tobacco Root and Highland Mountains. Reaching Whitehall the river heads east to Cardwell where it then courses through a rugged, 7-mile long limestone canyon.
Emerging from the canyon, the river finishes its journey to the Three Forks through wide agricultural lands.
Jefferson River north of Twin Bridges, Montana.
The wide and slower nature of the picturesque Jefferson River makes for challenging fishing during summer months. Best fished in the spring or fall, fishing by boat or raft brings one within casting distance of some of the best holes for big brown trout.
The river sees a fair amount of hatches throughout the season. Heavy caddis hatches occur in spring. Baetis, yellow sallies, golden stones, and tricos round out the season.
Even with hatches, the river is best fished with streamers. Large browns live in these waters and can be unimpressed with a small meal like a size 16 caddis. Big trout need big meals so think leeches, sculpin, and baitfish. Bring patterns such as Zonkers, Buggers, Clousers, and other big buggers in sizes 2-4 to tempt the river’s bigger residents.
The Jefferson River Canyon near Cardwell, Montana.