Westslope Cutthroats on the North Fork Flathead River

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Back in June, my job as a Refuge Manager with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sent me to Missoula, MT for a week of Wilderness Leadership Training. Part of the training included a three-day float trip with a local outfitter [insert name here] on the North Fork of the Flathead River. When the outfitter suggested there would be opportunities to cast for native Westslope Cutthroat trout along the Western border of Glacier National Park I started thinking about adding a new Cutthroat subspecies to my list of native trout. In the weeks leading up to my departure, I debated whether I would bother to pack my fishing gear for a work trip. Ultimately I decided I could get by with a small fly box, wet wading in my Chacos, while bringing along a pack rod and reel. Boy am I glad I did.

Back in 2019, Tim gifted me one of his custom-made fly rods for my birthday. That rod, a beautiful seven-piece 5-weight, packs down to less than eighteen inches – perfect for travel, backpacking, and “work trips” like this one! 

The North Fork Flathead River

The North Fork of the Flathead River is unique in many ways. It flows into Montana from headwaters in the Canadian Rockies. From the U.S./Canadian border, it can be floated for 70 miles to Blankenship Bridge where it joins the Middle Fork Flathead. Throughout its course, the North Fork Flathead supports populations of two native trout species. There aren’t many places left in the lower 48 where you have access to 70 miles of undammed trout water, but the Flathead delivers. It is also one of three rivers in Montana that is part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

For its entire length, the North Fork Flathead forms the border between the Flathead National Forest and Glacier National Park.

Floating the North Fork Flathead River

Floating the North Fork of the Flathead River does not require a permit. If you are thinking about floating it on your own, take time to familiarize yourself with the regulations or contact the Hungry Horse Ranger District for more information. There are several commercial outfitters who provide guided trip on the North Fork Flathead. We teemed up with

Fly-Fishing the North Fork Flathead River

The Westslope Cutthroat is a Montana Species of Concern and the Bull trout maintains Threatened status under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (1973). 

Camping Along the North Fork Flathead River

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