Fisher River

Fisher River

Carol Northcut | Wednesday, 7 June 2023

We’d heard the Fisher River was a fun place to fish with little pressure, so we explored it a bit on Saturday. The river flows northward from near Highway 2 in NW Montana. Sixty-three miles later, it empties into the Kootenai River a mile or so below Libby Dam. The Fisher, which has a has a freestone substrate, was relatively low for early June, and the air temp was 81 F (27 C) in the sun. The bend where Cow Creek comes in seemed like a good place to start prospecting. As to be expected, the few resident fish were in the deeper holes, where we each caught a mountain whitefish and a small rainbow. Further downstream a creek dumped in muddy water and swelled the river a bit. We found a couple of promising runs to fish, but they didn’t produce. Continuing to the Kootenai, we drove up to the dam to see beautiful Lake Koocanusa (coo-can-oo’-sah). The odd name comes from combining the name KOOtenai, CANada and USA because it was formed by the Kootenai River and is partly in Canada and partly in the USA.

We started to head back home, retracing our route except to take a spur road up the Fisher drainage on a section of the old Fisher River Road. Once upon a time, the road apparently went all the way through, but now it’s blocked about half a mile from the intersection with McKillon Road, which now is the road to take. The remaining spur is pretty beat up. We didn’t explore beyond that, but had we, we’d have seen that the river was channelized from heavy logging resulting in siltation. The last 10 miles of the river, as it approaches the Kootenai, was channelized when the railroad was routed through it. The channelization and siltation degraded fish habitat sufficiently to explain the less-than-stellar fishing despite low pressure. Despite the beauty and quiet, we won’t consider it a favorite fishing destination at this point.

Montana doesn’t stock rivers, only lakes. Rivers that run through more fertile land, like the Madison, have more fish. Another thing I learned on our trip to the Darby area is that, at least on the Bitterroot River, it is actually illegal to remove vegetative debris. Because it is lined with trees, new wood is added to the river every year and existing debris gets moved into new spots. Guides say it’s a river you need to know in order tosafely boat after runoff.

Sunday was our day for exploration on a mountain bike. There’s a collection of trails fairly near home called the Pig Farm that have relatively smooth trails through tall trees. It’s cool on a hot day and is my new favorite area to ride. Beats riding up our dusty road. On the map, it looks like we can ride a few miles out of the Pig Farm to a small lake/pond that’s partly on public land. It’d be fun to see if it has fish. Perhaps it will be our solstice activity.