Bikefishing the Rattlesnake

Duncan and I did a smaller version of this trip a few weeks back. It was awesome and made me want more of it. The season at the bike shop is winding down so Chad took the day off, we hopped on the bikes and motored up the ‘Snake to do some fishing.


I rode over to Chad’s about 8:30 and it was damn cold out. Fall has arrived in Missoula to be sure. We loaded the bikes on the car, dropped his kid off at daycare and then headed up to the trailhead. We were on dirt around 9:30 making decent time.


Quick stop at Franklin Bridge to make some clothing alterations. Still cold out but trying to keep up with Chad had my core temp way up and I didn’t feel like sweating the entire ride.


About an hour and a half of riding and we hit our put in spot. We switched out from riding shoes to wading boots, stashed the bikes and got in the frigid water.


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Chad was into a fish pretty quickly but, as cold as it was we wouldn’t see much action for a while after this. We even debated just stopping and making a little fire and letting things warm up a bit before fishing but, decided to press on. Some pretty amazing looking holes we had no action in will probably be my first stop next summer when I get back up there…


Even with no action it was nothing to complain about. Beautiful place to spend the morning.


We kept working spots that looked extremely fishy with no action. But, it was starting to warm up. A few bugs began to flit around and it was only a matter of time.


I was there too…


Not a bad backdrop.


I finally got into a fish. The sun was poking out and more and more bugs started coming off. It was still work to find a willing trout for a little bit but things did eventually take off.


Pretty fishy looking water the entire time. If I recall this was about where things blew up. From here until the take out we had fish on the line in regular intervals.


Fishes very similarly to the lower Rattlesnake. You only get one, maybe two, chances when they come after your fly. If you get over eager or miss the set it shuts a hole down quickly.


Even the little guys were fighters and they were hammering dry flys. Chad threw on a streamer for a bit and had some follows as well before switching back to a dry/dropper setup. He was doubled up at one point but both fish managed to spit the hooks.


We’d planned on stopping and having a fish fry for lunch but I think we were both enjoying ourselves too much. Decided at some point we were not going to keep any for this trip.


Mostly skinny cutts but we did find a few fatties.


I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of catching little fish. The big ones are great too, don’t get me wrong, but I’m never disappointed by a small fry.

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Tenkara was built for this water. I did a pretty fair job picking it apart with a dry fly but, I’d love to see one of the truly skilled tenkara guys work this water with a kebari. And I think I’ll be giving it a go with one next year…





We played leap frog all day. Both of us having non-stop luck. I wouldn’t have minded waders but, we managed to not lose any toes to frostbite.


The Amago is looking a bit well worn. The cork grip is getting loose and the branding is peeling off but, it still handles fish of all sizes just fine. And this was the fly of the day. It survived snags and tons of fish hammering it. I told Chad I might just have to frame this one.

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One of my favorite sequences of pics from the day. Just made me laugh for some reason.

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As we got closer to the dalles the wading got tougher. Very much reminded of some other creeks in western Montana. The fishing didn’t slow down at all through these crags.



If you look close, you can see Chad in the upper right of the photo. I met up with him there and then shimmied down the rocks to fish the final pool. Managed to pull out a few really nice cutts and then fell in. One last cast brought in one of my nicest fish of the day so I called it quits after that. Before I climbed back up and started the hike out with a wet ass we saw a huge Osprey heading down the canyon. Aside from smaller birds it was the first wildlife we’d seen all day.



I’d stashed a few Double Hauls back at our put in.


Classy little snack of vienna sausage, ritz crackers and beer while we let our feet dry out a bit. Packed everything up and hopped on the bikes for the descent back to the trailhead.

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The ride out was fast and fun. The new bike performed flawlessly on the trip. Just after Franklin Bridge I saw something in the trail and realized it was a huge mountain lion. I yelled to Chad and the cat just stood up and darted off into the woods. I dunno about Chad but I pedaled a bit harder for a few minutes. We ran into a runner on her way up and warned her it was probably a better idea to turn back.

We were back to the car in no time and I had the awesome news that my wife had passed the BAR exam waiting for me! Exhausted, Chad and I hit up Taco Bell on the way home and I basically crashed after meeting Shannon for a celebratory drink.

It was an amazing day and has me motivated to get up there more often next summer as well as explore other areas that are a bit harder to access. Good excuse to equip the Moonlander for easier cargo carrying…

Happy angling all.

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4 Responses to Bikefishing the Rattlesnake

  1. Dennis says:

    I’m new to Missoula, and Montana. Been here about a year and love it. So glad to here that I am not the only fly fisher that is not a trophy hunter. I would rather catch a few small to medium trout than a big one. The small fish are really fun too. I actually get really tired of the trophy trout hunter mentality. I just started fishing the Rattlesnake. The water is 48 degrees and really high. I think I am fishing a bit early in the season, but I got to try. Rode bikes with a friend this weekend up to the meadow just below Franklin Bridge. The water looked fishy, but no fish.

    • Danny says:

      Welcome to Missoula, glad you’re digging it. Beeskove To Franklin is pretty slow fishing. I’ve managed a few brookies in there it took some serious effort. I think that section gets hit hard by folks not feeling like going further. Good luck in your exploring. Tons of small water near by to keep you occupied!

  2. Dennis says:

    I fished the lower RS last night. Had trouble finding good water. So fast and brushy now. No pools to be found by me.
    How much distance or time upstream of Franklin before it gets good? I don’t mind going further. My buddy and I are planing a bike packing trip up that way. Need to get a gear rack for my old mountain bike.

    • Danny says:

      Until runoff is over the Snake below the dam is a bit of a challenge. Only a few spots worth hitting at they take some heavy flies to get down in the current. Whole area above franklin is worth exploring. I just think Beeskove to Franklin gets bit so hard because it’s the first legal section above the trailhead

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