Missoula River Etiquette


With the unbelievably nice weather everyone is looking to get outside so this is a great chance to discuss Missoula River Etiquette.  The spring Skwala hatch has grown into the most anticipated fishing event of the year.  The long winter along with the prospect of fishing big dry flies is just too much to resist for anglers from all over.

Missoula is fortunate to have so many great rivers nearby that for most of the year crowded fishing conditions don’t exist.  Spring is the one time of year where you are likely to have issues with crowding because most anglers flock to the Bitterroot river which has the most famous Skwala hatch in the country.

Find Your Own Solitude. Photo by  ©Tony Reinhardt.

Find Your Own Solitude. Photo by ©Tony Reinhardt.


Respect others' water. Photo by ©Tony Reinhardt.

Respect others’ water. Photo by ©Tony Reinhardt.

Here are a few simple tips to make sure that everyone can have a great day on the river.


  • Be flexible-If you see a bunch of boats at a certain access then move further up or downriver to avoid crowding.
  • Don’t hog the boat ramp-If you are putting in make sure that everything in your boat is ready to launch at a staging area before you back down the ramp. At the take-out put your boat on the trailer and then pull away from the ramp to take your gear down.
  • Floaters should give wade fishermen a wide berth when possible. I never fish a run from a boat that a wade fisherman is working.  We bring our lines in and pass by quickly and as far away as possible.
  • Try to give other boats space. If someone is obviously working at a faster pace than you then let them pass and give them some time to get downriver.  Try to avoid fishing just in front of or just behind another boat.  I try to maintain a pace where I cannot see another boat downriver or upriver from me.
  • Please do not pass another boat and start fishing immediately ahead of them. If you pass, then push downriver a couple runs before starting to fish.
  • Be friendly-Sure, we’d all love to have the river to ourselves but everyone is out there for the same reason so enjoy the day and be nice to your fellow anglers.
Give other boats plenty of space. Photo by ©Tony Reinhardt

Give other boats plenty of space. Photo by ©Tony Reinhardt


  • Try to give other wader fishermen space. I prefer to wade fish out of sight from other anglers by fishing well upstream or downstream of others.
  • Wade smarter-If you are wading from a boat launch then wade upstream of the access in the morning and downstream of the access in the afternoons. You will have fewer boats floating over your water.
  • Obey the stream access law at all times. You need to stay within the high water mark to avoid trespassing and confrontations with landowners.
  • Communicate with other anglers. When you see other wade anglers it is a good idea to ask if they are working their way upstream or downstream.  Try to fish in the opposite direction or if you are moving in the same direction give them plenty of open water before starting to fish.

I’m sure there are many other things we could add to this list.  The common theme is clear, be courteous to other anglers and if a conflict does arise the best course of action is to always take the high road.  It’s only fishing after all and there is no reason to ruin your day with a bad experience.    Just a little river etiquette can go a long way to making sure everyone has a stellar day on our streams.

Remember to have fun! Photo by ©Tony Reinhardt.

Remember to have fun! Photo by ©Tony Reinhardt.

Tight Lines,

Tony Reinhardt, Montana Trout Outfitters


Tony Reinhardt BioTony Reinhardt is the owner, outfitter for Montana Trout Outfitters in Missoula.  He has been a guide on the rivers of western Montana for 16 years and absolutely loves his job.  When he’s not working you’ll find him fishing with his two children or in the woods hunting.