Summer on the Swan River

(Editor’s Note: This is the first of a monthly column on happenings in the Swan River Valley.)

Predicting the ever-changing course of the Swan River is like predicting seasonal weather. We can expect the water to flow high each spring, and lower through autumn; yet, the ultimate course of mother nature is out of our hands. Every year, the river whispers a unique message, determining how we recreate in her babbling glory.

Swan Mountain Outfitters fishing guide, Clinton Dalley, savors his relationship with the Swan River. As he recaps his 2017 summer season, he said the early-spring Swan River levels were the highest he’s seen it throughout his career.

“That’s the beauty of it though, the river changes year-to-year,” he said. “One of the best things about spending time on the Swan is the wildlife; and the scenic views are always breathtaking.”

He said this year’s higher-than-usual water levels from spring runoff wasn’t the perfect start to the fishing season. But the cloudy water conditions quickly gave-way to clear waters through the summer, revealing a colorful display of river rocks unique to Northwest Montana’s geology. He says that this made for a decent summer of fishing. Whether fly fishing and using nymphing and the classics of dry flies, or wetting-the-line with a spin caster, a day on the river is better than any day at work. Unless of course…being on the river is your work!

As summer comes-to an end, water temperatures and levels have dropped. Floating the Swan River is a favorite activity among locals, and anglers still did this as autumn approached. However, the experience included more leg-work than summer floats. Depending on the river section, one might expect a bit of walking during a float to portage watercraft around low water spots.

As a result, many fishing diehards will choose to walk-and-wade the river during fall months. The Swan River is a year-round delight, if you have a unique experience from the river, please share!

Swan Valley Facts, Then and Now Then: In 1913, a daily bull trout limit was set at 50 pounds (FWP). Historic discovery by the Upper Swan Valley Historical Society, Inc.: As Time Goes By: A Chronology of Swan Valley Now: In 2017, Swan Lake is the only location in the Swan Valley area regulated for intentional bull trout fishing, is a no-harvest bull trout zone, catch and release only. A sensitive and heavily regulated species, bull trout fishing is permitted in four western district waters of Montana: Hungry Horse Reservoir, South Fork Flathead River, Lake Koocanusa and Swan Lake (FWP).

Swan Area Notable Sites Swan Peak: Topping out at 9,289’, this giant is one of our tallest peaks in the Swan Range. As a defining and dramatic geologic feature, Swan Peak can be viewed from Route 83 as well as from back-country points in the area. In 1920, the glacier on Swan Peak was about 80 acres, according to General Land Office survey field notes (as cited by Steve Lamar, Swan Valley Place Names, 2008)

Swan Mountain Outfitters We are accepting content and local stories from the Swan Valley. “Big fish” stories of an unbelievable or extraordinary nature are gratefully accepted. Please submit your quote, story pitch, or photo to

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