About the Fishing on Woodson Ranch

Fishing on Woodson Ranch is always a treat.  With about 9 miles of fishable water, and a maximum number of four rods per day, we offer an experience that combines opportunity with solitude. 

Access to the Ruby River can be a challenge throughout the valley, and that is one of the aspects of Woodson Ranch which makes it a unique place. While the property is privately owned by the Foundation, we provide managed access of up to four people per day. With the quantity of waters running through the property, this allows for folks to spread out and enjoy some of the solitude for which the ranch is known. This approach makes Woodson Ranch a solution to a known challenge—we provide access to the fishing, but limit it and manage the resource in a conservative way. The riparian area has been improved and the agricultural endeavors are conducted in such a way as to reduce impact on the fishery. In 2021, we completed a restoration of Clear Creek, and she is already showing signs of recovery.  In 2024, we will retire our old “pond” system, and create a spawning tributary that we think fish from the Ruby River, and perhaps others upstream, will find irresistible. You can read more about that below.  Rarely will one find such a combination of prime fishing habitat, access on private ground, and the possibility of catching large rainbow and brown trout.

Beat System

As mentioned, our approach to the fisheries on the property is designed to enhance the fisherman’s experience while sustaining a healthy fish population. One of the ways we do this is with our “beat system”. Beat systems, common on rivers in Europe, are employed as a way to spread fishermen out—this accomplishes two things: 1) fishermen are afforded a quiet experience where they are not following through the “spent” water of some prior fisherman, and 2) the fish are rested on alternate days, ensuring less stress on the fish and, therefore, healthier fish.

To use our beat system, simply “claim” your beat on the beat map near the ranch office (small log cabin next to the big red barn). The map is magnetic, and by placing your magnet on top of the beat you wish to fish, you have claimed your beat. If you move to another beat during the day, we ask that you simply move the magnet to indicate that that stretch of water is occupied.  Generally, someone will be in the Ranch Office who can help you select your location based upon your needs and other activities taking place on the ranch that day. 

Cattail Creek

In 2024, we plan to move Cattail Creek (also know colloquially as “the ponds”) channel to a new location, and to switch its primary function from fishing to a spawning tributary.  This effort is in response to a widespread decline in fish numbers in southwest Montana.  As always, such projects on Woodson Ranch reflect our mission which includes the clause, “Promoting the concept of resource accountability and developing examples of minimal impact resource management for agricultural and recreational uses while protecting the environment.”  We are hopeful this example of good stewardship will yield positive results for the fishery.


The map to the left shows the waters on the ranch and the beat system numbers associated with each.  We are currently working on a replacement for this map because it is not reflective of the changes we made in 2021 o Clear Creek, nor to the changes we will make in 2024 to Cattail Creek.  Stay tuned. 

Rules and How to Reserve Your Space

As mentioned, space on Woodson Ranch for fishing is limited to four rods per day, and it is flyfishing only. We ask that you use barbless hooks only. All fishing is catch and release. Flyfishing reservations are accepted largely on a first-come, first-served basis, and are made by contacting Dave.  Reservations may be requested at any time, for any time, but know that the limited number of spaces makes this a competitive process and reservations fill up early–it is not uncommon for the upcoming year’s reservations to be full by the end of February.