Montana Road Trip – Stillwater River

The next stop on our Montana Road Trip – Stillwater River.

I’ve never fished the Stillwater River. Always heard good things about it and I put it on my list to check out during a future Montana road trip. Well, this year it fit perfectly with our plans as we were in Livingston at the International Federation of Fly Fishers Fair and the Stillwater was only 75 miles away.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and this picture of the Stillwater River at the Moraine access captures why I fell in love it.

Stillwater River at Moraine | www.johnkreft.com

This is the type of water I really enjoy to fly fish. I like to fish smaller waters, trying to find where the fish hold and what will bring them up to a dry fly if no bugs are hatching. Oh, I nymph on occasion because I want to catch one of those beauties. It’s a last resort if the fish don’t rise to my dry fly.

This is one of the rigs I used…Pat’s Rubberlegs and a Higa’s SOS and I caught several fish on both flies.

Higas SOS and Rubber Legs | www.johnkreft.com

We arrived on Sunday afternoon and decided to check out the different access points using information from Stillwater Anglers in Columbus, MT and maps from my book – Montana’s Best Fishing Waters. Several people I talked to stated there was a slide on an upper access road which closed our ability to get to the water. We ended up checking it out on both ends and found prominent “no trespassing” signs. Our hope was to park and walk to find rising trout, but we decided to abide by the signs.

We found access at Castle Rock and Buffalo Jump, but ended up fishing most of our trip in the water upstream and downstream from the Moraine access.

Stillwater River at Moraine | www.johnkreft.com

The boulders and rocks were very interesting and added to the scenery. I’ve always looked for fish in front of and behind streamside rocks, but I was amazed how many fish we raised and hooked directly in front of the submerged or slightly submerged rocks just before the fly was swept into the riffle.

Here is one of the submerged rocks where we caught a couple of fish. Can you locate it just in front of the riffle?

Stillwater River Submerged Rock | www.johnkreft.com

A rainbow like this was in front of it.

Stillwater River Rainbow | www.johnkreft.com

Here is one of the browns I caught on a hot pink Copper John.

Stillwater River Brown - Hot Pink Copper John | www.johnkreft.com

And another brown

Stillwater River Brown | www.johnkreft.com

As I mentioned above, I was able to find a few fish in the deeper water around rocks.

Stillwater River Rainbow | www.johnkreft.com

And even a few Whitefish…they need some love too!

Stillwater River Whitefish | www.johnkreft.com

We looked forward to fishing in the evening as the sun left the water because that’s when the fish seemed to rise. They weren’t splashy rises. More like slurping through a straw. We started calling them infinitesimal rises. Sure, an occasional fish came up hard just in front of the submerged rocks to take a fly before it was swept into the next riffle. Our best dry fly? A Purple Haze!

We were hoping to use a few hoppers because they were along the shore as we walked to the water. But after trying several different styles, sizes, and colors we gave up on them.

Stillwater River Hopper | www.johnkreft.com

Here is a run in the lower river below the slide just upstream from Cliff Swallow access.

Stillwater River above Cliff Swallow | www.johnkreft.com

I moved a few fish and landed a couple as well, but we had to quit at 2 pm due to the Hoot Owl restrictions because the water was getting too warm.

We stayed in Absarokee at the Stillwater Lodge. When I got up the next morning, I looked across the street and found a local fly shop.

Absarokee Fly Shop | www.johnkreft.com

The next day, we headed over, knocked on the screen door and purchased a few flies.

Absarokee Fly Shop Front Porch | www.johnkreft.com

Here I am looking at all Bob’s flies. Karen said we had a bigger porch and I could have a couple of tables to spread out my flies!

Shopping at Absarokee Fly Shop | www.johnkreft.com

Back at the river for our last night of fishing the Stillwater.

Stillwater River Evening Fishing | www.johnkreft.com

Here is a list of a few flies that worked worked for us during our three days:

Purple Haze

Purple Haze | www.johnkreft.com

Beetle Bailey

Beetle Bailey | www.johnkreft.com

Higa’s SOS

Higas SOS | www.johnkreft.com

Copper John – Hot Pink

Copper John - Florescent Pink | www.johnkreft.com

Pat’s Rubberlegs

Pat's Rubberlegs | www.johnkreft.com

We had a terrific time fishing the Stillwater River. I’ve already added it to the list for another Montana fly fishing trip!

Be sure to read more about our Montana Road Trip in the following posts:

Enjoy…go fish!

 

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2 thoughts on “Montana Road Trip – Stillwater River

  1. Beautiful river! Great level for wading. A few snakes, LOTS of deer (in the irrigated alfalfa), but NO bears! Check! We can come back!

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