The next stop on our fly fishing road trip is fishing the Boulder and Stillwater rivers.
On one of our stops, someone recommended very highly we give the Boulder River a try. We told him we were headed east to the Stillwater River, but he was adamant we should make the effort and fish the Boulder.
So we drove the scenic route over the mountains from Big Timber.
We certainly gave it a try, but I was only able to land 3 Rainbow Trout. The biggest was 9 inches!
The river certainly has some great looking water to fish.
Perhaps we didn’t give it a good enough shot. I didn’t fish in the evening and that’s when the fishing has been best for us.
What we were reminded of was how much private land is around water in Montana. I’m sure it’s like that many places and the Stillwater has that issue as well.
But we felt really crowded out here. Our arrival was on a Friday night. We couldn’t believe all the traffic on the gravel road. People were everywhere. Those fishing were mostly fly fishing.
We didn’t venture up- or down-stream from bridge access like we should have. I just didn’t feel the vibe.
Other friends have said how well the river fishes. Maybe we’ll have to give it another try.
The next stop was retuning to the Stillwater River after first fishing it in 2016.
The river was running a little higher at 900 cfs this year. I don’t recall the level in 2016, but we could certainly tell a difference. It must have had late winter snow and rain this summer.
After a beer and a bite at Carter’s Camp Bar & Grill in Nye, MT, we found our favorite spot at Moraine fishing access to be empty. It’s one of our favorite spots on the river.
We waited for the sun to be clear of the water before were tried the Purple Haze hatch.
Our experience has been the fish rise the last couple of hours each day. The darker it is, the better.
One does become weary after fishing so many hours!
The sunsets can be spectacular as well.
Other fishing access points on the Stillwater River include Buffalo Jump and Cliff Swallow.
Buffalo Jump is near the small community of Nye and is a great spot if you need some shade. It’s located a couple of miles upstream from Moraine fishing access, which is where we like to fish.
What flies did we use to catch fish?
The best fly was a Purple Haze, Sparkle Dun PMD, Callibaetis Spinner to imitate a light colored spinner, Pink Pookie hopper, and a Pheasant Tail Perdigon.
Here are a few images of the river below Moraine.
I fished at the fishing access called Cliff Swallow. It’s only a few miles upstream from the town of Absarokee where we stayed during our last trip.
The last day on the Stillwater River, I decided to conduct a little “research” for my all-around fly fishers…read nymph fly fishers! Yes, you read that right. I selected a few nymphs and took them with me to the river.
And they worked! I caught 5 Whitefish, 3 Rainbows, and 1 Brown trout.
I found water like this to fish.
Here are a couple of fish that took my nymph.
And remember to give the Whitey’s a little love as well.
They like nymphs too!
The Pheasant Tail Perdigon Variant worked the best. I guess nymphing does work!
Lastly, don’t forget to stop at the Fishtail General Store.
You might find a cookie!
I just saw this…
The first time I fished the Stillwater was in September 1998. I have been back there and to the Boulder as well, numerous times through the years. I even designed a fly called the “Buffalo Jump” – after a spot on the Stillwater. This is the updated version that my son Michael used with success on Eastern waters. I use it here in the Eastern Sierra and in Montana on various rivers:
I was travelling when you posted the comment. Yep, the Stillwater is a special place, especially the upper river. I enjoyed it the most. Only tried the Boulder once. Perhaps I need to give it another try as I wasn’t feeling the Zen on that trip.
Regards – John
Thank you for this post. I enjoy your blog. The Stillwater looks like it is worth the effort, has access, and is not too crowded. It was mentioned in Fly Fishing the Greater Yellowstone Backcountry but until you see a firsthand account like yours it is easy to overlook. Definitely gets on the list for our next trip out there. Thanks again.
Thanks for the Comment Mike. We really enjoy the upper river, especially just before dark.
Hi, Looks like some really good water. Thanks
You put a lot of work into this one. I loved it!
Thanks for the Comment. Yes, these do take some time to write. And a little technology when on a fly fishing road trip can cause frustration along the way.