Stillwater Angler Fishing Report
It looks like we’re already on the back side of runoff. It was pretty mild and short lived. Save for a fluctuation from excessive heat or a rain event, flows on both the Stillwater and Yellowstone look like they’re on a downward trend.
Summer fishing is here.
The Stillwater has cleared a little earlier than historically normal and is fishable for a few days now. The Yellowstone shouldn’t be too far behind.
On the Stillwater, it’s time to start fishing big dry flies and dropper nymphs. Golden Stones and Yellow Sallies should start appearing as the flows recede. These are the first major hatches we typically see post runoff. They may be sporadic or thick, we’ll just have to see how it goes. Various big attractor dry patterns, like a Jack Cabe, stimulator or PMX, along with a standard Stillwater nymph pattern of some sort are usually a successful combination.
Good nymph choices are bead head and flashy patterns such as a Prince Nymph, Hare’s Ear, Pheasant Tail or Copper John. Try fishing along the edges, and let the nymph sink down a bit. The big dry fly acts as an indicator, and one may as well have a hook on it, as fish will hit the dry fly as well.
The fish are generally where one would expect.
That is, along the banks, in the seams and gentler riffles and around structure. When float fishing along the banks, I use the “two and two” rule. That is, getting the fly drift two feet off the bank and in two feet of water.
Forget about casting long distance. Too often it results in lining over different current speeds that create an immediate drag that is almost impossible to mend, let alone set the hook. Concentrate instead on short, accurate casts with a shorter, heavier leader that will produce a decent drift.
For the Stillwater, a 7/1/2’ 2x or 3x leader is usually sufficient unless fishing smaller dry flies to rising fish. Look for Caddis too, particularly along the banks lined with willows and bushes. A Caddis emerger dropped off of a dry fly can often be a fish magnet, particularly later in the afternoon.
This time of year can create a quandary for most anglers. The air temperature can be warm and make it uncomfortable to wear waders, while the water temperature is still pretty chilly, making it difficult to wet wade except for the most hardy types. So, do what’s most comfortable. If float fishing, a good option may be to start out in waders, then shift over to wet wading when it warms up in the afternoon.
Out on the Yellowstone, it will be ready to go when the water color transitions from brown in color to a blueish green tint.
Be prepared to nymph down deep. If fishing a dry/dropper set up try a fairly long dropper. Streamers could also be dead drifted or stripped off the bank. As flows are a little lower than normal for this time of year, if we get a run of hot weather again, we’ll have to start paying attention to water temperatures. If things get hot for a significant period of time, then I’d recommend hitting the water a little earlier than normal before the water starts heating up too bad. It’s still a mystery what hopper fishing is going to look like this year. I wouldn’t hesitate to start throwing them early though, as they’re bound to solicit some action.
This is going to be a tough season to try and predict and forecast. We’ll just have to roll with it and see how it plays out. So, I would recommend getting on it now and enjoying it, since there’s no way of knowing what the summer will bring. Tight lines!
Chris Fleck owns and operates Stillwater Anglers Fly Shop and Outfitters in Columbus. He can be contacted at 322-4977 or via www.stillwateranglers.com.