Stillwater Angler Fishing Report
Flows on the Stillwater aren’t too far away from being on the outside edge of the envelope for float fishing.
The Yellowstone is dropping and clearing too with reports from our friends up in Paradise Valley of a couple of feet of visibility! It’s looking like things will be cranking back up very soon.
So, it’s time to start talking fishing tactics and techniques again.
Once we resume post runoff fishing on the freestones, the most common rig set up is what we call a “dry-dropper” or “hopper-dropper” rig. I remember the first time I walked into a fly shop and heard this term and went, “huh?”
Basically it consists of fishing a large dry fly or hopper as a searching pattern on the surface with a trailing nymph tied off of it to fish sub-surface. Golden stones, yellow sallies and of course hoppers will soon begin to make their appearance on the rivers.
We’ve even had a stonefly sighting or two on the Stillwater. These types of patterns make an excellent top fly as they’re usually large, bushy, buoyant, and highly visible for most anglers.
The most common set up is running a piece of tippet (generally a size smaller than that to the top fly) 18 to 24 inches off of the bend of the hook of the top fly to the trailing nymph.
Sometimes that length should be shorter if wanting to fish a trailing emerger pattern slightly below the surface. If fishing large dry fly or hopper patterns, typically a 7 ½-9’2-3X leader/tippet to the top fly with 3-4X tippet to the trailing nymph will do. Fluorocarbon tippet sometimes works well for the dropper as it is less visible, has a higher tinsel strength and is more abrasion resistant then nylon tippet.
For boat fishing on the Stillwater when flows are a bit high, I’ve been setting my clients up with a 7 ½ 2X leader with a piece of 2X tippet to the top fly, then using 3X fluorocarbon tippet for my dropper fly. This is just a way, but seems to work well for me.
The dry fly on top, in addition to its own attraction to the fish, also serves as a sort of a strike indicator for the trailing nymph. It keeps it suspended in the water column at the desired depth as well as indicates when to set the hook. So, instead of nymphing with just an indicator, why not put a hook on it?
A key to this setup is to make sure that the trailing nymph isn’t too big or heavy, causing the top dry fly to submerge.
This rig usually works best with larger dries and hoppers in the size 8 to12 range and the nymphs in size 14 to16. Another feature of this setup is that it is perfect for shallow water nymphing along the river’s edge. Without split shot, the trailing nymph will just drift along, meandering in the water without getting hung up on the bottom.
As an aside, regardless of the fishing technique, don’t ignore fishing shallower water on the edges and on the banks. You’d be amazed at the big fish that can be found lurking in this type of water.
This setup is a great way to fish the best of both worlds. The dry fly on top usually gets a fair number of hits on its own and the nymph picks up those fish feeding sub-surface.
Remember too, to get a good pause in the back cast to let things load properly or it will tangle up in the casting motion. It can also be a difficult setup to fish in the wind for those obvious reasons.
So if you haven’t been fishing this way, give it a go and double your chances for success!
Chris Fleck owns and operates Stillwater Anglers Fly Shop and Outfitters in Columbus.