Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Stillwater Angler Fishing Report

Hoppers and droppers

A couple of mornings the past week or so have given us a reminder that a change in the season is coming. Late summer is here, and fall is just around the corner.
“Hoot owl” hours have been in effect for a couple of weeks now. Although still warm, water temperatures have started to drop from the critical range, and there is still fishing to be had.
We’ve been working around the restrictions by getting on earlier and having lunch on the go, therefore maximizing our fishing time. If the restrictions will help protect the fishery and make for better conditions later on, I’m all for it.
On the Stillwater, flows are running in the mid 300cfs range. This makes the float fishing a pretty tough proposition. Not only is it tough to navigate, but it means floating over the fishing water in many cases.
Anglers have been enjoying success with some dry fly and hopper fishing. Once it warms up a bit later in the morning, try the big dry/hopper and dropper nymph set up. For dropper nymphs, I recommend using the standard beadhead nymphs like a hare’s ear, copper john, pheasant tail, prince, batman or lightning bug. A long dropper is usually effective and gets the fly down in the water column to where it needs to be.
In windy conditions, either shorten it up or cut it off entirely. For a big dry/hopper, a PMX in a variety of body colors, Jack Cabe, stimulator, Fat Frank, Yellowstoner Chubby or Chubby Chernobyl, also in a variety of body colors will do the trick.
Hopper fishing has been fairly active, as fish have been looking up, so don’t hesitate to experiment with hopper patterns. I usually use size 10-12 on the Stillwater. A parachute adams or purple haze have also been taking fish even with no apparent activity, so don’t hesitate to use one of them to search likely holding water.
If it’s hard to pick up out on the water, try dropping a size 14-16 off of the back of a bigger, more visible dry fly. Straight nymphing has been good too, particularly early in the day when the water is colder.
One benefit of the lower flows on the Yellowstone is that it has exposed shelves and other features, creating excellent holding water. On most days there have been some Tricos on the water first thing. This is an extremely small mayfly that is very difficult for most of us to fish.
Nonetheless, it’s hard to not at least attempt to fish to rising fish. A small pattern with the right presentation always may get an eat. If the angler gets dialed in it can be productive. Smaller patterns and finer tippet are the order of the day.
A good tactic is to drop the smaller Trico pattern off of a larger high visibility fly in us it is a reference point on the water. Fish will occasionally hit that fly too.
The hopper bite has really come on lately and has been good, particularly once the day warms up by late morning or early afternoon. If not trying to fish the Tricos, it’s usually best to straight nymph first thing in the day, or maybe even streamer fish, particularly on overcast or poor weather days.
Nymph using both a short setup in shallow water and a longer rig in deeper water. Girdle bugs or pepperoni yuk bugs on a long dropper with a smaller beadhead nymph like a prince, hares ear or pheasant tail trailed off of it have been productive.
For big dry/dropper time, try the usual suspects like a Chubby Chernobyl, Yellowstoner Chubby, Yeti Hopper, Sheila Hopper, PMX or Fat Frank as a top fly along with a beadhead nymph dropper. Peach, pink, purple and tan have been a good body color for hoppers.
Sizes 8-12 have been successful depending on the color and pattern. For best results, use a long dropper.
Another tactic that has been taking fish, particularly in nervous water, is to trail an ant, beetle, small hopper, or small dry fly off of a hopper on a short piece of tippet. As with the Stillwater, a smallish dry fly pattern like a purple haze can be fished as a searching fly in likely water, even with no actively feeding fish and still produce.
As water temperatures continue to drop and hoppers are plentiful, despite low flows, I look for good fishing conditions to be with us this fall. In addition to the hoppers, we’ll start to see some of our fall hatches coming on soon which always makes for some fun dry fly action.
Although the water temperature on rivers and streams are starting to drop back down to a more comfortable and healthy level, it’s still important to play fish promptly and minimize their handling. Keep ‘em wet and 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