Friday, January 19, 2018

Stillwater Anger Fishing Report

Fall fishing in full swing

Fishing is continuing to be steady, particularly out on the Yellowstone, so get out there and enjoy some great late summer/early fall fishing conditions.
Flows on the Stillwater have now dropped to 400-450 cfs (cubic feet per second). While the lower river is still floatable, it’s become extremely challenging. Also, be sure and use caution at the Beartooth Drop as with lower flows, many more rocks come into play. Not too much has changed since last week in regards to fly patterns.
Hoppers and large dry flies with dropper nymphs are still the best bet. In cooler, rainy weather though, look for some smaller mayflies to be out and the fish to be keying in on them. A parachute adams or purple haze should do the trick in those conditions. Water temperatures continue to be in a comfortable range and that should only continue as days will be getting shorter and night time lows and mornings colder.
As I mentioned last week, there’s probably no real hurry to get out on the water. Nymphing this time of day will likely take fish. 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 cold. Be advised that the Stillwater River Road remains closed to through traffic due to a rock slide above Cliff Swallow in the vicinity of the Midnight Canyon bridge.
The Yellowstone continues to fish very well. There are some days that are better than others, and of course some times during the day that are better than others too. The lower than normal flows have exposed shelves and other features, creating excellent holding water. The drop in water temperature has allowed the fish to move into all areas of the river.
The hopper bite has really come on lately and has been good, particularly once the day warms up by late morning or early afternoon. As with the Stillwater, there’s no real hurry to get out on the water. 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.
Recently we’ve been seeing a large, lighter color mayfly coming off in the mid to late mornings, as well as still seeing some occasional tricos on the water. 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.
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 are working well for the hopper/dropper set up. 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.
Nymphs like a beadhead flashback pheasant tail or hares ear are good choices. 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.
Excellent fishing conditions should continue to stay with us well into the fall. In addition to the hoppers, we’ll start to see some additional hatches coming on soon which always makes for some fun dry fly action. Please continue to play fish promptly and minimize their handling as it’s been a rough summer of water temperatures. Enjoy the scenery, solitude and fun that is to be had fly fishing in our area this time of year. Tight lines! 
Chris Fleck owns and operates Stillwater Anglers Fly Shop and Outfitters in Columbus.