Stillwater Angler Fishing Report
An angler is always going to hedge themselves when talking about the condition of the river, either present or future. Thus, I’m cautiously optimistic that the Stillwater will maintain throughout the summer.
It rounded into fishing shape the last week or so, which is much sooner than normal, after dropping and clearing dramatically. Flows are still hovering around the 2,000 cubic feet per second range. While hot days certainly contribute, it’s the warm nights that are the main culprit for accelerating the mountain snow melt.
This time of year, float fishing should only be done with a sturdy, reliable craft and by experienced oarsmen. Until flows drop a bit lower, it would also be wise for all passengers to wear life jackets as well. There’s already been one toss at “The Drop” that I’m aware of, and fortunately there were no casualties.
As a bit of safety advice, if you do get spilled into the river at this stage, you’re probably going down river in a hurry before anyone can give you a hand. If this happens, don’t panic but go down river feet first in a seating-like position. Trying to stand will be futile and could risk injury.
When the opportunity presents itself, roll towards shore or shallower water until you are finally out of the main current. It may take a while, but you’ll eventually get to a piece of calmer water.
Until flows subside a bit further, for float fishing, nymphing will probably be as good a bet as any. A bigger rubber leg pattern along with a smaller beadhead nymph under an indicator should produce. Adjust the length and weight according to water speed and depth. A warning though – with the fast current speeds, be prepared to lose a lot of gear if using too much weight, and pick and choose carefully where to pull over and net a fish or anchor.
Zipping along at high speeds also isn’t very conducive to trying to drift dry flies, so one needs to pick their spots. Basically it’s probably pretty much a nymphing game at this point. One tactic to avoid constant hanging up and breaking off is to fish a shallow nymph rig with maybe just a tad of weight.
By late in the afternoon, water temperatures are around the 60 degree mark, which is close to ideal temperatures for trout. Target the water where it transitions in depth, generally indicated by the change in shade or color. Also, some of the side channels are probably worth taking a look at as well. They should have decent flows, but less than the main channel, making them a bit easier to navigate for the wade fisherman. There are a few PMDs showing up along with Caddis later in the day, so be prepared to fish both those patterns in dry flies and nymphs.
As always, it is recommended to use as heavy a leader as possible – 2x or 3x should suffice. Even in pristine water, these fish are not leader shy. Seldom on the Stillwater is it necessary to break out anything finer than 4x. I suspect that more fish are lost due to breaking off as a result of using too fine of a size tippet then are spooked because of too heavy of a size tippet. The basic rule of thumb is to use as large a size of leader/tippet as you can get away with.
If fishing a double nymph rig, go down a size with the tippet to the bottom fly, so if the trailer fly gets hung up, it will break off without losing the entire rig. The fast currents generally push the fish out towards the edges where the water is slacker and the feeding conditions are a bit easier, so the angler’s best bet is to target those sections of the river. 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