Stillwater River Rainbow Trout
Copyright 2016 James Marsh
Fly Fishing On The Stillwater River In
The Stillwater River originates in the
Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness near the Wyoming state
line and Yellowstone National Park boundary. It flows for
a total of about 70 miles, first through Custer National
Forest between the Absaroka Mountain Range and the
Beartooth Mountains. From there it flows through a
mixture of prairie and forest country to its confluence
with the Yellowstone River. Fly fishing the Stillwater
River is fast, pocket water fishing that usually provides a
lot of action.

The Stillwater River is probably the most misnamed river
in the World. Whitewater River would be a better name
for it. It is a mountainous, fast-flowing, freestone stream.
This is a beautiful river that is not heavily fished. It has a
good population of cutthroat, rainbow, brook and
brown trout.

Access to the upper section is great but in a wilderness
area that does require hiking into. Horseback trips can
also be arranged. Access outside the wilderness area is
also good. Many public access areas, roadside pulloffs
and bridges provide access.

The upper section of the river contains mostly brook
trout and cutthroat trout. Rainbow and Cutthroat are
plentiful in the middle section of the Stillwater River.
Brown trout as well as rainbows and a few cutthroat are
more common in the lower section.

Much of the Stillwater River consist of white water class
rapids. Floating any part of the wilderness section isn't
advisable. Fast water rapids are plentiful even when the
stream leaves the wilderness area. Below Nye, the river
tends to slow down but is still very fast flowing water with
lots of rapids. Unless your highly experienced with this
type of water, you shouldn't attempt to float it.

Summertime water levels slow the flow down but
presents other dangers in the form of rock outcroppings.
It's more suitable for smaller inflatable rafts or kayaks.
The lower section of the Stillwater River is more

Trout Food and Trout Flies:
The Stillwater has quite a few species of aquatic insects
but most of them are clinger nymphs. There are several
species of stoneflies including Little Winter stoneflies,
Little Yellow Stoneflies, Salmonflies and Golden
Stoneflies. These hatches always produce a lot of action
but it requires being there at the right time and place. All
but the Little Yellow Stonefly hatches are short in
duration at any one point along the stream.

There are several different species of mayflies including
Blue-winged olives, Pale Morning Duns, Western March
Browns, Yellow Quills, Ginger Quills, Callabaetis, or
Speckled Wing Quills, Tricos and others. You can
always call or email us for information on the status of
the hatches.

There are a several species of caddisflies including
Green Sedges, Short-horned sedges, Spotted Sedges
and October Caddis. The first ones to hatch in the late
Spring are Little Black Caddis, or American Grannoms.
During the summer and early fall, caddisfly hatches and
egg laying activity are often the only thing happening.
You need to fish the egg laying part very late in the day,
until it is almost dark.

During the warmer months of the year, don't overlook
the terrestrial insects, especially ants and beetles.
These are mostly carpenter ants and Japanese Beetles.
There are also some grasshopper along some parts of
the stream.

Sculpin are very plentiful. So make sure you have some
Perfect Fly imitations of them. We have the Brown and
White Belly Sculpin and Olive and Black Matuka Sculpin
that work well for this stream.

One of the reasons the Stillwater River isn't a more
popular destination is the numerous other trout streams
in the same general area of Montana. If that were not
the case, it would be a highly popular stream.

Fly fishing the Stillwater River can be good any day of
the season.
Springtime is a prime time for fly fishing the Stillwater
River due to plentiful hatches.
The water stays cool during the Summer, especially in
the upper section, and the fishing stays good.
Early Fall is an excellent time to fish the Stillwater River,
maybe the best time.

Fly Fishing Gear, Tackle and Trout Flies
Type of Stream

Brown Trout
Rainbow Trout
Cutthroat Trout
Brook Trout

Medium to large

Central Montana

Nearest Towns

3rd Sat. May - Nov 30th

Plentiful but hiking required in the
uppermost section

Non-Resident License
State of Montana

National Weather Service Link

Fly Fishing Gear, Tackle and
Trout Flies

Stream Flow Data:
Near Absarokee
Free Shipping Continental U. S.
100% Satisfaction Guaranteed
Photo Courtesy Steven Lamb
Stillwater River
Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.

2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.

3. Email us (
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.

All orders are shipped free in the
U. S. Orders over $50 are shipped via
Priority Mail.  
Stillwater River Fishing Report:
06/07/15 Stream flows are at 1740 cfs, which means the runoff is in full stream mode. Lots of
aquatic insects are hatching but this doesn't do much good until the levels subside.
Stillwater River Fishing Report -
25, 2016
(below at bottom of page)
07/10/15 Runoff is over and the river is in great shape with lots of hatches including
PMSs, Spotted Sedges, Green Sedges, Golden stones, Little Yellow stones and others.
07/23/15 Two good reports from customers. Terrestrials working good and lots of PMDs.
08/11/15 Hatches have slowed down but still lots of PMDs and Spotted sedge caddis.
08/18/15 Much cooler weather is forecast for this coming weekend. Low stream levels
require a little more stealth than normal, but otherwise, conditions are good.
08/25/15 We get few angler reports from the Stillwater even when conditions are good as they
are right now. It is warming back up this coming week and the water a little low but in good
09/01/15 The weather is turning much cooler this coming week and that will improve the
conditions but change the aquatic insects that are hatching. Stay in touch and we will keep
you updated.
09/08/15 The cool weather didn't last long. It is hot again but stream levels are good.
Terrestrial are working, ants, beetles and hoppers.
09/15/15 It is raining and that should help. It is turning cooler and that too will help. We didn't
receive any reports from anyone fishing this past week.
09/22/15 Stream levels are a little below normal or great for wading. There are still a few
hatches taking place -Mahogany duns, BWOs, Spotted Sedges, Green Sedges and more.
09/29/15 We got a good report from a loyal customer who caught some nice rainbows this
past week. Good conditions should continue for the coming week.
10/07/15 Lots of October Caddis, or some call them Giant Orange Sedges, are hatching.
Good stream levels and great weather. Brown trout are approaching spawn time.
10/13/15 Great conditions exist throughout the length of the Stillwater. Spawning brown
trout and hatching October caddis. What more could you ask for?
10/20/15 Good stream levels and weather continues and anglers are continuing to catch
good numbers of trout. October Caddis are at the peak of their hatch.
10/27/15 Good stream levels still exist and one good report came in this past week. There is
rain forecast later this week, so be sure to check the levels. October Caddis are still
hatching and Blue-winged Olives are picking up and in two sizes, 20 and 16.
11/10/15 The season ends at the end of this month, so you better take advantage of the
fine fishing opportunity while you can. Good stream conditions and decent weaather.
11/24/15 No reports from last week. There's a winter storm taking place but it will clear out
by Friday. The water temperature will not exceed 40 this week.
12/01/15 The winter storm warning are over and the weather forecast looks good for the next
week. Good stream levels exist and there's no excuse for you not fishing. Midges, cream and
blood (red) larva and pupa fished in tandem will produce as well as the
Brown sculpin.  
12/08/15 We are adding Winter stoneflies to the list. They are hatching. Fish the nymphs
until you see the females depositing eggs on the surface and then switch to the adult pattern.
12/15/15 It has turned colder and there's some ice along the banks. The water is in the high
thirties. Midges and Winter Stoneflies would be about the only feasible option.
12/22/15 The water temperature is getting much colder ranging from freezing to about 38
degrees depending on where you are fishing. This is tough conditions. Midges and Winter
stoneflies are the only flies you should need.
12/29/15 We recommend seeking another destination at this time. The water is just too cold
for you to have much opportunity. We aren't saying you can't cast trout, just that is is tough.
01/13/16 The weather is a little warmer with lots of snow forecast. You may want to try the
slower, deeper pools with midges fished with the larva and pupa in tandem.
01/19/16 The weather should be much warmer this coming week. With that comes more snow
and rain and melting snow not only stains the water, it keep the water temperature down low.
01/26/16 There is some water that's about 37 degrees and we do have some warmer days
this coming week. You do have to fish the slower water, in holes in the bottom of the pools
and runs, out of the fast current. Trout will not hold in fast current when the water is this cold.
02/02/16 It warmed up a few days but back to the normal Montana winter weather. The
warmest water in the Sillwater River is 36 degrees and it is mostly lower than that. Midges,
both cream and blood (red) will catch trout if you fish them correctly.
02/09/16 The weather is going to be a little warmer with highs in the forties and lows about
freezing. The water temperature is averaging only 33 to 35 degrees. Midges will catch trout
but you will have to fish holes in the bottom of the runs and pools.
02/16/16 The warm weather is nice but it has melted a lot of snow and ice that tends to keep
the water temperature in the mid thirties as well as stained. That may improve this next week.
03/01/16 The water is still cold from melting snow and ice even though the weather has been
much warmer than normal the past week. Midges and winter stoneflies are still the best choice
for flies. Fish the larva and pupa in tandem and the adult imitation on when you see them on top.
03/08/16 Conditions are okay right now but the river level is sure to come up due to all the
snow and rain in the forecast every day for the next week. Midges have been the only option.
03/15/16 The warm spell is over and the weather pattern back to normal with snow in the
forecast through Friday. Midges are hatching and are the best choice of flies right now.
03/22/16 If the water was really still, it would be frozen right now. It is moving and at a good
level. It is possible to catch trout on midges, but you should fish the slower moving water in
holes in the bottom and pockets out of the main current. They won't hold in fast water this cold.
03/29/16 The USGS link was linked to the wrong stream but has been corrected. Sorry about
that. Thanks to a viewer for letting us know.
04/12/16 The river is flowing high and dingy but not that bad. There is more rain to come lasting
through Friday, then clearing. We think it will be fine the first of the week.
04/26/16 The stream is very high and dingy from melting snow of last week and will probably
remain that way for the next few days from wet snow and rain.
05/03/16 Get ready for the Mother's day caddis hatch, Little Black Caddis, as it isn't far
away. The water needs to reach 50 degrees. The stream is currently still high but clearer.
05/10/16 High and dirty water exist due to pre-runoff conditions. It will be a few days
dropping and clearing. The Monther's Day hatch will be on hold for a week or so.
05/17/16 The stream level is down and the water clearer but it is still too high to wade safely in
most sections. There is more rain in the forecast this coming week. The conditions are marginal.
05/24/16 The river is flowing at 1570 cfs at 3.44 ft. which is very high. Spring runoff is
underway. This is going to last for several days.
05/31/16 The flows are not that bad at this time, but very likely to go up all week due to the
warmer weather in the forecast.
06/07/16 The Stillwater ain't still. It is rolling at 3660 cfs. This is from rain and runoff and is
likely to continue this coming week.
06/14/16 The river is lower but still on the high side with little opportunity to wade. It can be
fished. Nymphs on indicators and/or sculpin streamers should offer the best shot.
06/21/16 The river is in good shape with levels that permit wading in some sections. There are
a lot of hatches taking place including BWOs, Pale Morning Duns, Spotted Sedges, Green
Sedges, Little short-horned sedges, Golden stoneflies, some Salmonflies and others.
06/28/16 The stream flow is down to 1240 cfs which is a little on the high side but it can be
waded safely in some sections. There are a lot of insects hatching including the big stoneflies,
PMD, and two species of caddisflies. Now is the time to start fishing the Stillwater.
07/05/16 The river is in good shape in all sections. We received two very good reports from
customers this past week. There are a lot of insects hatching. Stream levels are down in good
shape. Now, is a great time to fish the river.
07/12/16 Good stream levels and a good weather forecast usually equals good fishing
opportunity and that is what you should have this coming week on the Stillwater. There are still
plenty of insects hatching but soon, terrestrials will also become important.
07/19/16 It is much warmer and the stream levels much lower, but there is still a lot of
opportunity to catch good numbers of trout from the Stillwater. Pale Morning duns, Golden
and little Yellow stoneflies and lot of caddis continue to hatch.
07/26/16 The flows are down to 618 cfs, which is low. The water is getting warmer and the
hatches changes some. We added Tricos to the list as they started hatching.
08/02/16 The river is getting rather warm and you must fish early mornings. We recommend
choosing another location until it cools down some.
08/09/16 The Stillwater River is under Hoot Owl restrictions from the Cliff Swallow FAS
downstream to the Yellowstone River. You cannot fish after 2:00 PM. Fish streamers in the
early morning like our Sculpin patterns. Tricos are falling and PMDs falling mornings.
08/16/16 They haven't removed the Hoot Owl restrictions as of today. Streamers, like our
Black and Olive Matuka sculpin, fished in the early mornings will give you some good shots at
some larger trout.
RIVER and all of its associated tributaries starting 8/19/2016. Mandatory Waterbody Closure
From the northern boundary of Yellowstone National Park in Gardiner, MT to the Highway 212
Bridge in Laurel, MT.
09/06/16 The closure on the Yellowstone, including this river, has been dropped.The weather
and water are both much cooler and there are still plenty of aquatic insects hatching.
09/13/16 The river is in good shape flowing at about a normal level and the water temperature
down in good shape. Let us hear from you. We didn't receive any reports this past week.
09/20/16 One good report from a customer. He used mostly terrestrials, mainly hoppers.
October Caddis and Mahogany duns have started hatching. The level is a little low but should
come up. There is rain forecast everyday this week.
09/27/16 We received some very good reports this past weekend. The river is just a little low
but in good shape otherwise, with lots of October Caddis, Mahogany duns and BWO hatches.
10/04/16 The river is turning out some nice size brown trout. The are entering the pre-spawn
stage and have become very aggressive. There is no more worry about warm water.
10/12/16 More good reports from all sections of the river. Lots of trout are being caught. Good
BWO, Mahogany dun and some October Caddis hatches are taking place.
10/25/16 The stream levels have been running just a little above average but on the way up
some now. Blue-winged olives and Mahogany duns are hatching good.