The Stillwater River (Stilly) is a freestone river that originates from the beautiful Beartooth Mountain Range. It is about 70 miles long and ends up going into the Yellowstone River in Columbus, Montana. Despite the name the Stillwater River is anything but still. Class III rapids in the middle to lower section amongst multitudes of rock gardens that challenge even the best oarsmen. Making the drive up to see the headwaters is a beautiful sight but that is about all you will get out of it. Multiple waterfalls and terrain that you are not able to hike in keep the upper Stillwater pristine.
Many of us call the Stillwater River the last hidden gem in Montana as it is not well known and holds some of the best fishing a angler could ask for. The low pressure from it not being well known and the skill it takes to row the river keeps these fish gobbling up almost any dry fly or nymph that even half way resembles the real thing. We find ourselves looking for a fly the fish WON’T eat instead of racking our brain trying to match the hatch.
The Stillwater River is easily one of my favorite trout fisheries to guide.
When the heat of summer comes in to play the Stillwater River typically stays much cooler due to the minimal distance from the mountain range, to the Yellowstone River. On a typical hot day we will float from the Stillwater to the Yellowstone and a lot of those Yellowstone fish will be stacked at the confluence because of the colder water coming out of the Stillwater. Many of the big, spawning Yellowstone fish will move up the Stillwater to spawn as well because of this colder water. While the Yellowstone could be at or above 70 degrees the Stillwater will be in the mid 60’s. This makes for excellent habitat for trout and perfect habitat for spawning trout.
Find info about the Yellowstone River here.
See more info about the Stillwater River from our lodge here.