One of the last best streams in the last best place, the Stillwater is what fly fishing memories are made of. A tributary of the Yellowstone, the Stillwater begins in Yellowstone Park and flows north to Columbus, MT, a distance of around 75 miles. The first 25 miles of the river runs through the Absaroka/Beartooth Wilderness and is accessible only by foot or horseback. Lots of brookies and rainbows, some of them fairly large. This area is also the home of the state's largest population of golden trout, some fish weighing over 4 pounds. After the Wilderness, the river loses much of its rate of fall and becomes floatable. Brown trout replace the brookies, a few individuals surpassing 20". In late June, July, and early August float fishing here is superb The trout are opportunists and attack just about anything you throw at them including big, bushy, high-floating dry flies and/or nymphs of all kinds and sizes.
The river supports trout all the way to Billings, but the best fly fishing for trout is from its confluence in Yellowstone Park to Columbus, MT, a distance of about 200 miles. When the Yellowstone is fishing well, every other trout stream in the state can take a back seat. This happens 4 times a year; during the Mother's Day caddis hatch, just as the river below Livingston starts to clear after spring runoff (streamer flies!), following stonefly hatches as they progress upstream, and in late July and August when the grasshoppers are thick. At other times the river is just great trout water, but during these not-so-brief moments the Yellowstone is awesome.
The fish here are huge and there are plenty of them. State and federal biologists have been doing exhaustive research since the early 1980's; their conservative estimates place trout populations at over 5,000 individuals per mile, around 10% of them 18" or larger. The Bighorn is one of the best rivers you can find to test your fishing skills.
There you have it! Three fantastic trout streams guaranteed to put a dangerous bend in your fly rod and fill your head with sweet Montana Fly Fishing memories.