Montana Fly Fishing
The Ruby River

Ruby River

Fly Fishing the Ruby River

Ruby River in Southwest Montana
Photo Use Guidelines

The Ruby River, despite some battles with whirling disease and a massive fish kill in the lower stretches in1994, continues to provide some excellent fly fishing.

The upper stretch of the Ruby River, above Ruby Reservoir, has excellent fly fishing for average sized rainbows, cutthroats and grayling. The lower stretch of the river, below Ruby Dam, provides excellent brown trout fishing. The average size of browns runs between 10-14 inches, with some fish stretching 18-20 inches. While the browns may not get as large in the Ruby as in other better known nearby rivers, the lower fishing pressure on the river makes the fish somewhat easier to catch.

Origin Ruby River to Ruby Reservoir

The upper stretch of the river, above Ruby Reservoir, is excellent habitat for rainbows, cutthroats and a few grayling that have been recently introduced. The river in this section is quite narrow and twists extensively. While in the national forest, the banks of the river are a mix of grass, forests and brush. Once the river leaves the national forest and enters the Ruby Valley, the river begins to flow through extensive brushy sections.

Upper Ruby River
Photo Use Guidelines

For anglers who are not in search of trophy trout but are rather seeking to fly fish in a pristine and remote setting, consider fishing the upper Ruby River which lies in the national forest lands. The mountains provide a very scenic backdrop, the river itself runs clear, fishing pressure is low to non-existent and access to the Ruby River is excellent.

Once the Ruby River leaves the national forest lands, access to this stretch becomes very difficult as it runs entirely through private lands. Access is only possible at a few bridge crossings, none of which are easy due to tall fences erected by landowners that run right up to the bridge. For the angler who can scale these fences, be prepared to do all fishing and wading in the river, not along the riverbanks. The narrow width of the Ruby, combined with its extensive brushy banks make fishing from shore very difficult once the Ruby leaves national forest lands. Additionally, the Ruby River lacks a distinct high water mark, requiring anglers to wade directly in the stream to reach prime fly fishing holes away from the few bridge access sites.

Brown trout can also be found on this stretch of the Ruby River, and will generally be found just above the inlet to Ruby Reservoir. To reach these fish, a very small boat will be needed, as access to the river just above the reservoir inlet is difficult. Put a boat into the reservoir and paddle up the river. Most of the rainbows in the upper section of the river run 8-12 inches.

Ruby Dam to Jefferson River

Below Ruby Dam, the prime brown trout fishing waters will be found. Access is also somewhat better than found upstream as a number of designated fishing access sites and frequent bridge crossings provide decent access to the river. The river, similar to upstream, is very narrow and twists extensively. Very thick brush lines the banks for most of its length in this section, making fly fishing from shore next to impossible.

Lower Ruby River
Photo Use Guidelines

Due to extensive irrigation withdrawls, the Ruby River loses much of its flows as it travels downstream from the dam, thus reducing fly fishing quality.

Fishing pressure on this stretch is heavier than found above Ruby Reservoir, but it is not abnormally heavy. For an angler willing to wade directly in the stream for some distance (walking along the banks is generally impossible), a fly fisherman can find solitude away from the standard access sites.

As this is prime brown trout waters, standard brown trout tactics work well. Unlike the brown trout in many other waters, the fish are not nearly as finicky about what they eat. However, as the Ruby River more resembles a spring creek in this section than a river, care must be taken when wading in the river so as to not spook the fish.

This section of the Ruby River flows through prime grasshopper country (very arid, somewhat windy with lots of grass beyond the riverbanks). Thus, it should probably be no surprise that hoppers are the flies of choice on the Ruby. The Ruby River is considered to be one of the prime hopper fishing waters in the state, with hopper fishing possible from late June all the way up to the first hard frost of the year.

When hoppers aren't working, other flies to use for the Ruby brown trout are big attractor patterns such as the wolly bugger and various minnow patterns, stripped erratically along the bottom, especially near the undercut banks. For the rainbows, pale morning duns, elk hair caddis and X wing caddis imitations all work well. Tricos in tiny sizes also have success later in the summer.

Next Page : Ruby River Floating Information

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