The river to wade
Nestled in the Gravelly and Ruby Mountains outside Alder, the Ruby River flows from Ruby Reservoir. Narrower than most of the major rivers in southwest Montana, the Ruby offers unique and rewarding fishing.
A majority of this river flows through private property. Below the dam there are clearly marked access sites serviced by Montana FWP. Once legally accessed, Montana Stream Access Law allows an angler to fish a stream or river in an unlimited capacity, as long as they stay within the high water marks of the riverbed. The upper stretch of the river above Ruby Reservoir is also surrounded by private property, with the uppermost reaches within National Forest boundaries.
Flowing peacefully through high alpine farm ground, the Ruby winds between its bushy banks toward its confluence with the Beaverhead River. Average flows below the dam range between 200 cfs to 400 cfs. Upper reaches tend to fall between 100 and 300 cfs, with higher flows seen in both sections during spring runoff.
When to Go & What to Use
Springtime on the Ruby brings hatches of baetis and early season caddis. When the water warms in summer, the river will explode with yellow sallys and PMDs, along with hoppers and other terrestrials. Late summer and early fall is the best time to fish, as clouds settle in the high mountain valley providing fast paced action for the streamer enthusiast. Running a nymph rig subsurface, or using a dry/dropper combo is the best technique on the Ruby throughout the year. Fish will key in on hoppers during the late summer months, and stellar streamer fishing can be had late summer and early fall.
A predominant brown trout fishery, the Ruby is full of these hard-fighting wild trout that can often reach 18 inches and may on occasion push the 20-inch mark. The highest concentration of rainbow trout are in the first few miles below the dam. For those seeking a unique opportunity, the upper portions of the Ruby hold rare cutthroat trout and arctic grayling.
Row Vs. Wade
Wade fishing is the most common way to fish the Ruby. Tight quarters, private land, and lack of access sites below the dam limit the number of float angling opportunities.
The Ruby River opens for fishing the third Saturday in May. A small, clearly marked portion of the river just below the dam and the outlet channel are closed year-round.
Take I-90 west 60 miles to Whitehall, then continue on Hwy 55/41 for 55 miles through Twin Bridges into Alder.
Justin Hartman is the owner and outfitter of Tight Line Adventures and Expedition Lodge in Dillon.