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Ruby River – Alder, Montana

Each year on our annual Montana fly fishing trip, we fish the lower Ruby River below the reservoir. This year I had a local in an Ennis fly shop tell me about his secret spot. “Just go to the red barn, ’bout 20 miles past the reservoir, park on other side of road and have at it.” Well, he was right. Great fishing and great water. The problem was the outfitters that had staked out the river at the bridge near the barn. Essentially, they told us they pay a rod fee there and that we were breaking the Montana Stream Access Law by accessing the water next to the bridge. I understand the need to protect the interest of their clients, but when we accessed the water from a public bridge on a public roadway I believe we were in the right and should’ve stayed the course.

Bridge Access
House Bill 190 , passed during the 2009 Legislative Session, confirmed that the public has access to surface waters by public bridge or county road right-of-way. The Department, in cooperation with the affected landowner and county, is responsible for providing public passage around or through a fence preventing such access. A typical access feature would be a stile, gate, roller, walkover, or wooden rail fence.

At any rate, being seven of us, it took a while to gather the dispersed troops. In the brief time hunting down the troops I managed to hook up 2 beautiful Rainbows in about 8 casts. Nice. The old man in the shop was right…this area kills. Anyways, to keep peace we all decided to go up river about 5 miles to Cottonwood Campground. This far up the river starts to get a little small and access is more difficult but entirely public. Fishing was less productive and all fish seen were in the 6″-12″ range. Not ideal

Time: 9am-10am, 10-12pm
Fish: Rainbows, Cutthroats, Grayling, Brown (Lower)
Flies: Bead Head Prince Nymph, Elk Hair Caddis, Dunn, Stoneflys
Water: Clear
GPS: 45.520278, -112.340278
Rating(s): Red Barn – 4 Star, Cottonwood Campground- 2 Star

-gone fly fishing,


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