The Bighorn River is in full summer swing and the dry fly action is heating up. Anglers are finding decent hatches of PMD spinners in the morning, Yellow Sallies mid day and Black Caddis from about noon to dark. There are even some Tricos showing up in the early hours. Check out this phots of Gary with a beautiful 20" brown caught on a size 20 rusty spinner. Shawn McClure, his guide, put him on this bad boy and Gary made a perfect cast in some tough wind conditions. Atta baby Gary! This is a great time to visit us if you love fishing with dries.
The nymph program still remains strong. The old reliable Wire Worm with a Soft Hackle Pink Sow Bug is still hard to beat, but Bighorn anglers are also doing well with Quill Nymphs, Caddis Pupa patterns, Split Case PMDs, Wonder Nymphs and olive Pheasant Tails.
If you want to try something different, a Hopper witn a Black Ant dropper is always a hoot fished to the bank. Those big splashy takes are always my favorite. Any angler no matter what your skill level will have a good time right now at the Bighorn River Lodge so see if you can find a few days and start packing! Remember EAT, SLEEP, FISH.
See you on the River!
The cooler, overcast and rainy weather in the last few weeks have produced some excellent BWO hatches and created some outstanding opportunities for great dry fly action here on the Bighorn River. The hatch has begun around noon and lasted until around 3:00. The game plan has been to get in and nymph down river to a typically good dry fly spot and wait for the hatch to come on. It will generally start with a few rises and increase as the hatch accelearates. After about thirty minutes the riffles and seams will be alive with heads. If you are adept at presenting the fly, in it has not been uncommon to have a 20 fish day. Even some of our novice guests under the excellent instruction of our guides are doing very very well. The hatch should last as long as the weather does. The typical set up has been to use a lead fly with a larger profile like a smoke jumber, CDC BWO cripple, or enven a Mahogany and trail that with the go to fly which has been a #18 Student or a variety of BWO emerger pattern. Even with the oncoming warmer weather, any return to cooler, cloudy weather will bring the hatch back.
In the meantime the nymphing remains steady using pink soft hackle sow bugs, pink scuds, or a grey ray charles with a trailing zebra midge or Bighorn Baetis nymph. The snow pack is at 90%, and the lake is at traditional levels with inflows matching outflows from the Bighorn Lake of around 2,600cfs which portends for a good water year and good water conditions for this season. Nothing like fishing the Bighorn which boasts 5,000-6,000 Rainbow and Brown trout per mile. Get your gear and come on up. See you on the river !!
2016 looks to be another great year for fly fishing on the Bighorn River. The Bureau of Reclamation has already increased the river flows which is rare for this time of year and this hopeful sign can only be good for the river and the health of those beautiful Rainbows and Browns.
Last year’s BWO hatch stretched from late April through May and into early June. The dry fly fishing was outstanding. We are hopeful that we will see these conditions again this Spring.
The Bighorn River Alliance, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to promoting and working to preserve and protect the health of the river, has a new full time executive director. Anne Marie Emery was previously director on the Henry’s Fork and we are very lucky to have someone with her expertise, experience and credentials working for us to help ensure the health and quality of the Bighorn. Her work with the Bureau of Reclamation will be of critical value in managing water flows and fish habitat.
We are also very happy to announce that Shawn Smith our fabulous Chef from two years ago will be returning after a one-year hiatus in Salt Lake City armed with new ideas, menu items and who know what but we are sure it will be outstanding. Welcome back Shawn!!
Okay you are going to love this one. So we have a wonderful client, Howard Hargrove, who has been coming to the Bighorn River Lodge for around 20 years every fall to fish regardless of the weather. He is after big browns ready for the spawn. So this year he brought his son Grant who had never been to the Bighorn. Having just graduated from college this was a present from his father. So here is the deal. Last week, his first trip on the first day, and this was the first fish of the day.
A monster 26” brown. Not bad for a rookie. I told him he might as well pack his bag and go home now cause it’s not gonna get any better than that. You can imagine the heat he had to take over the next three days. Congratulations Grant!
As a reminder the fall fly fishing can be spectacular. I went out last week when the high was 50 and believe it or not there was a BWO hatch. Spotty on the dry flies but we had a great day nymphing with a #18 grey RS2. Just a beautiful day and virtually no one on the river. Keep October and November on your list of OFF SEASON RATE possibilities. We are talking big healthy fish. See you on the river!!!
The Trico’s have been coming on now for a couple of weeks, but this week the hatch was incredible. The hatch has been starting around 6:00 am and if you can get on the river early you will see huge columns of Tricos funneling up from the river with the rising sun silhouetting them in the background. What a sight!
While the hatch has been over by around 10:00, for a couple of days it lasted until noon. There are numerous spots where there will be literally hundreds of fish feeding. Once the spinners hit the water the entire flat is covered with fish heads devouring the spent duns. If you have the right patterns for the duns, emergers, and spinners it is not uncommon to net over 30 fish on dries.
I was fortunate enough to fish with the owner one day last week and we figure we had over 70 fish netted by 12:00. Forget about those we lost. Look at the beautiful 19” Rainbow and Brown we landed as a double.
Here is the good news. I have talked to several guides who think the Trico hatch could last well into October. If you love fishing for dries and can carve out a few days to get here I would highly recommend you try. This is as good as dry fly fishing gets. Give us a call and get an update at any time but as always it is best to strike while the iron is hot. See you on the river!
September, October and November offer some of the best fly fishing of the year here on the Bighorn River. The waters cool down, the Fall colors are spectacular and the summer crowds have gone.
September dry fly fishing can be sensational once the Baetis and Trico hatches return during this month. Cooler weather and some Fall cloud cover create the perfect conditions for these hatches. If the Spring Baetis hatch and the recent Trico hatches are any indications, the Fall hatches should be prolific.
October ushers in the beginning of streamer fishing especially for the aggressive big Brown trout. Both the rainbows and browns are getting ready for Winter and the bite can be really, really good.
November means the Brown trout will be spawning and with the cooler weather the aggressive behavior of both the Rainbows and Browns makes for some electric fly fishing experiences whether you are nymphing or stalking feeding fish on dries.
Favorite Time of Year
This is my favorite time of the year here at the lodge as the Fall colors, cooler weather, and aggressive fish produce some of the best fishing to be had on the Bighorn River. If you haven’t fished here during these months I urge you to do so. Especially since our OFF SEASON RATES BEGIN IN OCTOBER. So get out your calendar, call Cheryl in the office at 406-666-2368, and come experience fall at the Bighorn River Lodge and the superb Fall fishing on the Bighorn River.
What Worked Best?
At the end of every fishing day here at the Bighorn River Lodge the guides and clients gather on the deck overlooking the bass pond and discuss the day’s activities. Invariably they talk about which flies worked the best. It is always interesting to hear what fished well at certain points on the river and what time of day it was. Because as we all know there is a multitude of factors that affect what the fish are eating at certain times of the day and it is different in different parts of the river. That is what makes it so challenging and fun to figure out.
Why does one section of the river produce more worms than another and a different section produces more sow bugs? Part of the answer is water temperature, the river bottom, which can be very grassy in some sections and clean gravel in others, sunlight and cfs flows.
A Little Stomach Pumping
To best learn what is going in a certain section, pump a fish or two and see what is in their stomachs. Seining may show what is in the water, but often that is not what is in the fish’s stomach. Who knows why these fish key on certain food sources? Even more interesting is that often the Brown Trout and Rainbow Trout key on different bugs. So pumping stomachs is a key to successful fishing. Also remember that bugs tend to evolve as the day progresses. So you may want to change that nymph in the morning to an emerger or adult pattern later in the day.
I'm sharing an email I got from a friend who had just been here fishing this week. I think you will find his comments and pictures very educational.
Let’s Go Fishing!!
Seine and use a stomach pump. They tell all.
Always take a bug vile. Put river water in it. Then take a picture of the bugs up toward the sky. Why? because the fish sees them that way so you should look at them the same way. It will change your perspective. Spin the bug bottle so they move all around and take macro tiny close ups and then enlarge the pics on your phone. You will see things you’ve never seen before.
SEINE didn’t reveal any significant population of sowbugs
The first vile is from the seine. Could not find a sowbug bigger than a 24. ttttttiny.
but we did learn why two toned worms work so well….depends if the worm is straighten out or “squished all together” because the color varies widely.
Tale of two stomaches - with a pump as the inspector
Stomach of a big rainbow #1.
Jammed with case caddis. A few sowbugs, but not many as a percentage. Wild.
Stomach #2, Another Rainbow
Down river a mile or so, totally different story.
Damn near adult caddis with a huge reveal on their bodies, below their thorax and under their wings. Lots of green. Lots of green. Huh. Really challenges me to be much more creative on my adult black caddis bodies.
The Spring fishing on the Bighorn has been just excellent even with the higher water flows currently running at around 7500cfs. Record breaking snow pack and a wet Spring has resulted in the higher flows from the Bighorn Lake. These higher flows have been great for the river, scouring out and rejuvinating the river bottom and creating excellent conditions for the hatches to follow. While the wade fishing spots are a bit more restrictive the boat fishing has been very good. Even with the water temp at around 39 degrees, nymphing with #18 red midge larve patterns under a #6 orange or red wire worm has been very productive. Smaller Zebra midges,soft hackel grey rays and fire bead soft hackled sow bugs are also working well. As the water temps warm up moving in to May the fish will continue to be even more active. Some drye fly action is available now as the midge and baetes hatches are coming on. All indications are that May should be a spectacular dry fly month. If you are thinkng of making a trip to take advantage of these excellent conditions, we recommend that you call Cheryl at the lodge and book now as reservations are already filling up.
See you on the river!