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!!
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!
Here at the Bighorn River Lodge we try to keep it pretty simple for our guests. Perhaps we should change it to Fish Eat Sleep because that pretty much describes the day’s activities. The fishing remains outstanding and the size of both Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout has increased significantly. River flow is at 4,300cfs which is entering the perfect flow levels of between 3,000 and 4500. Wading spots are now opening up and the fish are showing up in the riffles and edges of shelves as the bug hatches begin to come on strong. The water temps have moved up into the low fifties which is perfect for the anticipated excellent summer dry fly season. PMDs, Yellow Sallies and some Black Caddis are starting to show up and it won’t be long before we should have some great dry fly fishing. While the fish are currently keyed on worms and sow bugs with a #6 Orange wire worm and a #18 tan soft hackle sow bug being the hot combination right now, they are also beginning to take Tungsten Yellow Sallies, Split Case PMDs, Tungsten Teasers, and Olive Sparkle Pupas.The Bighorn River is continuing to live up to its reputation as the best trout river in the US if not the world.
We could not be more excited about our new Chef this year. Ty Hess went to culinary school in Charleston, South Carolina and continued to develop his skills in some of the best restaurants in Washington, D.C and Salt Lake City. Using his background in Low Country cooking Chef Hess has introduced some wonderful Southern style flavors and flair to the menu. Using fresh produce from the lodge’s own sustainable garden and relying on local game and fish as much as possible, Chef Hess is creating dishes that are fresh, clean and simple but with a fusion of flavors that are anything but simple. Put that together with his incredible presentation of each item and you will know why we are getting outstanding reviews and comments for all of our guests who come from all over the country and will tell you that the cuisine at the lodge is a good as any restaurant they can remember. Here is one example of a nightly fare at the lodge.
Hop cured trout with grated hard-boiled egg, caper berries, pickled vegetables, garlic citrus roasted olives, and house made Lavosh crackers. A wonderful array of ingredients and flavors to be enjoyed in the comfort of the lodge’s great room or out on the deck overlooking our 5 acre bass pond with the setting sun painting the distant hills in hues of late afternoon.
Chilled pea vichyssoise with garden radish, crème fraiche, and rye crumble. A delicious light cool course, perfect on those hot summer evenings. It tastes even better than it looks at presentation.
Sweet tea brined Boar tenderloin with crispy citrus brussel sprouts, carrot puree, and Nasturtium flower.Chef Hess using some Low Country influence in the sweet tea brine substitutes the standard pork loin for a beautifully grilled and simply delicious Boar loin balanced with just the right flavors of the citrus in the sautéed brussel sprouts, and the soft creaminess of the carrot puree. Beautiful combinations.
Berry biscuit “short cake”.Balsamic macerated berries, buttermilk sweet biscuit, crème anglaise, and Chantilly cream. The sweet buttermilk biscuit is as light as a feather and the berries complimented by the crème anglaise and Chantilly cream produces a perfect light summer finish to a sensational meal.
Still time for an after dinner beverage and perhaps a cigar out on the deck or a game of poker at the table in the great room exchanging your exploits of the day with friends. For the diehard fisherman perhaps some great bass fishing on the pond before retiring to the comfort of your well-appointed room and a well-earned and welcome night’s sleep after a full day of great fishing, a sumptuous meal and some great conversation.
So you see all you have to do is come for a visit and Fish, Eat, and Sleep in a world class lodge on a world class river. Leave the outside world behind for a few days. You will never forget the experience.
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.
This spring on the Bighorn River we have seen some incredible dry fly fishing. Starting out in the morning fish are active eating midges on the surface. The guides at the Bighorn River Lodge have been doing well on smoke jumper midges, sipper midges, and small Adams. As the river warms up the Blue wing olives start to hatch, and by mid afternoon the river has a blanket of Blue wing olive duns. With the large trout population this year you can stay in one spot for several hours catching fish on the surface. Size 16 and 18 Snowshoe Baetis, CDC BWO, RS2's have all been working great. The Bighorn River lodge has a new selection of great flies tied by the guides. This selection of flies have been the guides go to flies for years. Take time to come in to the Bighorn River Lodge fly shop when you arrive for your trip and check out the new flies, the are durable and tied here in Montana. The Bighorn River is fishing great right now and the weather has been just perfect. If you haven't been down fishing the Bighorn yet this year, you need to come down and check out the great dry fly fishing the river has to offer.
Some warmer weather days in March has produced some excellent opportunities to knock off the winter rust and go fishing. The fish have begun to move out of their deep winter holding areas into shallower water below some riffles and into some flats. A strong midge hatch over the last 2 weeks have contributed to a change in feeding frequency and allowed for some pretty productive nymphying. While successful patterns change with the day and time of day, I have had pretty good success with #18 grey rays and a #18 or #20 skinny nelson dropper. Any good small black midge dropper will do well right now. Small pt's are also worth a try. The dry fly action is pretty challenging with the fish a bit spooky and selective on the midge pattern. Samll BWO patterns with a midge emerger dropper is worth a try. The snow pack is strong and with a full reservoir the water conditons for the river look good for this year. The fishing is goo right now and will only get better. This beauty was caught last Wednesday by a friend, and as you can see the rainbows, which are entering their spawning season are big, strong and full of color. Check in with Cheryl at the lodge for Spring specials. I am going out tomorrow and will report back.
It has been a very mild winter down on the Bighorn River. Warm over night temps and calm days that have reaching into the 50's have start 2013 off with some excellent fishing. Fish have been eating nymphs well. I have doing well with a black wonder nymphs size 16 & 18. Also tan and pink soft hackle in the same sizes have been catching fish. The other day one of Lodges guides, Matt Ernst and I, floated from 3 mile down to the Lodge and had very impressive streamer fishing. Our best streamer was the Bighorn special, but Berg's blue legs and a Red Spruce fly worked very affectively as well. Here is a picture of the Bighorn Special. It is a easy fly to tie and works on many other rivers as well. Don't let the winter keep you inside. The fishing is great and you will have the whole river to yourself this time of year.
This summer and fall has produced some of the most SPECTACULAR FLYFISHING on the Bighorn River in recent memory. Every guide I talked to said they had never really ever seen anything like it. Two years of high water and excellent weather conditions produced a large volumn of water that increased the overall capicity of the river to house large numbers of fish, giving anglers opportunities for unprecedented number of hook-ups. Our guides here at the Bighorn River Lodge were consistently providing their clients up with 30-80 fish days. Perhaps hard to believe, but I had many of those days myself. Once again the Bighorn River has proved itself to be the Premier Blue Ribbon Trout River in the US. Indeed virtually every client this summer told me they had never had better fishing experience. Some were new to the Bighorn river Lodge, but most were customers that return every year.
The most productive nymph patterns seem to be grey & pink Ray Charles or a pink soft hackle Sow Bug in the #16 to #18 range with a #18 Black/Green Skinny Nelson as a dropper....deadly! A number of other patterns not usually seen here worked as well and if fact at times it didn't seem to matter WHAT you used...the fish would eat it. The fish this year were just beautiful, healthy and strong with Rainbows and Browns averaging 15"-20" and the occasional 20"+ not uncommon. Dry patterns changed with the hatches of course including Brown and Black Caddis and more Trico and Baetus patterns as we got into late September and early October. Fall fishing continues to be strong with warmer than usual fall temperatures still hovering in the 60's this week. I will post again soon and bring everyone up to date on our current CAST AND BLAST PROGRAM, running through December.
Fall fishing continues to be very productive on the Bighorn. Warmer than usual weather for this time of year has made for great days on the river with temps staying in the mid 50's for the last 2 weeks. Today and tomorrow temps are in the 60's!!!. The fish seemed to have move into deeper water, although some riffles and flats are still holding fish. A little more effort required to find them, but then we were pretty spoiled August through Ocotber when the fish were just everywhere you looked. Grey, tan and especially pink rays coupled with a size 18 Quill Nymph or Skinny Nelson still working pretty darn good. Flashback Pt's also worth try. Dry fly fishing a little tough lately although there are still very good Baetus hatches daily, but the fish aren't as focused on them as you might think. Still doable with a little patience however, and the focus could change in the blink of an eye Streamer fishing is picking up especially on overcast days, although it has been pretty bright and clear for the most part so waiting until late afternoon when the light is lower in the sky is better.
This is a great time of year to be fishing here with very few boats ( we saw maybe 3-4 yesterday) and the fish are still eating like gangbusters as winter approaches. The Bighorn River Lodge is open into December so take advantage of our off season rates, the great weather, great fishing and no crowds with excellent opportunities for double digit fish days. See you on the river!!!
Carlo and i had a day off from the river and decided to take the Nitro bass boat up to Bighorn Lake. Let's keep going, a little farther, one more bend. After 35 miles up the canyon we decided to stop and start fishing. We looked around and there was bait everywhere. There were thousands of small emerald shiners swimming up to the surface getting chased by Small Mouth Bass, Walleye, Sauger; we didn't know. Carlo had a great idea to wind drift the boat off of the point of the lake and start to jig. About 30 minutes later on, during the second pass we started to get some bites.
Here is one of the Saugeye we caught that day. Saugeye are a walleye, sauger cross that is prevalent in the upper Bighorn Lake near the Wyoming border.