2009 Season Recap:
I would first like to thank all of our clients who fished with us and were able to experience another great year on the Bighorn.
2009 can be summed up by one thing: water, water and more water. Well, maybe two: hoppers, hoppers everywhere. With that being said, snowpack in the mountains reached around 130% of average and left us with plenty of water in the lake and flows in the river topping out at around 13,000 cfs.
Water temperatures remained pretty chilly this spring, which resulted in a late spawn for the rainbows and a late showing for significant Blue Winged Olive hatches. When the water temp’s hit the magic number in the low 40’s the Baetis emergences came off very strong during the first few weeks of May. In mid May the government began to bump the water significantly first up to somewhere around 7,000 or 8,000, then up to 10,000 or so and then into the high 12,000’s. The flows in the 12,000s, that were reached by the end of June, were twice the average historical flows–flows not reached in many years. These high water flows wiped out dry fly fishing and wade fishing opportunities, once the water went above 8,000. Boat fishing was very consistent in the slower deeper runs and along the banks, where the current ran well into the Russian olive bushes choking the banks. By mid-July, the flows had dropped into the 4,000s, slightly above the historical averages.
These high water years benefit the river ecosystem. By cleaning out sediment deposits that are choking insect life, high flows cleanse the river. These high flows also provide plenty of habitat for fish in the side channels. These consecutive big water years tend to be cyclic and are welcome after years of drought in the Rocky Mountain West. In the long run, these high flows are beneficial to the health and well being of the Bighorn River. When the river runs over 8,000 cfs, the emergency gates at the dams are opened, bringing water off of the top of the lake, which rapidly warms the temperature of the river. These warmer water temperatures created a window where the water was at the right temperature for Pale Morning Dun hatches and at times provided excellent dry fly fishing. Casting a fourteen or sixteen mayfly to trout inhaling duns is a special thing on the Bighorn.
With the warmer water temperatures and receding water levels that occurred in late summer, the aquatic vegetation on the river bottom went out of control. Waters dropped to excellent wading levels in July and by early August, but much of the upper river was choked by weeds. At this time nymphing became good in fast water riffles, black caddis provided somewhat steady action, but the main attraction was certainly the hopper fishing, which was spectacular.
|The hopper fishing was certainly the climax of the fishing season. The lower river fished well throughout the rest of September and October, floating grass down there was problematic at times, but fished fed opportunistically on worms and streamers. The upper river at this time saw nice hatches of pseudo’s come off in late September and October. Midges began to re-appear late in the season as well.
We once again would like to thank all of the anglers who fished the Bighorn with us this year and look forward to seeing familiar faces on the water with us again next year.
This post was written by Bighornangler