The Bighorn River – Every Anglers River
The Bighorn River is deceiving place to say the least, while the Bighorn doesn’t feature densely forested river banks, towering 11,000 foot peaks or a trendy fishing town. What it does offer is some of the most incredible and diverse trout habitat in the world.
The first time I floated the Bighorn River I was simply overwhelmed. Every bend, run, riffle, pool and bank held promise that I may just catch the biggest trout of my life. The greatest challenge was simply keeping my exposure. The beauty of the Bighorn River is that it can be anything to anyone at any time.
From year to year the Bighorn River never seizes to amaze. While we think of tailwater rivers as consistent human controlled watersheds, which they are, the truth is tailwater rivers such as the Bighorn offer an incredible amount of diversity from one year to the next. Fluctuations from year to year in hatches and water flow offer anglers an incredible amount of angling opportunity year round.
The first time I fished the Bighorn was in the spring and the baetis hatch was in full swing. As we float fished our way down a long slow run, I glanced downriver a witnessed more fish feeding in its tailout than I had ever seen in my life. We anchored up on the top of the island and proceeded to fish to rising trout for the next two hours. As a Bighorn River guide I have spent hundreds of days reliving moments like this for myself and introducing others to these moments for the first time.
On the Bighorn the Baetis hatch isn’t the only hatch that puts fish into a feeding frenzy; PMD’s, Yellow Sallies, Midge Clusters, Psuedo, Trico, black caddis and a wide array of terrestrials bring trout to the surface from March – December.
While most us that fish the Bighorn live for the match the hatch dry fly fishing, nymph fishing is the most common practice on the Bighorn River. While nymph fishing from a drift boat is very productive, often it is most rewarding as a wading angler. Concentrated populations of fish exist in the Bighorn’s riffles, runs and drop offs where large trout key in on crustaceans and emerging insects. These highly productive river features allow anglers of all skill levels the opportunity to consistently catch the rivers trout 365 days a year.
As if the dry fly and nymph fishing wasn’t enough, fishing with streamers might be the most exciting way to fish the Bighorn River. While typical times such as the spring and fall offer anglers awesome streamer fishing on the Bighorn, I have never seen a river produce with streamers like the Bighorn does on bright and sunny summer days. Trout on the Bighorn seem to be as opportunistic as any when it comes to invoking the predator – prey relationship. While fishing steamers deep in the water column is exciting, my favorite way to provoke big browns is at night with mouse patterns moved quickly across the surface. Fishing the Black Caddis hatch dark into the night and then throwing mouse patterns under the moonlight has become a tradition when I get the privilege to guide my good friends and clients George and Laurie from Calgary. Fishing like this is what makes the Bighorn River blow your mind!
With all the angling opportunities available to anglers throughout the year, the Bighorn River can be anything to anyone. While the Bighorn provides us with some of the most consistent fishing in the world, each year the river provides us with new opportunities that we never expected. While you can employ your favorite technique on the river any day of the year and be successful, being prepared and taking advantage of what the river gives you each day is what brings anglers the most success.
Regardless of what the Bighorn throws up against me and my clients, the Beulah Platinum series offers a rod to meet its demands. If there were two Beulah rods to carry for all your Bighorn River needs it would be the 9’ 6” 6 weight for nymphs and streamers and the 8’ 8” 4 weight for all of your match the hatch dry fly fishing.
This post was written by Bighornangler