Spring has finally arrived on the Bighorn. Seasonal air and water temp’s are now on par for this time year. Seasonal emergences of both Midges and Blue Winged Olives have shown up in a big way over the past two weeks. Nymph fishing has been as consistent as can be for the past month and dry fly fishing for the past week has been nothing short of spectacular.
For the past few weeks we have seen prolific emergences of both Midges and Blue Winged Olives, that have been driven by a recent boost in water temperatures. When flows jumped a little over a week ago from 7,500 cfs to 8,500 cfs, water began to be released from one of the top gates spiking water temperatures in the river, which was the catalyst for the excellent dry fly fishing that we are seeing now. Water Temp’s from Three Mile Access – Bighorn River Access currently is right around 47 degrees in the afternoon.
Nymph fishing is all about finding water slow enough for fish to comfortably hold in and using enough weight to get down to the fish. With the warmer water temperatures and emerging insects fish have began to spread out and move into some riffle water, however with these high flows it is best to concentrate your efforts in slower water areas. Once you have located a good spot your first priority should be making sure that you have enough weight to get down to the fish. The anglers getting it done are fishing the right amount of weight and it is often much more than others are fishing. You should be prepared with 3/0, BB, 0, 1, and 2 size split shot. As far as i’m concerned tungsten putty is nearly worthless right now since you have to put so much on to get down. With the amount of weight being used right now many anglers are using small swivels to prevent your line from spinning. Not a bad idea to have a few with you. As far as your flies are concerned sowbugs, worms, midges and bwo nymphs should be in your box. Firebead Sowbugs in pink, Two Tone San Juan Worms, Root Beer Midges, Zebra Midges, Black Quills and wondernymphs have been staples. Other patterns are working, but these will be a good place to start.
Dry fly fishing is better on overcast days, but noses can still be found breaking the surface on sunny days with the emergences at their peaks now. Expect to see single midges in the morning with clusters forming by late morning or in the early afternoon. Blue wing’s on overcast days should show themselves around 1:00 and on sunny days more around 3:00. The last few hours of daylight from 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm has been the most overlooked dry fly window of the day, where you can find a smattering of all bugs at that time. For the midges you should be prepared with Midge Wulff Cripples, Skittering Midges, Size 20 & 22 Parachute Adams(black post to combat glare), Hi Vis Twilight Midges, Griffith’s Gnat’s and Renegades have all been working. For the BWO’s carry CDC Sparkle Duns, Sipper Emergers, CDC Cripple’s, Cripple Thors, Hi Vis Parachute Adams and Tailwater Duns in size 18 and 20.
The forecast is scheduled to heat up this week, maybe hit 80 by this weekend. Expect runoff to start in full swing. Two things to consider here – the lake level is way down which is good for catching all of the water coming down. On the other side of the coin snowpack is still above 100% so there is a whole lot of water that will be coming down the mountain. What does this mean? Yes, river flows are still going to be heading up. How high? Who knows. I predict 11,000 cfs and that is without any huge rain event. Am I worried about that flow? NO. Fishing in 2011 was excellent at that flow. I would expect the river to start coming down in early July at this point.
I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to make your way to the Bighorn, especially with many other waters throughout Montana in full runoff. Expect the rhythm of the fishing not to change too much for the next 3 to 4 weeks. A guide is valuable right now and can ensure that you will have a great day at these flows. If you have your own boat or are looking to rent one, you better know how to row it properly. While you need to be alert while floating the most challenging part of the whole float is getting your boat out at Bighorn Access right now. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks straight up FUCKED UP when they put in the new upper boat ramp last year. The new ramp was not angled downstream properly and proper rip rap was never placed above either ramp to slow down the flow in front of them. By not installing this new ramp properly they have not only limited the publics recreation opportunities, but potentially the safety of paying river users. The Bighorn River Alliance offered to pay for a new gravel ramp to be installed in the flat above the current ramps and it was shot down by FWP. With that being said use caution when anchoring and retrieving your boat at Bighorn Access, especially when others are trying to do so at the same time.
Give us a call at the shop 406-666-2233 or email us email@example.com if you have any questions regarding fishing the Bighorn at these higher flows. We are always happy to offer advice that will help you catch fish and stay safe!
Categorised in: Fishing Reports
This post was written by Bighornangler