The Bighorn River is arguably the greatest year round trout fishery in the state of Montana. The especially productive winter season is often what sets it apart from other rivers. Near constant water temperatures, very few other anglers and a steady food supply for the trout, makes winter a great time to hit the ‘Horn. These five tips are sure to bring you success and advance your knowledge of fishing the Bighorn during the winter season.
1. Know Where the Fish Are: Water temps start dropping in late fall and hold steady until a consistent warmup occurs, usually in early spring. The Bighorn is a unique river in the fact that you can still catch some fish in the summer riffle spots when it is 10F out. However, the truth is that fish get lazy and cold, like humans, and hold where they can expend the least amount of energy. The next time you are in your favorite Bighorn run, start fishing it towards the slower part of the run all the way down into the tailout. Do not overlook frog water (slow water) flats when fishing out of the boat either. You will be suprised how many fish hang in the dead of dead water.
2. Know when to fish: Don’t worry about getting on the water too early. Water temps may only warm up a few degrees in a day, that is big news to the trout. Focus your fishing from 11am- 5pm. Warm days help too.
3. Fish the right bugs: Make sure your box is stalked with the appropriate winter flies. You do not need a lot of flies. We carry probably 6 patterns in various sizes in the winter. Sowbug/scud patterns like Ray Charles and Firebeads, midge larvae and pupa are the majority of what these fish are eating. Presentation is key.
4. Have the right gear and setup: Your gear setup should be a different approach in the winter. If you are not getting fish with your nymph rig, adjust. Deeper? Longer distance from the indicator? Try more split shot especially fishing the slower deeper water. Heavier sink tip lines are a must while fishing streamers. Try smaller tippet on dries as fish tend to be in slower and/or skinnier water when they are feeding on midges.
5. Dress warm! Layering is key. First focus should be hat, gloves and socks. A lot of companies are coming out with super light, comfortable Merino wool base layers that have quickly become our favorite and a success in the fly fishing world. Since you are not running a marathon while fishing, this material keeps you super warm and stays warm if you fall in. Hopefully not. Buy handwarmers. They are life savers.
Categorised in: Fishing Reports
This post was written by Bighornangler