State of the Bighorn: Summer Edition

State of the Bighorn: Summer Edition

July 29, 2016 2:48 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Rainbow Coming to Hand

Consistent flows, prolific insect activity and ideal water conditions have created favorable fishing conditions and excellent catch rates on the Bighorn River this summer.  Flows have been stable at 2200 CFS, which has made wade fishing throughout the river very productive. Yes, there is plenty of moss and algae in the river. They are the most noticeable from the Bighorn Rapids down to Bighorn Access. We would much rather have moss to deal with and ideal water temperatures rather than hoot owl restrictions like many of the freestone rivers around the state. Water temperatures are right where we want them – 53 – 55 degrees fahrenheit being released from the dam and around 60 degrees near Bighorn Access.  What does this mean for you as anglers?  Insects are emerging and trout are very active!!!  

Anglers will find the best fishing in the riffles and fast moving water throughout the river. This includes the tailouts of long flats as the river starts to quicken right before it drops into a run. Fish are very spread out right now. Don’t ignore water of any depth as long as it’s moving. Moving water with any chop or surface disturbance will hold trout right now. Get out of the main “holes” and try a variety of different looking water. Trout in this fast water are on the feed. What are they feeding on?

We have had a variety of insects emerging. Trico’s and Black Caddis are currently the main event. Depending on water temperatures we hope to have them around for quite some time. There are also a few PMD’s and Sallies still around, especially the further down river you go. Terrestrial fishing has been good, not great, but good. Ants, beetles and Hoppers.  Mahoganies have showed up on one occasion recently and the fishing was fantastic. Don’t plan on these, but if you see large mayflies on the water and fish boiling, best to put on a size 12 or 14 mayfly imitation. 

Tricos – These small size 18 – 22 mayflies just started to get really good this week. Best from 3 mile to Mallard’s. Dun’s early in the morning – don’t forget your female imitations for this. Spinners by mid morning will bring plenty of fish up. YFG Duns, Paraspinners, Female Biot Duns and Renegades will be good imitations.

Black Caddis – Size 16 – 20 – Caddis have been best on the Upper 3. You will often have good fishing in the early afternoon and then again in the late evening. Look for both emerging and egg laying Caddis. Dill’s Adult Caddis, Harrop Caddis Emerger, Harrop Bubbleback Emerger, Black Angel, Fertile Caddis all good dry imitations. A soft hackle swung thru riffles or dropped behind a dry is never a bad idea when these insects are emerging. Poodle Sniffer, Olive Pheasant Tail and Green Wire Pheasant Tail have been the best nymphs.


George with a nice brown

PMD’s and Sallies – There are still a few of these around. You can still find fish eating PMD spinners throughout the river. Harrop Paraspinners will be good for this. We are now carrying this pattern in a hi vis version, which is an excellent point fly during any hatch. Prospecting with Yellow Sally imitations such as a Swisher’s PMX or Garcia’s Mini Sally is effective. 

Terrestrials –  Morrish Pink Hoppers, Chubbies and Schroeder’s Para Hoppers have all been taking fish from top to bottom on the Bighorn. Never hurts to drop a Beadhead Olive Pheasant Tail below a hopper in an ideal looking riffle. Ants and beetles are also producing when fish in tailouts and riffles.

I can’t reiterate this enough – anglers should be fishing in the moving water. Only exception being during the Trico spinner fall. Successful nymph fisherman will be fishing indicator nymph rigs with 6 – 8 feet of leader from your strike indicator to your split shot. I am using size 2 and 4 split shots at this water flow. Your flies 12 – 16 inches apart below your split shot. Adjust your weight depending on the depth of the riffle you are fishing. Get way up in those riffles with your flies. Poodle Sniffers, Pheasant tails, Grey and tan Ray Charles, Pink soft hackles have all been productive. Worms have been good from the boat. Soft hackles hand twisted or swung have been really good also, especially during emergence periods. 

Dry Fly fisherman will find fish up eating dry flies throughout the river. Match the hatch anglers can expect to find Trico’s in the morning, terrestrials mid-day and Caddis in the evenings. Tricos best from Three Mile – Mallard’s, Black Caddis best on the upper 3 and terrestrials will be productive throughout the river. 5x tippet for your caddis fishing and 6X tippet for your Trico fishing. Terrestrials best fished on 4X. Don’t forget if you don’t see fish rising it doesn’t mean that you can’t get trout to eat the dry. If you are fishing the right water (tailouts and riffles) opportunistic trout will feed on a well presented fly. This is also effective prospecting from the boat fishing down and across.

There is a lot happening on the Bighorn right now and it is fishing very well. Don’t be discouraged by the floating moss and algae. If you are fishing the right water it won’t be such a nuisance. The fish are above average size this year and with the current water temperatures they are fighting very well. Enjoy your time on the water!!!!


Black Caddis have been thick on the upper 3


Guide Mike Moline displaying a healthy rainbow

Categorised in: ,

This post was written by Bighornangler

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.