Bighorn, MT [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Bighorn, MT

07-27-2008, 02:43 PM

Heading to the Boghorn at the end of August....anyone fish it before ? We are using a guide one day and renting drift boats that next 3 days......any feedback or suggestions would be appreciated.....


07-30-2008, 12:39 PM
John, I fish this river three or four times a year. It holds a lot of fish. Good idea to hire a guide the first day. You'll save a lot of time. Most of your fishing will be on small nymphs, #18 to # 22. All the shops have a what's biting board and ample supplies of flies.

I'm heading up again Aug 3rd for a week. I'll post my finds when I get back. Any other info you need let me know and I'll try and help.


07-31-2008, 07:04 PM
Thanks Ted......I did get the feel that we would be fishing small stuff. My buddy told me today that the shop on the BH told him to shy away from brass/gold beahdheads as they scare the trout.....I have tied up a lot of ray charles and addition, bringing black caddies and tan caddies in all versions...

Thanks for the feedback as I appreciate it !


08-01-2008, 01:56 AM

During the 12 years I lived in Montana I spent 9 months in Billings and fished the Big Horn at least once/week during that time and fished it at least 12 times/year for the 4 years after I moved from Billings to Boulder, MT. The end of August you will find great Trico fishing every morning, start with a dun imitation and switch to a spinner imitation of them around 8:30 am. #22 is about right for both Trico dun and spinner with the double Trico on a #18 especially effective.

You will also find an olive Paralep hatch (a #22-24 Blue wing olive is a good imitator). Hydropsyche caddis (tan caddis) are in abundance each evening, a #16 tan Elk Hair Caddis works well. If you fish the water from 12 mile access downstream, you will find a nice Calibaetis hatch.

Small Pheasant Tail Nymphs, Hare's Ear Nymphs in natural and olive, and Tim Tollet's Peacock Flash Back Nymph are all good at that time.

Remember, the crowds are thickest from the dam down to 3 mile and nearly as thick from 3 miles to 12 mile. Below 12 mile you can often have the water to yourself, but access is very limited, especially from the Crow Agency Hwy bridge down.

Little Yellow Stones are out and about late afternoon/evening #18 is about right for them and a Yellow Elk Hair Caddis is as good as any other to match it.

Don't forget San Juan Worms and sometimes there is a great little brown caddis (about #22) out and about.

08-01-2008, 10:30 AM
Great hit the nail on one thing that concerns me about the trip though is the crowds......I am just not used to going a location with crowds....I have fished the Missouri a lot over 20 years and we have it down where we rarely see more than 4 or 5 boats in an entire day based on when we get on the river.....typically, we launch the boats around 9 or 10am and go until dark....sometimes pulling drift boats at 10pm or so.....I am going with the mindset though that it will be very crowded on the Bignorn....this way, I can keep the frustration level at a minimum......:smile: .

08-18-2008, 09:51 PM

Is this John Middleton? We floated 4 days a couple of weeks ago. Fish are everywhere. The high early flows made for chunky fish this year. Go with heavy tippit and power them out of the fast water if you hope to land the big fish. Look for the most oxygenated water, do not overlook riffles/rapids. Fish stack below drops and ledges. A to 3 is empty in the afternoon. We did best sticking to the standard tailwater stuff and not chasing the hatch. Drab flies outperofrmed flash and orange this year.


08-19-2008, 08:25 PM

If you put in at 12 mile and float down to the next take-out (granted it is a long way) you will see very few fishermen and will cover some great water. This was my favorite stretch on the Bighorn when I lived in Billings back in 1987. Of course, back then one could drive into some of the nicest runs in the first couple of miles below the reservation hwy bridge, have the water to yourself, and not have to make the long float from 12 mile. There is now a fishing lodge sitting on the bank where my friend from Billings and I used to park and fish. Oh well, the rancher retired and sold his land removing the drive in access he provided to fishermen.

08-27-2008, 09:00 PM

Thought I give you a report on the trip......arrived Thursday after noon, dropped our stuff and hit the 3 mile boat ramp.......hiked upstream for about a mile or so.....had paras and PMD's all over the place....combination spent, cripples and some hatching....lots of monster fish sipping.....I actually used a tan caddis emerger and sight casted the fish....first fish was a rainbow that was 21 inches and screamed down river......caught 4 more browns in the 17-19 inche range. The browns looked as if they where already getting there fall colors on. Brown/gold hues and great black/red spots....beautiful fish........I used 4X tippet and decided to forgo the light stuff......

The next morning we floated with a guide (Jeff)....he was awesome....knew the river and was a GREAT conversationalist.......caught over 30 fish between 2 of us.....3/4 on nymphs and the rest on hoppers. He floated the lower section and then trailered to the upper section for the afternoon. He worked his a$$ off....highly recommend him.......

The next two days we rented drift boats and stopped at riffles and pools.....didi very well on our day, hit a huge riffle that was LOADED with fish. All sight fished......4 of us spent 3 hours at this big riffle and fished was the closes thing to bonefishing in a least 4 fish over 5 lbs where caught out of the riffle.....although we needed some decent length casts as the fish seemed to feel us when we got close......

Hit the upper section on foot each evening and had tremendous caddis where tough but managed about 4-5 each evening dead-drifting black diving caddis....even caught a few each evening swinging the diving caddis in the riffles.....

Our group saw a baby black bear and 2 mountain lions (verified by park ranger on trail as we did not believe what we saw ourselves....)

Ft Smith is an interesting location.....the place we stayed was reasonable but pretty rustic. People where awesome though.....met great people from around the country as well.....

One thing I felt is that a 5 weight was not enough at times. I hooked a number of fish that took me 50 or so yards into backing and I could not turn them with a 5 weight. Next year if we return, I am using 9ft, 6 wts.........

Thanks for everyone's buddies and I had a terrific time....

John (John Middleton)

08-28-2008, 08:39 PM

Thanks for letting us know how you did. The Bighorn is a river I greatly miss (as is the Misssouri, Big Hole, and Upper Clark Fork) since I moved to Washinton state 17 years ago and turned my attention almost exclusively to steelhead. It is a remarkable river and if I would have told you that it was common for my friends and I to catch 12 very nice trout/hour before you went, you would have thought I was lying; but now you know why fishing rivers like this spoils a fellow.

I suppose I should have mentioned this in a prior post, but my friends and I from Billings used 10' 6 wts most of the time on the Bighorn, although we did use 4 wts to fish the paraleps and tricos. And in late September to Thanksgiving, when we weren't tarketing feeding fish with our 6 wts, we used 10' 7 or 8 wts for the really big fish between 7 and 12 lbs and fished from the bridge down.

08-31-2008, 07:57 AM
Interesting on the 10ft 6 wt.......I use that for my Great lakes Steelhead and did consider bringing one for the trip......The extra length would sure help with mending and allow for longer difts........

09-01-2008, 09:18 PM

That is precisely why Frank and I used 10'ers, both in 6 wt and 4 wt.