Copyright 2018 James Marsh
Fly Fishing On The Bighorn River In
The Bighorn River was considered the best tailwater
trout fishing destination in the United States for several
years. Two or three years of drought conditions hurt the
fish population a few years ago but even then, the
Bighorn River had more trout per mile than most any
other stream in the nation. Since then, it has rebounded
very well and the fishing is again top notch. Fly fishing
the Big Horn River is again about as good as it gets.
The Bighorn River starts from the tailwater at Boysen
Reservoir in Wyoming. It flows through Montana for
more than 150 miles before flowing into Bighorn Lake.
Yellowtail Dam forms the Bighorn Lake and the great
tailwater fishery of the Big Horn River. It is a very
popular destination for anglers and for a very good
Below the Yellowtail dam, the Bighorn River flows
through wide open country. As with many streams
flowing from the Rocky Mountains into the plains, trees
become scarce except along the banks of the river. The
surrounding land is mostly grassland. Cottonwood trees
line some of the river's banks. Off in the distance, you
can see the Pryor and the Bighorn Mountains. rise from
the prairie to the south and west.
The Bighorn River flows through the Bighorn Canyon
National Recreation Area for its first 20 miles below
Yellowtail dam. When it exits the recreational area, it
enters the Crow Indian Reservation. It flows through the
reservation for its next 28 miles. Seventy-eight miles
from the dam, It joins the mighty Yellowstone River near
Several miles of river below the Yellowtail Dam has a few
thousand trout per mile. The stream is wide, averaging
forty to sixty yards in most areas. There's a total of
about 45 miles of the tailwater that provides good fly
The trout average about 16 inches and consist of both
browns and rainbows. For a tailwater, the Big Horn River
has a huge population of aquaticf insects that provide
some great hatches and dry fly fishing opportunities.
Probably the best feature of the Bighorn River is that
you can fish it during the entire year. Fishing can be
good during the middle of the Winter.
Most of the trout fishing on the Bighorn River is done
from the dam to the Bighorn Access, a distance of about
thirteen miles. This section of the river contains the
highest population of trout. Naturally, it is also the most
popular section. At times, it can become a little crowded
during the prime season between July and September.
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Photo Courtesy of David Knapp Photography
Recommended Tackle & Gear
5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 & 12 ft., 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 71/2
ft., 3 or 4X, Streamers 0-2X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rods:
Perfect Fly Superb Five or Ultimate Six
For 5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
The water slows down some below the Bighorn
Access site and irrigation begins to become a
factor in the flows. During the summer, the river
begins to get warmer downstream of this
section. The rainbow trout population is lower
but there are still usually plenty of brown trout
for the next several miles downstream to the
Two- Leggins Access. There's still some brown
trout even further downstream, but the numbers
Most anglers prefer to float the river. It lets you
cover a lot more water than you could possible
fish wading. Even so, when it gets down to it,
you have to slow down and get into a good
position to make careful presentations.
One great feature of the river are the islands.
They break up the stream into different types of
water and provide many places for the trout to
reproduce, live and feed.
You can fish for trout on the Bighorn
throughout the year.
Fly fishing the Bighorn River is good
throughout the winter but you must select the
better days. The weather varies
tremendously from extreme cold to mild
conditions and the water below the dam
stays at a constant temperature.
Spring time can be a good time to fish
depending on the weather. There are some
hatches that provide dry fly action.
Fly Fishing Guide to the Bighorn River
The methods, techniques and tactics used for
fly fishing the Bighorn River are diverse and
varied. They range from fishing heavy
streamers to tiny dry flies. The strategies
change with the seasons, water levels and
hatches. It also depends on whether you fish
the river from a drift boat or wade.
The Big Horn River provides the perfect water
for trout. Its pH is great because its water
flows through limestone rock far above the
lake providing an almost spring creek type
water chemistry. The trout grow large and fast
because there is plenty of food available for
the trout to eat.
As mentioned in the introduction, the Big Horn
is a wide stream of up to two-hundred feet. It
has islands in many areas which splits the flow
of the river into channels, flats, pools, and
moderate speed runs providing a very diverse
habitat for the trout. These islands change the
flow of the river creating different current
speeds and therefore different current seams
that carry food downstream. The trout can be
found in many different types of water but
tend to prefer certain types over others,
depending on the season and hatches taking
Anglers mostly fish imitations of midges
during the Winter months. Blue-winged
Olives begin hatching in April and last until
June. Trout are taken on both nymphs and
dry flies during this period.
During July, Little Yellow Stonefly hatches
take place and both nymphs and dry flies
imitating these insects work well.
The largest aquatic insect hatches on the
Big Horn take place during the late summer
and early fall months. Pale Morning Duns
represent the majority of hatches during this
time. By August, PMDs begin to be
supplemented by large caddisfly hatches.
August and September also bring about
some huge Trico mayfly hatches.
Trout can be taken on nymphs most anytime
of the year. Dry fly fishing depends greatly
on the hatches. As you will see in our
hatches section, there isn't a very diverse
selection of aquatic insects but those that
exist in the river exist in huge quantities. The
trout can key in on any one of these insects
and become selective in their feeding. That
often requires what anglers generally refer
to as technical fishing.
The water is the river is clear and the trout
usually get a good look at your flies. If you
make a lousy presentation, you can look
forward to poor results. Long, light leaders
are often required. This doesn't mean that
the trout are difficult to catch. They can be
caught in good numbers. It just means that
poor strategies and lousy presentations want
accomplish very much.
Bighorn River Hatches and Trout
Our information on aquatic insects is based
on our stream samples of larvae and nymphs,
not guess work. We base fly suggestions on
imitating the most plentiful and most available
insects and other foods at the particular time
you are fishing. Unlike the generic fly shop
trout flies, we have specific imitations of all the
insects in the Big Horn River and in all stages
of life that are applicable to fishing. If you
want to fish better, more realistic trout flies,
have a much higher degree of success, give
us a call. We not only will help you with
selections, you will learn why, after trying
Perfect Flies, 92% of the thousands of our
customers will use nothing else.
As we mentioned before, the aquatic insect
population isn't as diverse as many Montana
trout streams but the insects there exist in
very plentiful quantities. One insect there in
huge quantities is the midge. Trout can be
taken year-round on imitations of the midge
larvae, pupae and adults. During the winter
months, that is what most of the fishing in the
Big Horn comes down to - midge fishing. Most
of the time you need to be fishing a larva
imitation right on the bottom, or a pupa
imitation right under the surface if a hatch is
occurring. At times, during heavy midge
hatches, trout can be taken on adult
imitations on the dry fly. Winter fishing will
vary with every passing cold front. The
weather will range from sub-zero
temperatures to as high as the low sixties.
The water below the dam will remain relatively
Starting mid March through April and May,
and sometimes the first couple of weeks in
June, the Big Horn will see large hatches of
Blue-winged Olives. Other than midges, these
small mayflies will represent almost all of the
insects that hatch during this time. Trout can
be taken on nymph imitations of the BWOs
during the mornings and up until the hatches
occur during the warmest part of the day,
usually early to mid afternoon. You will need
to switch to Perfect Fly BWO emergers with or
without the trailing shuck during the early part
of the hatch. Trout can also be taken on
imitations of the duns after the hatch is fully
underway. Spinners are effective during the
falls. These mayflies are bi-brooded and will
hatch again in September, October and the
first of November.
June and July both provide Little Yellow
Stonefly hatches, called Yellow Sallies by
most anglers. Fish can be taken on both the
nymph and adult imitations. Fish the nymph
up until the egg laying activity starts and then
you may want to change to the dry fly adult
Scuds and sowbugs both exist in the Big
Horn River in very plentiful quantities. It is
one of the most important sources of food
for the trout. Our imitations of both the scud
and sowbug work especially well on this
stream and are very effective throughout
Terrestrial are somewhat important,
especially during high winds, but maybe not
as important as they are on many Montana
trout streams. Imitations of beetles, ants
and grasshoppers will catch trout during the
Don't overlook streamers. The river has
plentiful quantities of baitfish, minnows and
sculpin. Streamers are very effective on the
large brown trout, especially during
overcast days, or early and late in the day.
Our Perfect Fly imitations are the most
realistic and effective flies you can use on
the Big Horn River. We have imitations of
everything that hatches or exist there. If you
haven't already done so, we invite you to
try them. We are confident you will use
nothing else once you do. I failed to
mention the lowly cranefly, but the Big Horn
River has plenty of them, and the trout will
eat our imitations of the adults and their
larvae. Our Perfect Fly imitations of the
craneflies are the best you can buy. We
hope you give them a try on your next trip
to the Big Horn River.
During June, July and the first of August the
PMDs, or Pale Morning Duns will start
coming off. Fish the PMD nymph up until
the hatch starts in mid-morning and then
change to an emerger imitation. When the
trout start taking the little mayflies on the
surface, you may want to change to the dun
From the middle of July through September,
hatches of Grannon Caddisflies, or Little
Black Caddisflies occur on the Big Horn
River. These are normally called Mother's
Day hatches but take place long after
Mother's Day on the Big Horn. From the
middle of June until the middle of August
you will find huge hatches of Spotted
Sedges taking place. This is the most
important caddisfly on the river. Little
Short-horned Sedges will also hatch from
about the middle of July until the middle of
August. July, August and the early part of
September brings on hatches of Green
Sedges. The most important stage of this
caddisfly is the larva, imitations of which are
called Green Rock Worms. They are
effective flies to use anytime on the Big
The summer months are the busiest months
for anglers on the Bighorn. The cool water
below the dam for the first several miles
provides great fishing during the hottest
days. Late summer has several hatches and
is probably the best time to fish the Bighorn.
During the fall there are large hatches of
Trico mayflies and the fishing is usually very
Thumbnails: Click to enlarge
September 15, 2018
Headlines: The weather is turning
cooler and that is helping the
middle and lower sections of the
river cool down some. The river is
still in good shape and anglers are
catching some very nice trout. Our
new Sculpin streamers, articulated
ones, are catching some big ones.
There are still some good hatches
and streamers, crustaceans and
terrestrials are also working. Keep
up with the latest stream flows,
weather, strategies and flies to use
by checking out our fishing report
01/05/16 Fish in the upper part of the river fairly near the dam. The water is a little warmer
there and the trout will be a little more active. Fish holes and pockets out of the direct current
where the trout likely hold. They won't hold long in fast current at low water temperatures.
Midges, winter stonefly nymphs and the White Belly Sculpin streamer are all the flies you will
01/12/16 The Bighorn River is probably the most visited trout stream in Montana during the
cold months of the winter. It is relatively warm compared to most everything else in the state.
You do need to fish close to the dam. The further you fish downstream the colder the water
will get. Midges and winter stonefly nymphs will work. Notice we added Black flies. The have
started hatching and biting.
01/19/15 Midges and Winter stonefly nymphs are catching trout for our customers. The
Bighorn is as good of a fly fishing destination as their is in the state during the cold month of
January. Thats thanks to the constant 39 degree water temperature or better coming from the
bottom of the lake. Black flies are also beginning to show up and bite. Fish the larva and
pupa in tandem.
01/26/16 The Bighorn is a top fly fishing destination in Montana during the cold winter
months. The water temperature is around 41 degrees right now, thanks to the bottom
discharge from Yellowtail Dam. Midges, winter stonefly nymphs and Sculpin streamers are the
flies you need to be using.
02/02/16 We received a good report from a regular customer this past week. He used cream
midges and even caught some trout on the surface on the adult imitation. They are hatching,
especially when it is cloudy and that's most of the time. The discharges are remaining about
the same day in and day out.
02/09/16 The weather is going to be very warm for mid Fedbruary. This won't affect the water
temperature that much except on the lower end of the river but it sure will make it nice on
those fishing. Midges and winter stoneflies will sill be the main insects to imitate. Little BWOs
could also hatch. Black files will be hatching. Fish the larva and pupa black flies.
02/16/16 The weather is getting a little warmer and that could help the middle and lower ends
of the river. We still are recommending the uppermost part near the dam. The stream levels
and discharges have remained stable and that's not a problem. The only thing to conquer is
the cold water. Trout won't hold in fast current at the current water temperature. Fish the hole
and/or pockets out of the main flow and midges are the main insects you should be imitating.
02/23/16 For the middle of the winter, it is difficult to beat fly fishing for trout on the Bighorn
tailwater. The water averages about 39 to 40 degrees near the bottom discharge of the dam.
Midges and little Blue-winged olives are both hatching. Fish the larva and pupa in tandem in
the deep runs and holes in the bottom out of the main current. Fish the adult midge only
when you see trout feeding on the surface.
03/01/16 The Bighorn is probably the best fly fishing destination during the winter months in
Montana, maybe even the west. It is going to be unseasonably warm this coming week and
that will melt a lot of snow along the banks. The upper river as close to the dam as legal, is
the best section to fish right now. Midges are hatching, along with little Blue-winged olives and
03/08/16 The river is in very good shape and should remain that way. There is a little rain
and snow in the forecast, but it should have little effect. Midges, creams and blood midges, or
reds, have been hatching good. Winter stoneflies and Black flies are hatching in some
sections oft the tailwater. Make sure you check the discharges as they are always subject to
03/15/16 The tailwater is in great shape and still providing one of the most consistent fly
fishing opportunities in Montana at this time of the year. Discharges are normal and stream
levels fine for wading in places and drift boats. It is back to midges, for the basic insects to
imitate, but they are hatching good and some guys are catching a few on top.
03/22/16 The Bighorn is in excellent shape from a discharge and stream level standpoint. It
can be waded in many sections but plenty of water for your drift boat. Our sculpin streamers
is always a good fly to get the big fish under low light conditions, and there is a chance of rain
or snow every day for the next week. Midges and scuds are the other foods you should be
03/29/16 The wind has been the worst thing to deal with the past week and it is likely to be a
problem most of the coming week. It makes it tough to fish tiny flies like midges and that is
what you need to be fishing most of the time. The best option has been sculpin streamers,
especially with the cloud cover. The water levels are good and wading possible in many
04/12/16 Right now the discharges are low (just right for drift boats) but based on the recent
weather, stream levels are likely to increase. There has been a lot of rain in the watershed
and discharges will probably increase at some point. Midges and Blue-winged olives are
hatching good and anglers are catching plenty of trout.
04/19/16 While most of the freestone streams in Montana are high and stained from melting
snow, the Bighorn river is clear and anglers are continuing to catch plenty of trout. Midges
and little Blue-winged olives represent the only hatches, but it is enough to keep the drag
singing. During low light situations, our White Belly and Brown Sculpin Streamers have
04/26/16 The Bighorn is in great shape compared to most Montana trout streams right now.
It's discharges and stream level is fine for drift boats and the water mostly clear. The warm
weather from last week and the rain forecast for this week is going to keep sending a lot of
water downstream to the lake to be discharged, so the levels may be on the high side for a
05/03/16 The river continues to be one of the best options the state of Montana has to offer
fly fishing for trout. It is mostly clear, but the warmer weather adds some stain to it in places.
The Mother's Day caddisfly hatch, Little Black Caddis, should begin in the lower part of the
river anytime now. Other than that, midges and Blue-winged olives continue to hatch and
provide some dry fly action at times. .
05/10/16 The discharges are high and the level up to the point it is limiting the opportunity.
You will just have to watch the levels to know when the tailwater is back in decent enough
shape to fish. Some guys will continue to fish under these higher water conditions, and they
will catch fish on streamers and in some cases nymphs, but it will be much slower this coming
05/17/16 The discharges and stream levels are high right now. They are lowering the lake
from all the water it received mostly last week when some early season runoff was occurring.
There is rain forecast every day for the next few days beginning tomorrow. Hatches of the
little Black Caddis are taking place in the lower river along with the midges and Blue-winged
05/24/16 The discharges and stream levels remain high and will likely remain high for several
days. You never know, so be sure to continue to check every few days. They have to keep
the lake low to hold all the runoff water from the watershed. The flows are too high to fish
although it is possible to do so in drift boats.
05/31/16 The Bighorn River is high and stained from lowering of the lake for the spring runoff.
The flows are above 7000 cfs. It is likely to be that way for most of the coming week, but you
never know for sure. All you can do this coming month is keep a close check on the
discharges. The fishing is always excellent as soon as the flows first get low enough to fish.
06/07/16 The river is flowing high and fast and it is very dingy. There is rain forecast
everyday and the headwaters are in full runoff mode. It is going to be a few more days before
much fly fishing opportunity is available. The weather is much warmer and the water is slowly
warning up. You will just have to keep checking the levels to know when it gets back to normal.
06/14/16 The discharges are still very high and the river not worth fishing at this time. The
runoff is showing signs of coming to an early end. We don't think it will be long before the
levels subside and the river is back in good shape producing it normal large trout in good
numbers. For now, just keep checking back with us for the latest information. .
06/20/16 The discharges are much lower and the resulting levels getting low enough fish from
drift boats. Most areas are still too high to wade safely. The water is mostly clear but some
sections has a little stain. There are a lot of insects hatching, mostly caddis and some little
Blue-winged olives. It should continue to drop and more insects should begin to hatch.
06/27/16 The discharges have been greatly reduced and the lake level down to normal. The
stream levels are in good shape and you can even wade some areas of the river. There are a
lot of hatches taking place, mostly caddisflies. Fish the pupa imitations during the hatches
and adults imitations during the egg laying. Pale Morning duns are starting to hatch on the
lower end of the river.
07/05/16 The river is in very good shape with lower discharges and better stream levels. Our
customers reported catching some good numbers of trout the past few days. We think the
condition will remain good for the next several day, with more normal summertime discharges.
There is some rain in the forecast this coming week. There are a lot of insects hatching and
some trout are being caught on the surface.
07/12/16 The river is in good shape with fairly strong discharges and flows but idea for the
drift boats. There are a few places that can be safely waded. There are a lot of trout being
caught in all section of the river. There are a lot of hatches taking place and trout are eating
egg laying caddis in the afternoons big time. It is a good time to be fishing the river.
07/19/16 The weather has gone from showers everyday to no chance for the next week. It is
hot in Bighorn country. The good news is that has little to no affect on the water temperature,
especially in the upper and even the middle sections of the river. We are getting some good
reports from customers and the outlook is even better for this coming week.
07/26/16 The Bighorn is in good shape and our customers are sending in some very good
reports. There are a lot of insects hatching including mostly, Pale Morning duns and three
different species of caddisflies. They hatch about mid afternoon and deposit their eggs very
late in the day. It is wise to fish late, almost to dark if that is possible.
08/02/16 It is going to continue to be very hot with the temperature reaching 97 degrees one
day. The discharges and stream levels remain in good shape and our customers are sending
in some good reports. The water temperature is affected very little in the upper part of the
river but is in the lower and middle parts to some extent. Pale Morning Duns and caddis
continue to be the main insects hatching.
08/09/16 With all the Hoot Owl restrictions in place on most of the freestone rivers in
Montana, the bighorn has been a very good option. We had a good report from a customer
fishing this past week. They caught some nice size browns on our Brown sculpin streamers
early in the morning. Pale Morning duns and two species of caddisflies are sill hatching good.
08/16/16 The weather highs for the coming week will vary 30 degrees. There is some cooler
weather on the way. That makes little difference in the water from on the Bighorn except for
the lower end of the river. Streamers like our Matuka sculpin flies are catching some larger
size trout in the early mornings. Those fishing terrestrials along the banks are doing well.
Grass hoppers, beetles and ants will produce during the day.
08/23/16 The river continues to be in good shape with good discharge rates and stream
levels. The weather is going to be cooler and this will help the water in the lower end of the
river. There are lots of caddisflies hatching as well as a few mayflies. Our customers are
sending in some good reports of fish caught. Most have come from the upper section of the
river. Early morning steamer fishing has been good.
08/30/16 The Bighorn is staying busy lately. The closing of the Yellowstone River and its
several tributaries has added some traffic to the Bighorn. As usual, it is in good shape and
producing some top notch action for anglers fishing it. There are lots of caddisflies hatching.
Tricos are hatching. Small BWOs are hatching. These vary from section to section. Early
morning streamer fishing is great for those who want to catch the larger trout.
09/06/16 The discharges and resulting stream levels are normal for this time of the year. Our
customers are reporting some good catches, mostly in the upper part of the tailwater. The
middle and lower sections should get in better shape this coming week with the much cooler
weather. That should bring the water temperature down a little. There are still a lot of
caddisflies hatching along with the White Wing Curse, or Tricos.
09/13/16 The river is flowing along at a good rate thanks to good discharges. Anglers are
catching trout in all sections and on a large variety of flies, depending on the sections.
Streamers are working good early and late. Terrestrials are working good around the banks
and braided islands. Caddisflies and BWOs are hatching as well. Mahogany duns should start
09/20/16 There is rain in the forecast everyday this coming week. It isn't that it will make a
difference in the levels, rather provide plenty of cloud cover. I guess there will be plenty of
caddisflies hatching but also Blue-winged olives and Mahogany duns. Our customers had a
good week last week and there's likely little change in this coming week.
09/27/16 Conditions are very good at this time. Discharges are fine and the resulting stream
levels good for anglers fishing all sections of the big river. There is a little rain in the forecast
for this weekend, otherwise clear. Big brown trout are being caught on our Sculpin streamers.
That is the Matuka streamer, black and olive and the Brown and White Belly sculpin. There
are lots of BWOs hatching as well
10/04/16The Bighorn is in good shape from the dam to the lowest section of the river that
holds trout. You don't have to be concerned about warm water any longer. The weather is
turning much cooler. The Brown trout are in the pre-spawn stage and will aggressively take
streamers like our Brown Sculpin and Black Matuka sculpin streamers. .
10/11/16 You couldn't pick a better week than the next one for fly fishing the Bighorn river.
The Blue-winged olive hatches have been great and the cloud cover is just going to make
them better. Our customers are catching lots of big trout on our Brown Sculpin streamers.
October caddis are still hatching along with Mahogany duns.
10/19/16 The conditions continue to be very good with trout caught from the uppermost
section to the lowest section that holds trout. We had several very good reports from
customers fishing this past week. There are some nice Blue-winged olive hatches taking
place along with Mahogany duns. There are still some October Caddis hatching. Brown
sculpin streamers are the most effective fly for the pre-spawn browns.
10/26/16 The discharges and stream levels are remaining very stable and drift boat anglers
are catching large numbers of trout. There are times and places wading is good. Brown
sculpin and White Belly Sculpin streamers are catching some big pre-spawn brown trout.
Blue-winged olives are hatching good and bringing trout to the surface to feed each
11/02/16 Big fish are being caught and in good numbers. The discharges and stream levels
are running normal and in good shape. Sculpin streamers are catching some big brown trout.
Midges and Blue-winged olives are hatching good and there are few anglers fishing. What
more could you ask for. You better get it while the gettin's good.
11/09/16 More good reports came in from our customers (two of them) that fished the Bighorn
this past week. They caught lots of trout and some very good ones. Conditions are very good
with good discharge rates and stream levels. The forecast for this coming week looks about
the same, with no rain in it. Blue-winged olives and Cream midges are the major insects
hatching. Sculpin streamers continue to catch the big trout.
11/16/16 The river remains in good shape with good stream levels thanks to good discharge
rates. We continue to get some very good reports as to the number and sizes of trout being
caught. Blue-winged olives and midges are hatching good. It is raining now and will continue
through tonight changing to snow tomorrow. This will have little to no effect on anything in the
upper part of the river but will begin to drop the water temperature in the lower part of the
11/23/16 The river is still in good shape with good stream levels. The hatches have slowed
down and consist mostly of little Blue-winged olives and midges. Cream midges and red
midges, or blood midges, are the most plentiful. Fish the larva and pupa imitations in tandem,
with the larva the bottom fly. Sculpin streamers are still catching some large browns.
11/30/16 The weather is turning much colder and there is snow forecast every day for the
next week. This will effect the water temperature in the middle to lower sections of the river
some. We recommend fishing the uppermost section. Midges and Blue-winged olives are the
major hatches. There are some Winter stoneflies starting to hatch. Black flies are hatching.
12/07/16 It has turned cold in Bighorn country, very cold. In our opinion, too cold to be
fishing. Getting wet accidentally would be a huge problem not to mention, very dangerous.
The water is much warmer, especially near the bottom discharge of the dam. You could catch
trout. Midges will continue to hatch. If you fish, fish the pupa and larva imitations in tandem for
the best results.
12/14/16 The weather is going to be very cold with heavy snow through Friday. The highest
temperature this coming week will be around 22 and the average temperature around zero.
While the water temperature will still be okay, we do not recommend fishing under these
extreme weather conditions.
12/21/16 Fish the uppermost section of the river to fish the warmer water. The middle and
lower sections are quite cold, not far above freezing. Fish Cream and blood midges, the reds,
with the larva and pupa in tandem. We now have those available in a pre-formed tippet for
those guys who have trouble tying on small flies.
12/28/16 The discharges and resulting stream levels continue to be in good shape and about
normal for his time of the year. There are blood midges (reds) and Cream midges hatching
along with Winter stoneflies and Black Flies. The black flies have a larva, pupa and adult
stage of life similar to caddisflies. Trout eat them all winter long.
01/04/17 The Bighorn is one of the best destinations to fish in the state of Montana during
the winter months. The water is flowing from the dam at 41 degrees right now and it is about
-9 degrees. Midges, Winter stoneflies, and Black flies are hatching. The midges are mostly
creams and reds, or blood midges. Fish the larva and pupa imitations in tandem with the larva
the bottom fly. Fish the upper section of the river. The middle and lower sections gets much
01/12/17 Snow ends today and you can expect clear weather for the next five or six days.
That does make a difference getting to and launching a boat. It makes a big difference in the
comfort of the anglers. It makes little difference to the trout. The weather is still going to be
cold, barely going above freezing only one day. Fish the uppermost section of the tailwater.
The middle and lower sections are too cold for much opportunity.
01/19/17 There is little change in the recommendations. Fish the uppermost section of the
river. Fish Cream or Red Midges with the larva and pupa in tandem. Winter stoneflies are
also hatching. On cloudy days, you may see the little Blue-winged olives hatching. They are
about a size 20 non-baetis species. When it is cloudy and overcast, the Black or Olive sculpin
streamers will catch trout.
01/25/17 The Bighorn continues to be one of Montana's top destinations during the winter
months. The discharge from the dam stays warm enough to provide a good opportunity to
catch trout all winter. The middle and lower sections of the river is cold, often too cold to fish,
so still with the upper section. Midges, Creams and Reds, are still the most important insects
to imitate. Fish the larva and pupa in tandem.
01/31/17 It is cold in Bighorn country right now, but snow and the very cold weather ends
tomorrow. This weekend should be nice. The discharges and stream levels remain low and
consistent. Fish as near the dam as you legally can or the first float below it. The further
downstream you fish, the colder the water. Hatches are mostly Cream and Red (blood)
midges. You might try the Olive or Black sculpin streamer during heavy cloud cover or with
low light conditions.
02/08/17 Fish near the dam as legal, or the first float section. The weather is going to be
much warmer this coming week, and the water temperature in the middle and lower river could
come up some. I think it mostly will get help get rid of some slush ice. Midges are still the most
important insects to imitate. Fish the larva and pupa imitations in tandem. When it is cloudy,
fish Sculpin streamers.
02/15/17 The discharges and resulting stream levels are high, too high to wade safely in most
sections. It could be fished from a drift boat but we don't recommend it at the current levels.
There is little rain or snow in the forecast and hopefully this will change soon. Anglers have
been catching some good size and numbers of trout.
02/22/17 The warm weather was nice for a change but it is getting cold again with a chance of
snow everyday for one for the coming week. The water is high due to heavy discharges and
stained from the melting snow and ice. We recommend watching the levels and fishing when it
get back down. The Black Matuka sculpin streamer works great when the water is high and
03/01/17 The Bighorn is rolling along good right now, with heavy discharges and higher
levels. You can fish it from a larger drift boat but we recommend waiting until the levels drop if
you have an option. Midges, Creams and Reds, are hatching. Fish the larva and pupa rigged
in tandem for the best results. Streamers will work good when it is cloudy or in stained water
03/08/17 The discharges and stream levels are currently very high. You will just have to keep
checking the discharge schedule and stream levels to see when it is best to resume fishing.
We don't think that will be long. There is snow in the forecast everyday for the next five day.
Midges will be the most important insects to imitate. Sculpin steamers will continue to work
when it is snowing or overcast.
03/15/17 We were wrong this past week. We though the levels might soon drop but in fact,
they increase. The discharges and level are very high and the water highly stained. The
warm weather is melting a lot of snow and ice and it is raining or snowing about everyday.
This is likely to continue for at least the next week. All we can do it keep an eye on the stream
03/22/17 The warm weather will continue for the coming week and that along with lots of rain
means it is very likely they will continue the high discharges and the stream levels will
continue to be very high, to high to fish. If and when the heavy discharges do cease, sculpin
streamers will probably be the first fly you will want to tie on.
03/29/17 The river is still very high from high discharges and will most likely continue to be
high for a few more days. They have to get the lake level down and the warm weather, or
what I call mini-runoff, continues to melt snow and ice as well as the continued rain and snow.
All you can do is check back with us and look at the stream levels. Hopefully, it won't be long.
04/04/17 The warm weather continues to melt a lot of snow and ice in the watershed of the
Bighorn. There is more rain forecast on top of that. The discharges and stream levels are
very high and likely to remain that way for the next week. All you can do is stay in touch with
us and check the levels. It won't be long before spring hatches will begin.
04/19/16 The high discharges and very high stream levels still exist and will likely to continue
a few more days. The river should not be fishing in any section. There is still a lot of water in
the watershed and the lake level still too high. All you can do is stay in touch with us. We will
keep you updated as to the conditions.
04/26/17 The discharges and stream levels remain about the same - very high, too high to
wade anywhere and too high to fish in our opinion. The water ranges from muddy to highly
stained. The weather is turning colder again, with a winter storm warning out fo the next two
days. All you can do is stay in touch with us and we will keep you informed.
05/03/10 The river is still rolling high and dingy and will likely be that way for the next week or
more. We are getting tired of posting the same old forecast and conditions as much as you
are getting tired of reading them, but we can't control the weather and the runoff we are
experiencing is normal.
05/10/10 The Bighorn is high and rolling. The runoff in the watershed and rain have the dam
in high gear with high water levels and it is likely to be this way for at least several days. All
you can do is to stay in touch. We will keep you informed.
05/17/17 The discharges and stream levels are still very high, too high to make it worthwhile
to fish in our opinion. Guides are still fishing but our reports indicated the catches are little to
none. It is more like dredging. Flows are around 13,000 cfs.
05/23/17 he Bighorn is high and badly stained. Runoff is underway in the watershed and
they have to keep the lake levels down to keep the water flowing through the system. Send us
an email and let us help you plan that next Bighorn River trip. All you can do is to keep in
touch with you. We tell it like it is.
05/31/17 The runoff continues full stream. The discharges and stream levels are up as high
as they can get without flooding. It is likely to be this way from several more days. All you can
do is to plan that next Bighorn trip. We can help you do that. Send us and email.
06/07/17 The river is very high and stained from the runoff. It will be a few more days before it
is worth fishing. All you can do is stay in touch with us. We will keep you informed as to the
status of the runoff. We will be glad to help you plan that next Bighorn fishing trip. Fishing will
be excellent when the stream levels get back down.
06/14/17 The river is down from last week but still too high to fish. We hope the runoff peaked
but it may not have. We should know soon. It usually last most of the month of June. The
water ranges from lightly stained to heavy stained. All you can do is check back with us.
The stream levels are down from the past week, but the river is still very high and stained. It
can be fished from a drift boat but not recommended by us. If you live there, give it a shot. If
you want to choose it as a destination, you should wait at least until July. We will keep you
informed of the status of the runoff.
06/29/17 The river is still very high with high discharges. The runoff is still underway in the
watershed but should be ending very soon. The tailwater can be fished now, but we don't
think it is worth the effort or for a destination trip at this time. There is a big snowpack this
year, which is a good thing, but it does delay the start of good conditions.
07/05/17 The stream levels are still high, too high to wade but okay to fish from a drift boat.
The discharges are remaining very high to keep the lake level down to where it should be.
The runoff is near an end and thing should settle down very soon. There are still lots of
insects hatching and we have just added terrestrial imitations to the fly list.
07/12/17 The conditions are about the same as last week except the lake level is getting
down to where the discharges should let up some. The discharges and flows are still high but
it can be fished from larger drift boats. We didn't receive any reports from anyone fishing this
07/19/17 The river is settled down to some extent but still with high discharge rates and
stream levels. There are lots of insects starting to hatch including two species of caddisflies
and lots of Pale Morning duns. We didn't receive any reports from anyone fishing this past
week but some of the guides are fishing.
07/26/17 The river is gradually getting into better shape each week. The discharges and
stream levels are still relatively high and too high to wade most anywhere. There are a few
places it may be possible if caution is used. The drift boat anglers are catching some trout.
There are some good Pale Morning dun hatches and lots of caddisflies.
08/02/17 The discharges and stream levels are down and the river in good shape. Lots of
trout are being caught. There are lots of insects hatching. Terrestrials are also starting to
work good. This is an ideal time to fish the Bighorn. Pale Morning duns hatches are going
good. There are lots of Spotted sedge and Green sedge caddisflies hatching.
08/09/17 The discharges and stream levels continue to fall down and the conditions get
better each week. It is still relatively high, making wading tough to impossible most places.
There are a lot of nice trout being caught. There are some good hatches taking place.
Conditions for the coming week look good.
08/16/17 We are still getting some good reports from customers fishing the river. The
discharges and stream levels are down some from the past week, but still high. It would be
much better at a lower level. Wading is out of the question in most all places. Streamers and
deep nymphing is responsible for most of the trout being caught.
08/23/17 The river is still higher than normal from heavier than normal discharges but it gets
better each week. There are trout being caught from larger drift boats. We received two good
reports from this past week. It will just be better when the flows get down to where some
wading opportunity exist.
08/30/17 We didn't receive any reports from anyone fishing this past week. The conditions
were still good. The stream level is up just a little higher than the week before. There are still
some good caddisfly hatches and Tricos on the lower end of the river.
09/06/17 The river is still in decent shape but the discharges are still stronger than we prefer.
We received two good reports from customers this past week. Anglers are catching trout. We
don't guide and just tell it like it is, hoping it help those planning a trip to fish the river. In other
words, we have no reason not to be as accurate as possible.
09/13/17 The discharges and stream levels are still a little higher than we like them, but there
are some good numbers and sizes of trout being caught. Wading isn't safe at these levels but
drift boats are catching trout. We didn't receive any reports from customers fishing this past
09/27/17 The discharges are high again and resulting stream levels provide no real
opportunities to wade. Drift boats can fish, of course, but the conditions would be better with
lower flows. We didn't receive any reports from anyone fishing this past week.
10/11/17 The weather is going to be nice this coming week. Currently, discharges and stream
levels are higher than normal but not too high to fish. Drift boats should still be able to do
well. There are some good Blue-winged olive hatches taking place and some large trout are
being caught on our Sculpin streamer patterns.
10/18/17 The big river is in decent shape turning out some very good catches of large trout.
We received two good reports from customers fishing this past week. Discharges and stream
levels are still higher than we like to see them, but fine for drift boats. Sculpin streamers like
our Brown and Matuka sculpin patterns are catching the large trout. BWOs and Midge are
10/26/17 The discharges and stream levels are still higher than normal. Larger drift boats are
catching trout and some very good ones. Sculpin streamers still remain the preferred flies to
use for the larger trout. There are some BWOs and MIdge hatches taking place but most of
the fish are being caught deeper under an indicator.
11/03/17 The discharges and stream levels are down some. The weather and water
temperature will be much lower this coming week. Fish the upper section of the river. The
middle and lower sections will be much colder. Midges and BWOs are the only insects that will
11/17/17 Discharges and stream levels are okay, but still a little higher than we prefer it. We
had two good reports from customers fishing the river this past week. They drifted down from
Afterbay. Midges, creams and blood midges, are hatching. Blue-winged olives are hatching.
The weather is still relatively mild for November.
12/01/17 The conditions remain good for the Bighorn. There are fish being caught mostly on
Midges and Streamers. Cream and Red or blood midges are hatching. On warm, cloudy days,
there are Blue-winged olive hatches. Sculpin streamers continue to catch the larger trout. We
had one good report this past week from a regular customer.
12/08/17 We like the discharges and stream levels a little lower, but it is in good shape
otherwise. Midges, blood midges (reds) and creams are the only insects hatching. The water
is getting a little colder, especially on the middle and lower sections fo the river.
12/15/17 Conditions are fairly good for this time of the year. Water levels are down due to
lower discharges but still a little on the high side. Midges, creams and reds, are hatching as
well as Winter Stoneflies.
12/29/17 Little change has taken place this past week.The river is in good shape with
discharges and stream levels in good shape. Good numbers of trout are being caught and
many of them big ones.
01/05/18 The weather is going to be much warmer this coming week. That will have little effect
on the water but the middle and lower sections may be a little warmer. It will make it much
more pleasant to fish. Midges and Winter stoneflies are hatching good.
01/12/18 Conditions are normal for this time of the year. Those fishing are catching trout.
Midges, Creams and Blood midges mostly, and Winter stoneflies are hatching.
01/19/18 The coming week looks good with clear, cold weather and little to no chance of snow
or rain. Fish midge larva and pupa rigged in tandem for the best results.
01/27/18 The weather is on a roller coaster but from tomorrow on, it will be snowing. Stream
levels are the same, a little high but fishable from a larger drift boat. Fish the Winter stonefly
nymphs near the banks. Fish the upper section near the dam for the warmest water.
02/16/18 There has been little change in the conditions. Heavy discharges and high stream
levels are making it tough to fish, but it can, and is being done in larger drift boats. Fish the
upper section of the river. The water is very cold in the middle and lower sections of the river.
02/23/18 The weather is going to be a little better this coming week, with a chance of snow
only one day. The water is still a little high but fine for larger drifts boats. We didn't get any
reports from anyone fishing this past week.
03/02/18 The river is still in good shape, with stream levels and little high but okay for larger
drift boats. The water is about 39 degrees at the dam, and 36 a few miles downstream.
03/16/18 The discharges and stream levels are still a little higher than normal but trout are
still being caught from larger drift boats. The water is clear. It is best to use a sink tip line for
streamers. Midges and Winter stoneflies are still the main insects to imitate.
03/30/18 The discharges and resulting stream levels are still high, too high to wade most
place but okay for larger drift boats. Midges, little Blue-winged olives, March Browns and
Skwala stoneflies are the most important insects to imitate.
04/06/18 The river is still flowing very high due to high discharges. This past week has been a
cold one but hopefully, it will warm back up. This makes a difference in the middle and lower
sections of the river and a difference to anglers fishing. Midges are the most important
insects to imitate at this time.
04/13/18 Discharges and stream levels remain about the same from week to week. They are
high, oo high to wade safely most anywhere, but okay for larger size drift boats. Midges, little
Blue-winged olives, Skwala stoneflies and March Browns are the only hatches. Fish the upper
section of the river.
04/20/18 The river is still running high. It can be fished from larger drift boats. It is just higher
than we prefer and tough to present flies. The heavy discharges are expected to continue for
the coming week. Fish the upper section of the river.
04/27/18 The discharges and resulting stream levels are still very high, too high to wade
anywhere and too high to fish from any small boat. Large drift boats could fish the river, but
we don't think it is worth the effect. It is more like dredging and your chances for a good trip
are very low.
05/05/18 The discharges and resulting stream levels are still very high. The water is stained.
It is too high to wade or fish from a boat in our opinion. This is likely to continue this week. All
you can do is to stay in touch with us. We will keep you informed.
05/12/18 They continue the same high discharge rates keeping the stream levels high.
Although it could be fished from large drift boats, we don't think it is worth it. We received
some lousy reports from guys trying it with local guides. Stay in touch. We will keep you
informed as to the conditions.
05/18/18 Conditions are still not good. The river is very high and high discharges are likely to
continue. All you can do is to check back with us. We will keep you updated. Fishing will be
great when it does drop down.
05/25/18 The river is still very high from runoff of the headwaters. It will likely be high for the
next several days. All you can do is to stay in touch with us. We will update the conditions as
06/02/18 Discharges and stream levels are extremely high and the water very dingy to tea
color. Runoff is underway and this will likely continue for a few more days. All you can do is to
keep checking back with us. We will keep you informed.
06/09/18 The river is very high, far too high to fish, and in the full run-off mode. All you can
do is check back with us. We will keep you informed. There are always great fishing
opportunities when it dose settle back down.
06/16/18 The discharges and stream levels are still far too high to wade and too high to fish
at all in our opinion. The water is stained big time.
06/23/18 The river is still far too high to fish with much opportunity. Discharges and stream
levels are still lowering the lake from heavy runoff. Stay in touch and we will keep you
informed as to the status of runoff.
06/30/18 The discharges and stream levels are down some, but still too high to make it worth
fishing in our opinion. The water is high, stained and fast. It won't be long. It is falling fast and
should be ready in a few more day. Keep in touch and we will keep you informed.
07/07/18 The discharges and stream levels are down and the river getting into good shape.
There are multiple hatches taking place. We received some good reports lately. Conditions
should just keep getting better this coming week.
07/14/18 The discharges and resulting stream levels are finally down low enough to provide
some good opportunities. Trout are being caught in all sections. There are some good
hatches taking place and we are getting some good reports.
07/21/18 This is what many have been waiting for. The discharges and stream levels are
down low enough to wade in some places and a lot of nice trout are being caught. There are
still a lot of good hatches taking place.
08/04/18 The river continues to be in good shape. There are good hatches of mostly PMDs
and caddis but others depending on the location. The weather will be clear this coming week.
08/18/18 When the Bighorn gets into good shape, it provides fly fishing opportunity equal to
none. There are good numbers and some large trout being caught. The hatches are still
going and all sections of the river in good shape. It is about as good as it gets.
08/25/18 Conditions remain in great shape. Discharges and stream levels are in good shape,
there are a lot of hatches taking place and a lot of trout are being caught.
09/01/18 Conditions remain good. Lots of trout are being caught. There are still some good
hatches taking place. All sections of the river are turning out good numbers of fish.
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