A Beginners Guide to Fishing the Bighorn
Water currents are much swifter than they appear on the surface. There are numerous short runs or rapids which are easily negotiable by raft, canoe, kayak, or any other type of watercraft, even to the novice floater. Boats with motors are prohibited on this upper thirteen miles of the Bighorn.
The river banks are lined with willow thickets, stands of cottonwood trees, ash, and numerous shrubs.
The land above the high water line is almost entirely in private ownership and is not open to the public. Respect landowner rights!
Fort C.F. Smith was built in 1866 on the south side of the Bighorn just downstream from the present site of Afterbay Dam. The fort provided limited protection for travelers on the Bozeman Trail.
One hundred years later, the Yellowtail Dam was completed providing irrigation water and flood control. Relatively stable water releases and temperatures and sediment deposition in Bighorn Lake allowed an additional benefit: an ideal trout habitat. The Bighorn River has since developed into a “World Class” blue ribbon trout fishery/
Trout can be caught anywhere regardless of current or stream depth. Dry and wet flies are used year round. Fine trout can be taken at any time of year, even during a snowstorm. Though many different patterns of fly will take fish, some are more popular and productive. Here are a few of each type:
Most anglers drift the river, stopping along the way and fishing likely spots. The river can be waded, as long as you remain below the high water mark, below where terrestrial vegetation ceases. Limited shoreline access exists at the above access points. Trespassing on Crow Tribal or private lands can result in a citation and fines which would spoil your experience on the Bighorn.
Did You Know?
Fort C.F. Smith, was the most isolated of the posts which guarded the Bozeman Trail. Active from August 1866 to July 1868, it was under constant threat from the Sioux and Northern Cheyenne tribes during Red Cloud’s War. The U.S. government was forced to abandon the fort and trail. Some historians have called this conflict, “the first war the United States ever lost.” More...