The Little Bighorn
The Bighorn River originates at the Boysen Reservoir in Wyoming. After flowing through much of Wyoming, it enters Montana more than 150 miles downstream, where it spills into Bighorn Lake, which has been created by the Yellowtail Dam. But it isn’t until the river releases from the bottom of the dam that the fishing becomes world-class. The Bighorn is nationally recognized as one of the premiere trout streams in the United States. As such, it is a very popular destination spot for anglers.
The river averages 150-250 feet in width with flows averaging in the 2000-3000 Cubic Feet Per Second (CFS) range. Prime flows for the Bighorn range from 2,000 to 5,000 CFS. The Yellowtail and Afterbay Dams give the Bighorn constant flows year round downstream. This clear, cold, and constant release creates nearly 30 miles of prime wild trout habitat.
This section of the Bighorn offers a tailwater with broad riffles and deep pools. It is also surrounded by an impressive landscape, with rolling plains, sparsely places cottonwoods and willows. Gravel and grass islands are common throughout the river. These islands create unique riffle corners, side channels, and drop offs that yield some great fly fishing.
Bighorn River Fly Fishing
Recent fish counts indicate an unsurpassed fish population of 7000 – 8000 brown and rainbow trout per river mile. The high fish count per-mile is one thing, but the potential for a lifetime trophy brown or rainbow trout is very good on this river. Browns and rainbows average around 15 to 17 inches.
With an average of 50 degrees, the Bighorn yields very prolific hatches of all sorts of aquatic insects for most of the year. During the different hatches it is not unusual to have 10-20 fish with in easily casting distances. Because the Bighorn is in the southeastern corner of the state and at a lower elevation than many Montana streams it can, and does fish well, the entire year. Several of our guides fish it often and they know that it can spoil novice fisherman. While most of the regular guides on the Bighorn bobber fish, we use dries and small streamers most of the time. Because of its excellent fly fishing, this tailwater does get very crowded during the main season from July thru September, so we like to go at times when it is a bit less crowded.