An annual excursion of “awesomeness”
Minturn Anglers just got back from spending a few days on the Big Horn river in Ft. Smith, Montana. What can I say other than “WOW”
We arrived on a Wednesday
and got the bags unpacked in our incredible fly fishing cabin. I am not to sure about the “cabins”
you have stayed in while fishing but this is not the norm for me. Minturn Anglers talked to our friends at Bighorn Angler
and got us some extremely nice cabins with a view of one of the most incredible rivers in United States. Our cabin had a incredible view of the entire valley that the river flowed through, It also included every amenity that you could ever want. It was truly an incredible place to stay and comfortable beyond belief.
Alright, on to the important stuff, fishing, that is why we are all here right? The Bighorn River is broken into for the most part two popular floats. Dam to 3 Mile and 3 mile to Bighorn. From everything I have read the fish population tends to drop the further you get from the dam. That being said there are still thousands of fish per mile in this river. We did see the most number of fish floating from Dam to 3 mile. This is a fairly quick float though, it is only 3 mile, hence the name. The nice thing about Montana are the river laws. All land is public along the river as long as you stay under the “high water mark”. We took up a fleet of boats on this trip and basically used them as a taxi. We would find a pod of fish, anchor the boat, wade up to them and game on. Fly selection? Hmmmm, let me think. EVERYTHING!!!! This place is a bug factory!
Want to catch a few on top? Done. No brainer, I do not need to preach anymore.
My eyes are straining from trying to find my Parachute Adams among the plethora of other bugs. I think I will huck some larger stuff. Blamo! That big articulated pork chop is now hanging out the side of a brown trout’s mouth .
Alright my arm is sore from stripping streamers, I think I will just stare at this hot pink indicator with a Ray Charles and RS2 hanging below it. Dang it, my arm just cramped up and I can still see the boat ramp and I still have 3 miles to float, life is tough sometimes.
In other words, do not limit yourself. If you are going to float this river bring all your boxes, you will not regret it.
The last day we were there was the best. It rained and rained and then rained a little more. Something about being in a boat on the river in the rain is magical to me. I love it. You hear sounds like you won’t hear on a normal day. It was chilly, but the bite was on. Fish were popping like no ones business, this was the best day we had. Last Fall when we were up we had a similar day, same weather same results. The nice part was this seemed to push the crowds down a bit also.
Water temperature can stay fairly cold – 43 degrees, so make sure to dress appropriately if you plan to go. Midges were everywhere. If we were casting indicator rigs it was a Ray Charles or a Scud dropped with a Top Secret Midge, I love that fly. Small red annelids also seemed to be the ticket. Up top, Parachute Adams all day long size 14-16.
Another question that is frequently asked is “how is the float?” It is simple. No rapids easy to get to shore and plenty of access. I
have floated the Bighorn as high as 6500 CFS and as low as 1800CFS. I would have to say my favorite is mid 2000CFS. When flows are at the mid 2k mark it still leaves pretty of shore line accessible to wade and access some really nice spots. When we floated last year it was much higher, it made it tough for a few of the newer guys wading in water that large. During the float trip you will cruise past some of the most gorgeous scenery in the United States. Bald eagles, pheasant and bear are just a few creatures you will see calling this river home. The view is incredible. Cottonwood trees line the river, if you can make it in the fall when the colors are changing do it, you will not regret it.
One thing to remember when visiting the Bighorn River is to bring what you need. Fort Smith, Montana is by no means a busting metropolis. This is part of the reason I love it. Cell coverage is spotty at best. Alcohol is not sold as you are on a reservation. Bring in what you want to drink, you cannot buy it. The “grocery store” is the size of your kitchen and only stocks the essentials, Swisher Sweet cigars, just sayin. Last but not least do not speed through Wyoming! I am fairly certain on 2 separate trips Minturn Angler’s guides may have had a run in with Wyoming’s finest. Please remember your guides work for tips and the bill may need to be sent in by the 18th of May.
So here are a few final thoughts. This last trip we took I had the company of my neighbor with me. He has never touched a fly rod, never been in a drift boat and he swore to me he was not going to fish, all he wanted to do was learn how to row. Fair enough, row my friend, row! I finally got my friend to touch a fly rod the last day. We pulled up on shore and watched 25-30 fish hammering the surface. After a few minutes of casting practice it was time for the real deal. My neighbor caugtht his first trout on a dry fly on the Bighorn. He made it look easy. Wow. Wish i could say that. He tried to shrug it off but the gleeming white teeth that were exposed from that grin that went ear to ear while he was fighting that fish gave it away. I guess what I am trying to say is it does not matter if it is the Bighorn River or a local carp pond in your Colorado neighborhood, get out and enjoy it. Stop by Minturn Anglers in Parker on Friday
afternoons and let us know where you are heading, have a beer with us and let us know where you’ve been out fly fishing. We love our customers and love hearing about your trips. After all are in the same “boat”
Can’t wait to get you on your second fish Chuck, till next time…….
Minturn Anglers Front Range Guide