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> > Belated Fishing Report: Bighorn River July 30-August 1, 2014

Oldredbarn has attached these 20 pictures. The message is below.
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OldredbarnAugust 27th, 2014, 1:18 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2600
Ok! I'm going to try this again...Last time my report disappeared and so I'm starting over.

A friend of mine and I drove from Detroit heading to a rendezvous in Idaho with some others from the Michigan Fly Fishing Club. We took a small side trip to the Bighorn and fished it for two days.

First impression after fishing it...It's like fishing in your friends aquarium...There are literally so many fish that you end up with the impression of a 20 mile long trout pond.

I am not kidding here. Every night we crashed, hard! We stopped each day for lunch and fished non-stop for the rest of the day! Each cast has the potential for another fish. We quickly lost count of hooked fish.

At one point I got out of the boat to fish to some risers who were eating returning, egg-laying, small black caddis. I looked down at my feet and I was moving away from the shallows fish as long as my forearm! I got into position and I had so many risers I couldn't decide where to cast! I had a 17" fish rising in front of me I could of tapped on the nose with the tip of my rod! It was insane!

This madness exists in the middle of the Crow Indian Reservation at a place called Fort Smith. It may have been a fort once upon a time, but its a trout town now...There are fly shops everywhere...The parade of trailers and boats in the morning is something to see. I don't know how they do it, but no one gets hurt. :) There is a flotilla of boats all day and somehow everyone stays out of everyone's way...I never felt pinned in or crowded.

A dam was built here in 1967 and its a bottom draw dam so we are talking a tail-water here that eventually gets too warm downstream somewhere for trout. Below the dam the number of trout is staggering.

We would fish a nymph rig when there were no visible risers...This consists of a couple nymphs, some weight and a "thing-a-ma-bobber", or a blown up balloon. There are weeds here so you need to keep track that your flies etc are free of grass.

When we saw risers we would stop and get out and go head hunting.We had two beautiful warm days and wet wading was a relief!

We exited 90 somewhere north of Sheridan WY at a place called Lodge Grass. Once you turn off the highway you drive over cattle guards and the horses and cattle are on the road. Everywhere! It is 40 miles or so back to Fort Smith and the ride is gorgeous.

The folks in town were really wonderful and took care of this old hippie-vegetarian...I had vegi-lasagna one night, and mushroom stuffed ravioli the next and great sandwiches out on the river for lunch. We stayed at the Bighorn Trout Shop and poor Kurt Olsen put up with my calls all winter and it was great floating with him one day. Our other guide was Tim Church and we couldn't of asked for two better guides on this river.

This is a dry town but you can bring in your own beer and wine which we did and a cold Molson after a full day of fish catching was great! :)

I spent one night at the Bunkhouse B&B and this was another fun place to stay. All the women running the place babied us and the breakfast was great!
I had a nice evening sitting on the front porch getting a chance to talk with some of the local youngsters. All out going, polite, and hard working.

Anyway...Here are some pictures!

Spence
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
Al514August 27th, 2014, 3:03 pm
Central New York

Posts: 142
Great pictures and report!
PartsmanAugust 27th, 2014, 4:11 pm
bancroft michigan

Posts: 315
Wow looks like a blast, gotta make it west soon.
PaulRobertsAugust 27th, 2014, 7:11 pm
Colorado

Posts: 1776
I spent one night at the Bunkhouse B&B and this was another fun place to stay. All the women running the place babied us and the breakfast was great!
I had a nice evening sitting on the front porch getting a chance to talk with some of the local youngsters. All out going, polite, and hard working.

Sounds a bit like Lake Wobegone, with trout!. Glad you had a good trip.
Jmd123August 27th, 2014, 8:40 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2470
Fabulous scenery and nice fishies there, Spence! Glad you had a good trip. I assume we'll hear more about it...

Jonathon
No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
MartinlfAugust 27th, 2014, 10:50 pm
Moderator
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3017
Thanks, Spence; great report!
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
JOHNWAugust 29th, 2014, 5:44 pm
Chambersburg, PA

Posts: 452
And Mr. Lore strikes again!!!!!!
Nice trip Spence.

BTW I woke up in a cold sweat the other night. My wife said I had been muttering something about "damn mosquitos" and "the size of those heads". I told her it was the brown drake dream again. ;)
"old habits are hard to kill once you have gray in your beard" -Old Red Barn
EntomanAugust 29th, 2014, 6:48 pm
Northern CA & ID

Posts: 2604
Very nice, Spence! Any excrucians still showing?

Fort Smith, MT (not to be confused with the famous Fort Smith, AR) was one of several forts built during the Sioux uprisings in the middle 1860's. i believe it was only garrisoned for a year or two before being abandoned. Pretty sure the Sioux burned it down. I don't believe any significant engagements occurred there.
"It's not that I find fishing so important, it's just that I find all other endeavors of Man equally unimportant... And not nearly as much fun!" Robert Traver, Anatomy of a Fisherman
OldredbarnAugust 29th, 2014, 10:17 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2600
BTW I woke up in a cold sweat the other night. My wife said I had been muttering something about "damn mosquitos" and "the size of those heads". I told her it was the brown drake dream again. ;)


John,

As me as your witness...After all those mosquito bites you endured you earned every inch of that gorgeous Brown you caught on the Au Sable this past June! :) You are made of some tuff stuff young man, especially when it comes to fishing.

I'm still cleaning up dead mosquito corpses inside the fishing wagon left over from that one night we had finally had enough and swore we weren't leaving the vehicle until everyone of them blood-suckers that had snuck into the car were dead! We freaked out, and it felt so right. :)

Those Michigan biting bugs were snarly this year...Canadian north woods like.

I'm hoping your post traumatic stress syndrome will one day pass and tell your wife that I'm sorry, truly sorry, to be disturbing her sleep...

Went birding today with my birding partner, the guy I told you about that has been chasing birds since 1957...We were on a roll today, kicking, you know what, and taking names! I ended the day with 13 new Life Birds!Four new ones the day before.

Spence
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
OldredbarnMarch 1st, 2015, 2:26 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2600
Matt,

I'm pulling this back up for Matt to see.

After we fished the Bighorn for a couple days we stopped at the Little Bighorn battle site.

As we discussed...The flows here are at the whim of whomever is running the dam. There is a large boat launch and docks upstream of the dam so these folks are taken care of.

I had some friends visit in June and the weeds were so bad they were concerned about our visit at the end of July. They opened the dam before we got there and blew out some of the really heavy weeds, but this is a weedy river.

There are a lot of fish in this tailwater...

A really interesting place. It gets hammered. The launch in the morning looks like an expressway, but somehow no one kills each other. :) Also, they somehow have worked out a system for staying out of each others way. It is a big river and there is room for all the boats...

Spence
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
WbranchMarch 1st, 2015, 2:56 pm
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2628
Spence,

but somehow no one kills each other. :)


That may be true but when I used to fish there in the early 1990's it was a nightnmare. Admittedly the fishing was excellent but then the flows were a constant 3000 cfs and that was the first week of August. It was arguably the best nymphing river I had ever fished and the dry fly fishing to both PMD's and black caddis in the evenings was outstanding.

However on more than one occasion I got into arguments with guys when all I wanted to do was walk behind them to go fish below them. One guy, who was facing towards the main flow, told me in no uncertain terms that if I walked behind him he was going to "come over there and stick that rod up your a__. Nice guy.

Another time we were down river about hallway between Three Mile access and Thirteen Mile access where later Orvis bought a lodge that was on river right. There is a long run there and at the head is a shallow shelf and after about 30' the shelf just dropped off to water over my head in depth. Fish would come up on the shelf early and feed and later drop back into deeper water. A San Juan worm and a scud drifted into the deep water always got a strike.

Way down in the tailout, about 80 yards from where we pulled in with our Jon boat (back then a guy rented 10' - 12' Jon boats for about $40 a day) Anyway as soon as we pulled the boat onto the gravel two guys in waders came charging out of the streamside brush over 200' away and came quickly up to where we were and in no uncertain terms told us we could not fish there. They were both guides with clients and said they were having a streamside lunch and wanted to "rest" the run so their clients would do well. (BTW Big Horn guides are infamous for the shuffling they do above their clients so there is a steady stream of nymphs drifting down where the sports are attempting to nymph)

Again we were threatened about what would happen if we started to fish there. I'm not ever going to get into a fight with somebody about a trout and while I might be tall I'm not big and didn't want a bloody nose or a broken tooth so we found other water with no assholes on it. I had fished the Big Hole for four years, always the first week of August, but because of the altercations 1993 was my last year.

I'm in the back, my buddy Jerry is rowing, and another friend Dave is waving his hat.



This big rainbow was hooked at dusk but not landed until full darkness. There is a pool we called the "Hog Hole" on river left about a mile and a half above Three Mile access and just below a long bench. It too had deep water but at the head was a shelf about a foot deep. It was big enough to hold three guys. Sometimes we'd quit dry fly fishing and pull in there at dusk and get into position of the shelf with a 4X tippet and a San Juan worm and no BB. Just spit on the fly and cast it out onto that shelf and follow the drift with your rod tip and hang on and be ready for a solid strike. Great fun.



This is pretty much an average rainbow back in the 1990 - 1993 time frame.

Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
TroutnutMarch 1st, 2015, 6:40 pm
Administrator
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2570
Nice pictures and report!

What's going on with that bottom trout and the green line things sticking out of its gill plate?
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
WbranchMarch 1st, 2015, 6:59 pm
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2628
I'm thinking that is a piece of aquatic weed that maybe the fish burrowed into while trying to evade capture. Many fish I hook on the Missouri burrow into the aquatic weed beds. some years it is worse, and much thicker, than other years. I probably lose as many big fish as I land due to either the fish burrowing so deeply into the weeds that it breaks off or so many weeds get onto the leader, and slide down to the fish, that either the hook pulls out of the 5X tippet breaks.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
OldredbarnMarch 2nd, 2015, 3:49 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2600
What's going on with that bottom trout and the green line things sticking out of its gill plate?


Jason.

Matt is correct. The river is quite weedy. During the stretches where we floated and nymphed you would have to give constant care to the crap accumulating on your leader etc.

On the Bighorn the fish population is so great that literally every cast has the potential of a hook up. Floating along in the boat runs your drift through everything. They have a technique there for cleaning the stuff off...They reel in until there is a few yards of line out and you windmill whip the leader etc against the river until its clean. I have never seen anything like it before...It's a hoot.

As Matt states, they love to nymph this river. One guide used the standard indicator (thing-a-ma-bobber) and the other used inflated balloons. Learn something new every day. :)

That fish that you mention was taken on a dry and I was wading and fishing upstream. There were so many fish I didn't know where to cast. I had fish rising I could of tapped with the tip of the rod. They were feeding on a small black caddis mid-day.

We caught a great many more fish than are shown. This river gets pounded and the fish see some level of stress. The guides are quick to return the fish to the river. It was the closest fishing that resembled a job that I have ever done. It is non-stop fishing all day save a stop for lunch. I passed out after dinner both nights. :)

No risers, you fish nymphs as you float downstream looking for feeders. You find risers, you get out of the boat and fish to them. The only distraction on the river was when I added a Western Grebe to my Life list, and when we passed the wall of old cars lining the bank...A famous spot. We blew by it fishing! :)

Matt...That boat looks a tad shaky for three and that flow you mentioned. Wow!

Spence
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
PaulRobertsMarch 2nd, 2015, 6:57 pm
Colorado

Posts: 1776
Matt...That boat looks a tad shaky for three and that flow you mentioned. Wow!

Those were the days. At least he didn't affix a ladder to it.
WbranchMarch 2nd, 2015, 6:58 pm
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2628
Matt...That boat looks a tad shaky for three and that flow you mentioned. Wow!


You are correct there my friend but I "only" 48 when that picture was taken and still pretty careless about how I got to places to fish. I don't think we even had any PFD's. Those flat bottom boats were great because we could sneak in anywhere. We all had some boat knowledge and were always careful to stay away from any sweepers (one year a novice got caught under a sweeper and lost all of his, and his buddies, gear and cooler, and the boat got stuck in the hydraulics of the river) They were lucky to get out alive with just some bruising.

We used to take the Jon boat down through the Big Horn rapids. That was a little dicey so then we started to take the channel on the other side of the island on river right that was called "Schniders" it was gorgeous water full of rising fish.

I don't know when the rental of the Jon boats ceased but I know you can only rent drift boats now. Here is a nice picture of two of the gang getting ready to drift weightless San Juan worms at dusk. Six of us used to go out, two were professors and fished all summer. The other four, including me, would go out for two weeks. All but one of us is still actively fishing and four of us fish almost weekly on the Delaware.



Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
OldredbarnMarch 2nd, 2015, 10:24 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2600
but I was "only" 48 when that picture was taken and still pretty careless about how I got to places to fish.


What did Paul say, "Those were the days!" Yes indeed. I still speak with a close friend from my high school days. He likes to tell me, from time-to-time, "You know Spence, we are lucky to be alive...I really mean that."

I think I know the island you are talking about. We parked on the downstream side, but on the opposite side of the island. We walked up to where the currents came together and they died along the edge. So still deep pool with current tongues along the edges...Risers everywhere, but hard as hell to see...Just sipping. I could of parked there for a long time...We were basically playing nods, each taking turns. Your turn until you catch a fish, or you get three trys and no fish, well you have to give up your turn. Fun!

You could hardly see the fish and you were casting over it from behind it...Drifts were a crap shoot depending on where your fly landed. It hit the current and drag, landed to far into the still water and it just laid there.

A dry fly guys dream...Too bad Antonio wasn't there...He would still be standing there. :)

Spence
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood

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