Last Look at the Bighorn & Bighorn River Alliance
Last Look at the Bighorn
We're taking one last look at our Bighorn trip this week before putting away the file for another year. We've been blessed to have hosted more than 25 years of trips to this river and it still amazes us. The Bighorn today is a first class tail water fishery and we love the time we spend there and at the Bighorn River Lodge. Here's a look at some of our favorite photos from the trip this year.
Jim's Bighorn River Trip
Many of you know Jim as our head guide here on Fishing Creek. For the second year, Jim joined us on the Bighorn. Here's his take on the river as seen through the eyes of a guest and guide.
My Bighorn River Trip
The Bighorn River is a cool, clear tailwater fishery with a trout population of somewhere around 2,500 fish per mile. In spite of air temperature in the 90s, the water temperature stayed in the mid 50s, a perfect temperature for trout. The trout vary in sizes from 15 inches to 20 inches on average with some exceeding the 20-inch mark. In our group each day there were several trout that exceeded the 20 inch mark, and I know a couple were measured at 24 inches.
This was the second year in a row that I fished the Bighorn River in Montana. There is something special, almost magical about the Bighorn. Maybe it's because it's in Montana, which is a beautiful state where you wake up to sunrises so stunning that a photo can't truly capture. The river itself is surrounded by hills, plains and wildlife that changes as you float down the river. If I let my imagination wander just a little, I can see the Crow Indians chasing after Custer and his men on the surrounding hills.
We stayed at the Bighorn River Lodge just outside of Fort Smith. BRL is a beautiful lodge just a stone's throw from the River. Everything was perfect from the lodge staff who were super friendly to a team of some of the best guides on the river. On a guided float trip down the river the person you spend the most time with is your guide. A guide can make or break the type of day you experience. Our guides were the “Dream Team.” They where friendly, fun to be with, knew the water and love their jobs, and it showed.
We are early risers and so we enjoyed our coffee each morning on the deck watching the sunrise over the water. Soon everyone was up and moving around and after a hearty breakfast, we'd meet our guides for the day and then it was off to the river.
Depending what boat launch the guide put in at we floated 10 to 13 miles a day, ending up at the private boat ramp at the lodge. The river is made up of runs, riffles and gravel bars giving anglers lots of opportunities to wade fish or fish from the boat. Mid day our guide would find a nice shady spot along the shore line to eat lunch consisting of salads, sandwiches and cookies.
After a long day on the water we gathered back on the deck, this time with a cool drink and appetizers as we shared stories of fish caught and ones that got away. Dinner was prepared by chefs David, Spencer, and Beth each night and was simply “fabulous.” As they say, a culinary experience! No hamburgers and fries here!
Our late August hatches included PMDs, and black & tan caddis. Each day the river gave us great nymph, dry fly and streamer fishing opportunities. I heard stories of years when anglers could have a 50 fish day, but today's Bighorn has matured and is a river where you catch bigger fish, but not as many. I am really glad I know it for what it is today. There are lots of places where I can catch little fish. This is certainly a quality fishery.
Barry and Cathy are the hosts for these trips. They met us at the airport in Billings and provided transportation to and from the lodge making it unnecessary to rent a car. They make sure that everything goes smoothly and probably a hundred others thing that we're not even aware of. For me it was truly another trip of a life time (my first one was last year!).
Bighorn River Alliance
Barry has always said that a river needs friends. I think we all agree. People who know it in good times and bad – high water and drought, hot and cold, clean and dirty, healthy and sick. Friends are the watchdogs and the first to notice if something is not right, and the first to draw attention if it's something that can be corrected or improved upon.
The Bighorn River Alliance does that. The mission of the Alliance is to protect, preserve and enhance the long-term health and viability of the river recognizing its significance to the fishery, the agricultural community, and the Crow Nation through which it flows. It's not an easy job.
Formed in 1995, the Alliance has taken on many projects and programs to help the river, from political issues between the National Park Service and the Crow Indian Tribe, clean-up days on the river, the Alliance published River Etiquette & Ethics in order to minimize social conflicts and increase the overall angling experience, it educates anglers as to how to properly identify and avoid trout spawning areas, it donated money toward a new boat ramp at Bighorn Access. It is currently working on restoring side channels that have filled in so fish can once again have them for spawning areas.
The future of the Bighorn River looks good because of it's friends, maybe most of all the Bighorn River Alliance. Does your favorite river have friends? Perhaps a local TU chapter or fly shop. We hope so. These organizations need our help, both financially and in person. Please do whatever you can so that our generation and generations to come can have clean water and enjoy this wonderful sport.
2023 is Not Far Away
We're busy updating the website and many of our 2023 trips are up and bookings are coming in. Take a look around and let us know if something catches your eye. We hope to see you in 2023.
2023 Hosted Trips:
January 7-14 Pira Lodge, Argentina, golden dorado
February 4-11 Estancia Laguna Verde, Argentina, trout, week #1
February 11-18 Estancia Laguna Verde, Argentina, trout, week #2
March 5-11 San Huberto Hosteria, Argentina, trout
March 11-16 Estancia Pilolil, Argentina, trout
March 18-25 Estancia Tecka, Argentina, trout
June 23-31 Ireland, trout
July 21-29 Intricate Bay, Alaska, trout, salmon, char, grayling
August 19-26 Bighorn River, Montana, trout, week #1
August 26-Sept. 3 Bighorn River, Montana, trout, week #2
Fall (TBD) Turneffe Flats, Belize, permit, tarpon, bones, snook
November 2-9 E. Pyrenees, Spain, trout
Nov. 27-Dec. 2 Argentina Waters, Argentina, trout
December 2-9 Estancia Tecka, Argentina, trout