Streams Outside of Yellowstone National Park
.............................Fly Fishing Yellowstone National Park

01/14/09

Fly Fishing the Big Horn River

The Big Horn River is a long way from Yellowstone National Park even though it is in
Montana. It flows through an area of the county where, driving down the interstate, you
would think a river didn't exist, much less a river that was full of large trout.

Up until about five or six years ago, anyone that had fished the Big Horn River
Tailwater, would have put it at the top of their list of the best tailwater streams in the
United States. Then the drought begin to affect the Big Horn along with most of the
other rivers in the Northwest. It didn't take but a year for the lack of snow in the
mountains to result in low water in the Big Horn River. That had a very quick affect on
the trout and the fishing declined. During that time, the local outfitters and fly shops
were quick to tell you that even though the fishing was not up to par with what it was
before the drought, it was still at least as good or better than any other trout stream in
the West. They were probably right, because before the drought period I am referring
to, the Big Horn tailwater had a huge number of brown and rainbow trout. The low water
period didn't last long and for the past two or three years, the Big Horn has made a
speedy recovery and is very close to providing the fabulous fishing it had for a long
time.

Angie and I didn't fish the Big Horn but one time before the fishing begin to decline. For
some reason, we put it off behind a list of many other streams in the West and the East.
We barely made it to the river before the fishing declined from where it had peaked for
several years. The fishing was fantastic. We only fished the Big Horn one day on our
way back East, and only one at a time as we usually do. We fished from the banks and
waded the river in a few places and still was able to catch several nice rainbows and
browns including one brown reaching close to 18 inches.

The next time we fished the river, we managed to catch only one small brown trout not
far below the dam. We didn't drift the river as we planned to because of the reports of
slow fishing. That may have been a mistake. I think everyone's expectations of the Big
Horn was just set too high. When the fishing slacked off during the low water period,
from being tremendous to closer to normal for other great rivers in Montana, the reports
made the situation worse than it actually was.

We fished the river again, year before last. That was our third trip to the Big Horn.
Again, we were able to catch several nice trout by wading. We will be there again this
year (if the good Lord is willing) and this time we will fish the river the best way to fish it -
from a drift boat. I wish I could provide a lot of information on how-to fish the Big Horn. I
also wish we had looked at more samples of the aquatic insects in the river but we have
little to offer in that respect. All I can say is that based on the snowfall the West is
getting now, you may want to put the Big Horn on your list to places to go this year.
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