Fishing the Bighorn at 8500 cfs

By: Dante Bonanini, Bighorn Alliance board member, Fly-fishing guide at Bighorn Trout Shop
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The Bighorn River is arguably the best trout stream in the world regardless of high water or low water. High water brings a lot of good things to the Bighorn River. Here’s a little list of the pros of high water, and important things to remember when out on the water. Of course, there are never any cons to going fishing. The Boat ramp can be a little tricky but, no worries the Alliance is working on it. We always need help click here.

1. Health of the Fish: Fish seem to be fat and happy. With the increased flows a smorgasbord of trout food is released providing abundant food sources for trout. Some are so gorged on worms they puke them up in your boat after being landed. Have lots of worms, sows and scuds in your fly box. The Great Orange Scud is a favorite high water pattern.

2. Fish numbers seem to go up. With the increased water flows, this opens up side channels for increased rainbow spawning which equates to more wild rainbow trout being recruited into the population. If you’re a numbers guy this is the time to be here. As seen here, Hatch Pro Staff Steve Lynn with his clients are doubled up.

Steve Lynn of Bighorn Trout Shop picture near the Gray Cliffs.

Steve Lynn of Bighorn Trout Shop picture near the Gray Cliffs.

Nymphing is the main event most days I will have three different nymphing rigs set up. A standard nymphing rig with more weight, a short rig with light weight for tight to the bank and the teton rig for center river. This is a great method for kids. Great article on the Teton rig here by Bob Krum

3. Moss. What moss? The river is gin clean and it’s amazing. Clean cold water put an extra layer on if you expect to do any wading, the water is 37 degrees.

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4. Wading Belt: DONOT forget it! It’s your most important safety feature.

A happy client of Dante Bonanini's (Bighorn Trout Shop)

A happy client of Dante Bonanini’s (Bighorn Trout Shop)

5. Be patient: Especially at boat ramps and be willing to offer to help if needed.
Here’s how pro guide Ray McCarn loads his boat at the Bighorn Access site, not all of us make it look this easy.

Extra Thanks to Alliance board members Don Yarbrough, Board President Rick Gehweiler (Bighorn River Lodge), and our friends at Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks for helping get that post out of the way and improving ramp safety.

So when the rest of the state is getting ready for run off the Bighorn will be a big river but fishing is clear and excellent. Zoe Opie, Bighorn Alliance board secretary and owner of Absaraka Fishing Bear Cabins is telling her clients “don’t let these little ones have all the fun!”

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On a final note: if you find yourself accidently passing the ramp at the Bighorn access, you will have to knock on the Bighorn River Alliance’s board presidents door, Rick Gehweiler of Bighorn River Lodge ask for special permissions to use his ramp. He’s only kind to members. Just Joking.

A herd of Bighorn wild horses crossing the river. A herd of Bighorn wild horses crossing the river.

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