The Bighorn River is a tailwater fishery that has drawn anglers from around the world since it was first opened to public recreational fishing in 1981, and the trout have kept them coming back again and again.
Starting way up in the high plains of central Wyoming, the Bighorn River enters Bighorn National Recreation Area and canyon just before the river enters Montana. Once in Montana a massive dams creates a world-class tailwater fishery. With more fish packed into each mile of it's waters than any other river in Montana, the Bighorn River boasts great numbers of brown trout and rainbow trout and consistent early season fishing beginning in March and going all the way through November. While nymphing tends to be the most productive technique on the 'Horn, fantastic dryfly and streamer fishing can be had, especially the summertime 'hopper fest that starts in August.
A Billings, Montana Based Fly Fishing Trip
The Bighorn is located in southeast Montana, a bit on it's own from the rest of our blue-ribbon rivers in Montana. It flows out of the Pryor Mountains and is less than two hours from Billings, Montana, our state's largest metropolitan area. Billings serves as a good fly in and out spot for a Bighorn trip, but you'll want to stay on the river if you're doing anything more than a daytrip and we can steer you in the right direction for lodging options, anywhere from public campgrounds to five-star hosted lodges.
Fishing Seasons and Techniques
Because the Bighorn River is located in the arid eastern half of Montana, it is generally warmer and drier climate wise than our western rivers, and usually open to great fishing earlier than other waters. March is the favorite month of many Bighorn anglers - the trout are fully awake, hungry after a long winter nap, and most other anglers are still hibernating themselves so it's quiet. Baetis and midge hatches will get the season started, and the Yellowtail Dam that feeds the blue-ribbon section of the Bighorn helps keep run-off to manageable flows.
The summer months bring on the little black caddis and trico hatches along with terrestrials of many varieties. When it comes down to it though, the trout in the Bighorn River eat a LOT of sowbugs and scuds, so nymphing these patterns is the most productive way to catch fish on this tailwater. You can also drum up some great fish by stripping streamers, especially in the fall months.