Nestled in the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains and north of the Big Horn Lake and Yellowtail Dam lies one of the best trout fisheries I have ever experienced. The Big Horn River flows from the dam north to the Yellowstone River east of Billings, MT. The 525 foot dam is at an elevation of 3,664 feet and produces a pristine, freestone tailwater fishery. Water flows are good providing good year-round aeration and an abundance of trout food. Hatches can be prolific and, with thousands of acres of surrounding wheat fields, hopper action in the summer is incredible.
Big Horn Rainbows-2010
During the months of July, August and September the flows are low at about 2,500 cfs. This makes for great wade and boat fishing. Summer best bets are dries like the black caddis, all kinds of large hoppers, yellow sallies and other mayflies. The remainder of the year is predominantly boat fishing due to higher water flows and all kinds of nymphs and streamers are effective. High flow dry hatches can surprise you as well. Also, don't count out streamers and nymphs in the summer, which some days can equal the dries. The first thirteen miles below the dam holds the most and best fish.
There is easy access from Billings, Mt to the north and Sheridan, WY, which is an equal distance to the south. Accomodations can be limited so call ahead. I would definitely suggest a guide for your first outing. Dave and Zoe at Absaraka Fishing Bear Cabins near the 3 1/2 mile river access can provide you with both a place to stay, great shore lunches and a guide. Their cabins are clean, convenient and reasonably priced. Visit their website and take a look at some of the "hogs" they have pictured there.
After your first day or two with a guide, you can rent a local drift boat if you prefer. If you do so, prepare yourself for a hard day of rowing, particularly if you encounter a strong headwind. One person, unless the river is wadable, must row at all times, while the other(s) get to fish. Your other option is to bring your own raft, kayak, or pontoon boat. All will work here and all are safe if you know what you are doing.
Big Horn Browns-2010
Any way you slice it, if you are an avid fly fisher, you really need to make a trip to this fishery. Should you have any questions regarding this incredible river, please contact me at: IdahoAngler@live.com .
Idaho Angler (IDFFA.com)
Click here to return to blog homepage.