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Fly Fishing the Bighorn River in Montana
Camping and fly fishing along the Bighorn.
Our trip began the day we left our little town in Iowa; pulling behind us our pop-up camper and headed for Montana, with one thing on our minds, fly fishing. Ok, for me, two thoughts bounced around in my head:
1. Learning how to fly fish: After all, this was my first exposure to this art of catching fish.
2. Bears: Yes, bears. Before our journey, we heard about a bear attack not far from where we were to set up camp along the Bighorn River in Montana.
Due to our late start in the day we drove north until the sun began to drop and then set up camp, still in Iowa but close to the South Dakota line. The campground was clean and in town. A few more lessons for me on making our bait. This is nothing more than a nifty craft project to fool our future trout.
Our early morning began with breakfast at the local restaurant not far from the campground and then fixing a flat tire on the camper in the parking lot before heading out on the highway again.
On our long venture, we broke up the trip listening to a book on tape. If my memory serves me correct, the name of the book was, The Road. Before we reached our destination we stopped in at Cabela’s hunting and fishing store to pick up two bear pepper sprays. My visions of bear, pepper spray and me, were more like the movie, Without a Paddle, when the men yelled to their friend, “…it won’t bother you if you get in the fetal position.” I lost count on how many times I prayed about things like, please don’t let me see any bears on this trip unless I’m in the jeep. Please, don’t allow me between a trout and a bear. And please don’t make me have to see if the “fetal position works.”
What a sign.
A sign that plays on words, we didn't stay at the Old Hookers Guest House but we did camp along the Bighorn River, at a place called, Cottonwood. The first night we spent creating our Hoppers for slow nymph fishing. We used Pheasant Tail to make some flies. I think the easiest seemed to be the nymphs.
Nymphs are the young stage of water insects that live on the bottom of streams. When the nymphs grow up they float toward the top of the water and eventually grow wings and skim the top.
These homemade or store bought nymphs are tiny and are used to imitate the aquatic bugs, to bounce along the bottom of the river or lake to entice the fish up from the bottom or out from under deadwood in the streams. This form of fishing makes it difficult to catch your fish without snagging mud, branches, or brush if casting off the bank of the river. The more techniques one knows, the better the chances of catching the prey.
How to make a nymph for fly fishing.
Wading in the river.
Balance & Grace
Balance and grace sometimes seemed impossible while wading out and over the slipper rocks at the same time the small rapid streams pushed at my ankles.
Some basic fly fishing information.
Bighorn River Etiquette
Some types of bait for Fly Fishing
Places Along the River
Wading Anglers have the "right of way" over Floaters.
Hot Fly Patterns: Olive Flash-back Pheasant Tail, Dead Grey Snobug
Last Chance / Bighorn Access
While traveling by boat, stay clear of the fishing lines along the banks.
Dry Flies: Para-Hopper & Hemingway Caddis
Carp Hole / Snake Bight
When passing another floater go downstream over 200 yards before returning and stay out of the other's drift line.
Streamers: Brown Wooley Bugger, Bighorn Bugger and Black Wolley Bugger
3- Mile Access
Terms in the world according to fly fishing.
Fly fishing Terms
Angler: Someone that fishes with hooks, rods, reels and line.
Fly tying kit: A kit filled with hooks, lines, fishing bait glue, sharp pair of scissors, needle nose pliers, and magnified glasses. Feathers and other material that looks like animal fur to make different types of artificial bait and much more.
Tandem Flies: This is two flies and provides better chances for a catch. Giving the fish a choice between the top which entices and the bottom which hooks the fish.
Catch and Release: Just what it says, catch the fish and return them to the waters.
Bighorn River: A fishing stream in Fort Smith, Montana.
What is your favorite sport to participate in?
Fly fishing tips.
Fly fishing takes patients and determination. Spotting a school of fish or fish eating, isn’t impossible and with the perfect timing, positioning and accuracy catching a fish with a dry fly can be exciting. Standing downstream from the fish and with enough slack on the line to cast upstream permits the fly to drift freely over the hungry fish.
When wading in the streams and allowing the line to drift downstream, sometimes these tiny flies snag along the rocks. The speed of the water running over the rocks can be slow but during other times, fast like miniature rapids. Ruff waters create a difficultly of balancing and when wearing foot waders the pressure around the ankles can be annoying and painful the longer this squeezing occurs.
Don't spook the fish.
In the comment section at the bottom of this article tell me your technique to prevent spooking the fish; do you tend to position yourself upstream, downstream, or across from the fish? Which is your favorite location to fly fish from, floating along the river, wading in the water or casting from the banks of the stream?
Did you know, actor Henry Winkler, wrote the book, I've Never Met an Idiot on the River? I found this book to be inspirational because it explains some of his tribulations and achievements in his life. I could say he never met an idiot on the river because he never met me but I wouldn’t call myself an idiot, just a beginner that may never have a chance to fly fish again. I did enjoy it while it lasted.
This fish didn't steal my bait.
A Fighting Fish
My personal preference for fly fishing is with a guide and on the guide’s boat verse the bank, wading or drifting on a raft, [in my case] that demanded the attention of air while floating down river. This is my top choice so far because this is the only way I caught fish while fly fishing. Maybe this is due to the fact the guides know what insect the fish had been eating and have the knowledge ahead of time, where the fish are feeding during a particular time of day and year. However, the man that provided this trip and wonderful experience for me had better luck wading and fishing off the banks.
Trout Stream in Montana
Casting lines on a beautiful calm August day.
Fly Fish the Bighorn and tell me what you think.
Float the Bighorn with experienced outfitters for a successful journey.
A List of Fishing Media
Fly Fishing Movies
* “A River Runs Through It,” 1992
* “Legends of the Fall”, 1994
* “The River Why,”2010
- “Gray Ghost Murders”
- “The Royal Wulff Murders”
- “Why I Fly Fish”
- “The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing”
- “Fifty Places To Fly Fish Before You Die”
- “Orvis Fly- Fishing Guide”
- “The Fly-Tying Bible”
- “Handbook Of Hatches”
- “The River Runs Through It”
- “Legends Of The Fall” (Trilogy of short stories)
Songs about Fishing
* “Honor Thy Fly”
* “I’m Goin’ Fishin’”
* “The Fishin’ Song”
* “Fishing in Heaven”
* “Fisherman’s Song,” by Dolly Parton
* “The Trout Song”
* “Gone Fishin”
* " I’d Rather Be with you (than to be out Fishing)"
* “Cletus Take the Reel” by Tim Hawkins comical"
* “Catfish Rap”