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Part Eighty-eight



BIGHORN RIVER IS BACK!

By Bob Krumm, Sheridan, Wyoming


I watched as the angler cast a foam hopper two feet off a bean-bag-sized rock and let it float about two feet. It disappeared in a rise like someone had dropped a ten-pound bag of sugar from ten feet up. He hesitated for a second before setting the hook, then whooped for joy as the slab sided rainbow took to the air in a series of leaps, culminating thirty yards downstream.

The trout bulled her way through clumps of floating vegetation and tried to dive into the widgeon grass that covered the stream bottom. With steady pressure my client was finally able to bring the hefty rainbow over to my net. I hoisted the fish up briefly, then put the net back in the water where we could measure and admire it. The hen rainbow was 22 ½ inches long and had a girth of 11 inches. I took a couple of quick photos of the angler, John Garrison with it, and released the fish.

We had spotted the trout rising leisurely to unknown insects. I had crawled out on the bank above the fish to spot John's casts and warn him that the fish he was trying for was a hog. It was as good as dry fly fishing gets and John and I celebrated our joint effort.

"It seems that rumors of the demise of the Bighorn River have been grossly exaggerated," John exclaimed. "We have been fishing the river for two days now, and I have yet to catch a skinny trout, in fact, most of them are on the chubby side."

I responded, "The Montana Fisheries Biologist, Ken Frazier, hasn't calculated the number of trout per mile from the June electro fishing work, but he did say that the trout are in fabulous shape and that there is a bevy of three pound trout in the river and a respectable number of honest four and five pound trout. He said that there was a sizeable number of year one trout so the outlook for the next two or three years is rosy."

"For 2004, Frazier stated that there were over 4,000 catchable-sized trout in the upper river and that the rainbows outnumbered the browns by a ratio of at least two to one. Keep in mind that last year and this year up until June 1 the river was flowing at the rate of 1500 cubic feet per second (cfs), now the river is at 2,500 cfs after reaching a peak flow of 7,000 cfs in mid-June. The Bureau of Reclamation predicts that the flow should remain at 2,500 cfs through 2005. In short, a darned good fishery just improved markedly," I stated.

"The high flows cleaned out much of the accumulated sediment and exposed the underlying large gravels and cobblestones. The aquatic invertebrates that depend on a rocky/gravelly substrate have started to rebound," I continued. I saw more pale morning duns one day in early July than I saw total for the past three years. Why, I am already seeing decent numbers of tricos - a mayfly hatch that I didn't even fish the past two or three years."

"With a high percentage of older fish in the river in past years, I feared that there would come a year when the older fish died off and there wouldn't be many to replace them. It didn't happen because the young fish that avoided the older trout grew at a nearly geometric rate. The 14-inch rainbow you caught yesterday was probably about eight inches long in April," I stated.

I did eventually get off my soapbox and John continued fishing. We spent the better part of the day stalking rising fish. John's foam hopper accounted for 16 trout, four of which were 20 inches or longer.

Every guide I have talked to raves about how good the fishing has been this year. It seems that it doesn't matter what method the anglers prefer-nymph, dry, streamer, or wet - they do well. I was astounded last weekend to hear an acquaintance shout to me, "We're killing them on soft hackles; give them a try!"

My anglers had been using nymphs that imitated sowbugs and were holding their own so I didn't switch them over, but it seems so unreal to have the old-fashioned wet fly techniques work on purportedly sophisticated trout.

One of my fellow guides said to me, "This season has been 'you should have been here yesterday fishing' darned near every day. Oh sure, we have had some slow days, but still even on those days the anglers are hooking a couple of fish an hour. Sometimes landing the fish can be tough since the fish are so strong."

John went home a happy camper. He probably hooked seventy trout in two days of dry fly fishing. He only landed about half the fish but having so much action contributed to a large satisfaction rating. Both John and I will remember the big rainbow that swirled on his hopper and, since John didn't set the hook, came back to eat it. When John set the hook, the big rainbow simply accelerated and broke John's 3X tippet as though it were 7X. I guess that the trout was at least 24 inches but it seems that the big ones do get away to fight another day.

Donna Smith and her grandson, Tyler also fished with me this summer. The photographs say it all.

Well, I don't know what else to add to this story, except that there is plenty of time left to fish the Bighorn this year. By the looks of things, the tricos will be plentiful, as will the autumn blue-winged olives. The tan and sedge caddis have started to appear and the browns and rainbows have been taking streamers throughout the season. If you have heard stories of the Bighorn being dead, discount them and start planning a trip to the best trout stream in the lower 48. Tight lines! ~ Bob Krumm

About Bob:

Our congratulations to Bob and Carol on their marriage this past December. Best wishes for a long and happy life together!

Bob Krumm is a first-class guide who specializes in fishing the Big Horn River in Montana, (and if there terrific fishing somewhere else he'll know about that too.) Bob has written several other fine articles for the Eye Of The Guides series. He is also a commericial fly tier who owns the Blue Quill Fly Company which will even do your custom tying! Bob is a long time Sponsor here! You can reach him at: 1-307-673-1505 or by email at: rkrumm@fiberpipe.net


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