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
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
"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
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: