I like September. Soon we’ll enjoy cold, crisp mornings and fog on the river. The leaves on the cottonwoods will start to turn. I enjoy the trico hatch, which brings large pods of Bighorn trout to the surface. I also look forward to fall streamer fishing. Usually that is an October/November deal, but I can see it coming from here. And finally, and forgive me for mentioning this, but I start to think about steelhead fishing on the Deschutes, Clearwater, and Snake. After a long guide season, it’s nice to get out of town and cast the two-handers.
Currently the Bighorn has its challenges. There is a lot of aquatic grass in the river and this has choked out many of the nymph fishing runs. You have to find the faster, riffle water if you want to be successful subsurface. Sowbugs and scud patterns are working, from size 14 to 18, but you have to work hard. Water temps are warmer than normal, around 63 degrees at 3-Mile. This makes for slow fishing on the hot afternoons now that caddis activity has subsided. On a positive note, the trico hatch, which has been happening for a month, has been getting stronger. The insects are still tiny, about a size 26, but the trout are poding up nicely, and we’re able to fish dries until noon in some places. The fish will eat larger imitations, probably taking them for a spinner cluster, but I have tied up a few size 24 spinners for the pickiest fish. By the way, maybe our big tricos will show up yet, and maybe the tan caddis as well. Maybe I’ll see a white unicorn running through the sagebrush beside the river. Okay, I tend to be an optimist.
Our main man at the shop, Rick Law, is catching fish on hoppers. Here’s my take on the hopper fishing: if you’re a poor caster or you’re impatient, don’t fish hoppers right now. You won’t catch many fish. But if you’re good and willing to put in the time, and you love to see the occasional big fish tilt up and suck a big fly down, give it a try. Rick has been doing quite well. The trick is to fish them during primetime, 11:30 –4:08 (no, not 4:09). And stop at the shallow riffles in areas where it’s too weedy to nymph effectively. Fish these places with some long casts and be ready. There are some big fish in these areas and they’re not being molested by anglers. I like the Moorish Hopper in size 8, although a Parachute Hopper is also effective.
About streamer fishing: the big action is later in the year, but on cloudy days you can do well right now. The standard, pound-the-bank scenario is limited because of grass and algae, but the shallow flats can be good. Those with a little chop on the water are perfect. A floating line will get the job done, and I recommend smaller patterns. The #6 Thin Mint is good, along with a variety of Squirrel Leeches or Zonkers. Once again, if you’re not willing to throw long and make a lot of casts, do something else. Chess is still a great game, or beer drinking.
About the lower river—I’m talking about below Bighorn Access. It’s getting better. Bighorn to Mallards has been fishing pretty well. More fish up on tricos than before. Mallards to Two Leggins is not so good, UNLESS you can throw streamers well. Lots of tricos down there, but hardly any fish up on them.
The September sale is taking place at the Bighorn Trout Shop. Check out the clothes rack out in front of the shop. Clothing items, Patagonia waders, wading boots, even selected rods and reels are on sale from 25% to 40% off.