2011 Spring Trout and Spring Tackle

If you’ve been checking the flows recently, you know that there is no shortage of water in the Bighorn River drainage. Currently we have over 6,000 cfs coming down the river and this will probably go up in the coming weeks. Snowpack is presently at 130%. We’ve yet to have any significantly warm weather, but when we do, inflows into the lake will increase dramatically. The lake has some storage room, and we’re hoping flows will not go any higher than 10,000 cfs. All this will depend on spring weather. The advantage the Bighorn has over many fisheries is that our water is always clear throughout spring runoff. The way it looks now, the vast majority of Montana freestone rivers are going to be blown out throughout much of May and June.

The Bighorn is full of fish, especially 10” to 14” fish. Spawning must have been very successful for that particular year class of fish. According to FWP’s fish statistics, we have plenty of bigger fish as well, but in some runs, the smaller ones are beating the bigger fish to the punch. Some anglers are reporting huge fish totals, with lots of small fish and a few bigger fish (17” to 21”) mixed in. Depending on the day or the run you are fishing, larger fish are more prevalent. The trout are eating sowbugs, midge pupa, and Baetis nymphs. Aquatic worms will become more of a factor as the water temperatures increase—we’re hovering around 40 degrees at the moment. Dry fly fishing has been good in certain areas, but the high water reduces the number of places the fish will rise.

Looking forward, this higher water bodes well for the summer and fall dry fly fishing. Last year we saw the Yellow Sallies and Tricos return in good numbers, and PMDs provided good fishing as well. The hatches should be even more intense this year. In years past, Trico mayflies provided the best dry fly fishing of the year in late August and September. These outstanding hatches were at their peak in the high-water years of the 1980s and 90s. Unless there has been a fundamental change in our water chemistry, we’d all better tie up some Trico spinner patterns for later this summer.

Bighorn Trout Shop is loaded with inventory this spring, and as always there are some new and exciting products. CF Burkheimer rods are a personal favorite. Burkheimer has ruled the Spey casting world for some time, but Kerry Burkheimer has always made outstanding single-handed rods. The DAL action (Deep Action Load) is extremely smooth and powerful, and the workmanship on these rods is the best in the business.

We also have some of the new BIIIx rods from R.L. Winston. This rod replaces the venerable BIIx, which has been a best seller in our shop for years. The newer models have stiffer butt sections, and they have tweaked the actions on all the rods. The boron in the butt section keeps the rods light, and they cast beautifully.

Hatch fly reels have my vote as the best fly reel on the market. They are a cut above the vast majority of reels out there (the price reflects this too). The reel foot isn’t screwed onto the frame like most other reels; it is machined out of the same, single piece of aircraft aluminum. A couple of other premium reels have this feature, and it is absolutely bomb proof. Over the years, I’ve gained a great appreciation for things that don’t break. It allows me to concentrate on outsmarting the fish, rather than my gear. The Hatch drag system is entirely sealed and impervious to the ravages of sand, dirt, or salt water. It is also ultra smooth and adjustable. These reels come in the smaller trout sizes, plus reels that will tame the largest saltwater fish.

Another product worth mentioning is TroutHunter leaders and tippet. It is imported from Japan by the boys at the TroutHunter fly shop on the Henry’s Fork, Rene’ Harrop, Jon Stiehl, and Rich Paini. Leaders come in 8′, 10′ and 14′ lengths. The tippet comes in both regular nylon and fluorocarbon, and for the anal retentive anglers among us, it is available in half-sizes. That’s right, 4.5X, 5.5X, and 6.5X. I can’t confirm this from personal experience, but there are probably ultra-selective rainbows on the Railroad Ranch that would refuse the fly presented with 6X, yet eat the one presented with 6.5X. Maybe the same thing is true on the Bighorn. Seriously, this is a great product, very strong and it knots well. I also like the spool design. Please note that while a spool of TroutHunter nylon tippet costs $6.75, you are getting 50 meters of material, rather than the standard 30 yards. The fluorocarbon is slightly more expensive than the comparable RIO or Umpqua product. Give this stuff a try and you won’t be disappointed.

There are many more new and exciting products, but that is a look at the best of the best. Give us a call if you’d like to enjoy some of the best fly fishing on the planet.

Bob Fults battles a nice brown at the "5 & 10" run.