Bighorn River Fishing Report: July 27, 2012

I’ve been guiding a fair amount during the last two weeks. Fishing has been excellent overall. PMD nymphs are the bread and butter as it regards taking fish throughout the day. If you can get a good drift in shallow riffle water, you’re going to catch fish. Stomach samples reveal PMD nymphs, Sally nymphs, Baetis nymphs, and the occasional sowbug. Still finding more PMD nymphs than any other food source. Our shop stocks a variety of PMD nymph patterns and they all work—different guides swear by different patterns. A Flashback Hare’s Ear nymph in a #16 is a good choice as something the fish will take for a PMD or Yellow Sally. The #16 or #18 Flashback Quill Nymph is still producing well because of the Baetis hatch; plus, as the black caddis hatch gets stronger, the Quill will work for a pupa as well. I’ve also been hearing about people catching fish on a red midge larva in size 16. Something to remember when you’re sight fishing to a trout that won’t respond to the usual suspects.

Hopper fishing has been sputtering along on the upper river. Some days it’s pretty good, other days just mediocre. The problem with hopper fishing from the boat is that you have to commit to it and pass up lots of good water. If you don’t mind doing this, odds are you will take the occasional big fish. I recommend rigging one rod with a hopper and Sally dropper. When you stop to nymph a shallow riffle, run the hopper dropper rig through there first. Then again, as the day progresses you may be able to switch over to dries completely. Hopper fishing has been quite good on the Bighorn to Mallard’s float section.

In early afternoon you will find fish rising to Baetis, PMDs and Yellow Sallies. It can take careful observation figuring out what they are eating. Usually, the splashier rises out in the current indicate Sally activity. I often notice a popping/gulping sound when fish are taking PMDs—usually the fish are keying on emergers. And the Baetis elicits the classic sipping rise. These are just generalizations. Even during the same time of day, fish may be feeding on different insects depending on what type of current speed or depth they are holding in. Watch the riseforms, and if you do catch a fish, pump a stomach to confirm what is going on.

Expect August to be prime time as it relates to dry fly fishing. A number of hatches will be taking place and the fish are hungry.