Bighorn River Fishing Report: September 30, 2012

What a season this has been! The fishing has been off the charts for sometime now. There are a ton of fish out there, and they are on the feed. We’re hoping to get some moisture soon. The low water is great for compressing a huge population of fish into a smaller space, but it’s not good for the river long term. May get some rain in a couple of days.

Tricos are still fairly heavy on the upper river, with the upper 8 miles of river being the best. The bugs are starting to wane a bit below this. I floated the Bighorn to Mallards section four days ago, and the spinner fall was not real intense. Also, as you get farther down river, you run into the smaller insects—they’re very tiny below Mallards Access. I try to ignore them as much as I can down there, but sometimes you’re forced to fish them.

Black Caddis are still hanging around, although they are on the way out too. Fish the upper 3 miles for the best black caddis fishing, especially in the evening. Still a fair amount of tan caddis bouncing around. We’ve actually been catching fish from the boat on tan caddis. This is the result of low water, huge numbers of fish, and fish that are very much tuned into feeding on the surface. Also, you can hop out of the boat and drum fish up on Stimulators or tan caddis patterns even if the fish aren’t rising. Look for shallow riffles with just a little bit of chop. Surprising how big the fish are in these areas.

There are some pale olive Baetis in the afternoon. We expect them to continue, plus we may get the larger Baetis as we get later into the fall.

Nymph fishing has been spectacular. A number of guides are running Flashback Hare’s Ears and Olive Pheasant Tail nymphs. Fish a fairly large Hare’s Ear, sizes 12 and 14 have been working, and a bead head version works very well. Stick with a #16 Olive Pheasant Tail, as you are trying to imitate a black caddis pupa. The #18 Flashback Quill Nymph has been working well also, fish are eating it for a caddis pupa, Trico nymph, or Baetis nymph.

Streamer fishing is also good, even on the lower stretches. There is no end to the various streamer patterns that work. My fall-back patterns are the Bighorn Bugger and Olive Zonker, but Soft Hackle (aka Spider) patterns produce very well. Frank Johnson’s “Slobber Spider” has been working great. This is the time of year to consider fishing a Streamer Express or comparable line with a 24’ sink tip. This allows you to fish the deeper holes effectively, and you’ll be surprised at the number of fish you can pull out of there.

Absolutely beautiful on the river right now. The fall colors are great and the clarity of the river is perfect. Fishing pressure will drop significantly after the first week of October.

Fredi Oertli plays a fish on the lower Bighorn River. Trout took a tan caddis pattern.