Bighorn River Update: 7/17/2014

So let’s review what has happened with the Bighorn River water flows this year: Since it was a huge snowpack year, one of the highest on record, the Bureau of Reclamation released a lot of water in April. That was unusual, since they usually don’t bump the flows until late May or early June. But they were trying to get ahead of the runoff and prevent huge flows later in the spring. Then they brought the water down. We heard reports that they (BuRec) had a handle on the runoff and there wasn’t as much snow up there as they thought. In actuality, filling up Bighorn Lake in order to make Wyoming boaters happy, probably had something to do with this. While flows were down, we experienced an algae bloom on the river. Not blaming anybody here, this is just what happened. Fishing was difficult for a time. Then the lake filled and the river flows were increased again. This was good, since it flushed out the algae. Nymph fisherman became happier and ceased drinking excessively in the evening. Well, some of them. Water temperatures climbed slowly and black caddis began to hatch. This is where we are currently.

Right now the fishing is very good. Water flows are still high, 6,500 cfs, but we expect them to be reduced over the next several weeks as inflows into the lake decline. Bighorn trout seem to be quite happy with the 56 degree water temps, and they’ve fight feeding heavily on sowbugs and caddis pupa. Anglers are hooking lots of fish in the fast, riffle water. Boat fishing has been outstanding.

Dry fly fishing is getting better every day. There are plenty of black caddis around, although with the higher flows you have to target the edge of the current and side channels for rising fish. There are a few flats, just above Bighorn Rapids for example, where you’ll find fish spread out in the main river, but these are exceptions to the rule. This will change as water flows are reduced.

Below Bighorn Access, we’re finding not only black caddis, but a few PMDs and Yellow Sallies. Be aware that drifting algae is a factor down there, but good fishing is still to be had.

Streamer fishing is up and down. There are days when you experience lots of chases, strikes and hookups, while other days it’s just not happening. Generally, cloudy days are better, but not always. The biggest factor regarding streamer success is the angler’s ability to cover lots of water efficiently. If you’re not a good caster and an aggressive angler, do something else.

In the coming weeks we look for the dry fly fishing to explode—black caddis, Pale Olive Baetis, and Tricos later on. PMDs will be out there as well, primarily on the upper three miles.