This winter has been exceptionally cold and snowy and the result has been poor conditions for winter fishing.  For the last month I’ve been thinking about taking a few days and going to the Bighorn River to escape the frozen waters surrounding Bozeman.  With a solid weather forecast I decided to pull the trigger on driving the three hours east and seeing if we could find ourselves a few hungry trout.

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Big Horn County, Montana

A 5:30 departure put us at the Bighorn Angler right around 9AM.  We dropped in to say hi to Steve and Pete, grab some bugs and get the keys to our room for the night.  The Bighorn is basically in the middle of nowhere.  The solitude is nice but plan on staying near the river until you’ve had your fill of fishing.  Fortunately the Bighorn Angler offers some quality lodging right there by the shop which is about a minute from the boat ramp at Afterbay dam.  Soon enough we had the boat in the water and our day had begun.

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Travis enroute to the fishy waters.

The weather was prime.  The sun was out in full force making for unseasonably warm temps and the wind was bearable.  After watching the bobbers from the boat for a while without any luck we decided to anchor up and try some wade fishing.  One of the keys for us on this river is to stop and fish the prime water on foot until you’ve figured out what the fish are keying in on.  Soon we had a few patterns that were producing.

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C’mere ya trouty

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Maddie starting the day strong in our new Ladies Bison Trucker in Stealth

From there we stayed on the fish and the weather had us thinking it was the beginning of April.  As always there were some boats on the water but plenty of space and fish for everyone.

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Headed back to the homies

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Beers and a boat box, a nice combo

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Charlie Browntrout got fooled in the fast pocket water

Unfortunately we didn’t see any consistent rising action but the nymph fishing was consistent with orange scuds leading the pack and when the clouds rolled in the streamer fishing picked up a lot.  As we pulled the boat out on Day 1 we were blessed with a double rainbow.  God sure knows how to make some amazing places.

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DOUBLE RAINBOW!!!

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No bad days out here

After a full day on the river we headed back to Fort Smith and got settled into our room.  We got our gear situated, ate dinner and proceeded to watch Planet Earth.  Those guys do some crazy stuff with the camera!

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Time to grab some zzz’s

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The work horses

The next morning we awoke to clear skies and a light breeze.  With a warm meal and some coffee in our stomachs we hit the water once again.  We floated through the top mile once again without a trout which is frustrating but then proceeded to find the fish in short order the rest of the day.

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Maddie putting the rod and Travis’ net skills to work once again

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Brown trout’s stoke level: LOW

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Bighorn green with a touch of gold

Maddie had also decided she was going to put to bed the theory that bananas on a boat are bad luck.  We had three whole bananas in the boat on this day and Maddie proceeded to crush it and was the star of the day catching nice fish on nymphs and then going on a streak with the streamer.

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Bananas on a boat is totally in right now

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Swinging streamers in the riffle water = bent rods

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Crushing it in the new hat once again

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Thanks for the ride dude!

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Travis putting one back in sight of the take out.

Overall it was a killer couple days on the water.  If you haven’t made it to the Bighorn River you should do yourself a favor and scratch out a few days on the schedule and go.  If you do be sure to talk with the guys at the Bighorn Angler.  They’ll have a great selection of flies and gear, offer drift boat rentals and have some great lodging right there in Fort Smith.  With winter back in the forecast we’ll be back inside behind the computer but these trips go a long ways in helping keep your sanity during the long Montana winters.  Also be sure to take a look at our new Ladies Bison Trucker and either treat yourself to a new fishing hat or get that lady angler in your life a little something!  Shop here > Montana Wild Hats

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Photos by Zack & Travis Boughton