Fall is a challenging time of year for fly fishing, but it can also be rewarding, as trout try to pack on the pounds for the winter long haul. Hanging out in back eddies and huddling up in pools, trout are focused on saving as much energy as possible, but will also rise for just about anything on the surface within sight.
Not only does fall offer up some fine fly fishing conditions, the season also offers up the kind of scenery that one only finds in magazines and postcards. And fall in Montana is no exception.
After a quick jaunt from Portland, Oregon to Sheridan, Wyoming, it was only a matter of time before the historic town of Fort Smith and the Bighorn River emerged in the horizon. An hour and a half on a road lined by Rolling hills and endless fields full of sugar beets, we had arrived.
Fort C. F. Smith was established on August 12, 1866, to protect immigrants traveling on the Bozeman Trail from attacks by the Sioux Indians. The Bozeman Trail crossed the Bighorn River 400 yards from the fort.
Before we had a chance to dump our bags at our cabin, we found ourselves on the river bank. Cold ones in hand, it was time to scout out the river and make sure we were ready for the afternoon hatch.
Armed with an array of dries , nymphs, and beefy terrestrial patterns we started throwing flies at the endless amounts of ripples from bank to bank.
The first fly on the line was a meaty grasshopper pattern that drew quite the attention from a few trout. Strike after strike we realized the trout in Montana are not bashful and more importantly, they’re behemoth.
Four casts later a long fight with a big beautiful brown ensued. I was sure it would be the fish of the trip. Boy was I wrong.
The next day we arranged to have a couple guides from Big Horn Angler take us down the river. The guides had about 20 years of experience between them on the Bighorn, and it showed. Explicitly pointing out eddies and drifts that housed some monsters.
After a day on the river with the guides, we decided to give it a go on our own. We loaded up the two drifters with gobs of flies, brews and some PB&J’s and set out to rip some trout off the surface.
A slow morning gave us some time to take in the scenery, including a visit from an adult black bear and some big cat tracks on a muddy bank. After lunch, the holes we found the day before proved even more lucrative this time around. Switching from PMD’s, Black Caddis, midges, we eventually found a rhythm and started landing the kind of mythical Montana trout with football-like girth we came for.
Our last day on Bighorn wrapped up with nothing but rave reviews. With its unique history, the Big Horn river is a place that offers beautiful trout and scenery. The Bighorn river is a classic old west trout run and arguably one of the best in the lower 48.