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Bighorn River Montana

							Anglers fishing the Bighorn River in Montana

The Bighorn River

Bighorn River in Montana is fed by Yellowtail Dam, built in the 1960s for hydroelectric power, irrigation, flood control, and recreation. Afterbay Dam controls fluctuating discharge from Yellowtail Dam, providing consistent year-round flows and cold water for the famous Bighorn River in Montana.

The tailwater fishery originates near Ft. Smith, Montana, offering exceptional Montana fly fishing throughout the first 35 miles of its course between Afterbay and the Two-Leggings Fishing Access Sites.

Anglers fishing the Bighorn River can expect abundant numbers of wild Brown and Rainbow Trout using nymph, dry fly, and streamer fly fishing techniques throughout the year.

Terrific Montana Fly Fishing Trip

"What a great experience! Fins and Feathers took care of every detail. The guides knew exactly what they were doing and were very helpful and personable. Can't wait to do it again."

- Craig C.

Sections of the Bighorn River in Montana


							Angler fishing the Bighorn River in Montana downstream of Afterbay Dam

Afterbay Dam to 3-Mile Fishing Access Site

The first three miles below the Afterbay Dam is a wade-anglers paradise. The river bottom has a fine gravel substrate that is easy to wade.

Anglers fishing this section can access most of the water on foot, but floating the top three miles makes for much easier access to the prime wading spots near iconic Bighorn River fishing spots like the “Breakfast Hole“, “Hot-Dog Run” and “Red Cliffs.”

Expect crowded conditions between April and September, so be patient with other anglers and relax knowing that there is trout fishing to be had just about everywhere in these first three miles.

							Montana fly fishing angler fishing the Bighorn River

3-Mile to Bighorn Fishing Access

The ten-mile stretch between the 3-mile and Bighorn Fishing Access Sites is best accessed while floating. Myriad islands, side channels, and river bends provide exceptional float and wade-angling fishing opportunities.

Although boat traffic can be quite heavy during the peak season, the diversity and abundance of productive trout fishing water ensures plenty of options for the adventurous angler.

Dry fly fishing along the inside seams of long riffles during BWO or PMD mayfly hatches is an amazing Montana angling experience. Nymph-fishing through knee-deep riffles and gradual depth changes along inside corners provides year-round angling success on the Bighorn River.

							Angler fishing the Bighorn River Montana downstream of Bighorn Fishing Access SIte.

Bighorn to Two-Leggings Fishing Access Site

Trout populations below Bighorn Fishing Access Site decrease due to fishing pressure. Experienced anglers can still enjoy fly fishing in the lower stretches of the Bighorn River while floating.

The first 10 miles downstream of Mallards Landing FAS can be fly-fished similarly to the upper river sections. Summer fishing is challenging due to vegetation, but grasshopper patterns work well in August.

The number of trout in the river continues to decrease and there are more areas with slow-moving water below Mallards Landing. This part of the river provides a tranquil environment and a different pace of fishing when compared to the upstream sections.

April Fishing

BWO and midge hatches provide some exciting Montana fly fishing with dries on the upper 3-Mile stretch of the Bighorn River near Ft. Smith, Montana...

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May Fishing

Nymph fishing with long leaders and tandem fly rigs with sowbugs and small Baetis nymphs to reach the deep trout feeding near the bottom are essential...

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June Fishing

Always risky, water levels fluctuate highly, and Rainbow Trout spawn throughout the Bighorn River in June making for boom or bust fly fishing in Montana...

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July Fishing

The best fishing in Montana on the Bighorn River kicks off in July with warming water temperatures and blanket hatches of PMD and Caddis throughout...

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August Fishing

Explosive strikes from Rainbow and trophy Brown Trout feeding on floating hoppers make memorable days for anglers fishing the Bighorn River in August...

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September Fishing

Early morning dry fly fishing during the legendary Trico hatches of Septemeber are the highlights of Montana fly fishing on the Bighorn River in the early fall...

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							Anglers fishing the Bighorn River Montana celebrating another successful dry fly fishing session.

Bighorn River Fly Fishing Trips

The Bighorn River in Montana provides a unique fly fishing experience to anglers of all skill levels. Rich in biomass, the river is alive with aquatic invertebrate activity and feeding trout throughout the year.

Skilled anglers can stalk the shallow waters in search of rising fish or target pods of trout during blanket mayfly hatches. Novice anglers will improve their fly fishing skills quickly while learning a variety of new techniques and how to “read water.”

Fins and Feathers Guide Service has over two decades of experience as Montana fishing guides on this legendary wild trout fishery. Bighorn River fly fishing trips are available from April – October with a 3-day minimum booking at $725 a day for 1-2 anglers.

							Anglers fishing success on the Bighorn River with a stunning Montana Brown Trout

Bighorn River Fishing Report

Fly fishing in Montana on the legendary Bighorn River tailwater trout fishery offers year-round angling near Ft. Smith, Montana.

The upper river sections - between Afterbay Dam and Bighorn Fishing Access Site - have some of the best fly fishing in Montana for both wade and float anglers fishing in the southern portions of the Big Sky State. The Fins and Feathers fishing report features updated reports with fly recommendations, access maps, and helpful tools for the fly angler.

The Bighorn River in Montana has been a staple of our Montana fly fishing guide service for over two decades. We offer Bighorn River fishing trips with our staff of Bozeman fly fishing guides throughout the year and our reports are based on their feedback and experiences from recent outings.

Montana Fish of the Bighorn River

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