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About the Bighorn River

Flowing out of the enormous Bighorn Reservoir in south-central Montana, the Bighorn River is considered by many to be a fly fisher’s paradise. It is one of, if not the most productive trout river in the world. The Bighorn hosts an impressive average of 6000 trout per mile. Added to this remarkable figure is the fact that the typical size of a Bighorn trout ranges between 16-18" with 5 and 6 pounders caught frequently.

The river’s primary attraction consists of the 13-mile stretch beginning below the Yellowtail Dam Afterbay at the town of Fort Smith. Ideal flows on this length fall between 2,000 to 5,000 cfs but fishing is productive up to 7,000 cfs. The icy cold waters pouring out from beneath the dam have produced a river that is not unlike an enormous spring creek, with undulating weed beds, undercut banks, deep holes, and occasional riffles. River access is limited and the adjacent land falls under the ownership of the Crow Indian Reservation. This along with the thick currents, makes the Bighorn an ideal float river, however, the wading angler can find fishable water.

The river can be floated in sections. The access points are spread out along the rivers length. They start at the Yellowtail Dam/Fort Smith "Afterbay Access", then "Three Mile Access". 10 miles down river is the "Bighorn Access", and at 14 miles is the "St. Xavier Bridge Access" commonly referred to as “The Take Out”. Even the novice boater can float this section without much problem as the river has a managable current. Below the 14-mile access, the Bighorn slows its pace and loses some its water quality and clarity. In spite of the lower numbers of trout here, locals claim that this stretch to "Two Leggins Access" at 29 miles, harbors the river's largest trout, giant nocturnal browns hidden along the undercut banks or in the deep holes.


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Montana Fly Fishers
P.O. Box 7824