Monday, March 20, 2006

T minus 22 days and counting until the Bighorn

Wow, I'm jacked up for the Bighorn trip this year. I can hardly work without the excitement making my mind wander every minute or so.

I can't believe some of these guys live with an hour of the river and get to fish it every weekend. I'm jealous. Basically the Bighorn is the same distance and time from Billings as Deckers/Cheesman is from my house. If I lived in the Montana/Billings area, I'd never get any work done. I'd definitely own a boat or pontoon, and I'd try and log as many hours as I could on the great river.

Last year the Bighorn trip was a blast. Chad and I basically crammed 16 hours of driving, 5 hours wade fishing, 24 hours of float fishing, 24 hours of sleeping, 6 hours of eating and 4 hours of tying into an 80 hour period - pretty hectic pace for a 4 day "trip".

This year we are going to spread it out some more - drive all night - get up early, get three days of fishing in and then head home. I can't wait.

The Horn is an amazing fishery - although I only have a couple days experience on it and it was my first float trip, I have to say that it is the perfect river. The river is never really that wide - it is crossable in sections, even with 2500 cfs flows. The river is long and there are large fish throughout. The river is a standard depth - I'm generalizing here - but when we were floating I didn't have to move my indicator all the much - most depths stayed in the 4 to 6 foot range. There were some deep pools and great shelves, and the bug population was amazing. Scuds are the key here - ever rock over turned showed thousands of them.

Flies ranged in the 18 to 20 range. And although the pink and orange scuds were highly recommended, I can't imagine a fish would eat something so bright. The Ray Charles is also another fly that didn't look like any bug I had ever seen - but it worked. It amazes me that the flies that work here on the SPlatte are the same flies that work up in MT and in the same sizes. Zebras, Killers, Mercury's, Black Beauties all work - but they have to be small.

Last year I was expecting a little more MT atmosphere out of the Ft Smith area. But Ft Smith is more Wyoming than MT. You can see mountains way off in the distance, but otherwise it is rolling prairie and fields. The river banks were actually mostly bare of scrub brush - with huge cottonwoods standing on the sandy or rock banks - with hardly any low lying scrub brush between the trees. Cows have the right away in Ft Smith and they can be heard all over the river mooing in the breeze. I also expected expensive lodges or private homes located right next to the river. There really wasn't any sign of luxury in Ft Smith. Yes, there was the occassional house close to the river - but nothing gaudy or extravigant. The town of Ft Smith is also quite simple - 3 float boats per permanent capita. You can see boats lining the streets, sitting out in front of houses, fly shops, grocery store, campgrounds. It's actually kind of amusing.

The town closes up at 8 pm. The 10 fly shops are all small, clean and well kept - of course they all sell basically the same thing. There is one restaurant, one convenience store, and that's it. Of course the restaurant and store have their own hours, so sometimes they are open - most of the time they aren't. I'm sure they have more steady hours in the summer months.

The Horn is an easy float - only one real section of tough water that is easier the second time you float it. It gets shallow in some spots and sometimes you need to make a judgement call on which side of the island you are going to float - but other than that it is smooth sailing.

I saw lot sof guides on the Horn - pointing their clients to the perfect drifts or holes. We floated past lots of guys with fish on - some holes with 4 guys with fish on, everyone seemed very happy. It seemed like the Horn was a place where fishing dreams come true. I'm having fishy dreams lately - so many that I can't sleep at night - and I'm still 22 days away!!!

This trip will be a chance to finally row a float boat, meet up with some great new friends, video and document the trip for a story I hope to write, test out the new camper for more than one overnight trip, and hang with some good friends. I have tied more in the last few weeks than I ever have. I have tied a couple dozen of my killers in silver, blue and red - a couple dozen Chad streamers, a couple dozen zebras in green and tan, and a dozen or so scuds. Problem is that as a fisherman I almost NEVER change flies unless I lose them - and on the Horn I never seemed to lose them.

Well - this should be a good trip - I can't wait.

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