April 12-15, 2007 - Bighorn River, Ft Smith, MT
Flows about 1,500 cfs - gin clear.
Thursday, April 12 - Afterbay to 3 Mile
Woke up at 3am - about 30 minutes early, couldn't wait to pick up Chad and Nate and start the drive. Chad was waiting, Nate was sleeping. The plug on Nate's boat wouldn't reach the outlet, so Nate's boat stayed at home. The drive was uneventful, but driving my wife's new 4Runner with only 190 miles on it was pretty sweet - we rode in style.
Stopped at StX to grab Buster's boat - a HUGE thanks to Buster!! Got to Ft. Smith around 1pm, hit Cottonwood, dropped off our crap and then over to Bighorn we went. We were on the water at 1pm. The water was nice and there was no real traffic as we were heading out late. I decided to get some rowing experience in the the soft water right off - but after one cast Chad had a snag or a fish - it ended up being the latter and I quickly learned how to beach the boat and net a fish. Chad hooked a killer 21 inch rainbow that had some really nice heft. What a great start. I think a few dinks were cuaght in the first stretch and we docked just above the Meat Hole. We wanted to make sure we got Nate into some huge fish and so we waited about a half hour for the traffic to move on. We holed up in the Meat Hole and landed some decent fish. Nate work the shelf closest to the bank and hooked a ton, Chad pulled them in steadily as usual, I didn't catch quite as many but did manage a few. PaulM, OB and SemperFish met us there at around 3:30 or so - they fished the hole and then decided to move on. We had seen TPlane and Dad drift by us as well, but we weren't exactly sure that was him - sorry Tim! The flies of the day seemed to be pink soft hackles and pink ray charles.
We moved down past Suck Hole and docked on the right. PaulM/OB/SF stopped at the hole and Paul pulled out some beauties. Nate hooked a few in the flats and I managed a couple small fish. We kept moving, hitting some of the usual spots and trying to get Nate into fish and acquainted with the river. He did well, and we managed some fish. Not much else memorable about the day (my memory is shot too). We were off the river by 7. We hit the cabin, made dinner and I was in bed by 8:30. Chad and Nate tried to tough it out and chat, but they hit the hay soon after.
Friday, April 13th - Afterbay to 3 Mile
We were met by Buster in the morning - about 7:30 am knocking on the door. He was checking to see if we made it. We hit the water closer to 9am. Nate manned the oars for this one (as he had most of the day before). We were thinking about two trips - but we knew we could stretch one trip into 3 Mile. We launched with literally 6 boats within 40 yards of us. We managed to stop above the Meat Hole and wait it out. We moved in on the Hole as a group of guys looked like they were leaving - but they weren't. Bastards all got out of their boat and walked back onto the shelf. Stupid. But Chad wasn't giving in - he stayed put. Eventually Nate and I hit the shelf - Nate worked the far side of the river (not really on the shelf) and had his rod bent consistently. I worked the far right of the shelf and did pretty damn well. Even had a lunker on of over 20 inches that Chad decided was best to flail at and NOT net (thanks Chad). Chad of course caught his limit. We were in the Meat for about 4 hours then moved on.
We didn't fish the Suck Hole for very long, but Nate let me row it. And although Chad was paniced in the front of the boat, Nate said I did very well. The hole isn't that bad, it just throws you at the concrete, but then kind of pulls you back into the calm eye of the hole and then you can back paddle out. We fished our way down past the fallen trees on the right to the next riffle that bends left to right and stopped. This was a great hole last year for browns, and we weren't disappointed. I landed a nice 18 inch brown and Chad landed a FAT brown of over 20 inches. Huge difference in 2 inches of fish - I'd say probably over a pound difference. Nate did real well too - hitting some other spots. We fished down to the cliffs on the left and had even better luck. My first lame cast landed a 20 inch rainbow with a hook jaw. Landed land probably 12 fish right at the boat, and Chad of course walked the entire half mile bank and caught his share. The fish were hitting tiny midges - black with some sparkle. My killers worked well, as did the mercuries and black beauties. I caught a bunch of fish in the stretch and walked all the way down the cliffs with Chad. Nate had to meet us in the boat.
We fished our way to 3 Mile and called it a day at 7:30pm. We hit the cabin, ate dinner, met up with TPlane and Dad, tied some flies and then hit the bed. TPlane admitted he had snuck a white fish and was the clear leader to win the white fish trophy - even if it was only an 8 inch dink! No one else had caught one, and after a day and a half it looked like we might get skunked.
Saturday, April 14th - 3 Mile to Bighorn
No screwing around today, Paul met us at 6:40 - to say the least, none of us were up. We managed to get on the water by about 8am. Before we headed out we met FredYellowEgg in the parking lot - it was nice meeting you! Paul and Chad in his boat and Nate and I in the other. We pulled over about 1/4 mile down on a nice riffle next to the house that everyone overlooked - they were more interested in getting out on the water. It had a nice long sandbar with some nice back channel riffles that Chad hit quickly. I waded to the end where the fast water and slow water connected and hit a nice fat brown about 17 inches on a big 14 pink ray charles.
Nate had some luck in the channel nailing three fish. We moved down again to another great stretch - this time across from the drive in on the far bank. Paul knew this hole and knew the deep sandy bottom often had fish hanging on the edge. Nate hooked 3 fish in the hole, then jumped out, Paul got right in the hole and hooked 3 and then obliged me to try - I hooked 3 nice fish and then it went dead. The guys across from us were hooking some hogs. Next to Pauls boat in the flat stuff there were some fish feeding in the deep stuff - of course there was no way to make the fly look really enough for them to eat it - but the fish were huge - maybe 2 or 3 close to 30 inches! I hooked and landed a 16 inch brown, and Nate had on one of those hogs - but that was it. We moved down to try and find Chad who constantly is like a lost puppy and moves around unstoppable. Chad was scoping out a hole that Paul mentioned and he was determined to get it. That was a very good this too. We hit the hole with an island in the middle - most of the traffic stays far left, but you can hole up in the side channel were it dumps into the main channel that is easilt 15 feet deep. Chad hook moster after monster by just letting the streamer and nymph sink into the deep channel. One brown was easily 20 inches and I saw him catch at least 10 more. Nate was hitting the bottom of the run and hooking fish hand over fish - he's a pro with that low profile eager nymphing pose ready to strike at any time. Paul and I fished the side channel as it dumped in and he caught a ton of fish. I did very very well - landing fish after fish on my double weighted nymph rig that had about 8 or 9 feet of tippet between my indicator and flies. I caught a ton, but every fish I had to wade out of the channel over to Paul in the slow stuff. Since it was over 65 degrees, I had taken off my jacket and only had a box of flies down my pants, forceps clung to my t-shirt and tippet and weights pinned to my shirt. Net and camera and everything else was in the boat. Paul was more than willing to help me net a few and take some pics. Of course BlackOtter and Kyo pulled in just as I was landing a lunker of a fish - this thing wouldn't fight, but was a log - I kind of knew in the back of my mind what it was, a whitie! Of course I got the official ribbing and the picture taken for proof. It was a lot of fun though. I caught some more while the guys shot the shiit.
We moved down, hopping more boats and seeing some beautiful young ladies fishing along the way. It was nice seeing the ladies enjoying the day and fishing as well. We saw a bunch of ladies with hook ups, including one gal that was a pro with a dry fly (and she was hot too!). We moved into some less crowded water - a real flat stretch that was only about 6 feet deep max all the way across, but over a 100 yards wide. Nate headed north, Paul jumped out next to the boat, Chad went running for the riffles and shelves further down - and I just relaxed - watching Nate and Paul and tying on a new rig. Paul has an unorthodexed nymphing motion, slapping the water on his false cast and then he can throw a line a good 80 feet. I'm not kidding - he gets some torque behind the fly and almost flips it 80 feet. I've never seen anyone do this - ever! And he catches fish way the hell out there too! He landed some biggies - a nice rainbow with a hooked jaw that I couldn't quite land, and then a few more fish. I dropped into the hole below him and had 4 fish on in 10 minutes. I moved down again and proceeded to hook about 35 fish and landed about two dowzen in the next two hours. I was in a zone, and every other cast I had a fish on. The hard part was landing them with no net - I dragged them onto the shallows and tried to hand land them. They were all mostly browns, all were at least 17 inches, and all jumped! I landed probably 5 rainbows, not as large (except one), and landed one brown that was 14 inches. One brown was huge, I was out to my waste, and couldn't get back to shore and tried to hand land him and he snapped me off. All the fish were taking the same style fly - Paul Bighorn swap jujubee bead head black and white with a tuft of peacock dubbing behind the bead. After shredding those two they kept hitting tan zebras with bead heads. And occassionally they hit the killer - all in size 18 or 20. Blackotter and Kyo pulled up and hit some fish, but we ended up chatting for a good 45 minutes.
We moved on again, stopping here or there, but we had to make up some time as we were still about 5 miles away from take out. One place we stopped was next to the huge tree that dropped some shade over the bank. The water was fast and Paul was into a fish immediately. Nate and I pulled across the water from them, and hooked a fish in a back eddy - but that was it. Paul nailed about 4 fish in there and then let Chad fish his spot. Chad hooked into a pig and needed Paul's help. Paul got the boat net and tried to help Chad, not before falling in above his chest waders first. He managed to net the fish, but only after Chad pointed out that it was behind him. From the other side of the river, this was pretty entertaining - a comedy of errors - but it had a happy ending. We got out of there and hit the confluence of Soap Creek and fished the seams. I actually put on a streamer and managed 2 small browns while Nate rowed us. Chad was hooking into fish left and right and was slowed down a lot. We hit Bighorn access around 8 pm as it was getting dark. We said good bye to Paul and we headed back to the cabin.
We cooked dinner - and waited for the masses, but only TPlane showed up. He chatted a while, and headed back to his nicer accomodations. We drank a few beers and then hit the sack. Not much of a trophy ceremony, but I got to keep my baby!
Sunday, April 15th
We headed home around 9 am after dropping the boat off at Busters. Not much else to say really. I hate that drive!
I just wanted to thank everyone who we met and had a great time fishing with. I'd like to really thank Buster for hooking us up with the boat - we hope you enjoy your Ice Cold Makers Mark and your T-Shirt! As always, it was a blast. I was sunburned and burnt out when I got home, but it was so worth it. Year 3 went off without a hitch and it was a great trip. Thanks again guys, and I hope you all enjoy your T-Shirts!!