May 13, 2013
Is the Bighorn the Best Tailwater in America?
By Kirk Deeter
I will never forget my first trip, years ago, to Montana's Bighorn River. Until then, most of my fly-fishing experiences had been focused on smaller rivers and streams in Michigan and Pennsylvania. I'd been told by friends and family members who had fished the Bighorn that making the trek to this fairly isolated spot (far from the more "tourist-friendly" locales like Bozeman or Missoula) was worth the effort. In my first few minutes of fishing the Bighorn, wading among hordes of eager trout, and learning about the area's huge volume of insects first hand, I knew they were right. Fishing here can, at times, be a jaw-dropping experience.
I just spent three days fishing the river again with Tim Romano, and I have to say, the appreciation and appeal haven't diminished. The thing I like best about the Bighorn is it has many faces, and offers many opportunities. The fishing can be easy, or it can be technical. It's completely up to you. If you want to nymph deep runs and pull on many fish, that's usually no problem. But posting up on a subtle dry fly run and casting at finicky risers can test your hatch-matching and casting abilities as thoroughly as anywhere you might go.
Streamer fishing can be unreal. On any given day, you can try various approaches to push your limits. You can wade it or float it and, in fact, the Bighorn is also a great river for beginning rowers to hone their skills.
Granted, the allure of the Bighorn is no secret. The things you may have heard about massive "drift boat hatches" are true. But even if you shudder at the prospect of sharing a river float with dozens of other boats, you'd be surprised at how easy it is to find your own little section of water that makes you forget the others are even there.
Not every angler is into tailwater fishing. And for those who are, there are dozens of wonderful options, like the Delaware, the Green, and the Colorado at Lees Ferry, to name a few. It is impossible, in my mind, to single out one as the best tailwater in America. They're all incredible and unique. But the Bighorn is no doubt special, and worth experiencing, whether you're a newbie to the sport, or a grizzled veteran. There's always a new wrinkle to be found here.