Welcome to Eye of the Guide

Part Ninety-five



A Varied Story


By Bob Krumm, Sheridan, Wyoming


It's been a varied story since I last wrote. The flows in the Bighorn River ranged from 1900 cfs in March and April; decreased to 1500 cfs in early May just as the brown trout sac fry were emerging; and finally spiked in June to 9.600 cfs. The flows tailed on down to 2450 cfs in late autumn and have held there ever since. At the moment, Bighorn Reservoir is only 10 feet from full so it looks like the releases will stay at 2,450 cfs and will probably increase markedly when runoff commences in June.

At present the snow pack is looking pretty good: the Wind River drainage is at 85 percent of normal; the Bighorn Basin is at 104 percent of normal; and the Shoshone River is at 100 percent.

One pleasant surprise in 2008 was a grasshopper infestation. The grasshoppers were so thick that in spots on the lower river no leaves were left on the grasses or Russian olive trees. Early July into September trout were taking hoppers if an angler could cast thirty to fifty feet away from the boat and hit an area just above where a fish had risen. While we didn't land, or for that matter, hook every fish that came up for a hopper, it sure was exciting to see slab-sided rainbows and browns drifting up under the flies.

After reviewing my logbook, it appears I should have quit while I was ahead. On my second guide trip of the season in April a Sheridan angler, Larry Baker, landed a 26 ¼ inch rainbow. The hog probably weighed close to six pounds and put up a 15-minute fight before I netted it. There were great days after that, but Larry's trout took big fish of the year honors.

Perhaps the greatest number of fish landed occurred with my California duo of Mike and Don. During mid May I had the guys fishing small white strike indicators with midge pupae and mayfly nymph pattern a scant foot and a half below. The fish were taking emerging midges so the setup the guys were fishing was just like dry fly fishing, only different. They were able to cast to emerger rises and connect on the feeding fish. In three days, the guys averaged 50 fish landed and at least that many hooked and lost.

When the flows kicked up to 9600 in mid June the trout tucked in tight to the banks. Areas that were dry land two weeks prior were under two to three feet of water. A lot of aquatic worms, leeches, scuds, and sowbugs were washed out of their holding places so the trout went on a feeding spree.

The high water washed out about a third of the island directly across from Three Mile Access ramp. It also created some pretty good rapids at Bighorn Rapids and Little Bighorn Access. I rescued four people in two consecutive days—victims of overturned boats. One fellow had floated over a mile spread-eagled over his overturned driftboat. When he saw me on shore, he asked calmly asked, "Can you give me some advice?"

"Yes," I said, "Stay right where you're at and I'll be right there." It was a relief to have him climb into my driftboat and know that he was okay.

While water rescues were thrilling, they were a bit exasperating. It seems that some people embark on a fishing trip on the river without knowledge of proper rowing skills while there are businesses that rent boats without giving proper rowing and safety instruction. The one fellow I rescued contended that there weren't life jackets in his rental boat, and in affect, there weren't because the life jackets were stowed in a closed hatch and their whereabouts weren't made known to the boaters!

My good friend and Montana fisheries biologist, Ken Frazer, gave me his estimate for trout numbers in the river. He said that there were approximately 1950 brown trout per mile 13 inches and larger in the upper river and 600 per mile 7 inches and larger in the lower river. In the upper river there are 2615 rainbow trout per mile 13 inches and larger and 1280 per mile seven inches and larger in the lower river. Most of the trout in both sections are in the 14 to 17 inch range. Frazer noted that tests for whirling disease came up negative.

In December my son, Clint, and I presented a talk on forty years worth of guiding experience on the Bighorn River. We noted that the crowds have continued to increase and that many more anglers are of the "do it yourself variety." Clint mentioned that he found that strong southwest winds equate to lousy fishing. I finally compiled some data taken from my logbooks of 1995 and 2005 where I tallied the number of trout caught on various flies. Of interest to me was that in 1995, a high-water year, my anglers caught 53 trout on yellow Sallies and 103 trout on Trico patterns. In 2005, a low water year, there were no trout taken on either pattern. The lack of fish caught on Sallies and Tricos was merely a reflection that neither insect species hatched in 2005. I initially thought that the dearth of insects was due to habitat loss, but even if the flows were reduced by half, there should have been a modicum of Sallies and Tricos, but they weren't there. I have stumbled across some information that attributes low water temperatures for the inability of aquatic insects to complete their life cycles. Remember during high flows the water temperatures rise, while low flows result in water temperatures in the low 50s.

I intend to keep my daily rates the same as last year: $325.00 for one angler; $400.00 for two anglers; and $525.00 for three anglers.

For lodging at Ft. Smith, I still recommend staying at the Bunkhouse Bed and Breakfast (406-666-2427) or the Big Horn Trout Shop (406-666-2375) a Sponsor here of FAOL.

Don't forget that I offer trips to small streams in the Sheridan area. One stream is about the size of Duck Blind Channel on the Bighorn and sports brown trout up to 26 inches. It offers some great hopper, caddis, mayfly and yellow Sally action in the appropriate season. The other stream flows about 25 cfs and is a brushy devil, but it is full of browns to 22 inches and can be a good dry fly stream. Also, consider some smallmouth bass fishing on the Tongue River in Wyoming and Montana.

Yes, I am still happily married. I thank God daily for sending Carol into my life. We celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary on December 31st .

I hope this letter finds you in good health and spirits. I do hope that I will have the honor of guiding you again this summer. I look forward to hearing from you. Do take care and stay well. Bob Krumm


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