I thought I would write to inform you of the Bighorn River and
its fabulous fishery. For most of 2006 the fishing was great
and featured some of the best dry fly fishing we have had in
Spring started off with mega hatches of midges followed and interspersed
with bountiful hatches of blue-winged olives. During the summer we were
treated to respectable hatches of pale morning duns followed by fabulous
black caddis hatches. September saw hatches of mahogany duns (spinners
provided the action) and Tricos. In many ways, it was like the "Good Old
Days" with the exception that Montana and Wyoming were burning up at the
In early July a wild fire burned about 7,000 acres north and west of
the river to the river and across it. The area affected was the middle
of the stretch of water from 3-Mile Access to Bighorn Access (13-Mile).
The fire burned two homes to the ground and much of the river valley
vegetation along a three-mile stretch along Bighorn Rapids.
In early August Ft. Smith had a conflagration that burned Big Horn Trout
Shop, a wing of its motel and the Yellowtail Market to the ground. Three
persons were killed in the fire—all were from Wisconsin and staying at
the motel. The owners of the Trout Shop (Steve and J.J. Hilbers and
Hale and Shelley Harris) were grief stricken with the loss of lives.
Still they elected to go on with their business. They hauled in a
trailer and conducted their shop business from it and started to
formulate plans for rebuilding. The south wing of the motel was
unaffected so most of the guests were lodged there. Their new shop
and motel wing will open in late April.
The Yellowtail Market was rebuilt and opened for business in November.
It is a really nice market and being able to buy gas again at Ft.
Smith is a real blessing.
It should be noted that the community of Ft. Smith pulled together
after the tragedy. It was heartening to be among so many caring,
Another pressing matter developed in September: a group of people
from Lovell, Wyoming mounted a campaign to hold more water in
Bighorn Reservoir so that the marina at Horseshoe Bend would be
useable. They called for the flows in the Bighorn River below
the reservoir to be reduced to as low as 1,000 cubic feet per
second (cfs). The group is well organized and has the backing
of Wyoming's congressional delegation, the governor, and the
superintendent of Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.
These moves caught most of us by surprise but it didn't take
long for users of the Bighorn River to react. They contacted
Senator Max Baucus and asked for his help. He proposed a bill
that would establish the minimum flow at 2500 cfs and allow the
flow to be dropped to 1500 cfs under emergency conditions (severe
drought). This bill is number 307. Please contact your senator
and representative to support this bill.
The problem with dispute over water on the Bighorn River and
Reservoir is directly attributable to a crushing drought the
region has experienced over the past 7 to 8 years. There has
not been enough water to keep the Reservoir full enough to allow
Horseshoe Bend Marina on the Wyoming end to operate. People in
Lovell, Wyoming contend that when the Bighorn Canyon National
Recreation Area was created they were promised all sorts of
tourism dollars in place of the farm and ranch lands that
were inundated. Well, the tourism dollars have fallen far
short of what was predicted. To top it off, over 17 feet
of silt has accumulated which means that the water level
has to be higher in order for the marina to operate.
Meanwhile back to the river and its fishery. My friend,
fisheries biologist Ken Frazer, informs me that despite
the low flows the trout populations are doing well. He
states the rainbows are dominating the fishery. In the
upper 13 miles there are 1,988 10-inch plus rainbows while
the browns number 890 per mile (many smaller browns were
marked but there weren't enough recaptures to make an
For the lower river Frazer estimates that there are 1,270
browns eight inches and longer present per mile while the
rainbows number about 2400 per mile.
Frazer contends that the two age classes of trout in the river
benefited from the increased flows in 2005. They now dominate
the fishery and are basically all "nice" fish and will provide
some real great angling this year. I would guess that the
average length of these fish would range from 18 to 22 inches.
I guess I would be remiss if I didn't list the snow pack data
for the Bighorn drainage. The headwaters of the Bighorn River
(Wind River) are at 71 percent of normal, the Bighorn Basin is
at 79 percent and the Shoshone River is listed at 72 percent.
Hence, it looks like it is going to be another low flow year.
Keep your fingers crossed, I have seen heavy snows in March
and April that more than made up for the deficits.
I have some excellent small stream fishing opportunities in the
Sheridan area and now can guide on an exclusive stream, Piney
Creek, south of Sheridan. Piney Creek is a free stone stream
with plenty of fly hatches and terrestrial insects with brown
and rainbow trout as large as six pounds. The wildlife variety
is quite thrilling with white-tailed and mule deer, antelope,
beaver, bald eagles, sand hill cranes, and several species of
ducks and a multitude of song birds. If you would prefer to
fish a pond with some real hogs in it, ask me about Swine Lake.
If you are looking for a nice place to stay in Ft. Smith, I again
suggest the Bunkhouse Bed and Breakfast. Rocky and Mary Zaic have
a real nice inn and are two of the nicest people that walk the face
of this earth. Their phone number is 406-666-2427.
Other nice places to stay include the Bighorn Trout Shop (406-666-2375)
and Kingfisher Lodge (406-666-2321).
On a personal note, I am still happily married to my wife, Carol,
for over 2 years! We had a wonderful experience in late January:
we attended a Marriage Encounter Weekend and found out how to grow
our love for one another.
Our grandchildren are doing well. Carol added two more to her total
of four with the birth of Caleb February 2006 and Max in August 2006.
By the by, I am on the Pro Staff of Rajeff Sports which makes Echo Rods
and Reels as well as AirFlo Lines. I have three rods available for your
to try: 4, 6, and 8 wts.
While I have touched most of the bases in this letter, if you want
more information feel free to contact me at the phone or e-mail address
on the letterhead. I do hope that I hear from you and that I will
see you this year.
Take care and good fishing.
Warm regards, ~ Bob Krumm