Welcome to Eye of the Guide

Part Ninety-two

Outlook for the Big Horn River '07

By Bob Krumm, Sheridan WY

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 years.

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 same time.

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, kind people.

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 estimate).

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

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