Computers can be a huge pain in the A$$. I have not been able to get into my sight for the past month due to some sneaky crap that somehow gets through Firewalls, Norton, Malware, PC Cleaner and a variety of other protections that are supposed to keep crap out. Like most, I have no clue how to keep this stuff out of my computers, you just buy everything the computer people tell you to buy and install it.
Anyway fishing has been going since March for those that are tough and committed. Run off is now starting to increase the flows pretty much everywhere. The low level snow under 7000 feet has been off and on for the last month. I have watched creeks jump from 20 cfs to 450 cfs over night and back down to 30 cfs a day or two later for the past three weeks. Be especially careful in the afternoons or when it rains. Flash floods or dramatic raises in flows can strand you for a while to all night if you are not careful. This last batch of snow looks to be fairly thick, so we will see it melt off over the next few days. Water levels will be up and are probably going to stay up until July. We still have a large amount of snow in the high mountains.
From what I see and hear from people traveling through Montana, they are sitting with way more snow than we have, so I expect to see more people stopping through the Bighorn Mountains over the next couple of months looking for any fishable water. I tell everyone that it is all fishable, it is just harder and more skills are needed. The Bighorn River along with most rivers are much higher than they have been in the past. Usually the Bighorn is maybe 3-5000 cfs this time of year and going up through May and July, but this year it has been over 7000 for the past 5 weeks and started raising at the end of March. The fish will be very healthy this season and next.
Our waters will be high and off color for a while, but fishing will be great this season. The fish I have been catching are for the most part healthy and in great shape. Don’t get scared off by the runoff. Not all the waters will be blown out. The lakes and reservoirs will be fishing great while the rivers and streams are hard to fish. The best part, fewer crowds to no crowds this time of year. I have only seen a few locals out enjoying the great early season fishing. This is another area that most people do not do enough to understand. Fishing is generally slower, but usually much bigger fish are landed.
We all will again have to dig out our high, fast, cold and off color water skills this early season. You can also fish the still waters. I love this time of year. It separates the men from the boys and the women from the girls. It is much more challenging, but those of us that are great fly fisherman, are not dissuaded from a little diversity. No, we forge ahead and become even better fisherman by fishing harder, studying everything and practicing our skills during these tough conditions. If you have not tried to fish run off conditions, you should do it several times a week to ensure you are learning the right skills.
You also need to be extra careful when you wade. As the waters get bigger through June, your safety is paramount. I hear it is impossible to fish from the grave. Here are some safety tips. You don’t want to wade much at all. Learn to fish from the banks or in shallow slow water. The fish are mostly along the edges and slow seams, so you do not need to stand in these areas to catch out of them. Find the slow pockets, back eddies and slow moving troughs to fish. Use highly visible flies and bigger flies so the fish can see them better. Break out all the skills and use all the fly fishing techniques of Nymphing, Streamers and Dry fly fishing. Nymphing and streamers should be your focus, but keep your eyes open for those few select dry fly days. They will be memorable.
If you need help, stop at your local fly shop and inquire what to do and what skills you should be working on. If they don’t know, call us here at the Fly Shop of the Bighorns and we will tell you. Bottom line, get out and fish early and often.