Toby’s New Years
I headed into 2016 on the Bighorn with an old buddy and some seriously frozen guides on the rod. Our plan was to take the jet boat for a few days of cast and blast on the lower river. After several delays getting out of Bozeman, we managed to make it over there around 3 on New Years day. As we pulled into Mallards, we were greeted by the spectacle of watching one giant pickup truck, all “chained-up” pulling a Suburban towing a giant jetboat up the ramp. Definitely caused me to pause and rethink the plan while mentally adding chains and a tow strap to the list of things I need to pickup the next time I’m at Murdoch’s.
The last few hours of the New Years day, however, were spent with a bent rod and a smile as the fish were eating and the weather was getting nice. Winter fishing on the Bighorn is almost always good when I have been over there. The upper river is full of spawning fish right now and if you want to catch a ton of fish, that is where to head with an egg and a midge fished under an indicator. Just be mindful of the spawning areas and avoid walking over clean gravel. I’d tell you to just leave the fish alone too, but that’s up to you to decided as far as I’m concerned.
Personally, I like getting away from other anglers and the masses of spawning fish this time of year. Fish will eat the same eggs and midges throughout the river, so the fly selection is pretty simple regardless of where you fish on the river. I recommend taking a bit of a walk below 3-mile or up from Bighorn to put as much distance away from other anglers as possible. When the weather is right, you can find some rising fish as well as get fish to chase streamers throughout the winter.
We ended up having a really fun day on the second day of our trip with lots of fish and a few ducks too. The morning was crisp with bluebird skies, so we waited for things to warm up and spent more time fishing than hunting. Had a few issues with motor and the cold weather, but it all ended up all right once the afternoon warmed up. We set some decoys up around noon and had a couple hours of good flights of ducks with the odd one here and there pulling off to come into the decoys. I think we may have actually shot more than we missed. We fished the last couple of hours, which was the perfect way to cap off a great start to 2016.
The more interesting part of the trip had to do with all that goes along with fly-fishing rather than the actual act of fly-fishing. I spent more time appreciating the things that really matter, like clean air, the sound of running water, the warmth of the winter sun, and the mystery of the perfect drift than which flies I was using. Not that they matter more than fish or the fact that “the Tug is the Drug,” but there was a few hours spent during which I think I appreciated the former more than the latter. The fish and the tug were the icing on the cake, so to speak.
Happy New Year!