Re: Is 1st of July too early for dry flies on the Bighorn ?
The Bighorn has evolved over the years and the hatches that were once so prevalent in the summer have gone by the wayside a bit. The river used to have magnificent hatches of PMD's, Yellow Sallies, Tan Caddis, Trico's and Black Caddis. In the past ten years the Yellow Sallies, PMD's , Tan Caddis and Trico's have been very marginal with some years seeing almost no hatches of the aforementioned bugs. The real dry fly season on the Bighorn has really been March through May with midges and BWO's dominating the hatch activity. The summer months have seen some good grasshopper fishing with an occasional aquatic insect hatch for a few fortunate to be there when they do hatch. Then in the fall the Black caddis along with more BWO's will bring fish back to the surface.
With this being said this season may see a bit of a rebound with the insect hatches that have all but disappeared. Last year the river got the cleaning it needed with high flows for an extended period of time which cleaned and scoured the river bottom. Hopefully with more gravel and less mud the river's summer time hatches will rebound a bit and provide the great fishing to pods of rising fish that used to be a common occurrence during the summer on the Bighorn. Only time will tell and I for one am keeping my fingers crossed that the flush did it's job.
Good luck on your trip and if you want to fish some dries in July give the Stillwater a try, not as large of fish as the Bighorn but it is a really nice Freestone stream.