I took my wife up to Fort Smith last week for her first trip to the Bighorn. She got tired of me coming home with stories of 7500 fish per mile and 16-inch average fish.
When I go with my buddies, we generally stay in the Cottonwood Camp which is pretty rustic but very clean and inexpensive. I love it there. With my wife, we stayed at the Bighorn Trout Shop - Man! Do they have a great setup. I half-heartedly call it a "poor man's lodge" because it doesn't have all the fancy amenities that some places do, but I have to say that for the price, it was very comfortable and great for my wife. The rooms were huge and the meals were absolutely fabulous, truly four-star eats. Their fly shop is also gorgeous and meticulously cared for.
We hired a guide and drifted the first day and then waded around 3-mile the second day. The winds were anywhere between 10-40 mph. A real challenge no matter how experienced of a fisherman you are. The water levels are very low - about 1800 cfs - which made finding fishable water difficult when wading.
However, the river was absolutely on fire! We landed well over 75 fish and had numerous hookups that didn't want to cooperate (probably 100 opportunities overall in two days). The fish were on caddis and pink sowbugs mostly. I had a few eats on skinny-body mayfly nymphs. Took a handful off the top with tricos and caddis, mostly in the morning before 10 am.
Get into a riffle/run section, find the shelf and work it hard starting in very close and quartering out about 30 feet. Start at the head of the run in the very fast water and work backward (I know that sounds counterintuitive). Each run will provide about 100-300 feet of fishing space. If you are drifting - just throw your line in and hold on
. The fish are stacked up due to the low flows. If you hook or catch a fish, keep fishing in that same spot because there will be others.
If you are wading around 3 mile, wade out to the main channel on the far side of the farthest island. The water will look like a big slick, but it has plenty of depth and plenty of pace. Get long drifts and work near to far.
Here are a few pictures. Enjoy.