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  1. Default The 13 Mile Bighorn below Yellowtail Dam

    I had a long looked for vacation, to fly fish the 13 Mile Bighorn below Yellowtail Dam starting about 18 May for a week.

    I was basically, a Novice at fishing Size 16 Nymphs in a Tandem Set up, the top one for an attractor and the bottom as the "hatch".

    The word was that the fish were all feeding on a little #16 Nymph called the "JuJu Baetis". There are YouTube Videos for it.

    The good part, was that I got an education in this kind of fishing.
    The bad part was dropping about $400.00 in the fly shop for Flies, because when I arrived, I found that I had left about 3 fly boxes at home.
    Besides, I didn't have any #16 JuJu Baetis anyways.

    I bought a nice new set of Breathable Waders.

    All that aside though, I sure enjoyed catching a few fish, both Browns and Rainbow.

    I realize now, what is probably obvious to many of you, which is that before driving the 500 Miles, I ought to have contacted the Fly Shops there and found out what to use. I might have found better prices than the $2.25 each Flies @ the Fort Smith Fly Shops.

    The "Bighorn Fly Shop" (the Middle shop of the three there in Ft. Smith)... people were very nice to me. This is the store in the middle, between the other two. I cannot say what they did for me, but I got a product at a very nice savings and they really took care of me when I had a Fly Line difficulty.

    There are 3 Fly Shopes at Fort Smith, all in a row in one giant gravel parking lot. I have something to say about all three.

    The first one is right after you turn into the parking to the Convenience Store.
    Now this one is the only "Full Service" shop, and by that, I mean it generally has
    FLY TYING SUPPLIES. That is good to know.

    The "Bighorn Fly Shop" (the middle one) has really fine gentlemen and they will really take care of you and do a little extra for you if you need help with a gear issue.


    Then there's the Third Fly Shop. It is the furthest one in at the back of the parking area.
    Out of kindness, I'll just say they were rather like the "K-Mart of Fly Shops".
    I won't bother returning to them.

    There is a Café in town in Fort Smith, if you need a meal; but the ownership has changed.
    Many of the guys from our club insisted on eating our first evening meal there.
    For about $14.00 and change, I had some kind of "Blackened Chicken on top of Macaroni and Cheese".

    Everyone else ordered some other half a chicken breast and said that it was not quite worth the price they paid.

    About 5 days later I had an Omelet and Hash Browns there. It was "fair".

    I think the best thing is to just get a Hamburger or something.

    Otherwise, my group stayed in the nice accomodations at "Cottonwood Camp" just about a mile north of Fort Smith and the Fly Shops. Now that place I can really recommend for accomodations.

    We had a nice Mobile Home Trailer with a shower in our room (five of us and seven guys would have had enough room).

    We had a Kitchen with Stove, Coffee Pot, Microwave, Running Water, Refrig w/ Freezer, TV w/cable, but I think we only turned it on once or twice. There's a huge BBQ Grill outside that turns on gas like, "instantly" for steaks etc.

    At Cottonwood Camp we had WiFi, and many of us used laptops to message home etc.
    Also, Cottonwood Camp has a cozy "Office/Fly Shop" where they sell basic flies, streamers, etc. Not a lot, but enough to take care of some basic needs for the fly box. I think my entire cost for 6 days and 7 nights of stay was about $250.00 because our 7 man trailer was divided up 5 ways. The actual rental cost was about $130/night.


    I felt as though I were living like a king. the Clubmember who brought the Groceries for the once a day common dinner had food that was scrumptious. We all pitched in to cook and do dishes.

    I learned so much about Fly Fishing that my head is still spinning from what these guys taught me.

    I used to think I knew quite enough, but they showed how humble my knowledge was. I learned though.
    And my suspicions were all confirmed. I'm dumber'n I thought I was.


    Last edited by brucerducer; 06-02-2013 at 06:11 PM.
    Welcome to the world of Fly Crying

  2. Likes shortyb liked this post
  3. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Pinedale, WY
    Blog Entries

    Default Re: The 13 Mile Bighorn below Yellowtail Dam

    Bruce: Thanks for sharing the trip report with all the details. I wish you had mentioned that you were headed up that way. Eric Beebe is a member here but doesn't post often, he used to guide on the Bighorn but I think now he mostly ties and owns bighornflies. He is a really nice guy and would have given you some great insight into fishing the Bighorn.

  4. Default Re: The 13 Mile Bighorn below Yellowtail Dam

    Quote Originally Posted by mcnerney View Post
    Bruce: Thanks for sharing the trip report with all the details. I wish you had mentioned that you were headed up that way. Eric Beebe is a member here but doesn't post often, he used to guide on the Bighorn but I think now he mostly ties and owns bighornflies. He is a really nice guy and would have given you some great insight into fishing the Bighorn.
    Well thanks McNerney. I'll remember.

    We had some fun moments.

    (a) Watching somebody's Drift Boat floating loose down the River.
    (b) Watching a couple of guys set up a picnic and BBQ along the River and a herd of about 25 Black Angus come along into their camp and start staring at them like they were looking for conversation. They stood right up by the Picnic Table and watched these two fellows eat. That was hilarious.

    (c) This was seen. Several guys anchor their drift boat along the shore and get out to spread out and fish a hole. A stray dog of German Shepherd size, deftly looks around, then moves forward and steps into their boat.
    He neatly grabs some lunch bag in his teeth and carries it up on the shore to dine upon it. Whatever their lunch was, they lost it. I was taking a nap nearby, and heard some guy holler while the other members of my group were on the shore..."Hey, watch that dog. He'll get in your boat and take your lunch!". Needless to say, that was the end of my nap! ha ha

    (d) The president of our club owned the boat, and rowed it for us all day, every day. But he finally stopped to try some dry fly fishing at some rises.

    Me, being the local village idiot I guess, decided to let all ...ALL of my fly line out, to drift down the river so that I could smooth out some "wrinkles" in my backing. Well, one thing lead to another and don't you know, the next thing I see is my entire, $100.00 brand new Fly Line go floating down the river.
    I would have said something, but I just thought the Club President ought to have his time to catch a Trout on a Dry Fly in the Rise. Ha ha. I just sat thoughtfully in the anchored boat, watching the $100.00 line go floating away. What an adventure that was! Never saw the line again. That baby was gone. I thought my actions were....very noble.


    Eric Beebe must have a good spirit, because it sure shows in his Bighorn Fly Shop.
    They were the nicest people. They can joke good too.
    Welcome to the world of Fly Crying

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Red Lodge, MT

    Default Re: The 13 Mile Bighorn below Yellowtail Dam

    Glad you made it out this way! Some trips are just about the fish others are the events and memories they create, sounds like you got the latter.

    Cottonwood camp is my top recommendation for the budget trip to Fort Smith. It's good to see others agree. The managers are great a great couple, and I hope they stay. From the sounds of it the owners getting out. Which could be great for the property if if someone willing to invest a little, and keep the current management.

    Guys from Co will say juju is where is at, I never have luck with them up here. Did you try the rs2 or what ever you tied up?

    Ps. Larry he post did and you did give Eric's info

  6. Default Re: The 13 Mile Bighorn below Yellowtail Dam

    Hi ShortyB

    You know, I am so new at tying the tiny nymphs that I never even had time to tie up the RS-2 that is so popular in Colorado where I live.

    I think I had bought some RS-2's at a Denver Fly Shop but they were in the boxes I left at home. I guess you are hinting at the RS-2?

    I think some of our club did mention some success with them.

    However, there were 2 very experienced nymph fishermen with me who were teaching the couple of newbies in our group. (I was a newbie). They did have trouble catching as many fish as the others on the river.
    I think maybe the RS-2 would have turned the tide for them. Other boats did better than us. You could see that. Our group just could not get "dialed-in".

    I'd be happy to learn of any recommended nymphs.
    Welcome to the world of Fly Crying

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Red Lodge, MT

    Default Re: The 13 Mile Bighorn below Yellowtail Dam

    The river it's just like that some days. While I don't fish the horn as much as some of the others in my area (like Montana Matt and Tracy). I always tend to use a sow bug and midge pattern set up for most tail waters.

    While my trip this past March was decent, we did not catch near the numbers as the year before. Only did 2 days this year too though. The fish were bigger and we fished holes we normally would have floated by, but the fisherman hatch was thick so we took what we could get.

    Pink Ray Charles was my go-to fly in 2012, this year it was a green roll over midge. Friend had some luck on small baetis patterns, I did not lol.

  8. Default Re: The 13 Mile Bighorn below Yellowtail Dam

    Glad to hear that you found Cottonwood enjoyable. I just got back from there and unless the other places are booked, never going back. I think they do business because they are cheap, and accommodations are limited in the area, but as they say, you get what you pay for. The place is in dire need of basic maintenance and repairs. There was a puddle on the side of our cabin that we think was sewage.... the air wreaked of it. Sue in the office was nice, that's about it. One of our group has been going there for at least 15 years. All we heard all week was "this place isn't the same as when Alvin ran it".

    As for the "kmart" of fly shops, they were the only ones who had the worm pattern we wanted, as we lost a bunch and had to replenish. Gail behind the counter is a really nice lady. I think that is a satellite shop, their main "full service" shop, is back in Billings.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Billings, Big Sky Country

    Default Re: The 13 Mile Bighorn below Yellowtail Dam

    The Ft. Smith Fly Shops are:

    Big Horn Trout Shop (Near Yellowtail Mkt)
    Big Horn Angler (Middle Shop)
    Big Horn Fly & Tackle (Eric works in their Billings Store)

    Big Horn Angler has changed hands several times over
    the last fifteen years. The group that has it now is really
    hustling to survive. Very difficult to make a living in
    Ft. Smith as you all have noticed. Lots of new small
    lodges popping up in the area but they're usually well
    beyond my means. But all the fly shops are pretty good.

    Eric used to have a Big Horn Flies website that
    sold affordable flies. He's got some skill.

    Doug Haacke at Magic City Fly Fishers monitors river levels
    with FWP and the burec. He reported to our club last week
    that they should stay fairly constant through the winter with
    some (hopefully) minor reductions coming soon.

    The water in the area has a high sulfur odor
    so chances are the sewer smell you encountered
    could have been that . . . I hope.

    Glad you had a great time.


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