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Bighorn River Fly Fishing

Montana’s Classic Tailwater Fly Fishing Experience

Bighorn River Fly Fishing Trips

Fly fishing the Bighorn River is the classic Montana tailwater fly fishing experience. In many ways, the Bighorn River in Montana is trout fantasy land and not much needs to be said about it that already hasn’t. The fish per mile counts are high, hatches are thick, average trout size is solid, and the fishing is as consistent as it gets. The river flows out of the Afterbay below Yellowtail reservoir and through the Crow Indian Reservation. The first 13 miles of this river from the afterbay down to the Bighorn fishing access is possibly the most famous stretch of trout fishing water in the west.

Our Montana fly fishing guides know the Bighorn River and its subtleties well. We offer drift boat float trips and generally wade fish throughout the day. The Bighorn River caters to seasoned and beginner anglers alike. Our guided fly fishing trips on the Bighorn River require a minimum 2 day trip and bookings in advance. The river is remote in the sense it is a long drive from anywhere. Lodging is available in Fort Smith, Montana and is the home base for Bighorn fly fishing.

Fly Fishing the Bighorn River

The ever cold, always clear, and nutrient rich waters of the Bighorn River are the perfect habitat for trout. Trout per mile numbers are some of the highest in the state. The aquatic life in this river in both density and diversity is unrivaled. The never-ending stream of sowbugs, scuds, annelids, caddisflies, mayflies, midges, and a host of other aquatic insects mean the countless rainbow and brown trout are always well fed.65

Dry fly fishing to pods of rising fish is without a doubt the main attraction, but nymphing and streamer fly fishing all come with a day’s fly fishing on the Bighorn River. The big hatches of BWOs start in April followed by caddis, PMDs, tricos, and terrestrials through the summer. By October the BWO hatches fire off again and the streamer fly fishing can be excellent as well. Occasional spillovers of emerald shiners from the Afterbay often create some of the best streamer fly fishing conditions to be found anywhere.

What the Bighorn River lacks in length it more than makes up for in quality and character. The upper river truly is a trout fisherman’s paradise and the classic Montana tailwater fly fishing experience. It is all any trout angler really needs.

Book Your Next Montana Fly Fishing Trip

Plan Your Trip

Prime Season:

March 15-April 30; July 15-August 15; October 1-31

Notable Hatches:

BWOs (April 1-30); Black Caddis (July 15-August 15); Tricos (August 1-August 31); Hoppers (August 1-August 31)

Nearby Towns:

Fort Smith, MT; Hardin, MT; Billings, MT

Nearby Rivers:

Stillwater River, Yellowstone River

Trip Offerings

What Our Clients Say


My wife and I had a wonderful experience fishing with Montana Angling Company. Max was able to teach my wife to fly fish from scratch and she caught 5-10 really nice 18-20” fish her first time! He was very patient and knowledgeable. Thank you for such an amazing day! I would highly recommend from beginners to advanced fly fishermen and women.


- Cooper M.

What Our Clients Say


Max is the perfect guide and teacher. My wife and I are newly retired and wanted to try fly fishing for the first time. We learned tons and caught lots of trout float and wade fishing. Can't wait to come back for our sophomore course. Thanks Max and Peter.

- Cliff B.

What Our Clients Say


I've been guided by Max and his guides on the Yellowstone, Madison, and Missouri rivers and have had a blast every time. Their guides are knowledgeable, respectful, and patient--even when I tangle my line. The Montana Angling Co is a great choice whether it's your first time fly fishing or you're a seasoned pro--these guys know where the fish are and what they're hungry for.

- Maggie O.

What Our Clients Say


Max’s professional demeanor, unmatched knowledge of fly fishing, and top rate gear combine to make any guided trip with him a special experience. Regardless of your ability or experience, you will not only catch fish, but you will have an excellent time as well.

- Josh W.

What Our Clients Say


I have fished with guides across the United States and South America, and can say with confidence that Max's patience, passion, and knowledge of fishing are second to none. Whether you are an expert angler or fishing for the first time, Max is the guy you want to have in your boat.

- Wesley R.

What Our Clients Say


We had an awesome experience with Montana Angling Co. Max worked with us to make sure we had the perfect day to go fishing. Our guide was Guy Flynn, and he was great. He was very patient with us and we enjoyed the conversation. He was putting us on fish all day long. Overall, we had a great experience, and I will definitely use Max's company again on our next trip to Montana.

- Bryan L.

Don't Wait, Book Your Fly Fishing Trip Today!