20 Great Economical Adventures

Montana: Bighorn Fins and Feathers

Outdoor Life Online Editor

Montana's Bighorn River is legendary for its quality fishing. The Bighorn below Yellowtail Dam, which has public access, is a tailwater fishery that delivers good action for rainbow and brown trout from April through November.

It is in the fall, however, that the big browns become more aggressive as they prepare for the spawn. The best way to get in on the action is to float the river. For fall flyfishing it's hard to beat caddis pattern dries or Gold-Ribbed Hare's Ear nymphs and small Woolly Buggers. Spin-fishermen toss small spinners or spoons. Only artificial lures are allowed and all rainbows must be released. The brown trout limit is five, only one of which may be over 18 inches.

In addition to excellent fall fishing, there are good numbers of mallards and Canada geese on the river. The mallards use the quiet sections of the river and the geese roost on the gravel bars. Start the morning with a goose hunt and, as the weather warms, grab your fly rod and go after the trout. Then finish the day with mallards over decoys in a backwater slough.

Last year the waterfowl season opened September 30. Hunting for ducks closed January 4 and goose season closed January 12. The limit was four Canada geese and six ducks daily. To hunt waterfowl, a conservation license ($4 resident, $5 nonresident) along with state ($5) and federal ($15) duck stamps is all that's required. An annual resident fishing license is $17; nonresidents pay $15 for two consecutive days or $50 for the season.