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Bighorn question

by Maple Plain, MN
(Charlie Phelps)

I am wondering if those of you with more experience than I have can chime in on the following:

I am going to be fishing with my wife on the Bighorn for three days in mid-September. I am bringing my western gear, but am wondering if my TenkaraBum 40 might be up for the task as well. It is my understanding that we will be fishing from drift boats a good deal of the time and catching fish that are often in the 14"-18" range.

I have only used my tenkara rods on smaller streams and have never fished it from a drift boat. The fish I am used to catching are in the 10-12" range with an occasional 14 incher.

Any advice any of you sage veterans have to offer will be greatly appreciated!



Comments for Bighorn question

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Aug 29, 2018
Have Fun
by: Les Albjerg

Charlie - I'm sure you will have a blast. A couple of things. First rest assured your TB 40 will handle anything that the Big Horn has to offer. You would enjoy the length of the Suntech Fine Power 56 or even the 66.

You need to consult with your guide (I assume this is a guided drift boat trip.) and see if it is OK to fish a Tenkara rod from the boat. Guides can be particular. On two guided trips I have taken since having a Tenkara love, both guides wouldn't allow me to fish from the boat, but were fine when we stopped and fished from the shore. It has been over 25 years since I fished the Big Horn. The guide I had stopped often to fish from the shore. You should have some opportunities.

Looking forward to a write-up of your adventure.

Aug 29, 2018
Many thanks!
by: Charlie Phelps

Hi Les,

Thank you for your reply!

That lines up with what I learned yesterday. We are going out of the Bighorn River Lodge and I spoke to a nice & helpful woman named Cheryl on the phone. The guides were on the water, but she hinted that fishing from shore would be the way to go and that I would have chances to do so.

I often fish with a 2.5 level line and 5x tippet. Might I want to beef up either or both?



Aug 29, 2018
Tippet / Line
by: Chris Stewart

Do not beef up the tippet! Better to lose a few fish that to have the lillian or swivel pulled off.

If it is often windy on the river, a slightly heavier line might be a good idea. The rod will handle 3 or 3.5 lines smoothly.

Aug 29, 2018
Bighorn question
by: Ben Bailey

I fish Tenkara on the horn plenty, no problem handling 90% of the fish. They are usually fishing fairly heavy nymph rigs from the boat, no way to stop when you get hung up on bottom so boat fishing is less then ideal. There are plenty of places to swing soft hackles or tight line nymph from shore.

Aug 30, 2018
by: Tyson

As Chris said it’s better to loose a few fish then outgun your rod. 5x will catch really big trout played right. I’m learning, and watcheing my mentor catch fish 3x what I could on the same tippet. Most 5x is 4-5lb test which is a great fish on any rod.

Aug 30, 2018
Thank you
by: Charlie Phelps

Thank you all for sharing your thoughts! They're much appreciated and make a good deal of sense.

Aug 30, 2018
Don't Fight the Wind
by: Les Albjerg

Charlie - I grew up in Minnesota. The wind out West is much different. Often it is gusty. So, be patient when you have to and wait for the gust to subside. Second, I have learned to use to the wind to my advantage. Work your way so you can cast downwind if at all possible. I really like 3.5 level line for the TB 40 in the wind. Last but not least, when the wind is raging, a small float (strike indicator) can really save your bacon. The float makes a nice hinge between your line and tippet. It helps you keep the line off the water. Play with it, you will see how it works once you try a float indicator. Most of all get your head straight about wind (I speak from experience.). There is nothing you can do about it, so try to use it to your advantage. The good news is this time of year, the wind isn't as bad usually.

Aug 31, 2018
Thank you Les
by: Charlie Phelps

I appreciate your additional comments about the wind. ...I fish smallies w/an 8 weight 'western' outfit on the St. Croix near Granstburg and we get a fair amount of wind at times there too. I don't doubt there is more farther west though!

Sep 27, 2018
Post trip comment
by: Charlie Phelps


The Bighorn of today is not the Bighorn of a year or two ago from what I learned.

I had a dozen fish in three days of fishing a pair of nymphs and a splitshot under a bobber on a 6 weight.

I enjoyed the trip tremendously, but expected more action.

I fished my tenakara rod only briefly as I enjoyed learning something new, which was the bobber/splitshot/nymph approach.

There are theories as to why the numbers are way down below the Yellowtial dam. One credible one is tied to the fact that the dam is currently managed in such a way that (a) lots of warm sediment-filled water spills off the top and (b) in the springtime the dam releases much, much more water than had been released until recently.

Sep 27, 2018
That is Sad!
by: Les Albjerg

Charlie - I am saddened by your story. Some of my fondest memories are fishing the Black Hills in South Dakota staying at my Uncle's and then taking a run over to the Big Horn and fishing that afternoon and evening, the next day and then the following morning "for the big ones." That was a long time ago.

Sep 28, 2018
Bighorn River Alliance
by: Charlie Phelps


I meant to mention the following yesterday, but rushed through my comment and omitted it.

The Bighorn River Alliance is an organization that is interested in improving the fishery.

It is my understanding that there have been 2 recent changes to the organization that possibly bode well for an improved fishery.

1) The organization recently (last year or two) hired an experienced person to pursue the alliance's interests.

2) The management of the dam does not have the interest of fishing in mind. This surprised me. I believe the bureau of reclamation runs the dam and their charter (if that is the correct word) has them managing the dam for other reasons. The good news is that a huge ranch or farm has been losing bank-side acreage to erosion recently due to the way the dam has been manged. It is my understanding that the dam management charter does need to take this sort of thing into account and MAY make changes to the way that water is released so that ag acreage is not eroded. The fishing people I talked to said that would be a benefit to the fishery as well.

Stay tuned on the site and contribute a gift to the organization if it is near and dear to you.

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