If you have ever been to the Bighorn River in Montana you know that the trout fishing is very incredible. What you might not know is that just 20 minutes away is some of the most fun, and amazingly scenic carp fishing you will ever have in your life time. I used to help teach guide schools out in Montana on the Bighorn for aspiring fly fishing guides. During the week we had one day off when other instructors would come in and put the students through a casting class as well as a first aid/CPR class. Instead of resting and relaxing on our day off, or putting the drifty back on the Bighorn for another trout day, we would head up to the BIG reservoir, and sight fish carp on dry flies all day. Bighorn Reservoir is in a 1000ft cliff walled canyon that feeds the beloved Bighorn River. In June the carp are sitting shallow in big groups post spawn in the back canyons of the 100 mile long reservoir. Now the carp may be sitting shallow but they are suspended over literally hundreds of feet of water, so when you hook up they go straight down, not out. This makes for a very interesting battle on the fly rod.
The hotter the daytime temps the better, hope for sun and as little wind as possible. Any old foam beetle/cicada/hopper looking thing in a black color will get you hooked up to a nice carp if you don’t spook the carp as you approach. With the vibrating engine the carp spook easily and will go deep, you won’t see them again for 20 mins or so. We kill the motor early and coast into the back bays and then get on the oars. Make sure your oars are not sqeaky either, anything will spook these wary buggers. Using a drift boat around the boat ramp is nice as it eliminates the motor all together. Sometimes you will pull into a back bay and there will be 50-100 carp cruising 6 inches under the surface. Some back bays will only have a couple or none at all. Just keep moving around until you find a good pod. A well placed fly in front of a cruising fish usually results in a hook up. Be prepared to make long casts as getting too close also puts the fish down.
You need a boat with a motor to be most effective but we have brought our drift boats to the lake and there are plenty of cruising carp within rowing distance of the boat ramp. Again, a bright sunny hot day is your best bet. It was in the 90’s on this particular day these photos were shot. Be prepared for strong afternoon thundershowers. 11am-3pm is your best time to be on the water. Photos and story by Robert Hawkins.