Photo from Bighorn Angler

Podcast 31 | The Bighorn River with Pete Shanafelt.

In Episode 31, I Wadeouthere with Pete Shanafelt from Fort Smith, MT.  Pete followed his dream to become a fly fishing guide at an early age and eventually became one of the youngest shop owners in the west at the Bighorn Angler.  We discuss:

  • The Bighorn River.
  • Fishing dries.
  • How water temperature affects fishing.

** NOTE** Podcast episode and upcoming guests appear at the end of this short article.
Subscribers have access to submit questions for future guests.

I fished the Bighorn River in August of 2018 with my father and brother.  It was my first time visiting a river after my last combat deployment to Afghanistan.  At the time, I did not know that it would be my last deployment.  My decision to leave the A-10 behind after fourteen years deeply impacted my life.  That trip to the Bighorn was cathartic.  The fishing was excellent.  The room was great.  The food was outstanding. Everyone we talked to was genuine in their desire for us to have a great time. 

The thing I remember most though, is never discussing the decision to leave the A-10. Even with two of the people I care most about, it did not come up.

I was not trying to avoid it.  I was simply enthralled with my experience on that river and being with people I loved. The Bighorn truly is a special trout stream.

Key Takeaways.

Pete is a no b.s. guy. It was refreshing to hear his opinions on the Bighorn River and what makes it a special fishery. Here are some key takeaways from our conversation:

  • Big fish will hang out in very skinny water on the Bighorn. Even in eight to ten inches of water there can be big fish and lots of them. This was certainly my experience when I fished there.
  • Water temperature can have some drastic affects on when a hatch occurs from year to year. I fished the Trico hatch in August, which is typical. Pete said he has seen Tricos in June! Which means no more big hatches for the summer.
  • “Fish don’t have eyelids!” Low sunlight in a fish’s eye can cause them to be more spooky and tougher to catch with dry flies.
  • Sometimes even a slight change to the same fly is enough to get the fish biting. They see the same flies so much, something new, like a red bead head, or some flash, can make the difference.
  • Persistence with dry fly fishing can pay off. Trout on the Bighorn will sometimes eat in patterns. You may have to show that fly to them ten times, or time it just right before they take it.
  • Pete’s number one tip for dry fly fishing? Don’t go in the wind… Ha!

Learn More.

For information on why the riffles are a great place to target trout:

READ: WADEOUTTHERE | Fish the Riffles.

For the story of my trip to the Bighorn River and why planning a fly fishing trip with family can help get you back out to the river even during a busy life:

READ: WADEOUTTHERE | The Rendezvous – More Than a Fly Fishing Trip.

For techniques and tips for hooking up when the hatch is in full swing and the “trout are lazy”:

READ: WADEOUTTHERE | Four Tips for Hooking Up When the Hatch is On.

To book a trip to the Bighorn River with the Bighorn Angler, check out:

Upcoming Podcast Guests.

  • Matthew “Vino” Kaercher – Old A-10 buddy of mine who grew up fishing the Stillwater River in Montana.
  • Nate Tower – Maine fly fisherman.
  • Brian Wise – Fly Fishing the Ozarks.
  • Christian Bacasa – Dupeafish.

Subscribers – Ask a Question on the Podcast.

If you have a question for an upcoming guest, I would love to hear from you. I will ask questions from Wadeoutthere subscribers towards the end of the conversation during “Wadeoutthere Wants to Know.”

Finally, if you enjoy the Wadeoutthere Fly Fishing Podcast, and want to help it grow, please leave a rating and review.

I hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed talking with Pete. Wadeoutthere.


Jason Shemchuk

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