Trip Overview 

Unquestionably one of the greatest trout rivers in the world, fly fishing the Bighorn River is an angler’s dream-come-true. Its clear, trout-filled waters flow from the base of the Yellowtail Dam in Fort Smith, MT and abundant insect hatches produce exceptional rainbow and brown trout fishing year-round for both novice and expert anglers alike. With a team of the most hardworking and courteous guides in Montana, the Bighorn Angler is second to none when it comes to outfitting, having offered high quality fly fishing packages for over 30 years. Their wide array of lodging options, top-notch guide service and home cooked meals are the perfect ingredients for the ultimate Bighorn River fly fishing experience.  You will also find a fully-stocked fly shop with a knowledgeable and courteous staff on-site.

Destination Quick Facts 

Bighorn Angler - Yellow Dog Flyfishing AdventuresLOCATION:  Fort Smith, Montana

SEASON:  Year-round

CAPACITY:  Groups of all sizes can be accommodated


TARGET SPECIES:  Rainbow and brown trout

DOCUMENTS REQUIRED:  Montana fishing license and valid I.D.

CONTACT US FOR MORE INFO     888-777-5060     INTL 01-1-406-585-8667       info [at] yellowdogflyfishing [dot] com


Lodging Details

Bighorn Angler Lodge Rooms
Newly-remodeled Lodge Rooms offer anglers the best mix of quality, convenience and price in Fort Smith.  The Lodge offers rooms with either two or three beds. Each room is equipped with air conditioning, high quality bedding and towels, satellite television and wireless internet, making the perfect retreat after a long day on the river.

Riverbend Cabins
Two identical luxury cabins are located on the bluff about one mile outside Fort Smith. Surrounded by over 40 acres of private land and a quarter mile of river frontage, each cabin is 2,000 square feet with three bedrooms and two full bathrooms. There are six beds in each cabin, and each cabin is outfitted with a furnace, fireplace and air conditioning! The kitchen has all stainless steel appliances, concrete countertops, wine rack, herbs and spices for cooking, pots, pans, dishes, and silverware. The living area has extremely comfortable leather furniture, reading lamps, fireplace, and a 50 inch plasma television with surround sound, DVD player, and satellite TV. And again, the extraordinary view of the Bighorn River! Cabins also have grills on the wrap around porches, Wi-Fi internet access and pets are welcome.

Food and Beverages
Lunches are included with your day on the water and will be packed in a boat cooler along with beverages.  If you are staying in Fort Smith, there are several restaurant options after your day on the water, such as Polly’s Place, The River Run Dining Room and the Yellowtail Market.

 The Bighorn River flows through the Crow Indian Reservation, where the sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited. Alcoholic beverages should be purchased in Hardin or Billings prior to your arrival.

Typical Length of Stay
Trips and packages of any length can be arranged and all trips are completely customized. Call Yellow Dog for details.

Non-Angling Activities and Options
This is primarily a fishing-focused destination, however there are a few sights that non-anglers and anglers will find fascinating. The Little Bighorn Battlefield is located 45 minutes from the Lodge.  You can take a tour of the battlefield where Custer’s famous "Last Stand" and defeat to Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse occurred. There is also a historic museum on-site as well. Bighorn Lake is a short 10-mile drive from the shop. It is a popular area for boating, fishing and wildlife watching.

Internet / Communications
Internet access is available at the the Bighorn Angler. Cell coverage in the Fort Smith area can be spotty. Be sure to check with your service provider prior to your trip regarding specific coverage in the area.


General Information
The Bighorn River is a classic tailwater river, emerging from the depths of Bighorn Lake in Eastern Montana. The Yellowtail Dam has created a fertile river, displaying unique spring creek characteristics that allow rainbow and brown trout to thrive year-round. There is somewhere around 5,000 fish per mile in the Bighorn, with the highest population counts near the Afterbay Dam. Trout in the river average around 15 inches, with many fish pushing the 20-inch range.  Bighorn river trout fight as hard as any on the planet, due to highly consistent water temperatures year-round.

Below Afterbay Dam, the fishing remains productive for about 30 river miles. From here, the Bighorn is broken into three distinct sections: Afterbay to 3 Mile, 3  Mile to Bighorn Access, and Bighorn Access to Mallard’s Landing. Each section contains variances in water temperature, fish per mile, aquatic life, hatches, and fish behavior. These characteristics create unique fishing conditions in which the angler may experience a wide array of terrific fishing throughout the year. Throughout the river’s length, rainbows and brown trout thrive on a steady diet of sowbugs, scuds, worms and midges year-round which accounts for the large average size of the fish in the river.

Boats and Equipment Required
Float fishing on the Bighorn River is accomplished with comfortable, Western-style drift boats.

Suggested Rods:
- 8’ to 9’ / 4 – 5 weight rods for dry fly fishing
- 9’ to 10’ / 5 – 6 weight rods for nymph fishing
- 9’ / 6 – 8 weight rods for streamer fishing

Larger arbor reels with floating lines for dry fly and nymph fishing work best. Intermediate or full sink lines are preferred for streamer fishing. As always, you will want to have with you sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, rain jacket and a camera.

Remember that rods, reels, waders and boots are all included with your guide if you do not have your own. The Bighorn Angler carries all necessary equipment for purchase. 


How To Get There
Airline access is to the airport in Billings, Montana (BIL), which has an all-weather international airport served by Northwest, Delta, United, Horizon and Big Sky airlines.

Arrival and Departure Details / Times
A public airstrip also is available at Fort Smith for private aircraft. Rental cars from all major agencies are available at the Billings Airport or, for a nominal fee, the Lodge can arrange to pick you up at the airport and drop you off at the end of your stay.

Documents Required
Montana fishing licenses are available at all area fly shops and sporting goods stores, or online by visiting the following website: Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. You will need a valid driver's license or other photo ID in order to purchase your fishing license.

Travel Arrangements
Yellow Dog offers a full in-house travel and reservations system, and can assist with airline tickets, hotels, transfers, and all travel logistics for every destination that we offer. Contact us at 888-777-5060 or travel [at] yellowdogflyfishing [dot] com for more details on airfare ticketing, travel services and trip insurance.


Package Rates
Remember that Yellow Dog's services are completely free! When you book a trip with Yellow Dog, you never pay more than when you book directly with the lodge or outfitter. All Prices listed below are per person, based on double occupancy, and quoted in US dollars. Trips of any length of stay can be arranged, so please call Yellow Dog for details and custom package pricing.

2018 Pricing
Lodge Room

2 nights / 1 day = $485.00
3 nights / 2 days = $860.00
4 nights / 3 days = $1,225.00
5 nights / 4 days = $1,480.00

Deluxe Room
2 nights / 1 day = $510.00
3 nights / 2 days = $895.00
4 nights / 3 days = $1,280.00
5 nights / 4 days = $1,665.00

Bighorn Angler Cabin (based on 4 anglers)
2 nights / 1 day = $495.00
3 nights / 2 days = $610.00
4 nights / 3 days = $1,250.00
5 nights / 4 days = $1,365.00

Riverbend Angler Cabin (based on 6 anglers)
2 nights / 1 day = $520.00
3 nights / 2 days = $910.00
4 nights / 3 days = $1,300.00
5 nights / 4 days = $1,695.00

Riverview Lodge (based on 8 anglers)
2 nights / 1 day = $515.00
3 nights / 2 days = $900.00
4 nights / 3 days = $1,290.00
5 nights / 4 days = $1,675.00

What's Included

  • Number of days of fully guided fishing as specified in your package
  • Number of nights lodging as specified in your package
  • Meals as specified
  • Daily streamside lunch
  • Non-alcoholic beverages
  • All shuttle fees
  • Montana state lodging tax

What's Not Included

  • Transportation to and from Fort Smith Montana
  • Montana fishing license
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Gratuities for guides and staff

The Bighorn Angler in Fort Smith is a fully stocked fly shop offering everything that an angler could need to make their trip to the Bighorn River a successful trip. The knowledgeable staff spends hundreds of days on the river each year and can assist in fly pattern selection, fishing techniques and other information about the river that will help make your fishing more enjoyable. 

Client Testimonials

"Just returned from a 3.5 day fly fishing trip on the Bighorn River in Montana. One of the most incredible fly fishing experiences I have had. We were guided by Owner and guide Pete Shanafelt from the Bighorn angler fly shop. In those days of fishing each of us caught dozens of trout ranging from 14 to 21 inches. On two of the days I caught fish on dries, streamers, and nymphs. Our guide knew the river well and he made sure our experience was top notch. I plan to return next year."
- Jake (San Juan Capistrano, CA)

"I want to thank guide Pete Shanafelt and the staff at Bighorn Angler for making my trip to the Bighorn in September 2013 one I will never forget. Having lived in Montana most of my life I had never fished the river before but had heard so much about it. Being a novice flyfisherman, I decided a guided trip was the way to go. Pete showed ultimate patience in my inexperience and taught me much during the day. There is nothing better than getting a all day lesson while catching trout! My expectations were more than met and I plan to do this again on my next trip to my homestate. Thanks again Pete!"
- Carl (Phoenix, AZ)

"Fished three days with expert guide David Palmer. The fishing was off the charts. Enjoyed David's love of fishing and the outdoors. Helps you to realize the beautiful scenery, not just looking down at the water. Lodging is good. Food is excellent. Staff is more than helpful. This was the 2nd trip to Bighorn Angler. Will definitely go again next year."
- Jed (Southern California)