Species
Trout, Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, Cutthroat Trout
Destination Type
Lodge
Fishing Style
Drift Boat, Dry Fly, Sightfishing, Wading
Season
May - October
Fishing Days
3 - 6
Rate
$$
Why We Go
  • Fish for hard fighting brown and rainbow trout all season long
  • Explore a dynamic river suited well for both drifting and wading
  • Enjoy delightful meals that top any establishment in the area
  • Site fish for carp or look for bass on the incredibly scenic Yellowtail reservoir
  • Mix up the day on the water fishing a number of runs with a trout Spey set up
Overview

Cutting through the vast open hill-country of southeast Montana flows the fabled Bighorn River. With upwards of 4,000 trout per mile and reliably stable year-round flows, the Bighorn has become a tailwater fishery by which others are measured. While high catch rates of fish in the 14 to 18-inch class form the cornerstone of the angling experience, the river is also special in that it offers anglers of all skill levels the ability to fish a wide variety of tactics. Ranging from side drifting indicators from the boat to wade fishing back channels on foot and sight fishing to large trout feeding on small dry flies, this river has something for every angler.

Kingfisher Lodge is a simple yet tastefully appointed lodge well known for truly exceptional cuisine. On arrival and departure days, guests enjoy convenient walk-in access to the Bighorn River where they can fish unguided. Guided days will include full days floating on the Bighorn and exploring the many channels either on foot or by boat. Most evenings, after fishing, guests and guides share a ceremonial drink at their casual outdoor Lean Boat Bar. All and all this is a consistent and productive Montana operation where quality fishing and attention to detail are a given.

Fishing Program

Kingfisher Lodge’s fishing program is based around fly fishing the Bighorn River. The river is primarily accessed by drift boat but offers many walk-and-wade opportunities if desired. Typically anglers are picked up between 7:00 AM and 9:00 AM and return to the lodge between 4:00 PM and 6:00 PM. Thoughtfully prepared lunches will be served streamside.

The Bighorn River is a beautiful clear tailwater that flows out of Yellowtail Dam on Bighorn Lake. The lodge is situated a few miles below the dam for convenient access to the meandering river. In spring and fall, anglers will see blue-winged olives and other forms of baetis, and in the summer months, anglers will see PMDs and little yellow stoneflies. Toward the end of summer, the infamous trico hatch kicks into high gear and provides one of the sport’s most compelling challenges.

Accommodations

Kingfisher Lodge offers eight rooms, each with two queen beds, private bathroom and mini fridge. All rooms are a few paces from the common area where guests will enjoy meals and beverages. Casual outdoor seating and the Lean Boat Bar provide a great common place for guests to relax and chat about their day.

The menu is curated by trained chef Jenny Boedecker and meals are prepared fresh daily. A hot breakfast will be available each morning, along with standard continental offerings. Lunches are consistently rated the best in the area and will be made fresh each morning before being packed in your boat. After a cocktail hour where guests can snack on appetizers, an inspired dinner will be served in the main lodge. Big Horn County is a dry county and the lodge is unable to provide alcoholic beverages so guests are responsible for bringing their own.

Additional Experiences

Guests who opt not to fish can relax at the lodge, bird watch or take a day trip to Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Kingfisher Lodge after 12:00 PM. Get settled in and tour the property.

Days 2-5: Four full days of guided fishing on Bighorn River.

Day 6: Check out by 11:00 AM and depart for home or points beyond.

Rates & Details

2024 Rates: Per person based on double occupancy

  • 7 night/6 day package: $3,450
  • 6 night/5 day package: $2,950
  • 5 night/4 day package: $2,475
  • 4 night/3 day package: $1,925
  • 3 night/2 day package: $1,375

Included: Accommodations, meals, guided fishing, flies and terminal tackle

Not Included: Round-trip airfare and transportation to the lodge, alcohol, fishing licenses, staff and guide gratuities.

Species: Rainbow trout, brown trout

Season: March to November

Capacity: 16 guests

Fly Water Q&A

Who is best suited to this destination? This lodge is an excellent location for the budget conscious angler looking for fast access to the river. This is not a place for anglers who want to fish a different river every day, as the Bighorn River is the only river this lodge accesses. While it has been known in the past for its large trout population, in recent years the river has changed to be one with less trout and those that are netted tend to be of substantial size. The accommodations are simple and comfortable, and this is not a destination recommended for guests who will not be fishing.

Where is the lodge? The lodge is about 40-minutes southwest of Hardin, MT located about a ½ mile off the Big Horn River.

How do I get there? Guests will fly into Billings, MT airport, or to a private airport in Hardin, MT. Guests who fly into Billings will rent a car and drive an hour and a half to the lodge. Guests who fly into Hardin can have a shuttle arranged with the lodge.

When should I go? The dry flies show up in good numbers in early June through July, with hoppers consist late July through early September. Hot temperatures and low water make the fishing difficult in August and early September. Late September to early October, or April to early May can provide some exciting streamer or nymph fishing and will result in far fewer crowds.

How will I fish? Anglers will fish two per guide and will access all sections of the river by boat. For days on Yellowtail Reservoir, guests will fish from a small jetboat.

Spring and fall offer exciting streamer fishing and there are some nice runs to use a two-handed rod to swing for some of those aggressive browns. In July and August hoppers are a favorite and are usually fished with a dropper. When the days are long and the fish are wary, the most productive fishing will be on nymph rigs using a balloon as an indicator and two flies. The well-timed angler may have a chance at fishing the trico hatch, but beware, your fly will be one in a flurry so big that it can be tough to have a fish to rise to your fly.

Is there wade fishing? There is wonderful wade fishing in the many channels and on the multiple islands scattered along this river. While the river is best accessed by boat, anglers can spend a day walking along some scenic and easy to wade side channels for a more physically active day of fishing.

Where will I fish? The trout fishing starts below the afterbay dam just outside of Fort Smith, and continues north for 60 miles, but the most prominent fishing happens for about 40 miles downriver. Anglers can also fish the afterbay for carp. The icing on the cake of this location is Yellowtail Reservoir. If anglers aren’t too busy staring at the cliffs and wildlife along the edges of this reservoir, they will have shots at smallmouth bass and carp along the banks.

How long does it take to reach the fishing grounds? Guests will generally spend about ten minutes in the car, and may spend twenty minutes if they are going to the reservoir or access points farther downriver.

What type(s) of fish will I catch? There are brown and rainbow trout primarily in this river, as well as a healthy whitefish population. On the reservoir anglers can catch rainbow trout, carp and bass.

How many fish will I catch? This depends greatly on the fishing method and time of year but guests should expect an average of 5 to 10 fish per day.

Will I see other anglers? Guests fishing in the summer months will see many other anglers. Those who visit in April, May, and after late September will see far fewer anglers but will still likely see other boats on the river.

What are the guides like? The guides are friendly, experienced and range in age and style. There are three guides who work primarily with anglers interested in trout Spey. All the guides work only on the Bighorn River and are in tune with its daily conditions.

What are the physical demands? There are no physical demands. The boat access makes getting on and off the river very easy. The private boat ramp is about a half mile down the road, and guests who have difficulty walking can drive their car for some wade fishing.

Are there any special skills required? There are no special skills required. Streamer fishing and Spey casting are a great way to experience this river, and the guides are dedicated to getting anglers to the fish.

Does the lodge provide equipment? The guides will come prepared with rods, reels, and terminal tackle, and the lodge can provide boots and waders. Please be sure to send us your shoe size in advance if this is something you need, as they do not have a stocked set on property.

What is your favorite setup for the trip? A 6-weight 9-foot will do everything needed for this trip. A two-handed rod is a fun addition for someone interested in swinging flies.

Single hand set up:

Two-handed set up:

What are the top flies? Black Caddis, any pattern of hopper, black leaches, scuds and san juan worms.

What are the options if water conditions become challenging? The lodge is comfortable, cozy and the hosts are excellent, if the conditions become challenging and anglers are unable to stay on the river, the option is to enjoy the good company at the lodge.

What is a typical day like? Guests will sit down for breakfast at 7:00 AM, and generally finish around 7:30 AM. The guides usually roll in between 7:30 and 8:00 AM, and will take the guests out as soon as they have loaded up the truck. Anglers will usually return between 4:00 and 5:00 PM and can hang out by the boats with the guides and a beer in hand. Appetizers are served from 6:00 to 7:00 PM. Dinner is a lovely affair including a starter, main course and delightful dessert. Guests can choose to hang in the lodge or around the fire after dinner, or to go back to their rooms to rest up for the next day.

What is the general vibe, atmosphere and style of the lodge? The lodge is very laid back. Guests come from all over the country and can most often be found chatting about their day around the lean boat, the fire pit, on the deck around some cocktails or at the dinner table inside the main lodge.

Is there an on-site owner, manager or other point-person at the lodge? Yes. There is an on-site manager at the lodge.

Where do we eat, and what are the meals like? Guests will eat at the long dining table inside, but can break into smaller groups and eat outside on the deck if so desired. Each night is something different and guests can expect beautifully plated main courses accompanied by savory appetizers, a light and healthy starter and an indulgent dessert each night. Breakfasts will usually be served buffet style, although small groups may have plated breakfasts, served with a variety of fruit, oatmeal, coffee and orange juice. Lunches may be a fresh salad, sandwich or wrap with snacks and beverages. All dietary restrictions can be accommodated with advance notice.

What is the alcohol policy? The lodge does not provide alcohol, so guests should stop in Billings to pick up any beer, wine or liquor they would like to have throughout the trip.

Where do we stay, and what are the accommodations like? The nine rooms are side-by-side and connected to the main lodge by a walkway. Each double occupancy room has two queen beds, all are simple and comfortable with ensuite bathroom and a coffee machine. There is shampoo and body wash, those of you with long hair may want to bring conditioner. In addition to the standard lodge rooms, there is an outbuilding called the Ranch House which will sleep four guests in twin beds with one shared bathroom. Rooms at the lodge can be booked at single occupancy with an upcharge, please call for rates.

Is there internet and/or cell service? The cell service throughout eastern Montana is spotty, Wifi is available throughout the lodge and in the rooms.

Are there other activities? Guests are highly encouraged to schedule some time to fish or tour Yellowtail Reservoir one day, they can drive to it themselves but it is best viewed by jetboat (this can be scheduled in advance or upon arrival with the lodge).

Are there any other expenses? Guests should plan on rental car fees, gratuities, alcohol purchase and Montana fishing license expense.

Do I need a visa? A visa is not needed for this trip.

Are there any health concerns, dangers or annoyances? Weather in the Rockies can be unpredictable and guests are encouraged to bring layers for cool mornings and evenings with an option for lighter clothes during the heat of the day. Rain and snow are a possibility in most months of the year. Wind can be an issue around fall, and in early summer there may be some mosquitos at boat ramps.

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