Bighorn River Guided Fly Fishing Trips
The Bighorn River begins as the Wind River, rising from Togwotee Pass near Brooks Lake west of Dubois, Wyoming. The river flows 460 miles through Wyoming and Montana, through a varied landscape ranging from tumbling mountain headwaters to desolate sagebrush badlands and the spectacular Wind River and Bighorn Canyons. From its headwaters downstream just shy of Thermopolis, Wyoming, the river is named the Wind River. Native Americans, mountain men, and early explorers called the river the Wind from its source downstream through the Wind River Canyon. Below the canyon, it was called the Bighorn River. The Wedding of the Waters is a demarcation below the Wind River Canyon where the river changes names from the Wind to the Bighorn. The Bighorn River, the largest tributary to the Yellowstone River, flows through Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin into Bighorn Lake. Emerging from Yellowtail Dam in Montana, the river flows through the Crow Indian Reservation before eventually spilling into the Yellowstone River.
Bighorn River Fishing Trips at Thermopolis
At Thermopolis, Wyoming, the Bighorn River is the base camp for your Thermopolis Fly Fishing Vacation. Our Bighorn River, Wyoming fishing trips begin at the Wedding of the Waters just below the canyon and the Wind River Indian Reservation boundary.
The Bighorn River settles down after a tumultuous journey through the Wind River Canyon. The river gently flows through an arid landscape of juniper foothills and cultivated river bottom lined with Russian olives. Views of the Wind River Canyon gashing through the landscape to the south next to the rising, fissured Minnesela Slope welcome the eyes. The red slopes and flat summit of Roundtop Mountain stand watch over the town of Thermopolis.
The river flows over glossy runs with grassy thickets wavering in currents. Seams and runs cruise past banks and islands covered by high, lush grasses. Shallow riffles spread across gravel bars with depressed buckets leading into deeper runs. Overhanging Russian olives collect floating moss, creating shelters for trout to hang beneath. Below the Buffalo Creek confluence, impressive, vertical red sandstone cliffs of the Chugwater Formation rise straight up from the river, providing a photogenic fishing backdrop.
The Bighorn drifts through the town of Thermopolis into Hot Springs State Park, where Bighorn Springs pours into the river over its multicolored travertine terraces. The river cuts through travertine cliffs gaining nutrient-rich, warm waters for the next mile as it gently drifts north of town past the Fountain of Youth. Below the town, the river slows down with fewer riffles, and a couple of rocky diversion dams provide tricky obstacles for drift boats and rafts floating this stretch. The lower river is characterized by sweeping bends, mature cottonwood trees, braided channels, grassy islands, and persistent Russian olives. The river flows by pastoral croplands, sagebrush scrublands, and past rocky rimrocked badlands.
Bald eagles and ospreys hunt the river’s currents. Chocolate-colored minks pounce along rocky shorelines, whitetail deer flag through riverside grasses, and pheasants crow in nearby cover. Rocks and gravel bars are littered with crayfish shells discarded by raccoons that devour these shellfish.
Trout gorge on prolific numbers of sowbugs, aquatic worms, Baetis, tricos, midges, yellow sallies, and caddis. Early summer sallies, sparse caddis, blanket hatches of spring and fall Baetis, and a lengthy trico hatch lasting from late June into early October provide challenging dry fly fishing. Fish rise in shallow riffles, tight to overhanging grassy banks, and on glassy microcurrents throughout the river. Pods of fish can be heard slurping trico spinners and are sometimes mistaken for a riffle. Delicate casts and drag-free downstream drifts with light tippets are required to hook these wary fish. Once a fish is hooked, a spooked pod of rising trout explodes, reminiscent of hooking a bonefish amid a shallow water school.
These trout are beasts! Rainbows predominate, but large browns, cutthroats, and cutbows are present. Anglers can’t appreciate the actual weight of these trout until they are landed and get a look at their girth. Most trout run from 18” to 22”, and you never know when a huge brown or rainbow topping 24” will grab your fly. These fish are powerful, often burying into weed beds or making surging runs followed by acrobatic aerial leaps. Our Wyoming fishing guides will help you target these bruising trout. The highest concentration of fish is above Hot Springs State Park, while numbers diminish further downstream as the river eventually transitions into a dewatered warmwater fishery above Worland. Massive carp can be found in slower holes and backwaters where anglers can sight-fish for these freshwater redfish resembling brutes.
Trout frequently hold in shallow riffles, graveled buckets, under grassy cutbanks, along rocky shorelines, in mid-river runs, and under overhanging Russian olives and their moss pads. Big trout sliding out from overhanging cover across pebbled bottoms in shallow, clear water to grab your fly provide thrilling visuals.
Shallow water nymphing and dry/droppers work well when fish aren’t zeroed in on a specific hatch. Streamers and crawfish patterns stripped and twitched along banks, over weed beds, and through buckets incite aggressive strikes. Deepwater nymphing is reserved for specific stretches and times of the year when preferred tactics aren’t working.
Other Small Streams
Within an hour of Thermopolis are many small streams and creeks for those who seek variety. Small limestone canyon creeks flow from the Bighorn Mountains, providing excellent dry fly fishing for nice browns and rainbows. Our Wyoming fly fishing guides have private access to several creeks. Between Thermopolis and Cody are several small streams and creeks with superb hopper fishing for browns and native Yellowstone cutthroats. Take a break from floating the Bighorn to enjoy some of these fantastic streams and creeks on your Thermopolis, Wyoming fly fishing vacation.
Required Licenses & Fees
Situated on the way to Cody and the east entrance of Yellowstone Park, Thermopolis is the county seat for Hot Springs County, with a population of about 3,000 residents. Thermopolis highlights include the numerous hot springs facilities, world-class fly fishing, the Wyoming Dinosaur Center, and many outdoor activities.
Treat your mind, body, and soul with a soothing soak in natural mineral hot springs of varying temperatures, swim in pools, unwind in dry saunas and steam rooms, and ride on waterslides at the Star Plunge, Hellie’s Tepee Pools, Fountain of Youth, and the Hot Springs State Park Bath House. Schedule a massage, enjoy a spa day or attend a yoga class. Check out shops, galleries, and rock shops in town, and visit Merlin’s Hideout to browse their buffalo rugs, robes, numerous hides, pelts, apparel, accessories, and gifts. Tour the Hot Springs County Museum & Cultural Center or the impressive Wyoming Dinosaur Center. You may also tour the Wyoming Whiskey facility in Kirby, just north of Thermopolis. Various music festivals and events occur in town throughout the year, including an Acoustic Jam Session, Thermopolis Cowboy Rendezvous PRCA Rodeo, and Thermopolis Brewfest.
While fishing, non-anglers often enjoy riding along in the back of the boat, taking in the action, scenery, photographing, reading a book, and relaxing.
Take photographs and view the various thermal features in Hot Springs State Park, walk across the suspension bridge above the Bighorn River, and hike the Park’s trails, where you may be able to view its bison herd. There are also hundreds of miles of hiking trails in the nearby Shoshone and Bighorn National Forests. You may take a whitewater trip through the Wind River Canyon, take a horseback trail ride, rent kayaks and tubes to float the river, rent an ATV to explore back roads or play golf at the Thermopolis Golf Course.
Guests often plan several extra days to enjoy other activities and explore the area in combination with their fishing trip. Visit Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks and drive through the gorgeous Wind River Canyon, observing its numerous geological formations. Take a scenic drive up Ten Sleep Canyon into the Bighorn Mountains and enjoy a craft beer at Ten Sleep Brewing Company. Take day trips to check out Legend Rock State Petroglyph Site and Medicine Lodge State Archeological Site. View fossilized dinosaur footprints at Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite near Shell, Wyoming, or hike trails and view the unique formations at Gooseberry Badlands. Drive north to Meeteetse, buy some delicious goodies from the Meeteetse Chocolatier, and grab lunch and a cold one at the Elkhorn or Cowboy Bars. Check out the historic mining ghost town of Kirwin up the Wood River.
Thermopolis and the surrounding area have no shortage of activities for anglers and non-anglers alike.
Reserving Your Fly Fishing Vacation
We recommend booking your Wyoming fly fishing vacation well in advance to ensure the best guides and accommodations. Guides and accommodations may be hard to reserve on short notice. A 50% deposit is required to finalize your Wyoming fly fishing vacation reservations. Please read the Terms and Conditions for complete details.
Arrival & Ground Transportation
Upon arrival, your guide will pick you up, or ground transfers will take you to your accommodations. You may also choose to rent a vehicle. Having independent transportation allows more flexibility and freedom during your trip.
We recommend arriving the day before your fishing begins. Upon arrival, you may purchase any last-minute provisions and settle into your accommodations. Relax, explore the town and local area, enjoy your favorite beverages and appetizers at a local saloon, and dine at one of the many excellent restaurants.
Each day, after coffee and a delicious breakfast, you will make final preparations and drive to your fishing destination, where you will enjoy an exciting day of fishing and adventure. Most fishing locations are within an hour of your lodging, though some can be further. Expect to spend six to eight hours on the water fishing, taking in the scenery, watching wildlife and songbirds, photographing, trading jokes, and having a great time. Tasty lunches with non-alcoholic beverages are served on the water daily; feel free to bring any alcoholic beverages of your choice.
After a full day of fishing and adventure, return to your comfortable accommodations, perhaps stopping at a favorite watering hole on the way back. Back at your accommodations, clean up with a refreshing shower, relax and enjoy apres fishing.
Then head out for some local “culture,” sample regional craft beers at a taproom or spirits at a local distillery. Indulge in a juicy ribeye steak, grab an elk burger, or enjoy a healthy salad for dinner. Wrap your day up with a nightcap and live music before settling in for a rejuvenating night’s rest.
Rinse and repeat daily as you see fit.
You may choose to stay at all-inclusive lodges or other accommodations with onsite meals, or you may elect to sample the many local cafes and restaurants. Foodservice and beverage gratuities are included in all-inclusive package rates. You may prefer Fishing & Lodging only packages; meals and alcoholic beverages are not included.
Lunch, Snacks & Beverages
Shore lunches, snacks, and non-alcoholic beverages are provided each day.
Alcoholic beverages are included with meals in all-inclusive packages. Expensive wines and alcoholic purchases exceeding $100 per day will be billed to the client. All alcoholic beverages apart from meals are the responsibility of clients.
Since we do not have the proper licenses, we cannot provide alcoholic beverages for you during the trip, except when purchased from licensed establishments such as restaurants and bars. You may purchase alcohol to bring with you on the water and during your trip.
Cell Service & Internet
Many towns and locations in Wyoming have good cell phone reception. Other locations have spotty reception or no reception at all. Cell service is often spotty while driving due to the mountainous terrain, rolling hills, draws, and river bottoms.
Wireless internet connectivity is available in many locations and accommodations. Some accommodations do not have cell service or internet connectivity. Be sure to notify people of your potential unavailability and take care of all personal and business tasks beforehand.
Please let us know your lodging preferences for your customized Wyoming Fly Fishing Vacation. Depending on availability, we may book the following accommodations for you.
- All-Inclusive Lodges
- Private Vacation Rentals
- Cabins and Cottages
- Bed & Breakfasts
- Secluded Guest Ranches
- Historic Hotels
*Rates may increase for upgraded premium lodging facilities and services.
Once you have confirmed your trip with us, you’ll want to make flight reservations as soon as possible.
We recommend flying into Cody, Wyoming (COD). You may also fly into Billings, Montana (BIL), or Casper, Wyoming (CPR).
Yellowstone Regional Airport – Cody, Wyoming
Served by United Airlines
Billings-Logan International Airport – Billings, Montana
Served by Alaska, Allegiant, American, Delta, Frontier, United Airlines, and smaller carriers.
Served by Delta Airlines and United Airlines.
*Transportation not provided if flying into Casper, Wyoming.
Depending on your itinerary and preferences, your guide(s) may pick you up at the airport. You may also choose to rent a vehicle for greater flexibility and freedom during your trip. Major car rental companies are available at your arrival airport. We will work with you to finalize transportation details at the time of booking.
Drive Times To and From Thermopolis, Wyoming
Cody 1 Hour, 15 Minutes
Casper 2 Hours
Billings 3 Hours, 15 Minutes
Please book departing airline reservations for the day after your trip ends. We may book accommodations with shuttle services to your departing airport. Your guide(s) may also drop you off at the airport, depending on your itinerary. Ground transfers are also available to the airport if you do not have a rental vehicle.
All-Inclusive Fly Fishing Vacation Rates
4 Nights/3 Days5 Nights/4 Days6 Nights/5 Days7 Nights/6 Days
Fishing & Lodging Only Fly Fishing Vacation Rates
4 Nights/3 Days5 Nights/4 Days6 Nights/5 Days7 Nights/6 Days
Rates based on 2 anglers/guide, double occupancy
- Contact us for Single Angler Supplement Rates
- Rates may increase for upgraded premium lodging facilities and services
- Additional fees may be charged for private chefs and caterers
- Fishing & Lodging Only Rates Do Not Include Transportation, Meals or Alcoholic Beverages
A 50% deposit is required to finalize your reservation and is due within 10 days of booking your trip. We will invoice you by email, and upon receiving your invoice, you can choose to pay using the online ACH payment option. This option is a quick and convenient way to pay your trip deposit and finalize your reservation.
Payment reminders will be sent by email for open invoices with remaining balances due, which can be paid using the ACH option.
Deposits and final payments can be paid with bank wire transfers, credit cards, or mailing checks payable to Greater Yellowstone Flyfishing Outfitters. A 3.5 % convenience fee is assessed for all credit card transactions. Please contact us if you prefer cash or other payment forms.
Greater Yellowstone Flyfishing Outfitters Payment Options
- ACH Online Payments – U.S. financial institutions and bank accounts only
- Personal & Business Checks* - U.S. financial institutions and bank accounts only
- Electronic Wire Payments - wiring fees are the responsibility of the client
- Credit Cards – 3.5% Convenience Fee applied
- International Payments can be made via wire or with a credit card.
*Client will be billed all associated costs for returned checks. The client will have 7 days to reimburse Greater Yellowstone Flyfishing Outfitters for returned check costs and provide an alternative form of payment; otherwise, trip reservations will be cancelled, and all deposits and payments will be forfeited.
- Transportation & Airport Pick Up and Drop Off*
- All Meals, Snacks, Appetizers & Associated Gratuities**
- Alcoholic Beverages with Meals**
- Lunch, Snacks & Non-Alcoholic Beverages on the river**
- Fishing Guides – 2 Anglers/Guide
- Flies & Terminal Tackle
- Rods & Reels – If Needed
- River Shuttles
- Airline Flights
- Rental Car (Optional)*
- Additional lodging and meals beyond your scheduled trip
- Upgraded Premium Lodging
- Private Chefs
- Fishing Licenses
- Gratuities for Fishing Guides, Private Ground Transfers
- Rental Waders & Boots - If Needed
- Personal Expenses & Incidentals
- Personal Items – See Gear List PDFs Below
- Park Entrance Fees
*We may arrange private ground transfers between the airport and your accommodations. You may also rent a vehicle for greater flexibility and freedom during your trip. Transportation is not included in Fishing & Lodging Only rates. We will work with you to finalize transportation details at booking.
**All meals, snacks, appetizers, alcoholic beverages with meals, and associated gratuities are included in all-inclusive packages. Meals, appetizers, and alcoholic beverages are not included in Fishing & Lodging Only packages. Alcoholic beverages are not included on the river, but you may bring your own.
Our guides work very hard to ensure an enjoyable trip, and we encourage you to tip accordingly. Fly Fishing Vacations and Road Trips require significant time, additional work, and numerous logistics by your guide, which go well beyond a typical day trip. We suggest an appropriate gratuity from $150-$200/day/guide for these reasons. However, an excellent day of fishing, a memorable event, or extra effort on the guide's behalf may deserve more. Please consider that our guides work harder when fishing is slow or during adverse weather. Cash gratuities should be given directly to your guide daily or upon finishing multi-day trips.
Many variables beyond our control, such as weather, wind, barometric pressure, water temperatures, and fish behavior, influence the day's fishing. While fishing is a highlight of your trip, there are numerous ways to enjoy your fly fishing vacation. Please align your expectations with the conditions and your abilities. No expectations, no disappointments!
Clients frequently invite guides for drinks or dinner after fishing. Socializing is a great way to celebrate the day's events, plan the next day, and connect. While guides always appreciate the generosity, buying drinks and dinner are not considered part of or in lieu of gratuities. Socializing extends a guide's long and physically demanding day. Time is required before and after each day's trip for preparing, organizing, and cleaning.
Please let us know if you have any comments or concerns about your trip.
We realize these trips are expensive, and much is at stake financially. For this reason, we highly recommend that you purchase trip insurance in advance. Unforeseen circumstances arise, and travel insurance is very reasonable should you have to cancel your trip for any reason. We recommend Travel Guard Travel Insurance and Global Rescue Insurance to protect your financial investment, which may cover trip cancellations for any reason. For more information or to purchase Trip Insurance, please visit Travel Guard or Global Rescue.
To receive complete coverage options and benefits, be sure to purchase travel insurance within 15 days of paying your deposit.
Medical Evacuation Insurance
We recommend Global Rescue’s worldwide medical evacuation and extraction services if you become ill or injured during your trip or due to natural disaster, COVID-19, and other reasons. Due to the remote nature of many of our trips, potential challenges receiving immediate professional medical help, and limited cell coverage, we highly recommend purchasing medical evacuation insurance along with your trip insurance.
For more information or to purchase Medical Evacuation Insurance, please visit Global Rescue.