After a winter of chasing steelhead here in NorCal nothing gets me more excited than the thought of stringing up a 5 or 6 weight and the start of trout season. As fly fishermen, most of us get our start with and return to trout. I have trips on the books for Chinook Salmon, Bonefish, GT’s and Steelhead,  but nothing compares to chasing trout with a fly rod.  In my opinion there is no other fish that is perfectly suited to fly fishing than trout.  I am fortunate to live in trout-country and go just about anywhere to chase them. However, for the last 2 years and the one coming I have chosen to start my trout season on the Bighorn river at Kingfisher Lodge.

Anglers in a drift boat on the Bighorn at Kingfisher Lodge

The Bighorn is a magical place. The sheer numbers of fish per mile is staggering. The availability of different styles of fishing is one of the great draws of the river. On my recent trip to the ‘Horn I was able to find fish wading small riffles, throwing streamers from the boat, fishing dry flies to risers on the bank and of course nymphing.  Here on the Lower Sac in Redding, we have a world-class trout fishery but are mostly limited to nymphing from the drift boat. It is great to get outside your comfort zone with a group of NorCal anglers and fish in a different style at a different fishery. And there is no better spot than the Bighorn.

Holding a brown trout

Kingfisher Lodge runs an amazing operation and I can’t say enough about it.  The Taylors have a real gem of a lodge, close to the water and within easy access of one of the most popular take outs – no wasted motion. Matt Gotto and Jason Bunn run the show and go way beyond accommodating their guests. Jason is an incredible chef and impresses with homemade pasta, crispy skin duck and lamb dishes to die for.  Matt handles the operations and coordinates the guides to make sure that all the guests leave happy and wanting to come back year after year. Just like me.

The ‘Horn is really easy to get to and you will find convenient daily flights to and from Billings.  The airport is small and easy to navigate; pick up a rental car, drive a short hour and a half to the lodge and let the good times roll.  The Bighorn is on the Crow reservation and the sale of alcohol is prohibited, so you will want to pick up some adult beverages on your way to the lodge.

Group dining at Kingfisher Lodge

The combination of Kingfisher Lodge and the Bighorn river checks all the boxes for me.

Easy travel:
You can get to Kingfisher Lodge from just about anywhere in the country in ½ a day of travel.  This means you are raring to go when you arrive on your trip and not completely destroyed when you get back home.

Diverse fishery:
Looking at a fly fishing travel trip starts with the fishing. With the availability of drifting in the boat, wade fishing the riffles, throwing streamers or dry fly fishing, every angler will find something to their liking on the ‘Horn.

Comfortable accommodations:
Well appointed rooms with a mini fridge in each to assure that your adult beverages stay cold and little touches like a fresh pair of ear plugs on the night stand each night in case your fishing partner forgot his c-pap machine.  They also have a great rec room in the main lodge with comfortable couches and chairs to sit and tell lies about the big one that got away and a pool table and dart board to continue the friendly competition from the river.

Accommodations at Kingfisher Lodge

Great food:
Sometimes it’s nice to be pampered.  If you’re a foodie like me, enjoying a 3 course meal consisting of restaurant quality food after a day of hunting heads on the banks makes everything right with the world.

I don’t think we have another program in our portfolio of travel destinations that offers the level of experience for the money than one gets at Kingfisher Lodge.

Here at The Fly Shop® we send anglers all over the world to chase trout.  Many of us live vicariously through our clients as we send them to far off destinations like Patagonia, Alaska and the Kamtchatka peninsula of Russia.  But the reality is, as wonderful and exotic as those trips are, there are some fantastic lodges and trout waters right here in the Lower 48.  Give us a call here at the shop (800-669-3474) if you would like to know more about Kingfisher Lodge or one of the many other wonderful programs that we represent in the American West.

Scroll down if you would like to read some excerpts of my travel log from my most recent trip to Kingfisher. I hope you enjoy reading about the adventures.

Anglers with a brown trout in the water at Kingfisher Lodge

Spring Time is Trout Time on the Horn
Kingfisher Lodge Hosted Trip May 1-5, 2024

Banquet and sandwich watching the Bruins gameMy flight out was scheduled for a 5:30 am departure so I spent the night in Woodland to save from pulling an overnighter.  Posted up in the hotel and watched the Bruins game with a sub and a tall boy.

Day 1:
3:00 am wake up and off to the airport. Made a connection in slc and met up with some of the group. Wound up sitting across from Stephen and his son fifer. They have been up to fish the sac several times.

Got into Billings and was welcomed by a spring snow flurry. Welcome to Montana.  Picked up the rental car. Got a free upgrade to an Expedition. We went to the Yellowstone Country Club for lunch where Mike Bertoli was kind enough to host us. We all rallied to the liquor store and headed to the lodge. I had Stephe, Fifer and Beth in the car with me and they all got a good hour plus nap on the ride to the lodge…  Scott, Jeremy and Craig were already there and settled into a game of cribbage. Nick, Ellen and Mike showed up shortly after. A few of the guests headed into Ft. Smith for sunglasses and to look around. The rest were relaxing in their rooms.

We all gathered in the main lodge for some pool, conversation and some darts. For dinner Jason impressed once again with French onion soup, crispy skin duck and an incredible key lime pie. Matt started a fire in the fire pit and the whiskey was poured and the cigars lit. But the night was cut pretty short after a day of travel and most retired around 9.

Crispy skin duck and an incredible key lime pie

Fished with Mike Kelly in the morning along with Mike Bertoli. Mike is green and Kelly did a great job of giving instruction and bringing him up to speed. He let me fish streamers out of the back. And I was able to stay out of the way and get a few to eat.  Mike Kelly is an incredible guide and grew up on the river.  His dad is one of the old school guides around there and actually built Kingfisher Lodge.

In the afternoon I switched boats and jumped in with Mike Kuhn and Clint Krumm. Bob Krumm’s son. Really awesome history coming from the son of one of the pioneers of the Bighorn fishery. Clint did a great job working with Mike on landing fish. We did a ton of wading and it was great to get Mike doing something that he wanted to work on. We went and did a little scavenging as well and found some morels.  Brought them back to Jason the chef and he put them out as a little appetizer for the group. We were the last boat out from our group as we tried to pull into a few back eddies and look for risers.

Angler bundled up in the boat to avoid the coldThe wind was howling today and it made fishing from the boat a little difficult.  Stephen and Fifer struggled a bit with their catch rate today as they had chosen not to have waders and stay in the boat.  As a result they were back at the lodge quite a bit earlier than the rest of the group.   I had a great conversation with him, and explained that the rest of the group spent 2+ hours wading and that explained the difference between the timing on the river.  They decided to rent some waders for the rest of the trip.  Dinner consisted of pork tenderloin that was cooked to perfection.

Day 2:
Great fishing today for most of the group. The wind laid down today but it stayed quite cold for most of the morning. The majority of the group was super happy with their guides. The lodge is knocking it out of the park. The blue wings came off pretty good and there was some dry fly activity at the end of the day.  After a relatively slow day in the morning we had an epic dry fly session for the last hour of the day. Raising a dozen or so fish to the dry. Lots of wading today for the rest of the group. Some of the guys even had a fire going on shore with some cowboy coffee to warm up with between wading sessions.  It’s great for the Lower Sac folks to experience things that they can’t get at home like wade fishing, dry flies and brown trout.   Craig stayed in the boat with his guide and said it was the best single day of angling he ever had, landing close to 40 fish and several over the 20” mark. Beth caught a 24” brown and was beside herself being the biggest fish she has ever caught.

Beth holding a brown trout at Kingfisher

The first timers in the group did exceptionally well today.  Without the wind they were able to better control and understand the casts and drifts.  We have made a few anglers out of them and they are truly enjoying themselves.  For dinner this evening Jason put out an Italian themed spread starting with Caesar salad and moving on to the homemade pasta with shrimp and a cream sauce.  The dessert was likely the best panna cotta I had ever had.  All the while there was the soft sound of music from the movie The Godfather in the background.  These guys are so much fun and I truly believe that this is the best trip for the money that we offer.  I would recommend this experience as a gateway drug to new travel clients or a quick getaway for a long weekend for the guys that travel all over the world.

Anglers holding a brown trout at Kingfisher Lodge

Day 3:
Fished with Channing today. Sun out beautiful day. Bite was slower for us. But others killed it. Mainly wading. We stayed in the boat. Waded one spot and I talked Channing into a really nice brown under an undercut bank. He lost the fish but it was in the 20+” range. We spent the late afternoon looking for heads. Found one good fish that was coming up steadily to adult bwo’s. Channing made dozens of casts to the fish and we changed flies several times.  He got him to eat once, but missed the hook set.  We’ll save that one for next year.

Mike Bertoli holding a brown trout at Kingfisher LodgeIn the end, the first timers were all saying that they couldn’t wait to go again. We saw the best day of fishing ever for a seasoned traveler, had great comradery for work friends and all of the guests asked to be put on the list for next year.  Really successful trip.

Scott and Jeremy left after dinner on Saturday night as they had an early flight Sunday morning.  Nick and Ellen were on an early flight as well but chose the 3 am wake up.  I took Beth back to the airport with me as we were on the same flight out.  Eric and Bart continued to Bozeman as they drove out together and Mike, Stephen and Fifer flew out in the afternoon.  Mike Bertoli and Channing headed to the Twin Bridges area to look at a ranch that Channing was interested in.

On the way home there was a snow storm passing through Salt Lake City and I  experienced the most turbulent approach I have seen in a long time.  Had a layover with time to grab a bite to eat and the flight back to Sacramento was smooth sailing.  Good to be back, was a great trip and looking forward to putting it together again for next year.

Group at Kingfisher Lodge

Group relaxing on shore during the day