COLUMN: Outdoors With Chris

Chris Erwin

The Ashland Beacon


   When I heard about Andy Ray’s trip to The Big Horn River, it was something I instantly wanted to learn more about.

   Ray is the manager of the Foodfair store in Greenup; he and his dad, Pat Ray, have been fishing the Big Horn River for a long time now, and they pretty much have worked out all the kinks in making this a great trip, so I wanted to share with you what I have learned.

   For anyone that may not have heard of the Big Horn River, let me tell you just a little about it. The part of the Big Horn River that Ray visits is near Fort Smith, Montana. This stretch of water starts at Fort Smith and runs till it meets the Yellowstone River in Cluster, Montana.

   Andy and his crew fly in and then rent a car to take them to the Camp. Ray told me that if anyone decided to make this trip, they need to pick up supplies, groceries, drinks, and anything you need on your way to the camp. He said, “the camp store is not always open, and it’s a long drive if you need anything once you get there.”

   The place where the Ray family and their friends stay is called the Cottonwood Camp. This camp is located along the Big Horn River; it has about 13 cabins, 11 of which have full baths (including showers). It also has coin-operated laundry. Also included are 16 RV sites if you decided to make the drive with a camper.

   The water is crystal clear, and has developed a reputation as one of the best Rainbow and Brown Trout destinations in the country.

   Andy and his crew fish the river starting in an area known as Afterbay; it stretches for 13 miles to a place called Big Horn Access. This water is known to have more big fish per mile than any river or stream in Montana. They rent their boat, no engine is aloud on this area of the river, it is strictly a float trip. Cottonwood camp moves their vehicles to the Big Horn Access, so their cars are waiting on them once they make the journey downstream.

   While there is some white water in the riffle area, it’s known that it is very manageable in almost any craft. The river has islands along the way that are great places for the crew to get out of the boat and do a little wading. This is also the place where they can start a fire and have a river-side lunch. No fires are allowed on the outer banks; however, you can build a fire on the islands to cook your lunch.

   Ray told me he thinks this is an excellent alternative to a beach vacation. He said, “the west is a view you can’t get anywhere else in the world you; won’t be sorry you make this trip.”

   Andy’s largest fish was a 24 inch brown trout. I asked Andy what the best lures are to use, and he told me that it varies a lot. He always has both wet and dry flies, along with streamers, “you just have to be prepared, water level, and current can change everything.”

   If you are interested in making this trip, you should contact Cottonwood Camp. They can be reached by calling 406.666.2391, and their address is 270 Cottonwood Camp Road in Fort Smith, Montana. I want to take just a minute to thank Andy and Pat Ray for taking the time to tell me how to make a fly fishing trip that is truly world-class. Until next time, keep your line wet and be safe.

   Chris Erwin is the founder and publisher of Kentucky Angling News, an online magazine available at Chris can be reached by email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..