7 Best Places to Fly Fish in Grand Teton National Park

Few places are as quintessentially Western as Grand Teton National Park, and the surrounding Yellowstone and Jackson Hole area. The rugged peaks of the Tetons look like teeth biting at the sky, and the narrow valleys have a way of accentuating the singularity of the landscape. I’ve never fished in a place more awe-inspiring than Grand Teton National Park.

Usually, the fishing among such dramatic scenery doesn’t always live up to what we expect. The Wind River Mountains are a classic example of this. Average fish size in the lakes and streams are nothing to write home about – even though the scenery is.

Wyoming has amazing fly fishing opportunities, with Yellowstone National Park north of GTNPS and hundereds of trout filled waters you could spend a lifetime casting a fly. I’ve summarized my favorite places in this article – 15 Places to Fly Fish in Wyoming (MAPS included)

In Grand Teton, though, the trout fishing lives up to its surroundings. While most of the fishing is for native cutthroat, they’re big, healthy, and readily eat dry flies. Whether you’re a novice to the sport, or you have years beneath your waders, you’ll find an unforgettable experience while fly fishing in Grand Teton National Park.

In no particular order, here are seven of the best places to fly fish in Grand Teton National Park.

1. Snake River – As Good As It Gets

The Snake is one of the West’s most iconic rivers, and for good reason. It’s home to dozens of native fish species, supports salmon and steelhead runs, and despite our best efforts to ruin it, continues to be an amazing fishery year in and year out.

Wild Trout in the Grand Tetons

The main draw here for anglers is the native Snake River finespot cutthroat trout. These fish are only found in the Snake River, and a few of its tributaries (including the Gray’s and Gros Ventre Rivers). They are, however, among the most stunning trout you’ll ever have the opportunity to catch. With bright orange fins and blood red slashes that give them their name, the Snake River cutthroat is the perfect fish for fly anglers.

The Snake is big water, though, which presents a good challenge for those who want to wade it. The most popular section to fish is below Jackson Lake Dam, although you can access it from any of the boat ramps that run along the canyon between Alpine and Jackson Lake.

Since it’s such a big river, it’s recommended that you fish it from a drift boat. If that’s not possible, however, wading opportunities exist immediately below the Jackson Lake Dam, or near the Hoback Junction.

This section of river is also home to some brown trout, and the ones that you catch tend to be on the larger side. There’s a reason that floating the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park is on so many anglers’ bucket lists – it’s just that great.

Where to Fly Fish on the Snake River  

The entirety of the 80 miles of river between Jackson Lake Dam and where the Snake dumps into Palisades Reservoir is good fishing. Obviously, some sections will fish better than others at certain times of the year, and guides or local fly shops can help you figure that part out.

For most walk-and-wade anglers, though, access right below Jackson Lake Dam is easiest. The fishing isn’t exactly easy, but that’s a tradeoff you have to be willing to make.

Recommended Flies for the Snake River

The Snake can be incredibly technical as far as how you present your flies to fish, but it’s often not too demanding in terms of which flies you use. With that said, fishing big foam bugs with sizeable nymphs beneath them is one of the most effective ways to put fish in the net.

  • Chubby Chernobyl, size 6-10. These bugs are great for holding up bigger nymphs, and they aren’t so big that trout won’t eat them, either.
  • Frenchie, size 12-16. Tying these in bigger sizes gives the Frenchie even more versatility.
  • San Juan Worm, size 12-16. These bugs just catch fish – especially cutthroat trout.

South of Grand Tetons you can find amazing waters in Colorado. If your passing through and have time to cast a fly – check out these spots detailed in my article – 14 Bet Places to Fly Fish in Colorado (Maps Included)

2. Jenny Lake – Stillwater At Its Finest

Jenny Lake is one of the larger low-lying lakes in the Grand Teton National Park area, and aside from Taggart or Bradley Lakes, offers the best view of the Grand Teton itself. The mountain towers over you while you float the lake or walk the shore.

Jenny Lake is known for its great early and late-season fishing, although if you time your visit right you can get into stellar chironomid hatches.

And, in a departure from the norm in the Grand Teton area, you can catch lake trout and brookies in Jenny Lake. The lake trout are all on a catch-and-kill order, even if they’re not located in Yellowstone Lake. So, you can keep plenty of these tasty fish for the grill if you so choose.

One thing to look for here is to hit the lake in early June. Flying black ants make their first appearance of the year then, and the surface fishing can be pretty incredible. In all, Jenny Lake offers quite a bit of everything, and the opportunity to get into plenty of great, solid fish. They may not be the biggest ones around, but combined with the view and the opportunity to catch multiple species, it’s hard to go wrong here.

Where to Fly Fish on Jenny Lake

As with any lake, you want to fish around points, structure, and where you see fish actively working. Getting into the lake at the Jenny Lake Visitor Center is a good idea, since you’ll have multiple launching options if you plan on fishing from a boat. If not, you can always access it from the north via the String Lake parking area.

Recommended Flies for Jenny Lake

Given the size opportunity in this lake, you don’t want to skimp on the flies. Pack some bigger streamers, and don’t forget your chironomids, either.

  • Bunny Leeches, size 4-10. The bunny leech is, for me, the best streamer pattern I can find. And big fish just love it.
  • Ice Cream Cone Chironomid, size 8-12. These are a must-have on any trout lake.
  • Parachute Ants, size 10-14. Since Jenny Lake sees a lot of ants in the early season, pack a few along. You’ll be surprised at how willingly most trout go for them.

3. Leigh Lake – Off the Beaten Path

Leigh Lake is the more secluded, less-crowded cousin of Jenny Lake. Where Jenny has incredible shore access, a boat launch, and even a lodge, Leigh Lake doesn’t have anything. It’s almost a backcountry lake, except for the fact that it’s only a mile away from the nearest lake you can drive to.

But don’t let that lessen it in your eyes. Leigh Lake is a wonderful fishery if you want a Jenny Lake experience without the people. It’s full of cutthroat and lake trout, and a lot of the same tactics about flies and timing for Jenny Lake apply to Leigh. They’re very similar waterbodies, and aren’t that far apart from each other.

Leigh is a mile hike in from String Lake. Fly fishing from the shore is possible, but a lot of folks apparently will paddle a canoe or kayak up to the portage point between Leigh and String Lakes. Then, a quick, easy portage puts you and your craft on a lake that feels remarkably secluded.

Leigh Lake is surprisingly big, and has a fantastic view of Mt. Moran. With two islands, tons of interesting shoreline, and a lot of fish, you won’t have a problem finding great fishing opportunities here.

Where to Fish on Leigh Lake

If you want to just fish from shore, you can walk the String Lake Trail up to Leigh Lake. It’s only a mile, and not a hard hike at all. And, if you want to paddle up and portage into the lake, that won’t cause you too much grief, either.

Either way, you need to start you journey at the Leigh Lake Trail.

Recommend Flies for Leigh Lake

At the risk of sounding redundant, I’m going to recommend almost the exact same flies as I did for Jenny Lake. It’s not laziness on my part – it’s because these flies just flat-out work.

  • Zonkers, size 2-6. These are another solid streamer option, and I’ve heard from more than one local that the fish in Leigh love Zonkers.
  • Ice Cream Cone Chironomid, size 8-12. These are a must-have on any trout lake.
  • Parachute Ants, size 10-14. Since Jenny Lake sees a lot of ants in the early season, pack a few along. You’ll be surprised at how willingly most trout go for them.

4. Pacific Creek – Small Stream Solitude

Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love smaller water and the solitude that invariably comes with it. Pacific Creek fits that bill wonderfully. You can fish it closer down to its confluence with the Snake River, or you can venture up into the high country, right up to its headwaters.

I’d suggest starting your trek at the Pacific Creek Campground. From there, you can hike up as far as you want, and spend days – or even weeks – plying this river’s depths. The main draw here is, of course, cutthroat trout.

One thing to note is that Pacific Creek doesn’t have near the fish population you’ll find on the Snake, or other nearby waters. So, if you’re fishing and don’t see a lot of fish, don’t incessantly work a run. Move on, cover a lot of water, and you’ll catch plenty of fish. Plus, you’ll hike yourself into shape while doing it.

5. Jackson Lake – Big Water and Big Fish

If you’re chasing big fish, then you only need to look for one spot – Jackson Lake. This lake is huge, and is home to the Wyoming state record lake trout, which tipped the scales at 50 pounds. While fly fishing for lake trout usually only happens in a small window – right after ice off or right before the lake caps – it can be done. And, you can always fly fish the lake for trout that don’t live as deep as lake trout tend to.

Jackson Lake is probably the busiest water in Grand Teton National Park, but it’s plenty big enough to handle the traffic. If you want to have any semblance of success here, then you should definitely get a float tube, canoe, or a boat.

6. Cascade Creek – The Best-Kept Secret

Cascade Creek often gets overlooked because it’s not exactly easy to access. You have to hike all the way around Jenny Lake, up Hidden Falls, and into a steep canyon before you bypass the white water and find habitat that’s suitable for trout.

That being said, the payoff from the hike is pretty amazing. You get a classic high-country western river to yourself, and who knows what you’ll find? Cutthroat are an obvious candidate up here, but you could just as easily run into some brook trout, rainbows, or even a stray golden. Who knows? The only way to find out is to lace up your boots and start walking.  

7. Gros Ventre River – A Must-See Freestone

The Gros Ventre River is one of the more popular fishing destinations near Grand Teton National Park, and for good reason. It has a huge population of Snake River cutthroat, and offers some of the most classic freestone fly fishing opportunities you’ll ever find.

The Gros Ventre does get crowded, though, because it’s so close to a main road. But if you put in the time to go up past Lower Slide Lake, drive through the dirt, and look for the road less traveled, you’ll find some of the better fishing in the entire Grand Teton area.

Fishing is generally best on the Gros Ventre in July, when runoff subsides and the salmon fly hatch begins in earnest. You’ll catch more cutthroat than you know what to do with, if you can time your arrival just right. Regardless, the Gros Ventre is a classic, wonderful river that’s certainly worth a visit if you have an afternoon to spare.

Recommended Fly Fishing Gear for Grand Teton National Park

While I’d love to say you can get away with just one rod for Grand Teton, I think it requires two. A 9’ 6wt that can handle Wyoming winds is a must, and then a smaller 8’ 4wt will cover you exceptionally well. And, don’t forget that the rivers here are fairly big water. Heavier rods are always a must in that sort of environment.

Aside from rods and reels, I’d bring floating, sinking, and sink-tip lines. You’ll need waders unless you’re visiting during the summer, when wet-wading is a welcome relief from the oppressive heat of a Rocky Mountain summer.

Recommended Flies for Grand Teton National Park

The fish in Grand Teton National Park aren’t too picky when it comes to flies. You’ll want to have a big selection, but you likely won’t find yourself matching the hatch anywhere you go. If you do, the hatches are likely to be the classic Western hatches that we all dream of fishing.

best flies for fly fishing
best flies for fly fishing
  • Elk hair caddis, size 12-16
  • Zebra midges, sizes 14-18
  • Hare’s ear, sizes 14-18
  • Bunny leeches, sizes 4-10
  • Zonkers, sizes 4-10

Fly Shops and Fly Fishing Guides for Grand Teton National Park

There’s no shortage of fly shops and guides in the Grand Teton area. Below are just a few of the many options from which you can choose.

Lodging and Campgrounds in Grand Teton National Park Area

Again, you won’t be left without a place to stay in the Grand Teton National Park area. In fact, some of the nicest hotels that are friendly to fly fishers are found here. Below are a few options.

Fishing Resources from the National Park Service

The National Park Service has a surprising amount of information for fishing Grand Teton National Park, which you can view here.

Fishing Licenses and State Regulations for Wyoming

Fishing in Grand Teton National Park is regulated according to Wyoming fishing rules. You can view those, and buy licenses, here.

Spencer Durrant is a fly fishing writer, guide, bamboo rod builder, and novelist from Utah. He’s the News Editor for MidCurrent, and a regular contributor to Hatch Magazine. Spencer has also written a book Learning to Fly. Connect with him on Instagram/Twitter, @Spencer_Durrant.

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