Wyoming is the least populated state in the Union, and home to some of the finest trout waters in the west. I have listened to my dad’s stories about the pristine fly fishing waters of Wyoming since I was a little kid. He could talk for hours about the legendary salmon fly hatches on the Hoback River or the monster rainbow trout that would spool him on the North Platte River. So, when I graduated from college, I skipped the graduation ceremony and headed for Wyoming. I was not disappointed. Whether you like casting huge dry flies to native cutthroat trout or swinging streamers for 20+ inch brown trout, Wyoming has it all.
1. Flat Creek for Fly Fishing – Truly Amazing
If you’re looking for gin clear water, easy access, and plenty of wiley 20 inch native Snake River Finespotted Cutthroat Trout then Flat Creek is for you. Flat Creek is located in the National Elk Refuge only a few minutes outside of Jackson, WY, and it offers some of the finest and most difficult spring creek fishing in the west. Flat Creek is open between August 1 and October 31, and the waters are restricted to artificial flies only.
The careful regulation of this gem of a spring creek has led to a very healthy population of Snake River Finespotted Cutthroat Trout and there are plenty of fish that are over 20 inches lurking beneath the cutbanks. This fishing is tough. Flat Creek is not a creek where you can wade along casting blindly to likely water and waiting for fish to eat. There is a lot of insect life on this river, so you need to be patient, take your time, and meander along until you find a fish sipping bugs off the surface. I like a 9ft/4wt rod and 5x fluorocarbon tippet. Matching the hatch is critical, and you don’t want to hit these waters without a couple great PMD, caddis, and BWO patterns in your box.
Where to Fish Flat Creek
One of the great things about Flat Creek is that it is close enough to town that you can sneak out and wet a line while the wife takes a nap to sleep off those Moscow Mules she had with lunch. There are several places to access Flat Creek in the Elk Refuge, but I prefer to fish Lower Flat Creek. Head north out of Jackson on High 89/US Highway 26, go about 3.5 miles, and look for Fish Hatch Rd. Pull off onto this road and then parking will be on your left. There are also several parking areas that are located directly off the highway, and can be found on the map that is provided in the National Elk Refuge Fishing Regulations: https://www.fws.gov/uploadedFiles/NER_FishRegsWEB.pdf
Park here and walk way downstream and then fish back up to your car.
Recommended Flies for Flat Creek
- Parachute Hopper, Size 8-12. Flat Creek meanders through a huge meadow that is full of grasshoppers, and you definitely want to have a couple in your box. Throw a hopper on windy days when these big terrestrials are being blown into the water. Don’t be afraid to skate that hopper a short ways right when it hits the water, and be ready for a violent take.
- PMDs, Size 16-18. Almost every afternoon there is a phenomenal PMD hatch. Thorax PMDs are my favorite, and if you can find them tied with CDC feathers, that is even better.
- BWOs, Size 16-22. Once the colder weather sets in, the BWOs start hatching in earnest. If it looks like it is a little overcast, find the time to head out to Flat Creek and bring a handful of Comparadun CDC BWOs, BWO Parachutes, and BWO Last Chance Cripples.
- Galloup’s Sex Dungeon, Size 2. Slap this big nasty bug up against the banks and cover some water. I recommend throwing these nasty streamers on a short, 0x leader.
2. Gros Ventre River – Great to Fly Fish in July
The Gros Ventre (pronounced “Grow Vaunt”) River flows out of the Gros Ventre Wilderness and is home to spectacular scenery and world-class trout fishing. Gros Ventre (which means ‘big belly’ in French) might have been named after a nearby geological feature, but it definitely describes the bellies on the fish that you find in this river. The fishing on the Gros Ventre usually picks up in July once the water has come down a little bit, and stays good through the season unless it is a dry year.
The Gros Ventre River is home to the Snake River Finespotted Cutthroat Trout, and these fish are opportunistic predators that won’t shy away from crushing Purple Chubbies and Circus Peanuts all day long. The average fish in the Gros Ventre is between 8-14 inches, but every now and then you will find a 20in fish holding in a deeper pool.
Where to Fish on the Gros Ventre River
The Gros Ventre River flows for over 70 miles and offers a little bit of everything. If you are comfortable with rutted, narrow roads and have a good four-wheel drive vehicle, you can follow the Gros Ventre River up into the wilderness and drop into the phenomenal pocket water beneath Slide Lake or follow the road all the way up to Goosewing Ranger Station and dive into the wilderness and solitude that the upper reaches have to offer.
Although much can be said about the upper reaches of the Gros Ventre, I prefer to fish the lower stretch in the National Elk Refuge. Head north out of Jackson, WY on Highway 89/US Highway 26 and follow this road until you cross the Gros Ventre River, and then turn right onto Gros Ventre Rd. There are numerous parking spots on the right. Even though you are only a little ways outside of town, wildlife such as grizzly bears and moose are abundant in the area. Make plenty of noise walking through the brush and always carry your bear spray.
Recommended Flies for the Gros Ventre River
- Purple Chubby, Size 8-12. Something about this fly is irresistible for these fish. Make sure to dress it in your favorite floatant and it will stay afloat for the rest of the day.
- Rubber Leg Stimulator, Size, 10-16. The Gros Ventre River supports a great stonefly population, and when you see these bugs crawling around in the willows it is time to tie on a Rubber Leg Stimulator.
- Yellow or Red PMX, Size 10-16. Another terrestrial pattern that brings these willing fish to the surface. I usually like red or yellow, but black works just as well.
- Streamers. Stop by a local fly shop and ask them for their new favorite flavor. Jackson is home to some fly tying wizards, and it is always fun trying out new bugs.
With all these choices to fly fish in Wyoming, I’m going to give you a secret. The Wyoming Trout Unlimited Council has a great website. Link – Wyoming Trout Unlimited They provide FREE publications and other resources, you’ve got to check it out!
3. Snake River – Legendary, but a Drift Boat is Best
It is hard to talk about fly fishing in NW Wyoming without mentioning the Snake River. Floating the Snake River along the base of the Teton Range while casting huge dry flies to willing Snake River Finespotted Cutthroat trout is an experience that is hard to beat. The upper stretches of the river offer countless riffles and pools, and once the river flows into Snake River Canyon the water gets wild with great pocket water fishing. Other than casting to willing fish, any day on the river offers the opportunity to see a plethora of wildlife including: bison, elk, moose, deer, bears, and bald eagles.
Where to Fish on the Snake River
The Snake River is famous for its float fishing, but I prefer to wade this river. The Snake River is full of braids; small side-streams that are revealed when the water drops after runoff. These braids do not usually get fished by the multitudes that float the Snake, and they offer really interesting structure and easy wading.
The fish in the Snake River love to eat big dry flies, so you want to bring a 9ft 5wt or 6wt rod that can cast these bigs bugs through the wind that occasionally blows down out of the Tetons. There is plenty of public land and great access to the Snake River, but my favorite spot lies on the Teton Pass Highway. Head out of Jackson, WY on the Teton Pass Highway and drive until you come to the Snake River. Park at Emily Stevens Park, and then start walking upstream. Even though it is hard to walk by great water, stretch your legs and cover some ground before stepping into one of the finest dry fly rivers Wyoming has to offer.
Always carry bear spray and keep an eye out for moose in the willows.
Recommended Flies for Snake River
- Chubby Chernobyl, Size 8-14. This huge terrestrial pattern is an incredibly dynamic pattern that pulls fish off the bottom and floats all day long. This fly is tied in a wide variety of colors, but an orange belly/tan foam is a personal favorite. If you are feeling artsy, buy neutral-colored Chernobyl flies and then bring a pack of permanent markers with you on the river. Color your bugs to match the hatch or try out different combinations.
- Clouser Minnows, Size 6-12. The trout in the Snake River are an aggressive bunch, and the diving and jumping motion of a Clouser Minnow really upsets them. I like red/black clousers, but white/white is a great option as well.
- Galloup’s Sex Dungeon, Size 2-6. Try white, black or olive, and short leaders with a sink tip line.
- BWOs and PMDs. Size 14-20. Although the Snake River isn’t famous for its hatches, you definitely don’t want to hit these waters without a couple of these patterns in your box. When the fish key in on these bugs it can make for a great evening.
4. Hoback River – Mountain Fly Fishing for Cutthroat
The Hoback River flows out of the Wyoming Range and offers great fly fishing in a spectacular setting. Highway 191 follows the Hoback River through the Hoback River Canyon and there are numerous access points all along the highway. The Hoback offers outstanding dry fly fishing for Snake River Cutthroat Trout that generally range between 6 and 16 inches.
The salmon fly hatch on the Hoback is something to behold. You will wear out flies if you hit the Hoback during the right time. The stonefly hatch that occurs during the same time can be even better. I like to throw an orange belly/dark tan foam Chubby Chernobyl during these hatches because it looks a little bit like both of these big terrestrials.
5. Leigh Lake – Still Water Fly Fishing
Leigh Lake is a glacially formed lake that lies at the base of Paintbrush Canyon and Leigh Canyon. Situated entirely in Grand Teton National Park, Leigh Lake is just under 1800 acres. Leigh Lake is a great early season option when the rivers in the region are still blown out. When the ice starts to thaw, usually in mid-May, head up to Leigh Lake and bring some big baitfish patterns. Big cutthroat and lake trout cruise the banks of the lake, and make for some really fun sight fishing. White woolly buggers with plenty of flash are always productive. You can also get a canoe into the lake if you put in at String Lake, paddle to the portage, and carry your canoe a short distance to Leigh Lake.
6. Miracle Mile – Probably Some of the Best Fly Fishing
The Miracle Mile is located in central WY between Pathfinder Reservoir and Kortes Reservoir. It lies entirely within Bureau of Reclamation Land and has great populations of monster rainbow trout and brown trout that can weigh north of 10 pounds.
There are abundant food sources in this stretch that enable fish to grow quickly and make this stretch of the North Platte River a fly fishing haven. The Miracle Mile offers great dry fly fishing and streamer fishing, but the most productive method is definitely nymphing. Try a tandem nymph rig with a leech pattern as your leading fly and then a small midge or emerger trailing behind it. I like RS2, Disco Midges, Zebra Midges, and Tube Midges. The weather in this region is unpredictable and the roads can become impassable, so plan ahead and be safe.
7. Green River – Fly Fish for Browns, Rainbow, Cutthroat and Brooks!
The Green River originates in Bridger-Teton National Forest and is home to some of my favorite memories. The Green River is home to rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout, and cutthroat trout. While large stretches of the Green flow through private property, there is plenty of public access for anglers seeking to wade or float the Green. My two favorite sections of the Green River are north of Warren Bridge on Highway 191 and the tailwater section below Fontenelle Reservoir. There are monster brown trout and rainbow trout in these sections.
The boulder fields above Warren Bridge can be particularly productive. Take your time moving through these boulders and make sure you get a good drift. Stripping big streamers through these waters can be very productive, but you want to be sure to carry some BWOs and PMDs just in case some clouds roll in and these big fish start looking up.
8. Fremont Canyon – Scenic Fly Fishing at it’s Best
The Fremont Canyon (and Caldwell Meadow) stretch of the North Platte River lies between Pathfinder Reservoir and Alcova Reservoir. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has implemented minimum flows through this section, and this has resulted in health populations of big rainbow trout, big brown trout, and plenty of bugs to support them. The dry fly fishing can be great with hatches of caddis, tricos, baetis and midges, but nymphing is still the most productive method of fly fishing in Fremont Canyon. If the fishing is slow, switch out that nymph rig for a streamer and start covering some water. There are plenty of (really) big fish in this stretch that are looking for a big meal. I like throwing white or olive Sex Dungeons Size 2-6.
9. Grey Reef – Part of Something Bigger
The Grey Reef section of the North Platte River is one of the most productive fly fisheries in Wyoming. This series of dams makes for an ideal coldwater fishery, and this stretch of the North Platte River boasts 3000 fish per mile. The unlimited food source consisting of high protein snacks like scuds and leeches means that these fish and well fed and can grow to weigh north of 20 pounds. There isn’t much structure on this section, and bigger fish tend to be in the deeper troughs that form in the middle of the river. There is a great trico hatch during the summer, but nymphing and streamer fishing are going to be the most productive methods on the Grey Reef. Bring as a 7wt or 8wt rod if you head out to Grey Reef in search of monsters.
10. Thermopolis – Remote Tailwater, Great for Dry Flies
If you are looking for a remote tailwater that holds thousands of fish per mile, then you need to pack your 6wt and head to Thermopolis and fish the Bighorn River. The Bighorn River is synonymous with Montana, but the river originates in WY and the tailwater stretch in Thermopolis rivals any stretch in Montana. The trico, PMD, and BWO hatches on this river are incredible. When the dry fly fishing is slow, take out your favorite streamer or nymph rig. This section is a midge factory, and midge nymphs like the RS2 and Disco Midge are always a good option. In terms of streamers, big nasty bugs that imitate leeches, crayfish, and small fish will always do the trick.
11. North Fork of the Buffalo Fork
The Buffalo Fork is the highest drainage in Teton Wilderness, and offers some of the most wild and scenic fly fishing Wyoming has to offer. Wait for the North Fork to clear and then pack for an overnight camping trip and hike upriver. The fish in the North Fork are voracious after the runoff, and this time usually coincides with a great stonefly hatch. Bring your favorite foam terrestrial patterns like Purple Chubbies or Orange Chubbies, or, if you prefer the more traditional patterns, Humpies and Stimulators will do the trick just fine.The best access to the North Fork is from Turpin Meadows Ranch, and from there hike upriver into the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
12. Tongue River – Lesser Known but Fantastic for Flies
The Tongue River runs out of the mystical Bighorn Mountains and is a tributary of the Yellowstone River. The Tongue River has two forks, the North and South Fork, but I prefer to fish the North Fork. Whether you prefer to fish fast pocket water or meandering grass-lined banks, the North Fork has a little bit of everything. The fish in the North Fork are a little wary of anglers, so lighter tippets and correct fly selection is important if you want to land some of these beautiful fish. A hopper-dropper rig is particularly effective on this river. Fish your favorite terrestrial pattern like a Super Beetle or Stimulator, and drop a little pheasant tail or BWO nymph off the back.
13. Jackson Lake – Huge Fish on a Fly Rod
Located in Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Lake offers some outstanding angling opportunities. Originally formed by glacial gouging, the lake was enlarged by the Jackson Lake Dam in 1911. There are numerous species in the lake including Snake River Finespotted Cutthroat trout, Mountain Whitefish, Brown Trout, and Lake Trout. The Lake Trout in Jackson Lake are huge; the WY state record is 50lb and it came out of Jackson Lake. These monsters spend most of the year in deep water (70-200ft), but when the ice starts to melt in the spring, you can find them cruising the shallows looking for food. Bring a 9ft, 6-7wt rod and plenty of baitfish patterns. I like Clouser Minnows, Double Bunnies, and White Woolly Buggers.
14. Flaming Gorge Reservoir – Fly Fishing Variety
The Flaming Gorge Reservoir coves 65 square miles in south-western Wyoming. This massive water body was formed by the damming of the Green River, and it is home to numerous species including Brown Trout, Lake Trout, Rainbow Trout, Smallmouth Bass, Kokanee Salmon and Carp. The best time to target bass is during the summer, while the trout and salmon fishing is better during the spring.
While the trophy-sized trout draw many anglers to the lake, sight fishing to carp cruising the bank is a lot of fun. Bring a 9ft, 6wt rod, long fluorocarbon leaders, and some buggy Hares Ears Size 12 or Green or brown Mohair Leech patterns. Delicate presentation is mandatory to hook into these skittish and incredibly strong fish.
15. Big Laramie River – Tributary to a Legend
The Big Laramie River is a tributary of the North Platte River, and it is a legendry wild brown trout fishery. The best public access is located outside of Woods Landing, WY on Highway 10.
The brown trout in this river average between 10 and 16 inches, but there are some absolute monsters in this river that push 10 pounds. There are significant agricultural demands on the Big Laramie River, so the best time to visit this river is the spring or fall. Bring Stimulators, Grey Drakes, BWOs and some nasty articulated streamers.
Recommended Gear for Fly Fishing in Wyoming
Wyoming has some incredible fly fishing opportunities, but you need to bring the right gear. A 9ft, 6wt rod will serve you well on most rivers and lakes in WY. Wyoming is notorious for its wind and weather events, so you want to be sure to pack an extra layer and plan ahead. Always carry bear spray when you are in bear country. While you want to carry BWOs and PMDs, big bugs are usually the name of the game in WY. Purple Chubbies and Super Beetles are my favorites, but make sure to carry some streamer patterns in white, olive and black.
Official References for Fly Fishing in Wyoming
- Wyoming Game and Fish Dept (WGFD): https://wgfd.wyo.gov/fishing-and-boating
- WGFD Stocking Report: https://wgfd.wyo.gov/Fishing-and-Boating/Fish-Stocking
- WGFD Regulations: https://wgfd.wyo.gov/Fishing-and-Boating/Fishing-Regulations
- Wyoming Anglers: https://wyominganglers.com/ https://wyominganglers.com/
Popular Fly Shops in Wyoming
- Four Seasons Anglers: http://fourseasonsanglers.com/fly-shop
- Ugly Bug Fly Shop: https://uglybugflyshop.crazyrainbow.net/
- Snake River Angler: https://www.snakeriverangler.com/