There’s something about fly fishing heavily protected rivers that gives me a sense of excitement. Flat Creek outside of Jackson,
Wyoming in a National Elk Refuge is one of those streams that is off limits to fly fishing for 9 months of the year, but those three months from August to October provide anglers a chance to put every small stream tactic they have to the test.
My trip to these waters provided me with some of the most focused, frustrating yet exciting trophy cutthroat fishing I have ever experienced. Flat Creek is located in a National Elk Refuge north of the town of Jackson.
It holds trophy sized cutthroat trout you would likely find in the Snake River. The fish are spooky, the water is clear and the hatches are prevalent. Fly fishing flat creek is on the bucket list for many die hard dry fly anglers.
With the heavy regulations on the elk refuge, you’ll find that there are only two access points! Once you’ve accessed the creek, you’re able to work your way along the banks to search these fish.
National Museum of Wildlife Art – the turn off
Across the way from the National Museum of Wildlife Art north of Jackson you’ll find your first access point. Come August 1, you’ll find this to be a common area for anglers to visit. Directly north and south of the access bridge, you’ll find nice eddies that hold fish.
Remember, these fish are extremely spooky and will likely be sitting under the cut banks throughout the heat of the day. Watch your shadow. Any sight of it on the water is going to send the fish scurrying.
There is no structure to protect you from the eyes of these cutthroats. Thankfully, there are tall grasses that allow you to slink around and stay somewhat hidden. Be familiar with casting towards rises and laying your flies down softly.
Find a seam along a cut bank, cast your fly here and be prepared to do it over and over again. It cannot be emphasized enough that these fish are extremely wary of anglers! You’re going to see what you’re made of when you make a visit to Flat Creek.
Jackson National Fish Hatchery
The other access point on Flat Creek is at the entrance of the Jackson National Fish Hatchery. This is the most common access point for anglers starting August 1. However, from here you are able to traverse up and downstream until you reach the “Closed” portion of the stream. You won’t be able to miss it.
All the rules still apply when fishing this section of Flat Creek. The fish are hard to find, but when you do, it’s a blast. In the mid-morning and early evening you’ll find that the dries begin to hatch and the action begins.
Throughout the day, the fish are under the cut banks and you can convince them to eat with a nymph. However, if you’re going to fish this creek, you want to make sure you fish a hatch.
Keep your eyes on the water and pick and choose your spots. Continual forced casts with no plans can spook the fish and prevent you from landing any throughout the day. Stay hidden and quiet.
Why Flat Creek is Perfect for Fly Fishing
Flat Creek is everything a Blue-Ribbon Trout Stream should be. You have beautiful views of the surrounding Teton Mountains, wildlife around every corner and big trout waiting to be caught. Yes, the Elk Refuge fishing dates are limited to August through October, but this protection allows anglers to come back year after year to land fish.
Also, with the proximity to the town of Jackson, you don’t have to travel far to access these waters. Take a break from your visits to Grand Teton National Park and see what you can find. Bring all the patience you have! These fish are going to test you in every way shape and form.
Guide Tip: Wyoming in a single word for fly fishing is AWESOME. Find out the best places to toss a fly in this article 👉 Where to Fly Fish in Wyoming
Make sure you target the eddies and deeper portions of the stream. Fish won’t waste too much time in the shallow water, especially in the late fall.
Cut banks are going to be your best friend! Believe me, these banks go several feet back, so don’t think you’re getting too close. Fish will sit far under them and wait for a perfectly presented fly.
What Stream Flow is Best for Fishing Flat Creek
Since you’re limited to fall only fishing on the Elk Refuge, you can assume that water is going to be low! As a result, it’s not uncommon for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to encourage anglers to not fish after 2 p.m. due to the rising water temperatures.
Ideally, you’re fishing somewhere around 100 ft/s flow! This is by no means fast, but it’s enough to keep food moving and the fish active. As long as you avoid the hottest parts of the day, you have a chance to land these fish.
What Kind of Fish Can You Catch on Flat Creek?
The Snake River Cutthroat Trout are the primary target on this river. These fish are naturally able to reproduce, so keep that in mind. They must be handled with care, so anglers are able to return in the future and enjoy landing these rare fish. They can grow upwards of 25 inches, but you’ll have to be very patient or very lucky to land one of them!
Favorite Flies for Flat Creek
Dry flies are the favorite fly for anglers on Flat Creek. Anglers will also use nymphs when there are no hatches occurring! Either way, you have a chance to land fish. However, you won’t receive a true Flat Creek experience unless you fish with dries.
Zebra Midge Nymph- Size 20
Midge nymphs are a favorite for trout on Flat Creek. When you aren’t seeing rises, stick to fishing below the surface. Your nymphs are going to have to be small and your tippet even lighter (5x or 6x). If you see a cut bank or small seam, cast your fly into it and see what happens.
Rusty’s Spinner- Size 16
Rusty’s Spinner is a must have on Flat Creek. Use a size 16 or smaller. Wait until you see rises and then begin to make your casts.
Chubby Chernobyl- Size 8
Since you’re fishing in the fall, terrestrial patterns are popular. Fish wait for hoppers to be blown into the creek and make their move. Lay these down near the cut banks or anywhere you see vegetation overhanging the water.
Hatch Chart for Flat Creek
|Fly Name||Size||Start Date||End Date|
|Golden Stone||18||June 1||August 31|
|Little Yellow Stone||18||July 1||September 31|
|Caddis||20||May 1||September 31|
|Baetis||18||September 1||November 31|
|Pale Morning Dun||18||July 1||September 31|
|Gray Drake||20||July 1||August 31|
|Trico||22||August 1||September 31|
|Mahogany Dun||16||September 1||October 31|
|Midge||16-20||September 1||November 31|
|Terrestrials/Stimulator||8-12||July 1||September 31|
|Callibaetis||14-20||July 1||August 31|
Fly Rod and Reel Setup for Flat Creek
The rod and reel setup you need for Flat Creek is one you’re comfortable using. Every cast needs to be as precise as possible. Most anglers will use a 3 or 4 weight 8’ or 8’ 6” rod. You want to be able to delicately present your dry flies, but you don’t need anything too heavy. Again, make sure the rod feels like an extension of your hand. Once poorly placed cast can spook fish for an entire day.
The Perfect Fly Rod Combo for Wyoming
Orvis originated in the fly fishing business. The Orvis Clearwater Combo is perfectly balanced and comes with everything except flies. It’s so easy to cobble together an outfit that just doesn’t cast right. No worries with that using the Clearwater Fly Rod Combo.
Guides and Fly Shops
Fish The Fly is a Guide Service in Jackson that’s going to help you find fish on Flat Creek. Give this guide service a call when you’re planning on making your visit to the stream in the fall.
Teton Fly Fishing is a full guide service also located in the town of Jackson! They’re going to help you get on fish on Flat Creek.
Fly fishing is all about being persistent and patient. Flat Creek will test all of your patience, but the rewards are well worth the effort! As long as you’re willing to try new methods and persevere through slow hours of fishing, you have a chance at landing a trophy Snake River Cutthroat in one of the most respected creeks in the west! Looking
Are you looking for some great How To Fly Fish Articles? Checkout this list:
- How to Fly Fish for Bluegills – These amazing fish are all over the USA. I like to call them the “Gateway Drug to Fly Fishing”
- How to Fly Fish for Brook Trout – Find the cleanest, coldest, most beautiful streams and I’ll bet Brookes are present.
- How to Nymph Fish – Step by Step details for setting up, presenting and catching trout with nymphs.
- How to Fly Fish for Salmon – Image hooking into a +25 pound King Salmon in a river and your Fly Rod breaks! Seriously this happened to me on my first trip.
Danny Mooers is a high school English teacher in Arizona with a love for fly fishing. Growing up in Minnesota gave him the opportunity to experience all types of fishing and grow his skills. After living out in the Western United States for several summers in college, his fly fishing obsession grew. Having the opportunity to share in his passion for fishing through writing is a dream come true. It’s a lifelong hobby and he strives to make it understandable for people of all skill levels