Any time someone mentions the North Platte River, I get nervous excitement in my stomach. Being able to fish these waters is an absolute honor. Many professional fly anglers categorize portions of this river as some of the best fly fishing water in the entire lower 48 states. The brown and rainbow trout grow to multiple pounds and it’s not impossible to catch them.
The North Platte River flows for 716 miles through Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska. Both portions in Colorado and Wyoming have wonderful fishing, but the Wyoming portion of these waters may be the most productive! Pay a visit to these few access points and you’ll catch fish.
Lusby Public Fishing Area- Grey Reef Access
Access on the Grey Reef portion of the North Platte River isn’t easy to find. Quite a bit of this water is privately owned, but there are a few sections that anglers can visit and wade. Also, if you have the luxury of floating down these waters, then you have access to miles of water that anglers don’t ever get.
Just below the Grey Reef reservoir this tailwater begins and flows towards Casper. If you’re hoping to float these waters, most begin right below the dam and float to the Lusby Public Fishing Area. This access area is a seven mile float from the dam.
You’re able to wade and fish just below the dam, but you are going to be by the most anglers! However, the Lusby access is a little less popular and still holds some of those large brown and rainbow trout. Make sure you get to your location early to claim your spot.
If fishing this portion of river, you want to bring a heavier 5-weight or 6-weight rod and your fair share of nymph flies! These fish are used to seeing flies, so you’re going to have to be on your best behavior and make sure your skills are ready for the challenge.
Find seams and slow moving water and spend the majority of your time here. Fish are there, but they need a little coaxing.
Any chance to fish the Grey Reef portion of the North Platte River is special. It can’t be overemphasized how large these fish are!
Miracle Mile Bridge- Great Access
The “Miracle Mile” is another legendary portion of the North Platte River. Technically, it’s a seven-mile-long portion of the river. It’s found between the Kortes Dam and the Pathfinder Reservoir. Rainbow trout are the giants of choice for most anglers looking to land fish on the Miracle Mile.
No matter the time of year, you’re going to find fish. Since it is a tailwater, the flows are controlled at all times and it’s usually in favor of the anglers and the fish. At the bridge, you’ll find a decently wide section of water that has a nice amount of riffles and deeper water.
Many anglers who are wading stick next to the banks and drift their nymph rigs waiting for fish to strike.
Make sure you carry some weights with you because you’ll need to get low where these fish like to feed! Also, make sure you have a long and thin leader. Again, you’ll find that these fish are familiar with flies, so you need to be as inconspicuous as possible.
If you find pools or fishable seams, feel free to throw streamers as well. Streamers are great for big fish! Swinging is the most popular method. Be aware as it swings towards you. These fish hit hard.
Bring a 3x or 4x leader with a 5x or so tippet! You have to be careful when you hook into a giant. They’re going to fight hard and have the opportunity to break you off.
This is another great area to float! Access points to launch your raft are fairly easy to find!
Fremont Canyon- Quality Fishing
Fremont Canyon is perhaps the best wading option on this list. Located between the Alcova and Pathfinder Reservoir, you’ll find shallower and more wadable waters. Seams, pools and riffles are all easy to find on this section of the river. There are also a few eddies that hold giant fish!
If you want to hike down into the canyon, you can! This is more doable near the Alcova Reservoir, but a bit further towards the Pathfinder Reservoir you’ll find a bridge crossing that is easy to park and walk down towards the river.
Spend time in this section fishing nymph rigs and throwing streamers. Most anglers find themselves tying into nice size rainbow and brown trout. You’re going to have to work hard to find fish in this section, but when you do, you’ll be happy. These fish are nothing to scoff at!
Why the North Platte River is Perfect for Fly Fishing
The North Platte has several reservoirs spread throughout it. These reservoirs create multiple tailwaters that are perfect trout habitat. Massive fish are able to grow without much impact from outside sources. Spend time getting to know these waters, and you’ll catch more and more fish.
You’ll also find that there are ample campgrounds and fishing lodges on the Wyoming section of the North Platte. Whether you’re into dispersed camping or full luxury lodges, you’ll find everything you need to have some great time on the water!
The proximity to some of Wyoming’s larger cities is also a nice plus. Casper WY has an International airport with SkyWest and Delta Connect offering flights.
It’s only four hours from Denver, so that’s also an option for a quick overnight or long day!
What Stream Flow is Best for Fishing the North Platte River
If possible, you want to fish the North Platte at somewhere between 500 and 1500 cfs. Since quite a few of these sections of river are below dams, you’ll find that different levels of water are released throughout the summer. Rarely will the stream flows be above 3500 cfs. Most of the time, they stick between 500 and 1500 cfs.
What Kind of Fish Can You Catch on the North Platte River
The North Platte River has brown, rainbow and cutthroat trout! Most anglers are going to find that rainbow trout and brown trout are the largest and most plentiful. It’s not uncommon for anglers to find fish over 20 inches and upwards of five pounds! Record fish have been pulled out of these waters, so always be ready.
Favorite Flies for the North Platte River (Miracle Mile)
San Juan Worm
San Juan Worms are a wonderful option for any angler looking to land fish in the Miracle Mile. Most will fish these with a split shot, so they get lower in the faster moving water. You can fish these as the last fly on a nymph rig and see what the fish want!
Pheasant Tail- Size 20
Pheasant Tails are a necessary option on the Miracle Mile. Most of the time, anglers find themselves high sticking these through different seams in the water. The water is more slack along the banks, so you don’t have to cast very far to get to where you want.
Orange Blossom- Size 6
In terms of streamers, the Orange Blossom is a good choice. The bead head and brighter colors stick out in the water. Swing these through the deep pools.
Favorite flies for the North Platte River (Grey Reef)
Scud- Size 16
Any time you’re fishing a tailwater, a scud pattern should be a fly you use. You can use a beadhead option and let it free fall below the dam. As it bounces along the rocks, be prepared for a strike.
Bunny Hair Leech- Size 10
Leeches are another favorite for the brown and rainbow trout in the Grey Reef portion. Many anglers will swing their leech patterns through the current. Cast the stream 3/4 downstream with an upstream mend to allow it to sink. Then drift with a little action “twitch” the rod tip” until directly downstream.
Beadhead Egg- Size 6
Throughout the year, egg patterns almost always work. During the fall and spring spawns, they’re the most effective pattern, but you’ll find that they even work during the summer. The bead head is going to get lower where the fish like to sit.
Hatch Chart for the North Platte River
|Fly Name||Size||Start Date||End Date|
|Midge||18-24||January 1||December 31|
|Scud||6-12||January 1||December 31|
|Leeches||6-10||January 1||December 31|
|BWO’s||16-24||March 1||October 31|
|PMD’s||16-20||June 1||July 31|
|Yellow Sallies||14-20||July 1||July 31|
|Caddis||16-22||July 1||September 31|
|Trico’s||18-24||July 1||September 31|
|Golden Stones||12-20||July 1||July 31|
|Eggs||12-20||March 1||May 31|
Fly Rod and Reel Setup for the North Platte River
Since you have such a great chance at landing a trophy fish, you’re going to want to use a setup that’s a bit heavier. Stick with a 5-weight or 6-weight with a large arbor reel. Generally, you’ll be okay with floating line. Also, use 3x or 4x leader and have some smaller tippets available!
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. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars “experimenting” to get a balanced outfit. With this combo you get a perfectly balanced fly rod that works great. Highly recommended – Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod Combo.
Guides and Fly Shops
- Platte River Fly Shop– The Platte River fly shop located in Gillette, Wyoming is a full-service fly shop. Book a trip or make a stop for some local fly patterns and they’ll help with whatever you need.
- The Reef Fly Shop– The Reef Fly Shop is attached to the North Platte Lodge. It’s hard to find a fly shop with more success on the North Platte than the Reef.
Last Cast for North Platte River
If you’re a diehard fly angler interested in some of the most highly regarded fishing waters in the United States, then you need to fish the North Platte River. You’re going to struggle to find a section of water that gives you a better chance to land a trophy.
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