Fly Fishing Through Wyoming - Wyoming Magazine

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Fly Fishing Through Wyoming

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As we all know, Wyoming offers many different adventures, outdoor treks, history, and some of the best scenery you can find. Across the world, Wyoming is often in many a fly angler’s fishing fantasy. Wyoming offers more than 27,000 miles of fishable rivers and crystal-clear trout streams that meander their way through the state. Lakes glisten amid high mountain meadows and soaring peaks.  The Snake, North Platte, and the Green River are all infamous with anglers. Wyoming offers 22 species of gamefish, but the most common fish are trout, including rainbow, brook, brown, and the cutthroat.  Cutthroat trout are the only native trout to Wyoming, and if you manage to catch all four subspecies, (Colorado River, Bonneville, Snake River, and Yellowstone) you can get a Cutt-Slam certificate from the Wyoming Game and Fish.

We live in a unique place for a fishery, offering both river and stillwater fishing. Besides, trout, Wyoming offers warm water fishing with ample locations to fish for bass, crappie, walleye, pike and carp on the fly. Regardless of what species you are casting for, fishing spots are special to any angler. With the advancement of technology, like geo-tagging and the instant gratification aspects of social media, avid anglers are seeing their favorite places over-run, littered with trash, and no longer offering the solitude we all seek. One can easily argue we live in a fly fishing paradise, and we should treat it as so. A Wyoming angler could fish a new lake, river, or small stream every day of their life and never fish the same place twice. 

West of Casper, you’ll find a truly a phenomenal and world famous fishery.  The North Platte River is famous for its large brown and rainbow trout, and the tail water aspect means it can be fished year-round. You’ll find a wide variety of aquatic insects with an opportunity to fish subsurface, top water, and streamers.  That “slight Wyoming breeze” will test your casting abilities and the ever-changing weather patterns will keep you on your toes. As an added benefit, there are many local Wyoming based outfitters who are more than willing to guide you through the water and show you around. The North Platte gives anglers a chance to fish a wide variety of terrain ranging from canyons to high arid plains, and is a large enough river that solitude can still be found for those willing to face the elements or hike. The North Platte River can get heavy pressure, but with fish counts in the thousands per mile, the fishing can be extremely memorable and rewarding.

Named for a distinctive rock formation that the Crow Indians believed looked like the tongue of a bison, the Tongue River is another scenic fishery that offers rainbow trout, brown trout, and cutthroat trout. A freestone; the Tongue River begins high in the mountains meandering through valleys, roars down through a canyon, and eventually flows to the  east. The Tongue River offers anglers a wide variety of fishing opportunities and terrain. A well-presented dry fly can lead you on your way to a fun battle with an eager cutthroat trout. It is definitely a seasonal fishery, but in the  summertime, the Tongue River drainage shines. Higher up the river, various hatches keep cutthroat as well as the occasional brook and rainbow trout looking up. Throughout the canyon, various stoneflies and other aquatic insects keep the trout occupied both subsurface and top water. Due to the river’s smaller size, the Tongue River is susceptible to fishing pressure, however those willing to hike deeper into the canyon or further into the willows will be rewarded—but be sure to watch out for the moose.

Wyoming’s Green River lies in some of the most beautiful country in the  state, where the pronghorn roam through sagebrush and people are few and far between. Fly fishing the Green can be done in complete solitude. To start, there is 140 miles of a freestone stream. The stream starts from the Green River Lakes just north of Pinedale on the west side of the Wind River Mountain Range. With an average trout size of 14-16 inches hidden in pocket water, pools, riffles and open runs, you’ll find plenty of chances to catch native cutthroat, brown trout, rainbow, brook, golden and even the rocky mountain whitefish.

A fly fishing journey through this great state wouldn’t be complete without a stop on the Snake River. With its headwaters north of Jackson Hole, the mighty Snake makes its way south through Jackson and runs through Bridger Teton National Forest. A large portion of the river flows through what could be the most scenic sections of the United States: The ever-impressive soaring peaks of the Teton Range. In addition to eager native cutthroat trout, you will see a wide variety of wildlife including moose, elk, deer and eagles. Perhaps one of the best rivers for both beginner and experienced anglers, the Snake is a fun river to throw attractor flies and imitations of large terrestrial insects. The Snake River cutthroat are not usually selective and will eagerly take a stonefly or terrestrial.

Wyoming isn’t only known for its vast variety of river fishing either. Splattered throughout the state are thousands of ponds, lakes, and reservoirs that offer any angler a shot at a wide variety of both warm and cold-water species. Ranging from the high plains, to high mountain alpines, and low lying valleys, various bodies of water provide ample opportunities for the stillwater angler. Trout are the primary target of many stillwater anglers who fish Wyoming, and many lakes and reservoirs are famous for producing trophy-sized fish. If size doesn’t matter to you, many high alpine lakes provide the opportunity to catch rare species of trout and solitude, as well as offering some very technical and challenging experiences.

There are a more than a few bodies of water that offer the angler who may not be interested in trout fishing an opportunity to catch bass, walleye, crappie, pike, catfish, and carp on the fly.  Anglers willing to challenge themselves and try something new will find that most warm water species fight hard, are aggressive and require different techniques to be caught.  

As you travel through Wyoming on your fly fishing quest, keep in mind that many of your fishing destinations will be in prime bear habitat. It’s not unlikely that you’ll come across moose, deer, elk and a variety of other animals. Carry your bear spray and be alert. Large willows can easily hide a cow moose and her calf. Also keep private water laws in mind, and remain in your vessel and on marked trails.

For local conditions, guided trips, and recommended flies, be sure to check out the local fly shops in each region.

Article Written by Brenna Burgos

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