Wyoming Rivers

With more than 27,000 miles of fishable waters, Wyoming is an angler’s dream come true. From glacial lakes to big tailwaters that support thousands of trout per mile, it’s little wonder one of the country’s most expansive states is also one of the world’s most popular fishing destinations.

Below is a guide to Wyoming’s best trout fishing rivers from our friends at Orvis. Contact our team to learn more about why the Cowboy State is one of the last best kept secrets in fishing and to explore how to experience this remarkable region.

Wyoming Rivers

YELLOWSTONE RIVER (PARK SECTION)

Fly fishing the Upper Yellowstone River within Yellowstone National Park takes anglers to one of the remotest regions of the lower 48 states, and the headwaters of the longest free-flowing river in the US. The first 25 miles of the Yellowstone River flow through the Park, and Yellowstone cutthroat thrive in its freestone waters. While the cascading headwaters hold mostly smaller cutthroats, the winding, slower water between Thorofare and Yellowstone Lake hold many fish reaching the 20-inch mark, or above.

FIREHOLE RIVER & SLOUGH CREEK 

Yes, they’re all amazing, and it’s hard to pick just one river in or around Yellowstone National Park, while leaving room to discuss other regions of Wyoming. It would take a lifetime to discover what each of these pristine rivers has to offer — or you could hire a Yellowstone National Park guide who already has the experience. The Firehole River and Slough Creek both provide quintessentially Western fly-fishing experiences and no list of the best fly-fishing rivers in Wyoming would be complete without them. Whether you’re casting next to geysers and geothermal features along the Firehole, or sight fishing cutthroat along Slough Creek’s meadows, Yellowstone National Park’s rivers will make you think you’ve gone to angler’s heaven.

SNAKE RIVER

South of Yellowstone National Park you’ll find Grand Teton National Park and the Snake River. If you’ve never heard of fly fishing before, you’ll likely have seen a picture of the Wyoming section of the Snake River. Its scenic path through the valley of Jackson Hole is a photographer’s dream. But the cutthroats and browns (lower sections of the park) are what draw anglers from all over the world. The river begins as a series of small creeks, 15 miles from the nearest road. Most fish here are cutthroats in the eight- to ten-inch range, but for a true wilderness fishing experience, few places in the Lower 48 can compare. Below Jackson Lake, the Snake River grows to an easily floatable river with gravel bars, riffles, and pools. While you can wade fish sections with great success, only a float trip will do the Snake River Canyon justice. Talk to a Jackson, Wyoming guide or outfitter, and they’ll help you discover this gem of the American West.

GREEN RIVER

Better known on the Utah side of the border, the Green River in Wyoming provides outstanding fly-fishing opportunities for browns, ‘bows, and cutthroats on its journey from the Wind River Range to the Flaming Gorge Reservoir. Forming on the western side of the Winds, the Green begins with over a hundred miles of freestone river with much of its banks accessible through public land. The cutthroat and ‘bows in this section are typically smaller, but a strong 16-inch trout sipping dries from the fast flowing riffles is quite common. Just downstream of La Barge, the Green enters Fontenelle Reservoir. The next 40 miles below the reservoir provide trophy trout fishing on a classic tailwater, with ample access points through Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge. If you’re looking for a classic Western fly-fishing destination where you may not see another angler all weekend, the Wyoming section of the Green should be at the top of your list.

WIND RIVER & EAST FORK OF THE WIND RIVER 

The Wind River begins its journey atop Togwotee Pass in the Absaroka Mountains, and picks up water from the eastern side of the Wind River Range as it heads south. Its glaciated namesake range holds some of the best high-country lake fishing in the Lower 48. But often overlooked is the river flowing to the east of the peaks. For its first 30 miles, the Wind River’s brook trout and cutthroat freestone waters can be fished with a general Wyoming fishing license. Then the river enters the Wind River Indian Reservation, which offers its own fishing permit. Here, the river grows and supports plentiful populations of cutthroat, rainbow, and brown trout. The Wind River enters Boysen Reservoir near Shoshoni, WY, and upon exit, flows through Wind River Canyon — a productive tailwater with many trout reaching the 20-inch mark, and above. The Wind River is truly one of central Wyoming’s premier fly-fishing destinations.

BIGHORN RIVER

As the Wind River exits the canyon and nears the town of Thermopolis, it becomes the Bighorn River. Better known for its tailwater fishery across the border in Montana, Wyoming’s section of the Bighorn should not be overlooked. The Thermopolis section enjoys the same tailwater benefits as the Wind River Canyon section, upstream. With a slower descent and median summer flows ranging from 1300 to 1600 CFS, this section of the Bighorn is most effectively fished on a float trip. From Thermopolis to Lucerne, anglers regularly hook into browns measuring 20 inches or more — all thanks to the consistent temperature and flow from Boysen Reservoir. Spring and summer bring BWOs and caddis, but the trico hatches from June to early October excite most dry fly anglers. Think there’s only one Bighorn worth fishing? Think again.

NORTH PLATTE RIVER, GRAY REEF & MIRACLE MILE

 Wyoming’s North Platte River Gray Reef holds nearly 5,200 trout per mile. If every trout was 12 inches long, you could essentially line them up into one solid ribbon of trout stretching the entire Gray Reef section. But we all know trout follow the food, so take some time to study the water before wading or drifting — or, hire a local Wyoming fly-fishing guide to show you where the big fish are holding. From Casper, head southeast a half hour to Alcova. The Gray Reef begins below Alcova Reservoir and runs north along WY-220. Access is limited, with much of the surrounding land under private ownership. To get a true taste of Gray Reef and its eight-pound (plus) browns and ‘bows, talk to a North Platte river guide or outfitter about reserving a float trip.

About 20 miles upstream, between Pathfinder Reservoir and Kortes Dam, you’ll find the Miracle Mile stretch of the North Platte. Contrary to its name, the Miracle stretches between five and eight miles, depending on the water levels of the Pathfinder Reservoir. The tailwater conditions below Kortes Dam provide plentiful food, allowing for hundreds, if not thousands, of trout to grow to trophy size. Load up your nymph box, and your gas tank, as the Miracle Mile is about 20 miles from the nearest paved road.

UPPER NORTH PLATTE RIVER

The upper reaches of the North Platte River provide a freestone fishing experience much different, but no less exciting, than the trophy waters below. While water levels are less reliable than the dam-controlled water downstream, the North Platte near Saratoga and Medicine Bow National Forest is easily floatable through much of the season and can be floated spring through fall in big snowpack years. A float trip isn’t necessary, however, as this section of water has numerous access points, including a long section through the National Forest. From its headwaters all the way to the town of Saratoga, the North Platte is designated Blue Ribbon trout fishing with at least 600 pounds of trout per mile. So, whether the BWO’s, yellow sallies, or PMD’s are hatching, or you’re looking for trout subsurface, the Upper North Platte is a Wyoming fly-fishing experience not to be missed.

TONGUE RIVER 

The Bighorn Mountains, in the north central block of Wyoming, are one of the lesser known ranges in the West. From the range’s eastern slopes, the Tongue River drains northeast, through Dayton, Ranchester, and Kleenburn, towards Montana, before it joins up with the Yellowstone River. At 265 miles long, only the upper reaches, within Wyoming, are prime trout fishing waters. From Sheridan, it’s a half-hour drive to Dayton, where there are multiple access points to the main river. This section consists of riffles and runs, flowing over gravel into deep pools, which hold big browns, ‘bows, and cutthroat. Upstream in Bighorn National Forest, the Tongue is divided into the North and South Tongue Rivers. Both provide diverse fishing experiences, with sections of gentle, meadow-lined banks and faster pocket water. To find a slice of solitude, venture into the canyon section of the North Tongue River, which is accessible only by hiking into the bottom of the canyon.

SAND CREEK 

Most anglers visiting Wyoming to fly fish head to the central or western thirds of the state, for good reason. But hugging the border of South Dakota, Wyoming’s Black Hills give birth to the limestone-lined Sand Creek. This is not a mighty river like the North Platte or Snake: it’s a slow, meandering creek, fed by springs and lined by grassy banks. But thanks to the cold spring water and nutrients, Sand Creek is home to one of the highest concentrations of trout in all of Wyoming. While there may be literally tons of fish, the gin-clear, slow water gives them an easy view of approaching anglers, and poorly presented flies. You’ll need to bring your best presentation and stealth to Sand Creek, but the payoff and alternative scenery are well worth the adventure.

Contact our team to learn more about Wyoming fishing and fishing properties that put this lifestyle at your fingertips.

*Article courtesy of Western Ranches, a division of Jackson Hole Real Estate Associates.

Wyoming Fishing

Wyoming Fishing

Each spring a remarkable transformation overtakes the Mountain West. As the long winter gives way to the first signs of spring, the snowfields begin to recede, breathing fresh life into the surrounding rivers, lakes and creeks. To the outdoor enthusiast and the causal recreationalist alike, this perennial thaw is something of an invitation back into the wilds after an icy hiatus. And to none does it call more clearly than to those with a rod, a reel and fly box.

Vast watersheds and an abundance of native swimmers make Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Colorado the envy of the world’s fly-fishing community. Each year, anglers from around the globe flocks to these local waters, which now support a multi-million-dollar industry.

The growing popularity has increased traffic on many of the region’s rivers, reemphasizing the need for prudent environmental management. But one of the blessings to such rolling expanse is that plenty of waters remain largely undiscovered. As many locals in any number of small towns will tell you, follow a dirt road around here long enough and you are sure to find an untouched river, creek or lake glinting with native salmonids.

Upper Cottonwood Creek Ranch

Wyoming

Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks have become synonymous with Wyoming fishing, and, as a result, the area’s rivers are rife with drift boats year-round, and particularly during peak summer months. But the Cowboy State’s rivers hardly begin or end at the Park boundaries. From the Little Bighorn to the Green River and the North Platte to the Greys River, Wyoming’s 27,000 miles of fishable rivers provide a broad range of conditions and variability for anglers looking to get off the beaten path.

Just ask Laura Hattan, owner of the Great Outdoor Shop in Pinedale, Wyoming. In 2005, Hattan and her family left a comfortable life in Nebraska to pursue the outdoors of the Wind River Range.

“The benefits of being here are hedonistic,” she tells Outside Magazine. “I love playing in the mountains. But there’s also a greater benefit in watching my daughter grow up in the mountains, in an environment that’s almost endangered in this country.”

More than 22 species of gamefish swim in Wyoming’s waters, but the state is most famous for its trout, including cutthroat, brook, brown, lake, and rainbows. Cutthroats are the only trout native to Wyoming.

A word of caution to anglers: on waters that flow through private land, individuals must remain in their vessel. Shore fishing or wading is only allowed with permission from the landowner. And always go prepared. Like much of the Mountain West, many of Wyoming rivers and streams traverse bear habitat. Always carry bear spray and give wildlife their space.

montana river

Montana

The vast grandeur of Montana belies the accessibility of its lakes and rivers. Here, the fishing lives up to its reputation in literature and film.

“Outdoor recreation as a whole is the cornerstone of tourism in Montana,” explains Jennifer Pelej, an administrator for the Montana Office of Tourism and Development. “We have an audience that wants to come here for free-spirited adventure. Fly fishing really embodies that.”

Near the northern border, Craig, Montana serves as a gateway to some of the state’s best fishing. Home to only about 40 people, the town boasts three fly shops. And a big run-off year like this promises they will stay busy.

Half an hour outside of Bozeman, anglers can put their paddle boats on the Missouri River, the longest river in North America. Formed by the confluence of the Madison and Jefferson Rivers, and joined by the Gallatin a mile downstream, the Missouri provides trophy trout fishing. A 35-mile stretch below Holter Dam is famous for its dry-fly fishing a mecca for fishermen and women.

Near Twin Bridges, Montana, the Big Hole River has been called the “prettiest river in Montana.” It’s no wonder it has become a destination for those seeking a full experience on the river. Ideal for wading and floating alike, the Big Hole is home to the last native fluvial Arctic grayling in the Lower 48.

Idaho

Generally mild winters provide for early fishing across Idaho, and a surprising variety. During the spring, murky waters and colder conditions can present a challenge, but nothing a fly box full of streamers and wet flies can’t overcome.

Henry’s Fork, a famed stretch of river, gets an early start on rainbow trout. Fishing conditions continue to improve throughout the spring and into the summer, with hatches evolving throughout. A sunny day can make for an unforgettable experience.

On the South Fork, the Lodge at Palisades – an Orvis-endorsed destination – provides the conveniences and accessibility of a world-class facility. For those looking for a less commercial experience, the nearby Swan Valley offer many put-in points to this stretch of river that houses 7,000 trout per mile along braids, riffles, banks and cut-offs.

Live the Life

For both avid outdoorspeople and those seeking a quiet retreat into the wilderness, the Mountain West offers unrivaled fishing. Contact our team to learn more about properties that put this lifestyle at your fingertips. From renown fishing lodges to heritage ranches that provide access to world-class waters, no one knows the region better.

*Article courtesy of Western Ranches, a division of Jackson Hole Real Estate Associates.

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