Wyoming is one of the top fly fishing locations in the United States. There are a few places in the world that fly fishers talk about with a whispered reverence. Wyoming is one of these places.
This sparsely populated state can boast over 27,000 miles of fishable rivers. On top of that, there are crystal clear streams that abound with trout and plenty of lakes that dapple with morning and evening rises. It is no wonder that trout anglers flock here in their droves.
There is something to suit all tastes in Wyoming. If you want to trek fifteen miles through the wilderness to fish a remote river, you can. If you’re going to park the car and hop down onto the bank, you can do this too. And if you fancy a meandering float down a trout packed river, then Wyoming is waiting for you.
While there are over 22 species of game fish native to Wyoming, it is mostly its trout that the state is famous for. It has five trout species to cast a fly at, including the native cutthroat and brown, brook, and rainbow trout.
This article will examine some of the finest fly fishing in the world as we set out to see what gems Wyoming has to offer. This is the best fly fishing in Wyoming.
But before you set out on that trip, please take time to make yourself aware of the fishing regulations you will need to adhere to in Wyoming.
If you’re interested in other fantastic fly fishing destinations, check out our list of the best fly fishing destinations. You’ll see articles like the “Best Fly Fishing in Montana” or the “Best Fly Fishing In Ohio.”
What Is So Special About Fly Fishing In Wyoming?
You could equally well answer the question ‘What’s so special about fly fishing?’ Wyoming epitomizes the fly fisher’s ideal outing. Rivers and lakes that bubble with trout, surroundings of stunning wilderness, and peace and quiet that’s hard to find elsewhere in the modern world.
And that’s all before we’ve got to the quality of the fishing. It’s a mystical, magical state and the thrill of battling a powerful cutthroat in the wilds of Yellowstone National Park is the experience of a lifetime.
There is nowhere else in the United States that can offer you fishing in rivers fed by hot springs and geysers. In Wyoming, you can fish in the presence of grizzly bears and wolves, and even the iconic bison.
In this article, we will set out to explore the best fly fishing in Wyoming. First, we will look at a few of the ‘hotspots’ for fishing within Yellowstone National Park, which has such a diverse selection it demands a section of this article all on its own!
Fly Fishing in Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National is one of the most famous parks in America; people flock here for all sorts of trips and activities. Fly fishing in the park is an increasingly popular pastime, but the park is so massive that you wouldn’t know it. Miles of pristine riverbanks and crystal-clear lakes are in abundance.
Please be aware before you make any plans to visit the park for fishing that there is a set season which runs from on the Saturday of the Memorial Day weekend and runs through until the first Sunday in November. When is fly fishing best? Fishing is permitted within these days from sunset to sunrise, although local restrictions may apply to specific areas from time to time throughout the season.
Before you visit the park, make yourself aware of the fishing regulations specific to the park, and you may also want to consider a fishing guide with local knowledge to find the very best fishing spots. The National Park Service has compiled a great list of all the local guides and resources to assist you.
One of the most iconic fly-fishing rivers globally, the Yellowstone River is a must fish destination in Wyoming. In its upper reaches, you are fishing in one of the remotest locations in the lower States. This is where you will find and fish in the headwaters of the longest free-flowing river in America.
It is only the first 25 miles of the river that flow through the park, and here the main fishing is for cutthroat trout, which thrive in the river. The fish in these reaches aren’t monsters, but they lack the size they make up for in spirit.
Making your way down to slower waters that run between Yellowstone Lake and Thorofare is where you will find larger fish, often approaching the 20-inch mark or larger.
While just about any tackle is suitable for fishing in Wyoming and particularly Yellowstone, there is a cracking guide to what fishing tackle is recommended on a trip to Yellowstone from the Park Fly Shop. The tackle they list will work equally well in all the fishing Wyoming has to offer.
Wyoming, and Yellowstone in particular, are known for the quality of their trout rivers and streams. Yellowstone Lake is, therefore, a bit of a well-kept secret. If you find yourself with a few hours to spare, this is an accessible and fruitful place to fish. It has been fished relatively lightly and has a large stock of native cutthroat trout.
It can be fished either by boat or from the bank. It has an astounding 110 miles of bank to choose from and, at 87,000 acres, is the largest lake at its altitude in the United States.
If you fancy casting a fly in this iconic lake, then guided tours are a great way of making sure you get the best fishing the lake has to offer.
If you plan to arrive early in the season, firstly remember those thermals, and secondly, Firehole River will be one of your most likely destinations. Firehole River sits in the south-west region of the park, and it’s this location and the remarkable fact that geysers and hot springs help the melt that means the snow is gone earlier here than in other regions of the park.
Early spring is really when the Firehole River is at its best as in the summer. It is too warm for the trout to be at their liveliest. Species you can expect to catch here are brown and rainbow trout, and at peak times when the water is cold and saturated with oxygen, it is a stunning arena to fish.
Fish The Fly has a great page dedicated to fishing reports throughout the park, including the Firehole River, and runs a guided service.
Situated in the northeast corner of the park, the Lamar River is a stunning slice of fly-fishing real estate that runs from its headwaters in the Absaroka Mountains to its eventual confluence with the Yellowstone River at the northeast entrance to the park.
It might not look like it’s more than an average trout stream, but old hands who know the river will tell you a different story. The river is crammed full of brown, rainbow, brook, and cutthroat trout and is set amongst some of the most stunning scenery that Wyoming offers.
To get to the best fishing may involve a bit of a hike, but for those willing to put in the effort, then not only are you sure to meet some aggressive fish, but you could find yourself sharing the habitat with wolves, elk, and some hopefully friendly grizzly bears.
Perfect Fly has written an informative guide to this very river, which is crammed full of all the information you need.
Wyoming Fly Fishing
The Yellowstone National Park could be a whole article, and the fishing we’ve covered has only scratched the surface of what it has to offer. But the rest of Wyoming is just as stunning, and for the rest of the article, we will look at what it offers.
Lying to the south of Yellowstone National Park is the Grand Teton National Park. It’s here you will find the Snake River. The Snake River winds its way through the Jackson Hole Valley, which is just about the most stunningly beautiful location imaginable.
But although the scenery is a factor, that isn’t what brings droves of anglers here from all over the world. The river has some of the best brown and cutthroat fishing the state offers.
The upper reaches are a series of small creeks that can be inaccessible. Still, for those who put in the effort, they will be rewarded with not only a trip into a true wilderness but an abundance of trout in the 8 to 10-inch size range that punches above their weight.
The lower reaches below Jackson Lake are best approached with a float trip, and this is undoubtedly the best way to make the most of this river.
The river isn’t offering any large hatches, so although nymph fishing can be successful, it is best known for its dry-fly fishing. To catch the river at its best, you should plan a trip for any time between early spring and mid-summer. Employing the services of a fishing guide will also help you make the most of your trip.
The Bighorn River begins life as the Wind River and becomes the Bighorn once it nears Thermopolis. Although the river is perhaps better known for the fishing it offers in its tailwaters in Montana; the Wyoming section also has some absolutely stunning fishing to offer.
One of the big pluses about the Bighorn River is the consistency of its fishing throughout the season. Early in the season, large caddis hatches get the trout feeding and snapping, and later in the year, massive Trico hatches can occur right up to Mid-October.
Wondering, “what is the difference between wet flies and dry flies?” Read our article to find out.
Brown trout are the real kings of this river, with anglers catching fish of 20 inches or more.
The fishing on the Bighorn River is open throughout the year, although it is best to avoid summer’s height. The fishing can be slow and the river weedy and also Mid-Winter when it can be bitterly cold.
As with any trip to unknown waters, if you want to make the best of your visit, then a good fishing guide can help you be in the right place, with the right fly, at the right time. The Bighorn River Fishing guides are based in Thermopolis and offer excellent services, including a shuttle service if you fancy a float trip.
And if you’re wondering, “Should I hire a fly fishing guide?” Click that link to learn more.
When most fly-fishers plan a trip to Wyoming, they generally head to the western or central areas. However, for those that head further south, there lies Sand Creek. It runs along the border between Wyoming and South Dakota and has its source in the Black Hills. The creek is a limestone-lined, meandering river that is so different from the bulk of fishing Wyoming offers.
In the crystal-clear water, the abundance of the fish becomes apparent, but this also means that stealth and cunning are required if you don’t want to spook them. The trick with Sand Creek is to move slowly and not stay in one spot too long.
If this is your type of fishing, you will be rewarded with plenty of beautifully conditioned brown trout. Although you are unlikely to catch any monster here, the clarity of the water and the effort and skill it takes to hook one of these beauties makes it a fishing experience you will never forget.
There is a great online article that details the best fishing spots and how to get to the trout from Red Rock Adventure.
This famous trout river is probably better known for its trout fishing over the border in Utah. However, the section that flows from the Wind River to the Flaming Gorge Reservoir provides some spectacular fishing for rainbow, cutthroat, and brown trout. It has over a hundred miles of fishable and generally easily accessible fishing located on public land.
This section of the river is not somewhere you are likely to catch a trophy fish but the fun to be had tempting rising fish with delicate flies makes up for this. And if you do fancy a shot at some larger specimens, then downstream of La Barge, the Green River flows into the Fontenelle Reservoir. From this point onwards, trophy fish are just waiting to snatch at that fly.
The river at these lower reaches is easily accessible as it runs mainly through the Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge. The quantity and quality of the fishing on the Green River mean that a local guide’s services would enhance your experience. The good people at the Wyoming Fishing Company have years of experience guiding on the river.
North Platte River
The Gray Reef section of the North Platte river holds a staggering 5,200 trout per mile. The grey reef begins below the Alcova Reservoir and runs north following the route of WY-220. Access isn’t easy as much of the land surrounding the river is privately owned. A float trip is the best way to approach fishing the river, and if you go to the trouble, the rewards will be epic.
A large proportion of the 5,200 per mile that populate the river are big fish, with browns and rainbows that could top the scales at 8lbs or more. Particularly between the Pathfinder reservoir and the Kortes Dam, this section includes an area known as the miracle mile (although it stretches for between five and eight miles depending on water levels). It is estimated that there are hundreds if not thousands of trophy-sized trout!
Nymphs are a great tactic on this river, and as with all Wyoming fishing, the options and locations are so diverse that a local guide will help turn your trip into the experience of a lifetime.
So what is a nymphing rig anyway?
Many local guides can take you right to the fish, including the helpful people at Platte River Fishing Guides.
As in the Yellowstone Park section of this article, the fishing available in Wyoming is so diverse and plentiful that an article of this scope simply can’t do it any justice. What we have covered is a mere taster of what is available.
Certainly, whatever time of year you come here, there will be some epic fishing available. It is best to plan your trip for spring through to early summer for specific areas, including Yellowstone Park. For rivers such as the Bighorn, all-year-round fishing is available.
Tackle-wise, if you are traveling light, then a 9.5-foot rod that can handle a 6 or 7 weight line would cover most bases. A good selection of nymphs and dry flies will serve you well, with some smaller wets and a few lures thrown into the mix, and you are ready for just about anything Wyoming can offer you.
Wyoming is a fishing location that has it all, it is one of the most stunningly beautiful places on the planet, and if that wasn’t enough, it is crammed full of some of the most challenging trout you will ever encounter.
Good luck and Have fun!