An Expert Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in WyomingPublished on 09/14/2022 · 9 min readFor anglers looking to land some cutthroat trout, Wyoming is the spot to go! Fly Fishing Expert Joseph Smith lists a few can't-miss spots!
Photo by Jack Charles
The cutthroat trout is the iconic Western fish. Wyoming is home to five subspecies of this trout and boasts a Cutt Slam for anglers who can catch four of the subspecies. The Alpine Highlands straddle the continental divide, and rivers drain into the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. With never-ending beautiful landscapes and plenty of wildlife, it is no wonder this state is home to rivers and streams on most anglers' bucket lists. From scenic remote mountain streams and lakes fished best with an ultralight fly rod to larger lakes where a larger fly rod would work better, Wyoming offers anglers some of the best fishing in the West. Here are some locations that make Wyoming a top fly-fishing destination.
Please note that in Wyoming, anglers fishing waters that pass through private lands must stay in their vessels. Wading, shore fishing, or getting out of drift boats is considered trespassing, so please check with landowners if fishing on private property. As fishing regulations frequently change, please consult up-to-date regulations while planning your trip.
Although quite a few of these streams are shared with neighboring states, Wyoming has a solid claim to many of the streams here. This wonderful natural treasure has miles of public access to fishing. Here, anglers can chase seven different species of fish: brook trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, lake trout, cutthroat trout, mountain whitefish, and grayling. Although only the cutthroat, whitefish, and grayling are native, this park has not been stocked since the 50s. If you can take your eyes off the awe of the landscape and the deer and antelope playing, cast your line into some of the park's streams. Watch out for bison in the meadow streams and always carry bear spray.
Casting next to geysers makes this one of the strangest trout streams. This is the park’s only strictly fly-fishing stream. Abundant aquatic hatches make fishing dry flies and nymphs very productive. The Firehole River is usually one of the first streams to be fishable each season.
This river has some of the West's most famous stretches of water. Rainbow and brown trout are the main targets of anglers for this easily accessible stream.
The upper section of this river is in some of the most remote territories in the lower 48. With beautiful scenery, anglers can enjoy the richness of wildlife the park offers while catching the Yellowstone subspecies cutthroat trout.
Unfortunately, the fish population in this lake has decreased due to the illegal introduction of lake trout in the 90s. However, an aggressive lake trout program is underway, and this lake is rebounding. Anglers searching for large cutthroat trout can still catch them using streamer patterns and sinking fly lines. Lake trout, or mackinaw as they are known, can be caught in the fall as they come into the shallows to spawn.
Please note that releasing any lake trout alive into Yellowstone Lake is currently illegal. For anglers eager to harvest mackinaw, park rangers are more than eager to help with information about catching this invasive species.
The Lamar River and its tributary Soda Butte Creek are other popular areas to fish. Situated in their own valley, these streams will make anglers feel like they are in their own private oasis. These streams typically hold cutthroats, but rainbow trout and cutbows can also be caught. Unfortunately, for anglers willing to hike into this stream, once past the easily accessed first two miles in the lower Lamar Valley, this stream becomes difficult to access and sees limited fishing pressure towards the headwaters.
This river flows from Yellowstone Park into Montana. Within the park, this river is only accessible via backpacking. Brown and rainbow trout are the main species caught here, but anglers can also find cutthroat trout. The wildlife and landscape make this well worth the trip.
One of the better streams to fish, here anglers will sight fish for large trout. This stream will test an expert's skills and patience, but the payoff is well worth it.
If Yellowstone was not enough, the Teton Range is right next door. This area includes the Grand Teton National Park, National Elk Refuge, Jackson Hole, Bridger-Teton National Forest, and Teton Wilderness.
Just as the name implies, this legendary river slithers its way through the Teton range. With brown trout and the snake river fine spotted subspecies of cutthroat trout, this river is wadable in the upper sections and a favorite to float in the lower sections.
Located in the Grand Tetons National Park, this lake boasts large fish. Although they tend to remain in the deeper waters, anglers can still catch fish with streamers using a strip retrieve in the shallow waters, especially in the spring and fall.
Leigh Lake is another spring and fall fishing opportunity in the Grand Tetons National Park to throw streamers for large lake and cutthroat trout. A quick portage from String Lake allows anglers to get a canoe into this lake as well.
Two Ocean Creek
Located in the Teton Wilderness, this creek straddles the continental divide. Here, anglers can catch cutthroat trout in either the Atlantic Ocean draining branch or the Pacific Ocean draining branch, depending on which side of the fork they fish.
This is a great location to chase fine-spotted cutthroat trout with easy access and clear water. Here, matching the hatch is critical to catching fish in this spring creek outside Jackson Hole.
The salmon fly hatch here is a spectacle to behold. This hatch occurs about the same time every year, and the fish are eager takers of large orange body flies. Highway 191 offers access to multiple points along this river.
Gros Ventre River
Pronounced “grow vaunt,” this river offers anglers the opportunity to catch cutthroat trout. With a solid 4x4 vehicle, anglers can reach less-fished remote areas or can fish the lower sections of the National Elk Refuge. In addition to cutthroat fish, anglers may encounter moose and grizzly bears, so make noise and carry bear spray.
This is the highest elevation drainage in the Teton Wilderness area. So pack in, plan on camping for some wild, scenic landscapes, and enjoy scenic fishing.
This beginner-angler-friendly fishing hole is near Jackson. With camping grounds very close by, the creek is easily accessible, and cutthroat trout are always fun to catch.
Wind River Range
With the town of Pinedale nearby and the wilderness to explore in the mountains, this area is ideal for anglers. This is a great area to explore on a backpacking or guided horse trip with countless high alpine lakes and streams. Anglers catch cutthroat, brook, rainbow, and even golden trout in these pristine wilderness waters.
Fish this central Wyoming river to catch cutthroat trout. For the first 30 miles, a Wyoming fishing license will work. After this, the river enters the Wind River Indian Reservation, and a special permit is required. One can catch rainbow and brown trout in addition to cutthroat and brook trout.
Fitzpatrick Wilderness Area
Accessed best via the Wind River Indian Reservation, this remote area offers excellent opportunities to fish for golden trout.
Bighorn River Thermopolis
Just downstream from where the Wind River becomes the Bighorn River at the Wedding of the Waters is Hot Springs State Park. This popular destination is also a great remote tailwater fishery. Anglers can catch fish here on dry flies, nymphs, and streamers. Think the Bighorn River is only worth fishing in Montana? Think again.
The Flaming Gorge is a 65 sq mile body of water from damming the Green River. Anglers can catch brown, lake, and rainbow trout, along with smallmouth bass and kokanee salmon. Sight fishing for carp can also be fun along the shores of this lake.
Although the lower section of this river in Utah is more popular, the upstream section is just as scenic, and anglers can catch the Colorado subspecies of cutthroat trout. While quite a bit of the water is on private land, public access is still available. Fish the boulder field below Warren Bridge but make sure you get a good dead drift.
North Platte River
This is one of the best fishing locations in Wyoming, if you can imagine (even with Yellowstone fishing!). This freestone stream is varied and has great opportunities, and as such, I have broken down some of the more popular sections.
About 20 miles from the nearest paved road, this 5-to-8-mile section (depending on flow levels) of the river below Kortes Dam is known for trophy size fish. In addition, this tailwater section is great for nymph fishing very large trout.
This section of the river lies between Pathfinder Reservoir and Alcova Reservoir. Here, minimum water flows have resulted in great aquatic life, and the healthy population of large rainbow and brown trout proves it.
Private property limits shoreline access but drift through this section that boasts cutthroat, brown, and rainbow trout that are measured in pounds, not inches. Due to the fish size, bring a 7-weight or even 8-weight rod and cast big streamer flies. This is trophy trout water.
Big Laramie River and Little Laramie Rivers
These tributaries of the North Platte River are known as excellent wild brown trout fisheries, but rainbow trout are stocked here as well. The Jelm access is perhaps the most scenic, publicly accessible section of the Laramie River.
Located in the Bighorn Mountains, this river drains the range’s eastern slopes before emptying into the Yellowstone River. Only the upper reaches of this river are prime fishing. This river holds rainbow, brown, brook, and cutthroat trout. Upstream in Big Horn National Forest, the Tongue River divides into North and South branches. Both branches are good for fishing. For extra solitude, the canyon section of the North Tongue River is only accessible by hiking to the bottom of the canyon.
Most anglers to Wyoming focus on the western or central regions and for good reason. Along the eastern border with South Dakota, though, this limestone-lined stream that runs through Wyoming’s Black Hills is a slow, meandering, clear stream with a very high trout population. The slow current and clear visibility give the trout extra time to inspect offerings. Good casting and stealth make all the difference.
Wyoming is a great fly-fishing destination. Not only will you have the opportunity to chase five subspecies of cutthroat trout, but the landscape these rivers flow through is breathtaking, to say the least. If you need help with your gear selection while planning your next adventure, please get in touch with a fellow Fly Fishing Expert or me here at Curated. We would love to help. Tight Lines!