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Despite being the least populated state in the entire country, Wyoming has arguably the best fly fishing in the continental United States. Combine the blue ribbon fisheries with two national parks, and outdoorsmen and women consider themselves in heaven.
Sizable native trout, sprawling lakes, and high mountain peaks all give fly anglers a chance to test their abilities.
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I spent the summer of 2017 working at a youth camp high in the mountains in northern Wyoming and learned how special mountain trout fishing can be. During three glorious months I traveled in the state as often as I could, seeking out fly fishing opportunities wherever they could be found.
Those three months forever hooked me, and I credit Wyoming for my lifelong love of fly fishing. Now, based on my experiences then and all the return trips I made to the state afterwards, I can tell you everything you need to know about fly fishing in Wyoming.
Why Fly Fish in Wyoming?
Seclusion is almost a guarantee in Wyoming. Depending on how hard you’d like to work, you may not see a single person for days in your attempt to harvest trout.
The seclusion is almost scary sometimes. I can recall numerous occasions when I was fly fishing in Wyoming and suddenly thought about how alone I was. It was just me, the trout, and the mosquitos.
These fish don’t receive as much pressure, and you may realize that you’re not as alone as you thought, but are accompanied by trophy moose, black bear, and elk.
There are few places left on earth like Wyoming. If you visit, be sure to make sure it stays that way by giving the nature the respect it deserves.
Anglers need to care for the waters and landscapes. Whenever I’m in Wyoming, I go out of my way to contribute to saving the beauty of the state. The future of fly angling depends on it.
What to Pack for Fly Fishing in Wyoming
Here are a few of the essential items I bring on any fly fishing trip. These will all come in handy in Wyoming, as there are so many different styles of fishing in the state.
- Your best fly rod overall: Bring your favorite rod.
- Your best fly reel overall: Pack it with your best reel.
- A 3 weight fly rod: For smaller trout species
- A 5 weight fly rod: For medium-sized fish
- A 7 weight fly rod: Versatile and good for larger fish
- An 8 weight fly rod: Good for most of the biggest fish you’ll catch in Wyoming
- A fly fishing vest: Pack your leader, line, nippers and flies close to your chest.
- A fly fishing pack: Whether it’s a sling or a backpack, these are good for packing even more gear.
- Fly fishing waders: Ideal to get into those difficult spots in the river
- Fly fishing boots: Keep the feet on your waders protected from sharp rocks.
- Fly fishing sunglasses: A good polarized pair of lenses to remove the glare from the water and protect your eyes from UV rays
- Fly fishing net: Get a rubber net to protect the fish. Make sure it’s large enough to land 20lb+ fish
- A fly fishing combo set: You can pick up a combo kit that comes with all (or most) of the above.
- A fly box: Bring your best waterproof fly box to keep your flies safe and dry while fishing in Wyoming.
- Flies: I find that Pheasant Tails, PMDs, baitfish patterns, minnows, Woolly Buggers, black caddisflies and midges are all good flies for Wyoming lakes and rivers.
Wyoming Fly Fishing: Fish Species
During my wanderings throughout the state, I’ve encountered all types of landlocked freshwater fish in Wyoming. You won’t ever struggle to find fish to target as long as you’re willing to put in a little extra work. Below is a list of some of the best fish to target on the fly in Wyoming.
Few states in America have trout as their state fish. Wyoming is one of them, and their cutthroat trout are world-renowned. They’re the only native trout to Wyoming, and every angler visiting Wyoming must catch one.
They’re also my favorite fish to catch in the state. You can find them upwards of four or five pounds in rivers like the Yellowstone, Snake, and Big Horn.
To catch cutthroat trout, I typically use PMDs, the Chubby Chernobyl, Clouser Minnows, and the Sex Dungeon.
In my experience, sizes 4-12 are the best to catch fish. Three or 4x leader combined with 5x tippet will land you the fish you need. Wyoming trout are spooky, so do your best to stay concealed.
Rainbow trout are the most heavily stocked fish in Wyoming. They were placed in Wyoming lakes and streams in the late 1800s. It’s not uncommon to find them around 10 pounds throughout the state, and I’ve caught more than a few rainbows that size.
I look for rainbow trout in rivers like the Gros Ventre, Hoback, and the North Platte.
Tricos, minnow patterns, Woolly Buggers and PMDs are the flies I like to use when I target Wyoming’s rainbows.
Golden trout are a unique fish to catch in Wyoming. They were brought over from California, and they have beautiful coloring. They’ll spawn in late spring and early summer, and this is the best time to catch them.
I’ve hooked into some nice golden trout in Cook Lake, Jim Harrower Lake, and Flying Monkey Lake.
To catch them, I often use black caddisflies and midges. If you see terrestrial flies nearby, use one of those.
The golden trout is a beloved fish in Wyoming, so be sure to respect them in the landing and handling process.
Brown trout are another heavily stocked fish in Wyoming. You can find these around four or five pounds on a regular basis throughout rivers like the Big Laramie, Bighorn and North Platte.
Using a dry-dropper pattern for these fish is your best bet. Tie a big terrestrial as your indicator and drop a blood midge off of the bottom and you’ll be in business.
The brown trout is an extremely hearty fish. You’re always in for a strong fight when you’re able to hook a brown.
Almost any cold-water stream or river in Wyoming will hold them.
Bass are another common fish fly anglers target in Wyoming. I love catching bass because of their acrobatic fights along with impressive size. They’re enticing to all anglers.
Traditional spin anglers most often target them, so you’ll have success when you try to catch one on the fly.
Some of my favorite places to find bass are in the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, Bighorn Lake, and the Keyhole Reservoir.
Use minnow patterns along with poppers and Gutless Frogs. Be sure to use a 7 or 8-weight rod because these fish are known to test your gear’s limits.
Best Fly Fishing Spots in Wyoming
Wyoming will provide you with any type of fly fishing you’d like. During my time there, I was amazed at the variety I encountered and was rarely let down by the fishing.
Want to catch fish in the heart of a town? Want to hike 10 miles one way to land a fish from an alpine lake? Both of these are possible all across the state.
There’s limited information on the remote locations in Wyoming, so do your best to thoroughly research before you head out on your next adventure. I can’t tell you the number of times I got lost on back roads in Wyoming, looking for a remote fishing spot.
Fly Fishing Rivers in Wyoming
The rivers in Wyoming range from tiny creeks to wide rivers only fishable via boat. Most rivers have exceptional water clarity, so be careful when you approach.
It’s best to study the water and pick your spot before any fish can see you.
I believe that the Snake River is one of the most aesthetically pleasing rivers in the world. The wide river is surrounded by limestone cliffs, and the peaks of the Teton Mountain Range are always visible in the distance.
The water is clear and the fish are massive. Do your best to visit it on your next trip to Wyoming.
The river holds brown, rainbow and cutthroat trout. I often fish this river via boat because of the opportunities it presents within the canyons and wider portions. However, it’s easily wadable if you’re willing to walk.
Access is plentiful due to the wide amounts of public land, and casting lanes aren’t difficult to find.
Bring a pair of wading boots, your 5 or 6-weight, and plenty of larger flies. Chernobyls, minnows and Sex Dungeons will all catch you fish.
Also, the BWO and PMD hatches are plentiful on the river. Use 3 or 4x leader with 5x tippet.
Gros Ventre River
The Gros Ventre River is located outside of Jackson Hole and also hosts the finespotted cutthroat trout, one of the fish in the Wyoming “Cutt-Slam.”
This river is heavily affected by runoff, so be sure to hit it mid-July and August when the water levels have a chance to diminish.
Also, if you’re able, bring a 4×4 vehicle and drive to the upper portions near the Goosewing Ranger Station. This is my favorite area to escape the crowds coming from Jackson Hole and target some hungry cutthroats.
You’ll also find brown and rainbow trout in the Gros Ventre. Don’t shy away from the shallow portions of the river. You’ll notice seams throughout that always are holding fish.
Do your best to cast to the foam because this is where the fish are going to feed.
When you’re fishing the Gros Ventre, the water clarity is a challenge. These fish can easily spook, so bring along Weight Forward or floating line with 4x leader and 5x tippet.
Also, Purple Chubbies, Rubber Leg Stimulators, and Woolly Buggers will help you catch fish.
The Bighorn River is much more famous in Montana than in Wyoming. The Wyoming portion of the river doesn’t receive as much pressure, and the fish are easier to catch as a result. I’ve had more than my share of memorable days fishing on the Bighorn.
There are over 2,000 fish per mile in this river. You’ll most commonly find rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout.
The most productive stem of the river is from Thermopolis and down for the next 20 miles or so.
Runoff isn’t as difficult to manage in this river, so fishing is productive starting around June. This river is fairly easy to access with over 10 boat launches along it and plenty of public access.
When fishing the Bighorn, bring your 6-weight along with 4x leader. You’ll catch fish using Sow Bugs, Prince Nymphs and Pheasant Tails. Later in the season, you can use PMDs, Tricos and smaller caddisflies.
The Bighorn River is an amazing location that holds some sizable trout. Let the Montana folks have their portion, Wyoming’s is nothing to laugh at.
The Yellowstone River flows 700 miles throughout Montana and the northern part of Wyoming. The upper portion within Yellowstone National Park is where Yellowstone cutthroat up to 20 inches can be found.
It’s one of my favorite spots to fish in Wyoming, and maybe even the entire world. Throughout the rest of the river, you can catch rainbow and brown trout.
The Yellowstone is the longest free-flowing river in the United States. The portion within Yellowstone National Park is some of the most remote country in the entire United States. It took me about a week to hike the trail from one trailhead to the other, and you should plan on a multi-day hike just to get to Yellowstone and back.
Indeed, you’ll have to hike 30 or 40 miles to reach the edges of the river. If you choose this route, be sure you’re properly equipped with survival gear.
You can fish the Yellowstone with a 6-weight rod and leader from size 3 to 5x. Pat’s Rubberlegs, Purple Haze, Silver Lightning Bug, and the CFO Ant are the best choices for flies on the Yellowstone.
Landing a cutthroat trout in these waters is an amazing accomplishment. Good luck!
The Wind River is generally unknown due to the high alpine lakes within the Wind River Mountain Range. However, this river is a fly fishing haven with beautiful populations of cutthroat, rainbow, and brown trout.
I’ve caught these fish ranging from 12-20 inches, all the while surrounded by some of the most stunning scenery anywhere.
The Wind River is broken up into two different sections that both hold impressive populations of fish. Above the Boysen Reservoir is the more highly populated portion of the river that has the appearance of a traditional Western river.
The river below the reservoir is almost all in steep canyons with intense pocket water. This section is where the larger fish can hide, but you’ll have to work for access.
You’ll need to use your 5-weight rod with a 3 or 4x leader. You can find fish using a wide variety of dry flies including the Chernobyl Ant and the Elk Hair Caddis. Be sure to bring along a few Woolly Buggers for those deeper pools.
The Wind River is a hidden gem amongst some beautiful country. I’m already thinking about my next visit.
Fly Fishing Lakes in Wyoming
While there are numerous massive reservoirs across Wyoming full of bass, trout, and a variety of other fish, the alpine lakes are what makes Wyoming special. These crystal clear lakes filled with lightly pressured trout are a fly anglers dream, and hiking up to them is half the fun.
If you plan on lake fishing in Wyoming, be prepared to work for a trout of a lifetime.
This is the most strenuous body of water to reach on this list, but it’s well worth your time. Island Lake is located in the Wind River Range near the Bridger Wilderness. It’s home to cutthroat and stocked brook trout.
There’s also rumored to be golden trout within the waters of Island lake.
It requires a 10-mile hike to reach Island Lake, and it’s best accessed from the Elkhart Park Trailhead near Pinedale, Wyoming.
I’ve done the hike in a long day and brought camping gear to spend two or three days near the water. I recommend you do the same to make the most out of your adventure to Island Lake.
You’ll find a nice amount of solitude and beautiful peaks surrounding you. Also, be sure to bring bear spray and clothes to handle an alpine storm.
Fishing Island Lake is best done with a packable rod. If you can pack down a 5-weight, do so. Bring 4x leader with 5x tippet and Weight Forward line. For flies, you can use black caddis and stoneflies.
Also, I’ve had success with Woolly Buggers in the structured portions of the lake. It’s well worth the trip!
Flaming Gorge Reservoir
The Flaming Gorge Reservoir is spread throughout 65 miles in southwestern Wyoming. It was created as a result of the building of the Green River Dam. It has plenty of access points and is a wonderful place to learn the ropes of fly angling.
Believe it or not, carp may be the most fun fish to catch on this list. Bring along your 6-weight and some extremely light and long fluorocarbon leaders. Don’t ever cast your fly on top of the carp. Cast it near and slowly strip it past the fish.
Use leech patterns as well as Woolly Buggers to catch them.
For Kokanee salmon and trout, target them in the spring with a 7 or 8-weight. You can use egg patterns as well as baitfish streamers to catch these fish. Bring your family along for the day and sneak away with the fly rod.
Jackson Lake is inside Grand Teton National Park and is home to cutthroat, brown and rainbow trout. There are also mountain whitefish available to be caught in this 15-mile long lake.
Due to the expanse of this lake, it’s best fished by boat. However, if you can get to the lake as soon as the ice is out, the fish will be in the shallower water in search of the baitfish.
Bring your 6 or 7-weight rod with sinking and shooting line. Also, 3x leader will do the trick.
I’ve always found that wet patterns are the most successful flies to use on the lake. Kreelex, Mojo, Clouser Minnow and Woolly Buggers are my flies of choice.
This is a perfect lake to fish with your family. Ample beaches and beautiful views are enough to distract everyone while you’re out trying to catch a trophy fish.
There are trout upwards up 10 pounds in the lake ready to be caught.
Located in Kane, Wyoming, this 5,500-acre lake is filled with bass, trout and panfish. It was made in 1960s when the Yellowtail Dam was built. I’ve always fished this lake from a boat, but the casting lanes from shore are plentiful.
You’ll have quite a bit of seclusion on the Bighorn Lake because it’s far from any major towns.
On the Bighorn, I like to use a 6 or 7-weight rod to handle all of the fish I’m sure to catch.
You should use 2 or 3x leader to handle the bass and other larger freshwater fish. Poppers, Gutless Frogs and Woolly Buggers are great wet fly options for anglers on the Bighorn.
For the evening trout bite, use a mosquito or gnat pattern to help you land fish. You’ll understand why once that cloud of mosquitos descends upon you at sunset.
The Guernsey Reservoir is a 2,400-acre lake in Guernsey State Park. In it, you can find bass, crappie, and other panfish. This lake can be tackled both from shore and from a boat.
The large amount of structure spread throughout it, however, is best tackled from a boat.
Bring an 8-weight rod with some larger tippet to handle the bigger bass. Also, Weight Forward and Sinking Tip line will give you the best opportunity at catching fish.
The water clarity can be a bit of an issue, so be sure to use large and dark flies. Minnow patterns, Woolly Buggers and Dumbbell Eye streamers will be able to reach the proper depths throughout the Guernsey.
Wyoming Fishing Season
Fishing in Wyoming is largely dependent on the snow runoff. The numerous mountain ranges spread across the state have large snowpacks, and the majority flow into the different lakes and rivers on the list.
However, pre and post-runoff are extremely productive, and I’ve always had a lot of success during these times of year.
Wyoming Fly Fishing in April
April is a wonderful time to fish in Wyoming. If you’re like me, you’re likely tired of being cooped up all winter. By April, temperatures are warm enough to fish.
It’s also pre-runoff, so you won’t be inhibited by full rivers with no clarity.
Enjoy this month because May is when runoff really begins.
Wyoming Fly Fishing in May
In my experience, May is perhaps the most difficult month to fish in Wyoming. The runoff starts and water can be challenging to maneuver. Use dark and large patterns to gain the attention of the fish.
I’m always careful to make sure that I don’t wade too far into any of the rivers mentioned above because the currents are strong. Do your research on flow levels before you fish in May.
Wyoming Fly Fishing in June
June is a great time to get back on the water in Wyoming. The runoff is beginning to subside and fishing heats up. Scuds, dragonflies and tricos are great dry flies to throw.
If you’re looking to use wet flies, minnow patterns and Wooly Buggers are always going to work.
Wyoming Fly Fishing in July
Fly fishing Wyoming in July is always successful. If you can, make your way up into the mountains to escape the heat. The mountain streams will be cool, refreshing and full of hungry fish.
Caddisflies, tricos, and terrestrials are hatching. Toss the larger terrestrials along the banks of the rivers and wait for a strike.
Wyoming Fly Fishing in August
August in Wyoming is a great time to head to the mountains. Temperatures can be upwards of 90 degrees when you’re at lower elevations. The runoff is complete and the water clarity ideal.
Be sure to warily approach the water and pick your spot before you’re at the edge. Tricos, dragonflies and scuds are all hatching and working well.
Wyoming Fly Fishing in September
September is one of my favorite months to fly fish in Wyoming. The trees are beginning to change colors and temperatures are beautiful all over the state. The fish are feeding more in preparation for winter.
Terrestrials are the best flies to use in September. The dry fly bite is exceptional and fly fishing is at its peak.
Best Fly Fishing Lodges in Wyoming
Wyoming has a host of fly fishing lodges for anglers to choose. They can be found all over the state, but the primary location is Jackson Hole. These beautiful lodges offer access to private water and trophy fish.
Brush Creek Ranch
Brush Creek Ranch is an Orvis endorsed fly fishing lodge in southern Wyoming. It’s located near the headwaters of the North Platte River. You’ll have access to 20 miles of private water full of large fish.
This experience will cost quite a bit, with nightly rates ranging from around $800 per person.
Spotted Horse Ranch
The Spotted Horse Ranch is a fly fishing lodge located in Jackson, Wyoming. You’ll have access to Hoback and Willow Creek, which both flow through the ranch. Also, the ranch offers guided trips to the Salt, Snake and Green rivers.
For a three-night stay, it will cost about $1500 per person.
Box Y Lodge
The Box Y Lodge is located on the Grey’s River in the Salt River Mountain Range. It offers horseback riding as well as wonderful fly fishing. A one-bedroom cabin will cost $130 per night per person.
The access to numerous fisheries and beautiful scenery make the Box Y a wonderful choice.
Wyoming has everything that an angler could ever want. During my time living there and on subsequent visits, there was never a shortage of fishing opportunities all across the state.
Do your best to challenge yourself and reach some of the untouched waters. You’ll be rewarded with gorgeous views and trophy fish. Indeed, some of my greatest fly fishing experiences came after long, arduous mountain hikes.
Many say Wyoming is fly fishing’s best-kept secret. While it is becoming more popular, anglers are doing their best to keep excellent water conditions. Be a part of this movement. Let’s keep Wyoming as one of the best places to fly fish in the world.
Some images in this post are courtesy of Shutterstock.
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