Fly fishing or functioning as a human has been a struggle the past few months. January was cold, but February out did it’s normal awfulness with bitter cold and rainforest like rain totals. Then March brought us COVID-19… so we fully empathize that the poor weather and circumstances have brought tough times, but here at Alpharetta Outfitters we are looking to the future. Late spring and summer trips are coming up soon so we wanted to give anglers some ideas off the beaten path. We all know about the classic western rivers like the Snake, Frying Pan, Bitterroot, etc. but there are so many other options for anglers out there. As the title suggest this post will be all about the Cowboy State, a.k.a. Wyoming. Fly fishing in Wyoming is not on most angler’s radar but it really should be. With the exception of a few select ranches and the Jackson Hole area, the state doesn’t have the media sensation that surrounding states have. With large expanses of public land, wild rivers and fish populations, big mountains, and seemingly endless sunshine it is just as miraculous as its more popular neighbors.
Getting Out There
With a population below 550,000 at the 2010 census this state is chock full of lightly explored water and opportunity. The hardest part about fly fishing in Wyoming is getting there. The classic trout bum route of driving out and camping on public lands with the bonus of having your own rig with all your stuff is the most cost-effective way. However, fish hard all day and coming back to set up your house every evening isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Jackson Hole is home to the largest international airport while there are twenty-seven other airports located in the state. Cheyenne, Cody, and Casper are also some of the other ones to fly into. As well there are tons of accomodations for families or small groups on guest ranches, in campgrounds (you could rent an RV when you fly out), historic hotels, and resorts. The Yellowstone and Grand Teton areas are full of resources for newcomers. More info on traveling to and within Wyoming responsibly can be found here: https://travelwyoming.com/ .
What kinds of fish live there?
Wyoming has all of the classic Western trout species you could want. Rainbows are plentiful in all systems while Brook trout can be found in alpine lakes and the headwaters of larger systems. Brown trout are the kings of the river systems as they grow large even with a short growing season. The Cutthroat has many variations you can fish for, including the Snake River Fine-Spotted Cutthroat, Yellowstone Cutthroat, Colorado River Cutthroat, and Bonneville Cutthroat. The most elusive of all the species are the Golden Trout located high in the Wind River Range among other ranges. It is very possible to hit what is called the ‘Rocky Mountain Grand Slam’ (catching a rainbow, brook, brown, and cutthroat all in the same day) while angling here!
Types of water to expect
Wyoming has all kinds of water to fit each anglers style of fishing. Start by getting a good map (we suggest Benchmark Maps) and fishing anything that looks viable on public land. There is no wet boot law in Wyoming as the private property owners own the river bed, so be cautious about property boundaries if you’re not on a guided trip. Even if you don’t have a boat to float there is ten lifetimes worth of small to medium sized waters to explore. Remember to fish the tributaries of the larger rivers as they hold plenty of fish but give anglers a more intimate experience. Here’s a list of some of our favorite rivers:
- Big Laramie River
- Miracle Mile on the North Platte
- Upper North Platte
- Snake River
- Yellowstone National Park (No State license needed here but they require a park license)
- Tongue River
- Wind River
Look deep into the mountain ranges for high alpine lakes. They will usually have cutthroats or brookies in them. If you do your research some will even have grayling and golden trout.
There are so many different ways to go fly fishing in Wyoming that your imagination is the limit. The classic summer approach that puts loads of trout in the net is the classic hopper dropper. The hopper is typically a super buoyant foam fly that supports a nymph. We like hoppers made of foam since they absorb floatant well and can stay floating all day long. The same nymphs that work in the Southeast work just fine when you are fly fishing in Wyoming. When your trip is set to start look at hatch charts to make sure you have fly patterns to cover the catch. Nothing is worse than being stuck in a blanket hatch and not having the right fly pattern. Keep plenty of streamers in the box as well for those alpine lake trips. Fish out west know winter is coming, so big browns won’t miss out on a meal if it is presented properly. Many of Kelly Galloup’s patterns are good places to start. Every region has their own special ties so take a break from the water and support the local fly shops to find out what works best in that area and how the bite is. A trip out west isn’t complete with out dry flies so be sure to keep a good stock of them as well.
Fly fishing in Wyoming is a special experience and it’s surprisingly accessible to most anglers. With the right knowledge a trip can be accomplished very cost effectively while fishing incredible water that can’t be duplicated any where else. Take the tips above as a good starting place and do more research on the places that peaked your interest. There are no hard set rules except for respecting private property and purchasing a license through Wyoming Fish & Game. If you’re planning a summer trip give us a call so we can get you outfitted for any occasion!