Fly fishing in Wyoming offers the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, fresh air and the isolation from cell phone calls.
Just don’t attempt to get a fly fisherman to reveal a favorite fishing locale. That’s tougher than Goldfinger trying to get James Bond to talk.
Chad Baldwin of Laramie is a lifelong Wyoming fly fisherman. He has traveled the state and fished many a river, stream, reservoir and lake.
“Wyoming has a log of great places to fish,” said Baldwin, University of Wyoming associate vice president for communications and marketing. He listed areas such as the Laramie and Little Laramie rivers, the North Platte River and world-renown stretches such as Miracle Mile and Grey Reef, the Green River, Yellowstone Lake, and Flaming Gorge and Pathfinder Reservoirs. There are so many places to fly fish, Baldwin said he isn’t close to visiting them all.
“But I’m not going to tell you my favorite place,” Baldwin added.
Wyoming boasts 4,200 crystalline lakes and 27,000 miles of blue-ribbon, fishable streams. If local anglers won’t provide precise locations for catching the big one, or one of the handy phone apps can’t quite provide a specific latitude or longitude for casting, there are dozens of fly stores, guides and outfitters who are happy to talk and point the way.
Among the reasons Wyoming is a fly fishing destination, especially in the northwestern part of the state, is availability of native cutthroat trout, said Scott Sanchez, fly shop manager for JD High Country Outfitters in Jackson.
“There are very few places where the native trout are left,” Sanchez said. “July, August and September are a great time of the year for fishing for cutthroats.”
Trout favor cold water and the cooler temperatures, coupled with Wyoming’s elevation, make late summer and early fall an ideal time to fly fish, he said.
“The fish are eating dry flies and dry flies are easy for beginners to fish,” Sanchez said.
Whether it’s visiting a fly store or hiring a guide, beginners have many resources throughout the state to learn how to fly fish, he said.
“Fly fishing can be as simple or complicated as anything else,” Sanchez said. “The nice thing about starting out in Wyoming, like on the Platte, is that you don’t need a hundred different flies.”
Wyoming offers a variety of waters to find the right challenge for either a beginner or expert fly fisherman, he added.
For those seeking a more thorough introduction to fly fishing, the Snake River Sporting Club is partnering with Orvis and Jackson Hole Fly Fishing School to host the newly launched Orvis Fly Fishing School – Jackson Hole. The series of intensive two-day classes is the first Wyoming school offered by the outfitter. The school combines classroom programming and “on-stream” instruction led by Orvis Fly Fishing Instructor Spencer Morton, and is attracting fly fishing enthusiasts from around the globe.
School participants receive in-depth exploration of fly fishing fundamentals and techniques, including tying essential knots, choosing gear and tackle, proper fly selection, reading water and currents and general entomology. The school takes advantage of the Snake River Sporting Club’s premier and private access to six miles of Blue-Ribbon fishing on the Snake River, and each student receives an exclusive hands-on lesson with personalized attention from an expert instructor, for both beginner and expert levels.
While anglers are enjoying Wyoming’s array of trout like the native cutthroat or non-native rainbow, brook and brown, there is also an increased interest in fly fishing for carp. One lifelong fly fisherman who’s taken up the “challenge” of catching carp is Jeff McDonald, marketing director for Trihydro Corp., McDonald, a member of Trout Unlimited, has written about fly fishing and is out on a lake shore or on a stream bank whenever he can be.
“Though carp have the stigma of trash fish among many anglers, they are actually a very difficult fish to catch with a fly rod.” McDonald said. “They are incredibly sensitive to disturbances in their surroundings, so approaching these fish is extremely difficult. Also, the angler must make an incredibly accurate cast to land the fly right in front of a feeding carp.”
McDonald said he’s fished for carp the past few years in Pathfinder Reservoir with expert flycaster Mark Boname, owner of North Platte River Fly Shop in Casper.
“He guides clients on Pathfinder in a salt water flats boat, essentially unheard of in land-locked Wyoming,” McDonald said. “I have fly fished in the salt waters of Belize, Mexico, Texas and Florida, and fly fishing for carp with Mark is a very similar experience. And when a 15 to 20 pound carp takes your fly and screams line off of your reel, there is really no other experience like that available on a fly rod in Wyoming.”
While McDonald said fly fishing for carp is a relatively new frontier, he thinks “it is something every serious fly angler must experience for themselves to truly appreciate it.”
“And once you catch one, you see the beauty in them, rather than the stigma,” McDonald said.