Wyoming Fly Fishing Notes
Laramie River – June 17
Water had come down from the run off, and was a little off color but in great shape. Evening was cloudy with a little wind. Lots of small hoppers so targeted areas that had tall grass on the bank. Learned from a guide in Arkansas that presentation with hoppers shouldn’t be delicate. They aren’t flies settling onto the surface, it’s a grasshopper plopping into the water. In some cases, he said, fish are attracted to the commotion because they know what it is. Small twitches activate the hopper and can induce strikes. Lost two nice fish and brought one small fish to hand in about an hour of fishing.
Lake Helen, East Lake Marion and the North Tongue River – June 20-22
I was spoiled by the fishing reports from The Fly Shop when I lived in California. It may have been a matter of population density, or accessibility but whatever it was, I knew a lot about the rivers I wanted to fish. Wyoming has been a different animal, and that makes sense. Local fly shops report flows and good flies in the shop itself on the now-standard dry erase board. But it’s tough to find quality information. So with that in mind, I will provide some, but try not to ruin a good thing incase there is a conscious effort to keep the fishing good.
Anyway, hiked into Lake Helen on June 20. It took just over two hours to get to the outlet of the lake. We went to the east of the lack and camped at the back which added about a mile and another 30 minutes.
In the morning we hiked up to a no-name lake that was rumored to have Golden Trout. After talking to a guy from the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish, I discovered that the lake is name East Marion and has Yellowstone Cutthroat trout, but not Goldens.
My girlfriend and I found Lake Trout and Brook Trout eager to take an egg sucking leach stripped slowly at the two creek entires on the north end of the lake.
I know this will sound like typical angling fabrication, so I am going to subtract two inches from what I thought the fish was, to combat inferred inflation. This trout was 16, solid inches which is not surprising for a lake of the size, but I’ve fished plenty of good lakes that seemed to have no fish larger than 14 inches. This thing looked like a small salmon. I saw it cruising within a few feet of the shore and I tossed a foam caddis with a chironomid dropper and the thing took the dropper. I set the hook and felt the weight of the fish. It thrashed a few times at the surface, you know that crazy whole-body convulsion that big fish do. It popped off.
The unnamed lake to the north east (between Helen and Gunboat) had trout that slowly took foam caddis at the surface and the chironomid droppers, but they were Yellowstone cutthroat, not Golden Trout.
We hiked out on Sunday and drove to the Prune Creek Campground on the South Tongue River. There are plenty of brown trout here that take pretty much any small black nymph you have, but some fun caddis action too. The real story is the North Tongue River where there are Snake River cutthroats of much bigger size than anything we caught on the South. It seemed like a perfect hopper river, but there weren’t any around. I got a couple looks at my RS2, chironomid, and zebra midge dropped under an Adams, caddis and tried a hopper as an indicator but no takes. The fish seemed to be a little shy in the clear water, so we tried to use stealth but it wasn’t until I dropped a brown birds nests that I had any luck. I would have liked to report that there was some nice dry fly action, but that wasn’t the case for us. That certainly doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but we had limited resources in the box. Had we stopped in town we may have been able to get a couple flies that were the ticket, but we only stopped in Sheridan on the way out.
The North Tongue River is devastatingly beautiful and the trout are the same. I love the meandering high-country meadow streams that we don’t have in southeast Alaska. We fished it last year and it became a must-fish on this summer’s visit to Wyoming.
Boysen Reservoir – June 27
With no clue how to fish for walleye, I went to Four Seasons Anglers in Laramie to get some insight, if possible. They guy there as honest in his lack of knowledge regarding walleyes, but I much appreciate the honesty rather than have a guy send me to the most expensive articulated streamers and say they should work. I spent $30 which is my max when it comes to a fishery I might only fish once, and decided on streamers that looked like they could work in multiple environments.
Fish were cruising the shallows in the evening, trout noisily taking insects off the surface, and carp doing the same but in a slow, casual manner. It’s not the sexiest way to catch a trout, but a rainbow took a small rainbow trout color-schemed jig on a quick strip just as the sun was setting.
I had heard carp are difficult to catch, which is why some in the fly fishing world had become a little obsessed in the way that some curious, some pretentious anglers do. I hadn’t planned on targeting them but since they were there I decided I’d get over my elitist attitude and cast for them.
A few were feeding on top which I had never heard of mostly because I hadn’t paid much attention to the habits of carp. I tried a couple dry flies which they ignored in addition with droppers because it looked like they were casually taking emergers or something on the surface. Nothing worked but I did like the challenge of sight fishing. I could see the charm in this.
I finally came tight with one using a small white/green/pink jig in the back of a sandy bay. It wasn’t a particularly memorable fight, but the fish are strong and heavy.
Wind River – June 27
After the carp at the reservoir, we headed north for an hour of fishing on the Wind River. There is a small stretch of land north of the Boysen Reservoir dam that has incredible bug life and excellent water for big trout. The amount of surface takes compared to the amount of bugs was confusing. However, there are are some tail waters so rich in insect lift that a trout can just hold in a feeding lane and open its mouth. So after a few different assorted caddis, and dry dropper rigs, I went to the old standby of a rubber legs and a zebra midge and caught two beautiful trout.
Louis Lake – June 27
Old news can be good news, or an indication you missed out. While researching lake fishing opportunities near Lander, I came across a news article that is not old really, but if fishing news ages like dogs, it was old.
The 2018 article stated that Louis Lake had trophy caliber Lake Trout but again, that was two years ago when the trout had a chance to gorge themselves on stocked Kokanee according to the piece.
There was a solid caddis hatch but only small fish taking them on the surface. Quite a few dead fish had washed up on the northern shore. Uniform size. Odd to me.
We had a little campfire, roasted some sausages and waited for an evening shallows stalker but never found one.
The Wind River Range – July 1-4
The Titcomb Lakes trail passes several lakes with Golden Trout in the Bridger Wilderness. We were excited at the prospect of Goldens but they are hard to catch, some of the lakes were still mostly frozen and well, it ended up being a nice trip for cutthroats, rainbows and hybrids.
What I have found with fly fishing in Wyoming, or most new water, is to have a standard battery of flies. Below is an abbreviated version of my box. For instance, I carry a few sizes of zebra midges and also like the olive shade. Same with the birds nest and scud. Midges, dries that can stand alone or work in a dry-dropper setting, a rubber legs, and some hoppers because they are so dang fun. The rubber legs has worked in Colorado, California, Wyoming, Idaho and even at home in Alaska, so I have them in a few sizes. Parachute Adams, standard Adams and a foam or regular caddis make for great droppers.
For lakes I have a few scuds ready and in the case of this last weekend, a jig that makes my fly box look a little suspect.