Wyoming is not as well known for small stream trout fishing as its neighbor to the south, Colorado, but there is no doubt fewer crowds make fly fishing the small creeks of Wyoming so productive! In this blog, we are going to focus on the Jackson Hole area of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Small stream fly fishing really kicks off in late June. The Gros Ventre River, Spread Creek, and Crystal Creek are among several small streams that we will cover. In many parts of the west, rivers are measured in thousands of cubic feet per second (CFS), such as large rivers including the Snake River. The Snake River peaks anywhere from 13,000 to 20,000 CFS, whereas small streams peak around 3,000 to 5,000 CFS. These numbers really demonstrate just how small intimate these streams are!
Gros Ventre River
The Gros Ventre River is actually pronounced Grow-Vaunt (don’t worry if you don’t get this pronunciation right the first time)! It is a 75 mile long tributary of the Snake River. It comes from natural springs and snow melt in the Gros Ventre Wilderness Area. The river holds Snake River Fine Spotted Cutthroat Trout, Eastern Brook Trout, and Mountain Whitefish. It is a medium sized freestone stream that changes character on its way to the Snake River. It seems to start fishing well around 400 CFS, although you could start fishing nymphs or streamers at higher water levels.
As you head East past the town of Kelly on pavement you will see the Kelly Warm Springs on your right, you will cross a small creek that flows from the Springs. Take a quick right, which will take you on a mix of paved and gravel road to Lower Slide Lake. Below the lake is more advanced walking with house sized boulders and big plunge pools. As you continue your drive you will find the Crystal Creek Campground, between this point and Upper Slide Lake is premier small stream fly fishing. I would suggest a 3-5 wt rod depending on your ability level. 4-5 x tippet at the end of an 8ft leader is recommended. The walk wading is not for the faint of heart, so adding aluminum cleats and using a wading staff is recommended.
Spread Creek is another great small trout stream that is close to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. There are two ways to access it if you are coming from the town of Jackson. Forest Service Road 30290 allows you to fish the bottom half of the river closer to its confluence with the Snake River. If you drive a few miles further where the road hits a canyon and wooded area, this area of water gets less pressure and has nice cutthroat trout up to 17 inches!
The second and more preferred option is to drive past the Moran Junction to Flagstaff Road. You will pass The Hatchet Resort and Restaurant on your right, coming up next is a Forest Service campground, take the right turn into it. Then follow a gravel road for 3-4 miles that is washboarded but still well maintained. You will come to a fork in the road in an open meadow, take a right to fish the meadow, and continue straight to fish the smaller forks of Spread Creek, including the North Fork. To fish the meadow, take the right, and the road will dead end with a green forest service gate. You will see a small road to your right, just before the green gate, take that to an abandoned log cabin. Park there and walk downhill into the meadow. I would suggest yelling for moose in the high willows, there could also be grizzly bears. Bringing bear spray is a must when fishing small streams in Wyoming! From here you can fish up the meadow to the first bridge you cross and then walk the road back up to the car.
Crystal Creek is just up the road from the Crystal Creek Campground, mentioned above. Red Rock Ranch owns a large portion of the water in the valley just before it hits the Gros Ventre river. However, if you drive just past the ranch and are willing to hike along the steep canyon, the river opens up into a meadow. The Green Drake hatch is famous in the meadow. The backcountry creek holds the famous Snake River Cutthroat Trout. The same rod setup for the Gros Ventre River will also work great on Crystal Creek.
Fly fishing small creeks can certainly be a rewarding way to spend time outside whether you catch ten fish or just one! If you are interested in small stream fishing but need some assistance with navigating the backcountry or picking the best bugs for smaller water, give us a call to chat about small stream guided trips and our other Jackson Hole fly fishing options!