The first entry in our western fly fishing travel series has to begin with a look at the North Platte River in Wyoming. It is a world-famous fly fishing destination for huge trout and with just a drive of a few hours, it is within easy striking distance for anglers from Colorado. Because of the North Platte’s close proximity to Colorado and the variety of water available, an entire week-long trip could be developed on different sections of the North Platte. Much of the North Platte is dam controlled and the tailwater nature of the river make it a great fly fishing destination in the Spring when local rivers begin to rise and become muddy with runoff conditions.
For Colorado anglers looking to celebrate the end of winter with an easy out of state fly fishing trip for trophy-sized browns and rainbows, Wyoming’s North Platte is a great place to start.
Floating is the Best Bet
Due to the strict nature of Wyoming’s stream access laws which are similar in nature to Colorado’s trespass rules, float fishing is the most effective way to get the best fishing access out of your trip. Landowners own the streambed in Wyoming and access points can be limited on the North Platte by large private ranches. A boat gives anglers the ability to float and fish through these private stretches. Public boat ramps are placed at regular intervals from the upper portion of the river near Saratoga down through the Miracle Mile, at Grey Reef, at the town of Casper and beyond.
For anglers wishing to experience the fishing on the North Platte who don’t have their own boat, Vail Valley Anglers offers destination guided fly fishing trips on the Blue Ribbon Platte in Wyoming.
There are areas where wade fishing is available on publicly owned parcels of federal and state lands. The Miracle Mile is a good example and this tailwater section holds huge trout. Buy a good map and use it to explore the Platte on foot. Many prime wade fishing areas may require a four-wheel drive vehicle to get to the river.
North Platte Sections
There are too many miles of excellent fly fishing water to discuss thoroughly in a short article on the North Platte but here is a quick breakdown on the major sections to give anglers a good idea of where to start.
This is the upper portion of the North Platte and Saratoga is an angler-friendly small western town. The Encampment River joins the Platte here and is an excellent fishery on its own. Upstream from Saratoga the Platte runs through large private ranches in some remote country but there are several public access points. The upper river is not dam controlled and flows depend on snowmelt. Late spring may see high off-color water but if the water is fishable, the Salmonfly hatch can be incredible. Streamers are also a good bet for targeting large trout while covering a lot of water from the boat. Using a raft in this area is the safest bet-save the drift boat for the lower river closer to Casper. Shuttle services, camping, restaraunts and lodging are easy to find.
This stretch of the North Platte, found between Kortes Dam and Pathfinder Reservoir, is mostly public water located on BLM lands. Several miles of access is available. Four-wheel drive is a must have and it is a wise decision to carry extra food, water and camping gear in this remote area. In wet conditions the roads can become impassable. Floating is an option but here you will not find any improved boat ramps. The Platte here is a fairly large, wide river so a boat offers certain advantages. Wade fishermen will find plenty of fishable water however.
This is big fish water with huge resident trout and seasonal spawing runs of giant rainbows and cutthroats in the spring and browns in the fall. If you find yourself with a big walleye on the end of your line, feel free to keep it for camp dinner. Typical tailwater small fly selections alomg with worms and eggs work well but big meaty streamers and mouse patterns are the best way to stick a Miracle Mile trophy.
Downstream at the Grey Reef Dam anglers will find excellent access to the lower portion of the North Platte. There are several other access points that offer wade fishing and boat ramps between Grey Reef and the city of Casper such as Lusby and Government Bridge. This section of the North Platte is mostly slower water with long deep pools, braids and riffles. It is a true tailwater with the characteristics of a large, winding meadow trout stream.
Float fisherman have the upper hand here since the river flows through a lot of private land. The biggest challenge anglers will face here is the wind. Wind is always present and some days can mimic gale force conditions. Nymphing with midges, scuds and leeches is a proven tactic. That said, streamers are also a good choice for prospecting between good nymphing runs. Shuttles and camping are readily available while the city of Casper has plenty of hotels and restaraunts.
Grey Reef may get all the press and notoriety. However, in recent years we’ve discovered some fantastic fishing just outside of Casper and even downstream. Huge brown trout lurk right in town while downstream, few years back trips found lower overall numbers of fish. However, there were rainbows exceeding the ten-pound mark.
Need More Info?
For more information on fly fishing the North Platte River, contact the staff at Vail Valley Anglers in Edwards, Colorado. The Rocky Mountain West fly fishing travel series will continue next week with a new destination.
Brody Henderson, Guide and Content Writer