Best of the West - Wyoming

Field & Stream Online Editors

Catch Your Dinner
Shoshone National Forest - Wyoming
Keeping trout to eat can be a tricky question in the Rockies, where a catch-and-release ethic is firmly established and often the law. Brook trout, though, are regarded as pests in some waters either because of overpopulation or because they compete with native cutthroats. Brookies are common in many small streams and lakes that tumble out of the high country. Wyoming, for example, allows an extra 10 brook trout under 8 inches long in addition to its general daily bag limit for trout. The Shoshone National Forest, 2.4 million acres extending from Yellowstone National Park south and east to Lander, Wyoming, is a great place to find brookies. Make sure you're able to distinguish between a brookie and a cutthroat before you whack anything on the head. More info: Shoshone National Forest office, 307-578-1200; www.fs.fed.us/r2/shoshone

Next Best Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado The park is better known for scenery than for fishing. But numerous small streams and lakes hold brookies that under Colorado's generous brook-trout bag limit beg to be eaten. More info: Rocky Mountain National Park office, 970-586-1206; nps.gov/romo

Cutt Your Teeth
_South Fork Snake River - Wyoming _
Some come to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for the spectacular Teton Mountains; others for the area's newfound society glitz. For fishermen, though, the nearby South Fork Snake River with its abundant, fine-spotted cutthroats is the main attraction. Sparkling riffles and deeper runs hold cutts reaching 12 to 16 inches that often aren't too fussy and willingly smack larger dries like a size 10 Madam X or Royal Wulff. It's the perfect place for a beginner to try flyfishing from a drift boat. Highly skilled flyfishermen might prefer nearby Flat Creek, which opens to fishing on August 1, where the big, spring-creek cutts all have a Ph.D. in dry-fly inspection. Area fishing outfitters abound. More info: High Country Flies, 866-733-7210; highcountryflies.com. Jack Dennis Sports, 307-733-3270; jackdennis.com

Next Best Kelly Creek, Idaho Located in Clearwater National Forest, this was Idaho's first official catch-and-release cutthroat water. Bring your hiking boots. More info: Clearwater National Forest office, 208-476-4541; www.fs.fed.us/r1/clearwater

Fish at 10,000 Feet
Beartooth Plateau - Wyoming
Lauded by Charles Kuralt as the "most beautiful road in America," U.S. 212 straddles a necklace of interconnected lakes and streams on the Beartooth Plateau that combine unsurpassed alpine scenery with trout fishing that can bring a fish to hand with nearly every cast. Hundreds of lakes span the Wyoming-Montana border here, so you have to know where you are before casting your fly to the ring of the rise. Buy Idaho and Montana licenses in Red Lodge or Cooke City before taking the uphill grade, and bring a pair of sturdy hiking boots. Roadside fishing is for 8-inch brookies. To catch larger rainbows and cutthroats, you'll have to shoulder your pack. Wildflowers peak in July, but so do the lightning storms and mosquitoes. The Top of the World Store (307-899-2482) offers tackle and gas in case you forgot to fill up below. Snowstorms can close the Beartooth Highway any day of the summer; contact the Wyoming Department of Transportation (307-772-0824; wyoroad.info) for updates.

** Next Best Trappers Lake and Flat Tops Wilderness lakes, Colorado** Set on a glacial plateau and accessible by road, Trappers Lake is so visually stunning that it's hard to wrench yourself away long enough to sample the dozens of trout-rich ponds in the Flat Tops Wilderness beyond. Fly pattern isn't as important here as a backpack and sturdy boots. More info: Colorado Division of Wildlife, 970-248-7175; wildlife.state.co.us. Wyatt's Sporting Goods in Meeker, 970-878-4428

EXT "Gawk at Mountains"] Gawk at Mountains
Snake River - Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
When you look at the Teton Range over the gunwales of a drift boat, your heart beats a bit faster. For anglers who have fished here, there may not be a better 360-degree visual reward anywhere in the Rockies. When it's time to match the hatch and cut a cast through a wild Wyoming wind toward that riser on the bank, you have to concentrate. More info: West Bank Anglers, 800-922-3474; westbank.com

Next Best Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado The Black Canyon is incredibly sheer and narrow-and in some places deeper than the Sears Tower is tall. The descent to the river is brutal, but the fishing is worth it. More info: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, 970-641-2337; nps.gov/blca

Keep Your Wallet in Your Waders
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Because millions of sightseers flock to Yellowstone every summer, you're able to sample great Western trout fishing on the cheap. There are hotels, chain motels, and restaurants to suit every budget, many of them centered in the gateway village of West Yellowstone, Montana. Use the Internet (starting with westyellowstonechamber.com) to find and reserve an inexpensive room before your trip. Or you can stay within the park itself (307-344-7901; travelyellowstone.com), where the least expensive economy cabin starts at $45 per night. Save even more by using one of the in-park campgrounds, starting at $17 a night.

Next, go to one of the many fly shops in West Yellowstone and buy at least a few flies to grease the flow of fishing tips. Favorite places include Bob Jacklin's Fly Shop (406-646-7336; jacklinsflyshop.com), Bud Lilly's Trout Shop (800-854-9559; budlillys.com), and Blue Ribbon Flies (800-646-7642; blueribbonflies.com). Any or all of these should offer plenty of advice on where and when to fish on your own.

Then hit the water, either in the park or very nearby. The variety of fishing opportunity is extraordinary. The little Gibbon River, both upper and lower, is relaxing, whereas the Madison River browns can be rewarding but very tough. Hike up into the Slough Creek meadows or fish the storied Firehole River (which fishes best early and late in the season). Check out less-pressured water such as the Lamar River or South Fork Madison. Remember to watch for both erratically driving tourists and wandering grizzly bears. At times they seem equally dangerous.

** Next Best Teton River, Idaho** If the Yellowstone crowds seem overwhelming, move a little west to the Teton River near Driggs, Idaho, on the Wyoming border. Fishing in the upper reaches is exceptional. Forest Service¿¿¿developed campsites start at $10 per night in the Teton Basin Ranger District. More info: Caribou-Targhee National Forest office, 208-524-7500; www.fs.fed.us/r4/caribou-targhee

Go Wild
Yellowstone River, Montana/Wyoming
The Yellowstone is the longest undammed river in the Lower 48, and it's one of the most challenging and unpredictable trout fisheries in the world. One day it can be flyfishing nirvana, and the very next day the trout can shut down completely. Hardcore guides and aficionados view this as a supreme challenge. The best times to fish can be late summer or early fall, when trout key on terrestrials and streamer patterns. The Yellowstone has 200-plus miles of trout water, and some of the best runs are near downtown Livingston. More info: Dan Bailey's Fly Shop, 800-356-4052; dan-bailey.com

** Next Best Roaring Fork River, Colorado **The Roaring Fork exudes that same wild character as it pounds an unimpeded 70-mile path to the Colorado River, dropping over 4,000 vertical feet along the way. More info: Alpine Angling, 800-781-8120; alpineangling.com

Go Trophy Hunting
North Platte River, Wyoming
Though the Platte River rises in a bowl between the snow-clad Rocky and Medicine Bow Mountains, you don't come here for scenery. You come for trout that can top that magic 20 mark-pounds, that is. There are two distinct tailwater stretches: the "Miracle Mile" (actually about 8 miles) between Seminoe and Pathfinder Reservoirs; and a little farther downriver, the Gray Reef tailwater from Gray Reef Dam to the Sechrist boat takeout. The former is walk-and-wade; the latter is mostly float fishing due to private landholdings. Bring a kick boat even if you plan to stick to the Miracle Mile because high water releases may force you to launch on the stabler Gray Reef water. More info: Grey Reef Outfitters, 307-232-9128. Platte River Fly Shop, 307-237-5997; wyomingflyfishing.com

** Next Best Bighorn River, Montana** Rumors about the Bighorn's death were premature. Yes, drought has cut the trout population by more than half, but those that remain are bigger than ever; this is where you can hook a 12-pound brown on a 5X tippet. More info: Bighorn Trout Shop, 406-666-2375; bighorntroutshop.com. Bighorn River Lodge, 406-666-2368

>> Back to Main Pagette River, Wyoming_
Though the Platte River rises in a bowl between the snow-clad Rocky and Medicine Bow Mountains, you don't come here for scenery. You come for trout that can top that magic 20 mark-pounds, that is. There are two distinct tailwater stretches: the "Miracle Mile" (actually about 8 miles) between Seminoe and Pathfinder Reservoirs; and a little farther downriver, the Gray Reef tailwater from Gray Reef Dam to the Sechrist boat takeout. The former is walk-and-wade; the latter is mostly float fishing due to private landholdings. Bring a kick boat even if you plan to stick to the Miracle Mile because high water releases may force you to launch on the stabler Gray Reef water. More info: Grey Reef Outfitters, 307-232-9128. Platte River Fly Shop, 307-237-5997; wyomingflyfishing.com

** Next Best Bighorn River, Montana** Rumors about the Bighorn's death were premature. Yes, drought has cut the trout population by more than half, but those that remain are bigger than ever; this is where you can hook a 12-pound brown on a 5X tippet. More info: Bighorn Trout Shop, 406-666-2375; bighorntroutshop.com. Bighorn River Lodge, 406-666-2368