Bayard Fox Describes Local Fishing

The Wind River watershed rises just on the east side of the Continental Divide and is a hidden gem for trout fisherman. There are some excellent opportunities for fly fishing on our own private stream and in neighboring lakes and rivers.  The Dubois area gets much less fishing pressure than places like nearby Jackson Hole and Yellowstone Park which are too well known and attract fly fishermen from around the world.

Bayard fishing the ranch water during the fall.

Bayard fishing the ranch water during the fall.

The East Fork of the Wind River runs through the ranch for almost two miles and holds many cutthroat trout between 10 and 21 inches. For the last few years the whole East Fork drainage has been designated catch and release only for cutthroat which predominate. The drainage includes the East Fork itself and higher up from its junction with the main Wind River, Bear Creek and the Wiggins Fork as well. It is a large drainage with ideal habitat and the cutthroat population has become self-sustaining so that you can be sure you are catching truly wild fish. Two small streams, studded with beaver dams, which run through the ranch are ideal for spawning and one can often see large fish spawning in these tributaries, producing enormous numbers of fingerlings.

Fishing the East Fork on the ranch.Though many kinds of trout have been introduced in Wyoming the only indigenous trout is the cutthroat’ which is why the Wyoming Game and Fish has decided to make this drainage a sanctuary for them.  Our private trout fishing stream at the ranch has about two miles of water between two steep gorges.  At the top end of the upper gorge the national forest begins and the stream meanders more slowly through a long, wide valley with nice pools and many places where fishermen can have clear back casts without getting hung up on trees.  There is only access by car to the first two miles or so of this valley, but one can hike on up above the end of the road into a vast wilderness area where there are many miles of water full of trout and seldom visited. One is always surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery.  Below the ranch, the stream enters another three mile gorge, less difficult to wade, where there are some lovely pools.


The Wiggins Fork

Brook Trout

In most years there is a heavy snow melt in the mountains in late May and early June. The East Fork will usually subside and clear up enough for good fly fishing about the last week in June. Bear Creek to the west also holds many cutthroat and the lower part of it is only a short drive from the ranch.  Several sections of the Wiggins Fork and the lower East Fork can be reached by car in a short time. This section holds brown, rainbow and brook trout as well as cutthroat and a few of them reach over 22 inches. Also, often overlooked and mistakenly disdained by some is the mountain whitefish which takes dry flies and small nymphs readily and can be well over 20 inches. The main Wind River is quite big water and holds some very large trout. It is usually best after the middle of July. It is more heavily fished than the East Fork as it runs along a main highway.

On the south side of the Wind River Valley most of the streams stay clear all year. Torrey Creek is about a 45 minute drive from the ranch. It connects three beautiful lakes which are up to a mile long and hold some fine rainbows and browns.  Unfortunately the fishing there is usually best before sunup and after sunset which necessitates getting up before first light or having a late dinner. Brooks Lake and Brooks Lake Creek hold many rainbow trout.  The lake is at about 9,000 ft. and the ice usually melts around the middle of June, but this can vary widely.  For three or four weeks after the ice melt the fishing in Brooks Lake Creek and near the inlets to the lake can be excellent. The drive there takes about an hour and a quarter. A bit farther away there is some excellent water on the nearby Indian Reservation which requires a special permit. The tail water below Bull Lake Creek holds some beautiful brown trout with terrific power, but at some times of year the heavy release of water makes wading and fishing difficult.

A small but exciting to catch "cut."

A small but exciting to catch “cut.”

The presentation is often more important than having just the right pattern. All the classical ones like a Royal Wulff and a hare’s ear nymph seem to work well here at times. There have probably been more large trout hooked on a woolly bugger than any other fly.  Lately I have found that a purple haze often brings rises and it has become my favorite dry fly.  The terrestrials can also be extremely effective, particularly grasshoppers. Small nymphs often work best and many like to use strike indicators and a dropper fly. A two or three weight rod is fine for the smaller streams, but a six is an advantage in bigger water where a longer cast is helpful.  On the smaller streams I like to use a 5x leader usually, but it can be hard to net larger trout in swift water if they get below you.  I think the finer the leader, the better the chances of a strike, especially on a dry fly when the water is low and clear.  Waders are almost a necessity in the bigger streams and lakes, but hip boots are enough in the smaller ones. The water can be pretty cold without boots, but many don’t mind wading wet in the smaller streams in warmer weather.

The 2 million acre Wind River Indian Reservation adjacent to our ranch sometimes has spectacular trout fishing opportunities. A special permit is required costing about $30 for a day. This discourages most of the locals and the water is lightly fished.   Bull Creek is about an hour’s drive and the tail water below the reservoir holds many impressive browns, some over 20 inches, which are often hard to land on less than a 4x leader where the current is swift.  The fish sometimes rise sporadically for hatches which are often hard to identify and it can be extremely frustrating.  The fishing is best before sunup and after sunset.