North Platte River, Wyoming Fly Fishing

 by Huston Heatherly

Location

The North Platte River begins in Colorado and runs through Wyoming and eventually into North Platte, Nebraska where it meets the Missouri River. The river runs for approximately 716 miles and features excellent trout fishing throughout the river. This article will focus on the blue ribbon fishing sections found near Casper, Wyoming.

About the North Platte River

The North Platte river can be broken down into several sections where there are excellent fly fishing opportunities. The three most popular sections of the river include the Grey Reef section, the Miracle Mile, and Fremont Canyon. Because these sections are tail waters, they can be fished throughout the year, and water levels remain relatively consistent though you should be aware of the dams release schedule especially if wading.

The Grey Reef section begins below Grey Reef Dam and is sand, gravel, and stone bottom tailwater. It is a generally easy river to navigate and is a popular drift river. If you do not own a boat rentals are available.

The Miracle Mile tailwater is around 5.5 miles of some of the best trout fishing in the nation. It begins from the Kortes Dam and ends in Pathfinder Reservoir. This section of the river is wide with varying flows across the width of the river. The miracle mile’s claim to fame might be the massive brown trout that are consistently taken. See our tips and tactics section for more information. 

The Fremont Canyon section is located directly below the Pathfinder reservoir.  This section of the North Platte river is smaller than the previous two sections and is considered a more technical water to fish. It has the typical river characteristics of western streams with riffles, runs, and pocket waters. The water that runs through the canyon before entering Cardwell has large boulders and pocket waters and can be difficult to access, but  it provides excellent fishing. 

While the North Platte river offers excellent fly fishing, public access points for wading opportunities are limited in some sections of the river. The majority of land surrounding the river is privately owned. In Wyoming the water is public, but the land beneath the river is private.  

Because of this, the best way to access this river is through drift boats. There are boat ramps located at Saratoga and above and through the “miracle mile” as well as at Grey Reef and Casper. If you do not have access to your own or a friends boat you best bet is to go with one of the many guide services that are available and offer reasonable rates.

That being said, the Fremont Canyon section of the river as it enters Cardwell is state managed and accessible on both sides of the river for easy wading opportunities. 

Types of Fish

The North Platte river is home to large populations of wild rainbow and brown trout and also smaller populations of brook trout and Snake river cutthroats. 

Grey Reef boasts nearly 3,000 trout per mile with the majority being rainbows with a smaller population of brown trout and cutthroats. What is incredible about this stretch is the 16” average for the rainbow trout in this section! 

The Miracle Mile also has a great amount of fish per mile (around 3,000). It is full of wild rainbows, brown trout, and cutthroats.

 Fremont Canyon has lesser fish per mile than the previous two sections, but it is extremely accessible to wading and boasts around 300 brown trout and 1,000 rainbow trout per mile of river.

Best Times to Fish

The North Platte river offers excellent fishing throughout the year. Like most trout waters the spring and summer months bring the bigger insect hatches and trout feeding opportunities but being regulated by several dams the river is fishable throughout the year. 

The Grey Reef section does usually close down for several days in the spring as the state pushes high levels of water through the dam to clear up the river bottom for spawning season.

Access Points

·        By the Way Ranch

·        Foote Public Access

·        Lusby Public Access

·        Miracle Mile Public Access

·        Pick Bridge

Tactics and Gear

One of the best chances of landing a huge brown trout is on the miracle mile beginning around October and running through November. Huge brown trout from the Pathfinder reservoir will migrate into the river for spawning and a lot of these fish are over 30”. Be sure to use heavy weighted streamers or split shot to get your flies down into deep pools where these fish will be holding. A 6wt rod is generally the go to weight for chasing after these fish with 4-5x leader and tippet. 

The Grey Reef section is a renown nymphing and streamer section. This section of the North Platte river does not contain many of the natural structures often associated with holding trout. Look to drift near the edge of the river and cast to the deeper runs in the middle of the river. Fishing emerger patterns is also a popular tactic. Utilizing a 6 to 9’ leader will put your fly in the appropriate level of the water column. 

Drifting nymphs is the main tactic for the Fremont Canyon section. Be sure to use some weight to get these patterns down into deeper pools.

All three sections also harbor some great hatches such as Baetis, Caddis, Tricos, and Stoneflies.  A 9 foot  5wt rod with 9-12’ foot leaders in the 5-6x range will do the trick. 

Hatches and Flies of Importance

Winter (December-February)

Midges: Size 20-26. Have pupa, emerger, and adult patterns such as zebra midges, brassies, and Griffith’s gnat. 

Scuds: Size 18-24. Orange, olive, and tan color schemes work well on these patterns.

Streamers: Size 6-14. Wooly buggers, leeches, or any other streamer that imitated baitfish will bring strikes. 

Other: San Juan worms in brown, red, or orange coloring in sizes 12-18.

Spring (March-May)

You will mostly be throwing nymphs or streamers during the spring months, but there will be BWO hatches throughout. 

Midges: Size 20-26. Have pupa, emergers, and adult patterns such as zebra midges and Griffith’s gnat. 

Scuds: Size 18-24. Orange, olive, and tan color schemes work well on these patterns. 

Streamers: Size 6-14 Wooly Buggers and Leeches 

BWO: Size 16-24. Nymph, emerger, and dun patterns are must haves as these hatches occur regularly. BH pheasant tail and foam split case nymphs are great patterns to have on the river even when hatches are not occurring.

Egg patterns: Size 20-24

Summer (June-August)

Major insect hatches begin to occur. Midges and streamers are still effective patterns and smaller BWO hatches are still consistent. 

PMDs: Size 16-22. Spinner patterns are a must have for late afternoon trips. 

Yellow Sallies: Size 16,18 

Caddis: Size 14-20. Size and color depend on the type of species hatching. Tan, darker brown, and olive are the three main colors you should use in your flies. 

Tricos: Size 18-22

Fall (September-November)

Again, if you don’t observe any hatches, midges, streamers, and BWO will work. 

PMDs: Size 16-22. Spinner patterns are a must have for late afternoon trips. 

Caddis: 14-20. Size and color depend on the type of species hatching. Tan, darker brown, and olive are the three main colors you should use in your flies. 

Tricos: 18-22. Hatches usually are not prolific but will bring trout to feed at the surface. 

Area Guide Services

·        Brush Creek Ranch

·        Ugly Bug Fly Shop

·        The Reef Fly Shop


Wyoming Fly Fishing Regulations and Property Rights

Wyoming Fishing Regulations

Rights and responsibilities of the landowner and the fisherman in Wyoming

Other Useful Links for Fly Fishing in Wyoming

More information on Wyoming fishing access sites:      

Wyoming fly fishing resorts:

Fly fishing lodges in Wyoming:

Wyoming fishing cabins:



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