Spring Fly Fishing Is Almost Here
2018 Fishing Conditions Outlook
Winter is certainly in full swing here in Southern Wyoming and doesn’t show any signs of letting up anytime soon. The North Platte, the Encampment, and their tributaries are all iced-in until spring runoff hits. Though the ranch itself and the lower Platte valley in general has had a somewhat mild winter thus far, the high country and the headwaters of our North Platte watershed have been getting steady snow accumulation over the last few months. Currently our surrounding mountains are sitting at roughly 80% snowpack for the year. However, our ‘snowiest’ months are traditionally March and April, when we really begin to see the snowpack jump and when we accumulate most of our moisture content. So, it’s still a little early to be able to 100% accurately predict water conditions and float windows for the upcoming 2018 fishing season, but we can say that we’re presently on track to have good water year. If the snow arrives in early spring as predicted, we’ll likely see conditions similar to 2017 with early season fishing/floating beginning in April, peak runoff hitting towards the end of June, and dry fly season starting in July. If the snow doesn’t show up in force like we’re predicting for March and April, we’ll likely have a short float season and a long wade season this year with special emphasis on a longer dry fly fishing window. More days of wet wadding and dry fly fishing sound great, but this does however shorten our float season and likely mean high water temperatures for July/August fishing. We’ll be paying close attention to the approaching winter storms over the next two months and how much snowpack they deposit in the high country. Continue to check back here for updated conditions as our 2018 fishing season approaches. Feel free to reach out to us at any time with questions on coordinating your fishing trip with ideal Southern Wyoming fishing conditions.
General Fishing Conditions in the Platte River Valley
Rivers ice off in March and April and we see a good window of pre-runoff fishing where we are graced with lower flows, clear water and hungry fish. The exact time period this occurs varies annually and is hard to predict. Usually by the end of April and beginning of May we start seeing some snow melt and our rivers start to rise, typically getting dirty in the process. Before that happens, you have a chance at hooking into some of the biggest fish of the season as they are all on the feed and the Rainbows go through their annual spawning ritual during these months. For the most part, we are focusing our efforts on the tributaries of the North Platte, especially the Encampment River. Wade fishing is usually best but occasionally if flows allow an early season float on the North Platte or Encampment can be real treat.
There are usually two stages of runoff, which we call Valley runoff and High Country runoff. Valley runoff comes first and occurs when temperatures warm up and we see all the lower elevation snow melt. We see a small rise in flows and then usually the flows stabilize and clear, offering another good fishing window, usually in late April or early May. By mid to late May we will start seeing the High Country Runoff. This is when flows on the North Platte rise to typically 3000-5000 CFS and peak during the first part of June. This also coincides with our float season on the Upper most stretches of the North Platte. As long as the river has some clarity, we fish right through runoff. Streamers, big Stoneflies, and worms are the normal fare. During the first two weeks of June we experience a Salmonfly hatch on the Upper North Platte. Unfortunately this is also during peak runoff. However, if there is over 1-2 feet of water clarity you can expect some of the year’s best dry fly fishing opportunities. Everything depends on moisture and air temperatures; you can expect daily fluctuations in flows, water clarity, and fishing conditions. Although most fly fisherman shudder at the mention of ‘runoff,' we love it. It gives the rivers a good scrubbing and is great for all aquatic species. Not to mention we can experience some unbelievable days of fishing during runoff.
By mid-June, peak runoff has come and gone and we start experiencing a gradual drop in flows. With the drop, we continually see clearer water. Mid- to-late June can be another fantastic time to fish the valley with endless opportunities. This is when we start wading the smaller tributaries such as Brush Creek and French Creek, certain stretches of the North Platte and Encampment become wade able and float fishing is about as good as it gets. Variety is the best part of post run off. A mix of nymphs, dry flies, and streamers will all start producing fish. Lingering Salmonflies, Golden Stones, PMD’s, Yellow Sallies and various Caddis start hatching which starts getting the attention of the fish and they start looking up. The next major hatch we anticipate is the famed Green Drake hatch on the Encampment.
The largest of mayfly species within the Platte Valley, the Green Drakes, start hatching in Late June or early July. This period can offer some unbelievable dry fly fishing. The most consistent hatch we experience is on the Encampment, however pockets of them can be found on the North Platte, Brush Creek and French Creek. The Drake hatch on the Encampment usually lines up perfectly with the drop in flows allowing us to float. A float trip on the Encampment during the Drake hatch has produced many avid anglers saying they had the “best day of my life." Aside from the Drake hatch, all other river systems typically have great flows and clear water and fishing is great.
Usually when people ask me when the best time to come fish our area is, I first address the period that is the less-ideal time instead. That would be the period from about late July through the beginning of August. This is when we experience the heat of our summer and the potential for low flows and warm water temperatures. We still fish right through this time period and it still has potential for producing excellent days on the water, both wading and floating. However, sometimes our fishing must be restricted due to water temps. Often, we limit our fishing to strictly mornings only and stop all fishing when water temperatures near 70 degrees. It has been proven that the mortality rate of catch and release fishing exponentially increases when temperatures near the 70 degree mark. The stress of hooking and fighting a fish can kill it. Again, we have enough options within an hour of the ranch that we can find feeding fish throughout this period, sometime we just have to look outside our typical spots.
Usually by mid-August we are in the clear and water temperatures start steadily declining. Typically we start packing up the drift boats and start focusing on wade fishing. The most notable hatch this time of year is the trico hatch. You can expect daily cloud-like swarms of these tiny mayflies up and down the North Platte. The trico hatch can be frustrating but rewarding. This period can offer some of the most consistently good fishing of the season. This is a very versatile time period where virtually every piece of water is fishing great. The daily struggle is deciding which stretch to fish.
The fall season is what many fishermen dream of. If you like wild fish, dry flies, freestone rivers, and wade fishing, then you must experience September and October in the Platte Valley. The trico hatch remains abundant through the majority of September. Aside from trico’s, larger terrestrial and attractor patterns offer good dry fly fishing and it is definitely hopper-dropper season. Fall is also that time of year when many sportsman start veering away from the water with their sights set on the numerous bird and big game species that flourish in the Valley. For many, this is the best time of year and the constant battle of whether to pick up your shotgun or a fly rod is real.
Once October hits in the Platte Valley you never know what to expect. Average high temps are still in the 60’s but an occasional snowstorm is not out of the question. Wade fishing remains very consistent throughout October. The latter part of October is not for the faint of heart. But for hearty and invested fisherman the rewards are there. The abundant brown trout of the Valley start packing on the pounds and get aggressive for their annual spawning ritual. Streaming fishing this time of year can be ridiculous. Typically flows are low, water is clear and the takes can be very visual. Aside from that, sporadic BWO hatches can offer excellent dry fly fishing. Nearly every day you have the chance at catching a fish on a nymph, a dry fly, and a streamer. By November, temperatures plummet and snow storms become more and more frequent. You might get lucky and have a handful of warm days but they are limited. Usually by Mid to Late November an ice layer has formed on all waters and gear is stored away until next spring.
As always, we are just a phone call away. If you are thinking of visiting us next season or just want to talk fishing, give us a call. For pricing and more specific details, call Matt Anderson (307) 329-3084 or submit an inquiry form to start planning your trip.