North Platte River

Wyoming’s North Platte River is more than a trout stream.

The North Platte River, a wild freestone river, is a destination worthy of any serious fly fisher. The Platte offers large numbers of trout. With 4,000 trout per mile and up to 7000 in some places, the Platte is a world class Trout stream.

Bordered by the Snowy Range and Sierra Madre Mountains, The Platte offers blue ribbon fishing in beautiful mountain scenery. The Platte offers anglers lots of opportunities to catch lunker trout. Trout in the 20 inch range are common and enough 30 inch fish are present that anglers have a genuine shot at the fish of a lifetime.

Access can be gained along Routes 230 and 130, especially at any of the campgrounds that dot the river through this stretch. The most popular float trip is from Treasure Island Access to Saratoga. The river fishes well, all the way from inside the Colorado state line to where route 80 crosses.

The Upper North Platte River

The Platte begins in Colorado and runs North across the Wyoming state line. It then flows through two canyons, the Six Mile Gap and the North Gate. By mid to late summer the wade fishing in the canyon stretch, which is about 20 miles, becomes very good. This section offers a good variety of water to fish. You’ll find pocket water, medium runs, deep pools and shallow riffles. The trout will average around 14 inches with some stretching to 20 inches.
The freestone section of the North Platte River runs mostly through Medicen Bow National Forest. Here you’ll find unlimited access to the river for wade fishing.

The Encampment joins the Platte near Treasure Island. This is where the Platte leaves the canyons and flows into the foothills and ranch land. From there to Seminoe Reservoir the river cuts through private land and is for the most part restricted to float fishing. The fish will average 15 to 18 inches in this section with some going well over 20 inches.

The Miracle Mile

rainbow trout The seven mile stretch of river between Seminoe Reservoir and Pathfinder Reservoir is known as the miracle mile. This stretch of water offers rainbows, browns and some cutthroats. The miracle mile has produced browns and rainbows up to 20 pounds, and a five pounder is not uncommon. The main food source on this part of the river is the scud, which is why the trout get so big.

This section is a short tail water and the flows can be unpredictable. During the peak season this section of the platte can get quite crowded. One of the best times to fish the miracle mile is winter. When the cold weather has most anglers staying close to the fire, you can fish for the big ones without much competition. The miracle mile is open all year.

Quality hatches occur with the cold consistent flows from the reservoir.

The fall is a great time to try your luck on the large migratory brown trout. Streamers and nymphs are always productive in the “miracle mile”. This area ends its journey at Alcova Reservoir which is also known as Gray Reef Reservoir. Access can be gained using Seminoe and Kortes Roads.

The Gray Reef Section

The North Platte River below Pathfinder, Alcova and Gray Reef Reservoirs is known as the Gray Reef section. This section although similar in numbers and quality of fish to the miracle mile, doesn’t get all the press. This stretch of river is best fished from a raft or boat and you’ll find plenty of boat access.

Even though the gray reef section is a tail water, the flows remain fairly constant all year. The majority of trout in this part of the river will be rainbows. If you drift a scud or strip a streamer through the deep runs you’ll find a big brown now and then.

The North Platte River is one of Wyoming’s best known trout streams. It’s not hard to understand why. The Platte flows through beautiful scenic country, offers easy access and produces lots of trophy trout. The Platte is more than a Wyoming fly fishing blue ribbon trout stream. The North Platte is a destination where every serious fly fisher should cast a line.

Hatches

Hatches on the North Platte are excellent. Olives, Pale Morning Duns, Tricos, and Mahogany Duns are some of the better mayfly hatches. Golden Stones, Salmon Flies, and Little Golden Stones make up much of the stonefly activity from mid May to mid June. Caddis, terrestrials, and midges are also very important on the North Platte. Nymphs and streamers are a mainstay throughout the season. Woolly buggers and large buggy nymphs will also work well. Sinking lines will help get your streamers down in some of the deeper pools during high water.

Hatch Chart

InsectSizeBegin DateEnd DateBest Time
Western Green Drake10-12April 15May 15morning and afternoon
Salmonfly6April 15May 15afternoon and evening
Green Caddis16April 15May 15afternoon and evening
Grannom16April 15May 15afternoon
PMD16-18June 15July 15all day
Green Caddis16June 15July 15afternoon and evening
White Mayfly14-16July 15August 15evening
Trico20-24July 15August 15morning
Tan Caddis16July 15August 15evening
Pale Evening Dun14-16July 15August 15evening
Trico20-24August 15September 30morning
October Caddis6August 15September 30afternoon and evening
Gray Fox14August 15September 30evening
Gray Drake12August 15September 30afternoon

Access Points

There are quite a few public access points to the river. The best way to fish this river is by floating – most access points have put-in/take-out capability. There is also access at several parks in Casper. Be sure to pick up a current Wyoming fishing regulations book, or check locally for regs.

We have listed 13 access points for you here. All are identified by number on the map at the bottom of this page.

Bessemer Bend (2)

  • Go southwest from Casper on WY 220 for 11 miles; look for sign; turn northwest onto Bessemer Road (Cnty 308) and travel 2.0 miles

Paradise Valley (2)

Schmitt (3)

  • Go southwest from Casper on WY 220 for 14 miles

Sechrist (3)

  • Go southwest from Casper on WY 220 for 15 miles; signed

By the Way Ranch (35)

  • Go southwest from Casper on WY 220 for 18 miles; look for sign;turn north on Cnty Rd 316

Government Bridge (4)

  • Go southwest from Casper on WY 220 for 22 miles; signed
  • Access also on west side of river, north from bridge; no dogs allowed March 15 to May 1

Bolten Creek (5)

  • Go southwest from Casper on WY 220 for 21 miles; turn southeast onto Bolten Creek Road (Cnty 404) and follow to N. Platte River

Lusby (5)

  • Go southwest from Casper on WY 220 for 24 miles; turn south onto signed WG&F Rd and follow to N. Platte River

Walk-In Access (5)

  • Go southwest from Casper on WY 220 for 26 miles; park on south side of road. Look for WG&F signs. Access is on south shore only by wading across river or floating and stopping.

Grey Reef (55)

  • Go southwest from Casper on WY 220 for 29 miles; turn east onto Cnty 412 and follow to N. Platte River

Above Grey Reef (56)

  • Go southwest from Casper on WY 220 for about 30 miles; turn southeast just below Alcova Dam; parking and access on north side of road

Fremont Canyon (57)

  • Go southwest from Casper on WY 220 for about 45 miles; located 4 miles below Pathfinder Dam; very scenic

Miracle Mile (6)

  • This well-known area lies between the Seminoe and Pathfinder Reservoirs. You can get more information on these areas from links on the Lakes and Reservoirs page
  • Go north from Sinclair on Cnty Rd 352 for 45 miles. OR
  • Go southwest from Casper on WY 220 to Alcova; turn south on Cnty Rd 407; turn west on Cnty Rd 351 to N. Platte River

Ft. Steele/Rochelle (7)

  • At Ft. Steele exit off I-80, 15 miles east of Rawlins. Follow S. frontage road east to river; river access for about 11 miles

Interstate Bridge (8)

  • At the Ft. Steele exit off I-80, 15 miles east of Rawlins
access map for north platte
access map

north platte access map 2

 

Hopper Madness On Wyomings North Platte River

A Story About Fishing Hoppers

Rich and I left the Corral Creek campground at 8 AM to make the 2 mile hike over the pass to Boulder Gap. It was late August and the crisp morning air would turn hot and windy by afternoon leading us to anticipate good hopper action later in the day. As we dropped down into the Gap we passed an old fire ring in an inviting campsite but no other fishermen appeared to be present. A pair of Golden Eagles carried out a mating ritual on the canyon’s thermals high above the boulder from which the canyon derives its name. This huge boulder sits perched above one of the canyon’s most productive pools.

It was about 9 AM when we arrived at the river, a trico spinner fall was beginning to wane and numerous trout were sipping spent flies. Many of the fish were rising tight to the bank and we spent an hour sight casting to rising fish and mostly putting them down. It is amazing how skittish trout are when sipping spinners, while the same trout that will smack caddis flies with wild abandon. It was a bright dear morning and as the air started to warm a sporadic mixed hatch of PMD’s and small caddis began. As I walked upstream I discovered a deep pool which had several large rocks at the head that formed a complex series of current seams. A number of nice fish were rising steadily along the current seams. I tied on a size 16 CDC elk hair caddis as Rich, my brother-in-law from California, went upstream to nymph a long riffle. I proceeded to work the pool with the caddis imitation and managed to hook and land several nice rainbows with the largest running about 16″.

Close to noon a thunderstorm blew in with ferocious gusts of wind but shed little rain in my part of the canyon. I ducked back into the trees to get out of the brunt of the wind, taking care not to be dose to the tallest tree in the grove. An interesting feature of the monsoon season in Southeastern Wyoming, where the North Platte enters the state from its headwaters in the North Park region of Colorado, is that thunderstorms are quite scattered. It is very common to see a large thunderhead moving across the valley streaming with rain and lightning but completely surrounded by dear blue skies.

As the wind abated I was intently trying to entice a 12″ rainbow that was giving me the “picky eater” routine, nearly bumping my fly with his nose then drifting away in obvious disdain. As I was tying on a 7X tippet and a size 20 caddis, Rich reappeared from upstream and asked why I was wasting my time on such a puny fish – displaying a Dave’s hopper that had been chewed to the bare hook by a series of obviously large trout. He asked if I could spare any of my foam hoppers since all his deer hair ones had been thoroughly trashed. My favorite hopper imitation is a version I adapted from the hopper designed by noted fly tier Jay “Fishy” Fullum that was featured in Western Fly Tyer several years ago.

After all the grief Rich had given me when I proudly unveiled my new pattern, disparaging it as a MacFoam Fly, I had to stop and consider for a few moments whether to give him one or not. When he dangled the pathetically ripped deer hair hopper in front of me I had to relent. I gave him two, and told him to be careful with them. Then, I made him show me where he had been fishing. We made our way upstream to a long gentle riffle about a half-mile in length. It was shallow in the middle with tall grassy banks along which there were deeper pockets formed by large rocks. As we moved forward through the grasshoppers were everywhere.

Rich directed me to make a cast about 40 ft upstream to a likely looking lie. As the hopper drifted back towards me and Rich reminded me to keep tight line control, a large brown exploded under the hopper. I had let just a couple of inches of slack line accumulate and the nice brown was gone. As I moved upstream to the next prospective lie I was determined not to lose another good fish to sloppy line handling. Since the brush was heavy at spots along the bank I waded into the river about 20 ft out from the bank. From this angle I could easily cast to likely spots along the shore. The next fish to smash the hopper was a 16″ rainbow and this time I was ready for him. He immediately went airborne and I quickly subdued and released him. Along this half-mile stretch of river I probably caught more than a dozen rainbows and browns primarily in the 14-16″ range.

The preponderance of 15 3/4″ fish in the North Platte and many other Wyoming Gold Medal waters is probably due to the 10-16″ slot limit on these waters. Many of the local anglers are not completely sold on the idea of Catch & Release fishing and lure fishing is also allowed with no restrictions on hook number. Unfortunately, Rapalas are a very effective lure here, so many trophy trout are harvested.

I had a number of notable experiences fishing this section of the Platte. A good-sized brown grabbed the hopper after it had been pulled under the current passing along the edge of a large rock. When I put tension on the line to begin another cast the brown bolted downstream and I was fast on to him. The largest fish I saw hit my hopper took it in a nonchalant head to tail rise giving me a perfect view of his broad rainbow stripe. As he submerged I set the hook only to have my hopper-less line come wafting back to me, the 4X tippet neatly severed, no doubt by a sharp tooth.

During this time Rich had crossed to the other side of the river and was madly yelling for me to come and net a large fish for him. The river in this section is nearly 100 ft wide and although it is relatively shallow, it is still tough wading because of the slippery basketball sized rocks. When I finally made it across Rich had already landed a 23″ brown. As we went to remove the yellow stimulator from its jaw we noticed something black inside its mouth. Rich yanked on it and out popped a partially digested 8″ rainbow that had met its demise head first We marveled that a fish stuffed to the gills would still be feeding. Rich said that he had actually been casting to a different smaller trout when the monster came up from underneath to grab the stimulator first. Rich had hooked and landed 8 good fish in this one nice run that flowed down behind a small island.

Since it was getting late in the afternoon we decided to start our hike back while there was still a chance there would be enough light to find our way to Corral Creek. As we were walking downstream the sun was dipping behind the canyon walls and the splashy rises that signify trout bombing caddis began. It was a tempting site but we were low on food and water and dinner was an hour hike away.

Whenever I go to the North Platte I always take a day or two to fish the mile of public water at Boulder Gap that is sandwiched between the large cattle ranch holdings along the river. To set foot on private property in Wyoming is to risk a $1000 trespass fee and a day in court, but Wyoming access laws are a convoluted story for another day. I have always done well in the Gap with dry flies and believe that you could fish the eariy morning trico spinner fall, switch to PMD’s and caddis dries mid-morning, fish hoppers in the afternoon and switch back to caddis in the evening never fishing anything but dry flies. We have also done well with nymphs at the head of the large riffle that lies below the massive boulder. The largest trout I have caught out of the Boulder pool is a 21″ brown that I hooked near the tailout on a brown bunny leech stripped aggressively in the late afternoon.

I hope to go back again within the next few years and spend a few days camping and fishing in the Gap. There is also very good fishing downstream of the Corral Creek in the canyon that runs to the Bennet Peaks campground about a mile away.

The largest trout I have caught out of the Boulder pool is a 21″ brown that I hooked near the tailout on a brown bunny leech stripped aggressively in the late afternoon. I hope to go back again within the next few years and spend a few days camping and fishing in the Gap. There is also very good fishing downstream of the Corral Creek in the canyon that runs to the Bennet Peaks campground about a mile away.

I have no qualms about sharing this access information with you because this section of the Platte River appears to be underutilized and we have pretty much had the entire place to ourselves when we have been there in the past. The best months to fish this section of the Platte are August and September. September is notable for its prolific BWO hatches. July is generally unfishable due to algae blooms caused by the high day and nighttime temperatures and sparse rainfall. By late July and early August the summer thunderstorm pattern has started, in the Rockies this is known as the monsoon season and it brings cooler water flows and a resumption of better fishing to the region

Related Resources

Platte River Guides.com
Updated Platte River fishing reports.
platteriverguides.com/fishing-reports/

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