The Wind River is one of the West’s forgotten fly fishing treasures. The Wind River Doesn’t get the attention that the Snake and Bighorn rivers do. Yet it stands with the best for large numbers of very big trout.
Even though it’s a great river running through breathtaking wilderness, a scenic canyon and sage covered high plains, it receives very little fly fishing pressure. The Wind holds a lot of trout, and some get very big. The Wind gets fished very little because some of it’s best water flows through the Wind River Indian Reservation.
The Wind River begins its journey in the icy waters of Wind River Lake in northwest Wyoming. From there it swiftly flows in a southeasterly direction toward Boysen Reservoir some fifty miles through the Wind River Indian Reservation. Below Boysen the Wind flows through a deep canyon with whitewater, large boulders, pockets and pools.
Since this stretch of the river is private, for most anglers, this is unexplored water until recently. A few years ago the tribal council awarded the only float fishing permit to Darren Calhoun, who now runs fishing trips on both stretches of the river. The number of fishermen taken down the river is very limited, so limited that your chance of seeing someone else is almost zero.
The River’s two distinct sections offer widely different opportunities for the fly fisherman.
Above the Reservoir
Above Boysen Reservoir the Wind River is a typical Western freestone stream with a large and diverse trout population. The terrain looks much like the southwest desert of the United States with chimney rocks, buttes, and sandstone. This is brown trout country and the size of the browns found in this river is impressive. Most of the fish here range from 8 to 15 inches, with a good number up to 22 inches and some nearly 30 inches.
The upper river runs west of the reservation boundary and can be fished with a valid Wyoming fishing licence. Access is very good because much of it flows through Shoshone National Forest. In the National Forest the river is paralleled by a highway. The head waters are small and can be easily waded before and after the run off. The headwaters area can produce lots of rainbows and brooks with an occasional cutthroat or brown trout.
Below the Reservoir
Below the reservoir the river’s character changes drastically. This section remains clear virtually all year long because it is a tailwater fishery. Steep canyons, boulders, pocket-water, and deep pools comprise the majority of the features in the lower section. There are significant stretches of whitewater as well. The fish are not as numerous as in the upper section, but they are much bigger.
The rivers best water flows below Boysen reservoir for 15 miles through the Wind River canyon. This prime stretch of water offers excellent fishing. The canyon is one of the best places in the west to catch a five pound brown or rainbow or even an occasional monster cutthroat. While fishing the canyon stretch an angler may encounter the fish of a lifetime. Fish in this stretch of river often reach 20 plus inches and a few will pass 30 inches.
In the Wind River Canyon fish can be taken on a variety of flies, both wet and dry. The canyon has deep beautiful pools and pockets and you can get great dry fly action on the flats. The streamer fishing is fantastic and nothing can match seeing a huge brown chase your streamer.
Fishing the Canyon requires a reservation permit which can be purchased in Riverton, Shoshone or Thermopolis. A non resident permit will run about twenty dollars for a day.
The Wind gets very little fishing pressure through the canyon and yet can produce some of the biggest trout in the west. Huge trout and no competition! Anyway you look at it, the Wind River is a Wyoming blue ribbon stream.