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Jackson, Wyoming, is an excellent base of operations if you want to take a guided float trip on a premier western trout river and still be near several other trout streams you can explore and fish on your own. The major stream in the area is the South Fork of the Snake River, commonly known simply as “The Snake.” The target species here is the relatively rare Snake River fine-spotted cutthroat. A cousin to the large-spotted (Yellowstone) cutthroat trout, the fine-spotted species is native to the Snake River drainage. These are wild trout, as opposed to being hatchery fish, and account for over 90 percent of the trout in this part of the Snake. Snake River cutthroats reach 20 inches and three pounds, and occasionally even larger fish are caught. Significantly larger.

The added bonus for anglers coming to the Jackson Hole area to fish the Snake is that the river has major tributaries with good public access: the Gros Ventre, Hoback, Greys and Salt rivers, and Crystal, Granite, and Flat creeks. Over 98 percent of these waters flow through public land. These streams provide an angler the opportunity to explore drive-to, do-it-yourself cutthroat trout fishing.

The Snake and its tributaries flow into and through valleys within view of the soaring peaks of the Teton Mountain range. The setting is spectacular. Here’s a brief look at each waterway. Get yourself a map and follow along (an excellent one is available at http://www.flyfishingjack sonhole.com/regional_overview/snake_river.htm):

South Fork of the Snake: This large and often swift-flowing river near the town of Jackson is tough to wade, so a guided float trip is the way to go. I personally recommend High Country Flies located in Jackson. A fly shop and guide service, it has been serving anglers in the area for 35 years. Their website has very detailed information on the river and its tributaries, including regulations and access points. There are several other long-established guide services in Jackson and I’ve listed them below.

The South Fork of the Snake has its beginnings in Yellowstone Park. The river is not heavily fished in its upper reaches as there are no roads into that area. Just a few miles south of Yellowstone’s south entrance, where the river is in sight of a road, it attracts more fishing pressure. The Snake next enters Grand Teton National Park and flows into Jackson Lake, behind Jackson Lake Dam. From that point, the river continues through farm and ranch land, past the town of Jackson, into the Snake River Canyon. Then, after a journey of 100 miles, it crosses the state line into Idaho.

Throughout its trajectory in Wyoming, the Snake offers many types of fishing water – pools, riffles, flats and good holding water behind boulders and fallen timber. Near Jackson, the river is about 50 yards wide, but, at times, it forks into several channels.

Because The Snake near Jackson normally has an extended runoff from late April until mid-July, those in the know suggest August through September as the best time to fish. Because of this limited window, those wishing to reserve a guide should do so as far in advance as possible. When the water drops and clears, the trout are hungry and feed furiously.

The Snake does have impressive caddis and stonefly hatches in early June. But, as that is usually runoff time, opportunities to fish those two hatches are limited. During later summer months, dry flies commonly used with success include Royal Wulff, Humpy, Trude, Stimulator, Elk Hair Caddis, among others. Suggested nymphs and streamers are the Prince Nymph, Red Fox Squirrel Tail Nymph, Hare’s Ear, Pheasant Tail, Woolly Bugger, Zonker and Muddler. High Country Flies’ website states: “[The Snake] is not just a dry-fly fishery, but an attractor dry-fly fishery.” They go on to say that they do not match hatches, but rather search the water with medium to large mostly impressionistic fly patterns: “A size 8 fly is not big for us. Smaller versions of these same flies, sizes 14 and 16, work well on the Snake’s tributaries. In autumn, be sure you have some hopper patterns on all of these rivers.”

Gros Ventre River: The Gros Ventre enters the Snake a short distance north of the town of Jackson. Though cutthroats are the main attraction, smaller numbers of whitefish and rainbow trout also inhabit the river. The best fishing spots are reached via Gros Ventre Road that exits Grand Teton National Park. Just outside the park are a series of parking turnouts that provide easy access to the river. However, wading is not recommended, as the river’s current is very strong in places and the bottom can be treacherous. Fortunately, the river can be effectively fished from shore. Crystal Creek, another angling option, feeds the Gros Ventre just above Lower Slide Lake.

Hoback River: Located south of Jackson, the Hoback River can be accessed via Route 189 and 191. There are many parking areas and easy launching spots for rafts. However, land-bound anglers should not venture beyond the parking areas from Stinking Springs to the Spotted Horse Ranch as the land here is private property.

Fishing the Hoback is possible from April to October, though the best fishing is in the months of August and September. This is a classic western trout stream, and there are many spots along the river that provide good fishing for anglers of all skill levels. The Hoback is a good stream to take kids fishing:

It is easy to access and easy to wade and the trout tend to sit in the calmer waters by the shoreline, and in deeper runs and pools. Trout average eight to 14 inches, with some larger fish hidden in deep pools.

In late summer, larger cutthroats sometimes invade the Hoback from the Snake seeking cooler water. They can be found in deep water and isolated chilly pools at the river’s edge. Granite Creek, which enters the Hoback from the north, above the canyon, is also a fun fishing water. The farther up the creek you go, the calmer the water.

Greys River: Located south of Jackson, Greys River flows about 55 miles near the Wyoming border with Idaho, and enters the Snake not far from the Wyoming town of Alpine. The Greys is a local favorite, offering many access locations with plenty of campgrounds located along its banks.

The best fishing on the Greys begins early July and lasts through the summer when the river is clearer, shallower and calmer than in the spring. Anglers do need to watch out in whitewater sections, which can prove dangerous for wading. The Greys holds mainly cutthroat trout which average eight to 14 inches.

Salt River: The Salt is best fished near the town of Afton, Wyoming, where the river grows, water quality improves and deep undercut banks hold trout. This same stretch has good public access in about 30 spots along its banks. This stretch holds brookies, browns and rainbows and, of course, the fine-spotted cutthroats. Fish average 10 to 14 inches in length. Normally, the browns will stay in the deep cool waters of Palisades Reservoir until fall.

This river can be a challenge to fish in some stretches, both where the current is swift and strong and in many holding areas where the banks are choked with willows. If you want to wade, plan on doing some walking as much of the good holding water is hidden around great bends in the river not visible from a distance. Summer into fall is the best time to fish the Salt. That is when the caddis, stonefly and PMD hatches take place. Unlike some rivers, matching the hatch is not critical and the fish tend not to be spooked easily. An assortment of eight or nine patterns will do for the entire season. In September and October, big browns up to six pounds head out of Palisades Reservoir into the Salt, and streamers are the favorite flies when targeting them.

The Snake and each of its tributaries have special regulations on trout seasons, catch-and-release, possession limits and in some cases, sections closed to fishing. Be sure you read the regulations to stay out of trouble. All of these waters are close enough to Jackson and to Idaho Falls, Idaho, to allow a comfortable day trip. Vehicle rentals are available in both towns, and both are home to airports. For more information, including lodging and other guide services, go to www.jacksonholechamber.com. Among the guide services listed there are Reel Deal Anglers; Teton Floats; Snake River Angler; Jackson Hole Anglers; and Mangis Guides.

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