Yellowstone National Park 4 min read

DIY Guide to Fly Fishing Bechler River in Yellowstone National Park

Ken Sperry

Posted by Ken Sperry

June 18, 2018

bechler river

In the southwest corner of Yellowstone National Park lies the Bechler River, a fine fly fishing destination that not many folks talk about.

This corner of the park is referred to as “Cascade Corner,” taking its moniker from its extensive network of waterfalls. Rumor has it that 10-pound rainbow trout lurk in the Bechler Meadows above the confluence with Fall River.

It’s a remote destination that requires at least a 3.5-mile hike to reach, but it’s worth it.

Bechler River in “Cascades Corner” of Yellowstone National Park.  No fishing in this vid but a great look at the back country in the southeast corner of Yellowstone.

Three small streams comprise the headwaters of the Bechler River: the Phillips, Ferris, and Gregg Forks. From the headwaters for about five miles downriver the Bechler runs through steep, rugged canyon where its two significant cascades are found (Iris and Colonnade Falls). From the falls, the Bechler transitions into a slower moving meadow stream that maintains a population of large rainbows and a few larger cutthroat.

It’s this region of the Bechler that attracts the most anglers due to the challenging nature of the slower moving water and huge fish.

The fish tend to feed more selectively here even during the big hatches of the year. To land a big trout in the meadow reach of the Bechler River is considered something of a significant accomplishment among veterans of fly fishing in Yellowstone National Park.

Bechler River Map andFishing Access Sites

map of fishing access sites on the Bechler River in Yellowstone National Park

Get Directions to the Fishing Access Points shown above with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

Best Places to Fish the Bechler River

The Upper Bechler above the falls is where to go for local cutthroat in the faster-moving waters found here. Take Highway 47/Ashton-Flagg Ranch Road (Cave Falls Road) off Highway 20 just outside Ashton, Idaho. Fall River Campground is on the other side of the park border.

Keep following the road all the way to Cave Falls Trailhead. Upstream waters are a ½ mile hike upriver to the confluence of the Fall River and the Bechler, and you can reach the meadows from the Bechler Ranger Station on Cave Falls Road. It’s roughly a 3.5-mile hike from the ranger station to the meadow section along Boundary Creek trail.

The meadows are best for rainbow and other non-native species of trout. The confluence of Boundary Creek and the Bechler River provides plenty of action for rainbows and local cutthroats alike, though this is the smoothest flowing section of the river.

To get to the confluence of the Boundary and Bechler, it’s roughly a 6-mile hike from the Bechler Ranger Station, so experienced hikers and backcountry campers may want to make an overnight stay of it. Be sure to follow all park rules and protocols for Leave No Trace, and ensure to secure all food out of reach of the local bears.

Best Time to Fish the Bechler River

Green and Brown Drakes as well as Pale Morning Dun’s come off in July, and August is peak season for hoppers, ants and beetles. It’s also peak tourist season, so be prepared to compete for camping spots and deal with heavy tourist traffic along the parks highways.

Cascade Corner may be a more remote region of Yellowstone, but that doesn’t make it any less popular with visitors. Should you visit in the early autumn you may find that the weather can be highly chaotic, and it can go from bright and sunny to heavy snowfall in a matter of hours that time of year. Make sure you are prepared with extra layers and keep an eye on the weather if you are fishing in the fall.

Best Flies for the Bechler River

The best flies for Bechler River are those that match the hatch. Not sure what’s hatching? Not to worry. Just put on a basic nymph pattern or an attractor dry fly, and you’ll be good to go.

Bechler River Fishing Tips

A 9-foot 5-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on the Bechler River. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 4X to 6X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

The slower moving water and high banks in the meadows section make it especially challenging to keep from spooking the fish. You’ll need to approach carefully and slowly, on your hands and knees even, to have any chance of hooking a fish here. Sight fishing and casting to individual fish is the best method here. It’s more akin to hunting than fishing.

Your casting game needs to be on point for the Bechler, and most often you will only get one cast before spooking a fish.  The gin-clear, smooth water in the meadows are a tremendous challenge for even the most experienced fly fishing enthusiasts.

Bechler River Fishing Reports

There are a number of area fly shops and outfitter where you can get Bechler River fishing reports. A few to check out are listed below.

Bechler River Fishing Regulations

Yellowstone National Park fishing and camping regulations are straightforward.

  • Every angler visiting the park must purchase a permit to fish which are available at most ranger stations.
  • If you intend to camp in the backcountry meadows near the Bechler, you will also need a camping permit.
  • Native species like the local cutthroats are catch and release only to try and preserve/grow their population for future sportsman and nature enthusiasts, as well as to maintain Yellowstone’s robust aquatic ecosystem.
  • Non-native species of trout like rainbows and browns have no possession limits.
  • Keep an eye out for bears that roam the park year round, and if you see a bear while you are landing a fish, cut your line and move to a minimum safe distance.

Bechler River Trip Planning Tips

Flights into Jackson Hole airport are going to be your best bet if you plan on visiting the Bechler, as it will provide you with the shortest drive time.

There is a reasonably good selection of accommodations in Jackson Hole, and some decent restaurants, too. Most anglers prefer to camp in the park or stay over at one of the nearby lodges like the hotel lodge by Old Faithful, or the Bechler River Compound not far from the meadows and the edge of Yellowstone.

Ashton, Idaho is the closest town to the river, and there are many good options here for inexpensive stays, too. As always, remember to check local vacation rentals in Jackson Hole and Ashton for those surprise bargains on your stay.

Looking for more places to fish? Visit our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in Yellowstone National Park.

Feature image by RG Johnsson