With no foothills to speak of, the mountains of the Grand Teton Range rise to 14,000 feet from the very shores of Jackson Lake itself. It is a place of near-indescribable beauty.
The distant mountain ranges of Montana and the majesty of Yellowstone pale in comparison to the snow-capped peaks of one of the most magnificent mountain ranges in the American West.
Both Grand Teton National Park itself and the surrounding area provide breathtaking vistas of every variety, especially if you continue toward the town of Jackson Hole through the greening plains of ranching country.
Native cutthroat trout in Grand Teton National Park
Perhaps second only to the mountain views in Grand Teton are the local Wyoming trout streams. The well-fed wild and stocked cutthroat trout found throughout the park grow to enormous size, and the local population is thriving.
Jackson Lake and Lake Solitude also fish well once the ice is off for the spring and summer, though ice fishing for the more adventurous is still possible even in the dead of winter.
The real prize to be had though is fly fishing on the Snake River, home to a rare species of cutthroat only found along a particular stretch of the Snake. There are plenty of rainbows, browns, and brook trout to be had too, but the Snake River finespotted cutthroat trout is the reason anglers flock to Grand Teton National Park each year.
Nearby Yellowstone National Park and the river from which it takes its name may be the primary fly fishing draw of the region, but anglers willing to drive further south will find that the Snake and its tributaries can provide equally rewarding experiences.
If you are in the area to visit Yellowstone and you have the time and inclination, definitely visit Grand Teton National Park as well.
Grand Teton National Park Fishing Map
Best Places to Fish near Grand Teton National Park
There are many rivers, streams, and lakes where you can try your luck in and around Grand Teton National Park. Here are the top recommended fishing locations to visit.
Snake River, Grand Teton National Park
As far as most fly fishing enthusiasts are concerned, this is the mother lode for trout in Grand Teton National Park. Here there be finespotted cutthroats for the taking from the Jackson Lake drainage all the way to the Palisades Reservoir.
Wading, floating, and boating are all popular methods of fly fishing the Snake River, though you may find that a combination of all three bring the most success if you intend to stay a few days.
Keep in mind that the Snake River is also a favorite spot for water sports and bait fisherman, so if you visit in the summer months you can expect certain sections to be a bit crowded. Access to the Snake River can be achieved at multiple points along the inner park road and highway from nearby Jackson Hole or Yellowstone National Park.
Snake River, Jackson Lake Dam to Pacific Creek
A five-mile stretch along the base of Signal Mountain marks this prime fishing spot for finespotted cutthroat. These fish are sought after not only for their immense size and weight (some weighing up to 3 pounds and measuring over 20 inches) but also for their strong survival instincts.
Finespotted cutthroat trout are known fighters, and if you are seeking to test your mettle as a skilled angler, you need to land one of these river monsters for yourself. You can float this section of the Snake or wade thanks to its calmer, slower moving water, and more stable banks.
Access to the river is also far easier here as well, especially if you decide to wade the banks below the dam. Take the inner park road from the Moose entrance for about 24 miles north into the park. The road passes right over the dam itself, and there is parking here as well. Don’t forget to take a picture of the view of the Grand Tetons themselves from this spot either, as it is a particularly spectacular vista.
The inner park road and highway that leads to Yellowstone up north offers plenty of boat access and footpath access points to Jackson Lake. Floating and wading are both excellent methods of working the waters of the lake with flies, and shore fishing isn’t bad either. Focus on finding shallow coves and larger flats on the edge of drop-offs, as these will yield the best results.
Throughout the year, the feeder streams of the Snake River offer some fantastic fishing, particularly between the more prominent lakes like Jenny Lake and String Lake.
You’ll need to hike a bit, but knowing where the parking areas are and possessing an accurate map of the trailheads and trails should make them less complicated to reach.
Additionally, Blacktail Ponds, Schwalbacher’s Landing and Cottonwood Creek are all late summer opening spots that are ideal for nymphs and dry flies, and since they are a little more out of the way you generally don’t have to worry about crowds here.
Check the Grand Teton National Park website for more information on how to get to these lesser known fisheries.
Best Time to Fish in Grand Teton National Park
Getting into Grand Teton during the winter months can be a challenge, as many of the passes from the north near Yellowstone are closed to traffic when the snowfall has been unusually heavy.
Generally, mid-to-late May and June are excellent for early season fishing, and the ice is usually off the lakes by then, too. The Snake River can be fished year round if you can get access to it, but generally, you can’t make it into the park due to snow unless you are coming up from Jackson Hole or fishing closer to town.
Summer is the prime season along the Snake, but bear in mind that many other anglers will be trying their luck to land a finespotted cutthroat of their own. Booking for local accommodations can fill up fast, so you want to plan accordingly.
If you plan on fishing Jackson Lake, you will want to visit between June and September, as the ice will be thawed and runoff season will be over, but the water won’t be so warm as to affect the fishing.
You can’t fish in Jackson Lake in October though, as the park does its best to conserve the cutthroat population during spawning season so that everyone can continue to enjoy ideal fishing conditions each year.
Grand Teton National Park Fishing Tips
Best rod for Grand Teton National Park is a 9-footer 5 or 6 weight. Everything is bigger out in the mountains of the American West, and Wyoming is no exception. 9 foot 3x and 4x leaders are also a must.
Pack waders and boating gear if you plan to spend several days at the Snake River trying your luck along its northern and southern runs. It’s also a good idea to bring a wading staff to help stabilize yourself if you plan to fish faster stretches of the Snake, too.
Be prepared for large swarms of mosquitoes and flies after runoff. Bug spray isn’t optional as the weather starts to warm up, so make sure you pack plenty.
Hatches during winter and pre-runoff are primarily midges, followed by the post-runoff hatches of BWOs, stoneflies, caddis and March Browns.
Peak summer season brings pale morning duns, yellow sallies, and gray drakes out of hiding, and terrestrials are a good bet between the end of summer and early fall.
Fly Box: Flies You’ll Need
Here are some recommended flies that have proven effective for fishing in the Grand Teton National Park region:
- Birchell’s Hatching Midge (#16-20)
- Pino BWO (wine #16-20)
- Adams Parachute Dry Fly (#16-20)
- TH Zebra Midge (olive/red/black #16-20)
- Fly Formerly Known As Prince (#14-18)
- TH Duracell Jig (#16)
- Pat’s Rubberlegs (black, brown #4 – 10)
- Kreelex (copper and gold #4-6)
- TH Jig Pheasant Tail (#14-16)
- JJ Special (#4-10)
Grand Teton National Park Fishing Reports
There are a number of area fly shops and guide services that can provide an update on current fishing conditions in and around Grand Teton National Park. A few to check out are listed below.
Grand Teton National Park Fishing Regulations
Wyoming Fish and Game regulations apply throughout Grand Teton National Park. A license is required to fish anywhere in the state, whether it is a one-day or one year pass. Special regulations that apply to fishing in and near Grand Teton National Park include:
- it is unlawful to use fish eggs of any species as bait
- it is illegal to practice “chumming,” or tossing food into the water to attract fish
- digging for or collecting bait
- snagging, archery, or speargun fishing
- fishing from docks, bridges, near mooring areas or swimming beaches on Jackson Lake
- artificial flies and lures only in Blacktail Springs Ponds and Snake River from gauging station to 1,000 feet below the Jackson Lake dam
- The Snake River is catch-and-release only from November 1 to March 31
- Jackson Lake is closed to all fishing from October 1 to October 31
Grand Teton National Park Trip Planning Tips
The closest airport to Grand Teton National Park is in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, but in the late spring and early summer, it is easy enough to fly into the Yellowstone Airport to the north.
Some visitors also fly into Bozeman, Montana since it is within a days drive and you can tour Yellowstone on your way down to Grand Teton and Jackson Lake if you want.
Should you decide to add Yellowstone to your visit, definitely drive through Paradise Valley from Livingston to the northern entrance of Yellowstone. The view from the highway surrounded by mountain ranges is well worth the detour.
Regarding accommodations, there are many campgrounds, RV parks, and several well-appointed lodges in both Grand Teton and Yellowstone.
Jackson Hole, Dubois, and nearby Afton also offer excellent accommodations at hotels, motels, inns, ranches, and even bed and breakfasts.
Keep in mind that places fill up fast in the summer during tourist season, so book well in advance if you plan to make your way there during the summer.
Many anglers are also opting to use RV sharing services in the area to provide themselves with more comfortable camping experience. It’s also a good idea to look into private vacation rentals in the area for often overlooked bargains.
Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in America
Feature image by NPS/D. Lehle