Possibly the river with the least amount of fishing pressure each year, the Snake River in Yellowstone National Park is for hardy anglers who don’t mind a long hike to reach its most beautiful fishing spots deep in the Wyoming wilderness.
At the southernmost edge of the park lies the South Boundary Trail, and intrepid anglers who wish to test their mettle on the Snake must hike nine miles to reach the Snake River Trailhead.
Once on Snake River Trail, you will need to pick your way carefully along and across the Snake River itself (no easy feat if the water is high). Provided you can make the trek into the backcountry though; legendary trophy catches await.
Fishing the Snake River is a peak life experience for any angler, and it is well worth the 10+ miles of hiking to reach the best sections. If you plan on sticking to the easy to access stretches near the South Entrance to Yellowstone National Park, you are depriving yourself of the real Snake River fly fishing experience.
The waters of the Snake are brimming with cutthroat, both Yellowstone and Westslope species, and the bigger, less fussy feeders are found in higher numbers the further you hike into the backcountry.
There are also opportunities along the way to try your luck at other beautiful fishing streams like Red Creek, Heart River, Wolverine Creek, and others that may hide a big cutthroat or two in their pocket water and riffles.
You may find the occasional brown or brook trout along the Snake River, but the cutthroat rules supreme through most of the rivers run through Yellowstone.
You may want to consider an overnight in the backcountry to reach the best sections of the Snake, but make sure you obtain a permit before setting out to avoid fines, and so the park service knows where to look for you if you get into trouble. It’s also recommended you not trek into the wilderness alone either.
Provided you follow park safety guidelines and pack adequately, your trip along the Snake River should give you plenty of memories to keep and stories to share.
Click map icons to get directions to fishing spots, boat ramps and USGS stream flow data
The best water on the Snake River is found closest to the Snake River Trailhead off the South Boundary Trail. You won’t see many anglers trying their luck here due to the 9+ mile hike it takes to get there.
You don’t necessarily need to hike all that far along Snake River Trail to find good fishing, but the general principle is the deeper in you go, the better the fishing gets.
If you are willing to make a multi-day hike into the southern Yellowstone/Wyoming Wilderness, you stand a better chance of landing that trophy cutthroat trout.
Pack an accurate topographical map, compass, and GPS with extra batteries though, as the Snake River Trail is hard to follow in places and it’s easy to lose as you are traversing the banks of the river and crossing back and forth from one side to the other.
Look for pocket water, riffles, and fast water as you go, and keep back from the banks as much as you can. Fortune favors the prepared here, and with persistence and patience, you can reach the best sections for fly fishing further along the trail.
Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish the Snake River inside Yellowstone National Park. The USGS stream gauge near Flagg Ranch, WY provides a good indication of current conditions.
The graph below shows the stream flow (discharge) for the past 7-days. If flows are considerably above or below historical norms (yellow triangles on the chart) then fishing conditions ma not be ideal.
Like most rivers and streams in this section of the park, the best hatches are from July to August. The season may open in June, but the hatches don’t get big until high summer kicks in after the 4th of July.
There are a few big hatches in September, but by the end of the month fall comes to Yellowstone, and the weather turns cold fast. Try your best to book your trip and stay during the early weeks of July, and you will find that you have better success than visiting earlier or later.
Thanks to the Snake’s remote location, you won’t have much competition even during this peak hatch season.
Plan on using dry flies on most sections of the Snake. Streamers are also especially effective here, as are nymphs.
Here are the hatches by date so you can plan on which fly patterns to bring depending on when you plan your trip:
A 9-foot 5-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on the Snake River. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.
The season begins the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend (usually the last weekend in May) and extends through the first Sunday in November. Anglers 16 years of age or older must be in possession of a valid Yellowstone National Park fishing permit to fish in the park. State fishing licenses are not valid and aren’t required.
Snake River fishing regulations are available on the Yellowstone National Park website.
The airport in Jackson Hole, Wyoming is the closest flight you can take to get to Yellowstone’s South Entrance, so book your trip there and look for accommodations around that area. There are many ranches nearby that rent rooms, and you can also easily find traditional motel and hotel accommodations in and around Jackson Hole to suit any taste and budget.
You can also camp in designated camping areas on the southern side of the park, and the lodge near Old Faithful offers comfortable accommodations with excellent amenities if you are so inclined as to book a room there and drive south to the South Boundary Trailhead. As always, be sure to check local listings for private vacation rentals, as this is a great way to save on your stay.
Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to Fly Fishing Yellowstone National Park
Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and find new places to fish. He created DIY Fly Fishing to help you do the same.
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