Fishing the Snake River in Northwest Wyoming

by Matt Coulter

Many anglers say that the smallest change in your fishing strategy can make a world of difference. My grandfather and I found this very true on our trip to the Snake River in Grand Teton National park. We arrived at the Jackson Lake Dam on the Snake River with high hopes of catching good sized fish. Some local fishermen at a tackle shop gave us helpful information on places to fish in the area. The dam was the most suggested spot to due to the massive, 300% snowmelt from the mountains this season. All of the other spots had either water that was too fast to fish, or was completely overflown. We drove in to the parking lot at about 10:30 am and after waiting for about ten minutes to find a spot, we parked and got our gear together. After assembling our rods, we had realized we made a terrible mistake. We forgot our waders!


 We didn’t realize how much of a problem this was until we got to the water. I began to cast and ended up snagged in every single bush and shrub that was behind me. With this beginning to frustrate me, I decided to get in the water even though I was without my waders. The water was an unpleasant surprise (especially without my coffee)! I’m from Pennsylvania, where the water goes down to the 60’s at the lowest in July. This was a bit too cold for my legs to handle. After my feet started to get numb, I got out of the water and put my shoes back on. My grandfather tried the same thing and lasted half as long as I did!

We fished about half a mile downstream from the dam with small streamers for about two hours with little to no success. The largest thing I caught was the fifty pound log sitting on the wall behind me!

The heat began to rise and we started to lose our confidence. My grandfather suggested that we walk upstream closer to the dam. He thought we could possibly catch some fish that were swept in from the lake and may have stayed to feed on the bait that was stirred up. It was the best option we had so we walked up to the dam. We walked about three hundred feet closer to the dam. I modified my rig and tied on a size 10 olive wooly bugger fished about 16 inches above a size 14 hares ear nymph tied onto some 2x tippet.

Bob and Taylor, two local anglers we met on the water a few days before, showed me how to cover more water on a river without spooking the fish. They told me to start directly in front of me and start casting from the closest point on until I casted to the other side of the stream. Then, repeat the process upstream from where I casted originally. When I was by the dam, I practiced casting directly in front of me to far out in the river and then upstream to far out. I continued moving up and down that small stretch of the river for about ten minutes.

I made one cast directly upstream from where I was standing and let it drift downstream. I glanced over at my grandfather to see how he was doing when I felt a massive tug on my line. I thought it was a rock, but then, it started moving. I set the hook and it began to run. The only thing I was able to say was, “Oh crap!” I had hooked into a giant 20 inch cutthroat. The fish began to take me downstream. I walked with it keeping as much tension on my line as possible. It dragged me about 50 feet downstream when I finally caught a glimpse of it. My grandfather grabbed my net as I struggled to bring the beast inshore. When we finally netted it, we were close to 100 feet downstream from where we had started. I quickly unhooked the fish, got a quick picture, and released it back into the water. I caught one more fish about the same size that day. It also put up a great fight.

After a successful day we came back the next day and used the same technique with even more success, especially with our waders this time.