From high along the eastern boundary of Yellowstone National Park, the North Fork of the Shoshone River bubbles and chatters over rocks and boulders, gradually getting larger as it picks up tributary creeks and streams. This river is considered one of the ten best freestone waters in the country for fly fishing. Wild rainbow, brown, cutbow and native Yellowstone cutthroat trout can all be found making a living in the fast, cold waters of the North Fork.
What Makes It Great
Beautiful scenery, intense water, ease of access and some incredible fish make angling on the North Fork a memorable experience. The river traverses through mostly private property in the Wapiti Valley with some state and federal access points, but there’s over 25 miles of fishable river in the Shoshone National Forest.
Fishing is great from pre-runoff in late April through mid-May, then again mid-July to early November. Peak angling occurs in July, August and September. Fish are hungry and will take grasshoppers, ants, beetles, moths and about anything that moves and catches the fish’s eye. The fish start feeding more as the water warms through the summer. Late afternoon into evening is a good time to wet a line, but really for this water, you’ll have a great experience anytime of day.
Who is Going to Love It
Any angler with a little experience and respect for the wilderness will enjoy fishing the North Fork. There’s so much access, chances are you’ll find yourself alone on your chosen section. Remember this is prime grizzly habitat, so don’t be lulled into thinking that just because the highway to Yellowstone isn’t far off that you’re safe from startling a bear. Wildlife abounds in this riparian corridor and you could see elk, moose, bighorn sheep and bears, both black and grizzly. Anglers need to know how to stay safe in bear country and if camping, how to keep a clean and safe camp.
The North Fork River is the perfect place for folks who respect the resource and know how to properly handle fish. Remember native cutthroat trout are close to being listed as an endangered species for many reasons, one of which is harvest pressure. Fish left in their rivers strengthen the resource and continue to provide recreation for others as well as sustaining over 40 other species of wildlife.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Cody, take US HWY 14/16/20 25 miles west to the Shoshone National Forest boundary. Contact the Wyoming Department of Fish and Game for all current regulations and for river access information through Wapiti Valley. You’ll need a Wyoming fishing license. Anglers wanting to fish in Yellowstone only need a park fishing license. North Fork Anglers fly shop in Cody has all pertinent information about fishing the area, including stream conditions, hatches, etc.
Other than your license, there are no fees and leashed pets are permitted. Carry bear spray. There is no cell service once you pass the forest boundary.