Turns out there are a whole lot of fishable rivers in Wyoming. Hams Fork and Smith’s Fork rivers are both in classic Wyoming river valleys: wide open, short on trees, covered with sage brush and cow pies. Also very few people, which makes for a perfect weekend retreat when you need some solitude and quiet nights away from the city.
Fishing in Hams Fork is a lesson in rolling with the punches. Even though there was no one around, all the best campsites were filled with giant RV trailers that appeared to be serving as summer homes, not weekend campers. We took one of the last open spots by the river, tantalizingly close if you could make it through the maze of willows. The dogs found a long-dead beaver and chowed down enough to fill our tent with rancid beaver farts. RK and I both ended up with leeches hanging onto our legs. But the trout are plentiful, if fast and tricky to catch. And the birds are amazing: hawks, eagles, cranes…
There was one solo lamb eating very happily in the bushes near our camp, and he became a bit of a mascot to those of us that were around the valley. It sounds cliché, but there was a lone coyote howling in the night and I worried about our little lamb! He survived and was still eating when we pulled out, heading over to Smith’s Fork.
A mostly uneventful forest road drive that is “not recommended for sedans” (enjoy the views!) gets you over to Smith’s Fork, which is apparently all private access until you get to the really rutted 4WD road where the rest of us are allowed to fish. We parked and walked, enjoying the willow-free though cow-pied trails along the river. So many fish in this river! It was as if our struggles in Hams Fork were being repaid in Smith’s Fork. Big fish, little fish… lots of pools and rapids to explore. There was a dead sheep, but with minimal willows we were able to keep the dogs away from it. Score!
Camping: dispersed camping in Bridger-Teton National Forest. There is a campground (Hams Fork campground) but it was very, very small and not so nice. It’s high, so bring your down sleeping bag.
Coffee: classic pour-over.
Cocktails: Unusually, we stuck to beer this trip! Very delicious sour beers were the focal point with an especially nasty misstep of a Ballast Point spicy flavored stout that was so wrong even RK couldn’t finish it.
Fish: rainbow, brook and cutthroat trouts a-plenty. Super spooky and also hit-and-run, so it was pretty easy to spoil a pool. Not that size matters, but the biggest we caught at Hams Fork was ~12-13″ but a bigger pig snapped a line and took a fly. Smith’s Fork has some really nice sized fish and we caught cutthroats up to 16″ with a very big fella (~18″), lovingly named Captain Black, who took my hopper and is still laughing.
Flies: Yellow! We saw stone flies and caddis but the fish wanted anything with a yellow body. Yellow stimulators and yellow stone flies were the winners, and a small pink-bodied hopper was also quite successful for the short time I had it.