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Wyoming Rivers: - Salt River
Fishing the Salt River in Wyoming's Star Valley

Article  by Ben Arellano of Angler Guide

The Salt River originates on the western slope of  the Salt River Mountain Range just south of Smoot Wyoming. This picturesque range sport's several peaks that reach beyond 11,000 feet in elevation and is home to one of Wyoming's best big game hunting areas. Anywhere else a range with these resources would be envied, but in western Wyoming it contends with the neighboring presence of the mighty Tetons, Gros Ventre, and Wind Rivers mountain ranges.  
A Balsamroot Flower in full bloom, a common site  along one of the trails of Caribou National Forest.

Meandering south for a short distance the Salt River changes direction to the north and flows through a broad valley sparsely populated with ranches and farms.  Still traveling northward it will oxbow highway 89 several times as it passes through the meat and potato towns of Afton, Thayne and Alpine until it finds its resting place at Palisades Reservoir over 70 miles from its origin. Palisades is also the resting place for two other of Wyoming rivers, those being the Snake and Greys rivers. The waters of these three rivers eventually leave Palisades Dam to become Idaho's infamous South Fork. 

The first thirty miles of the Salt River is relatively small in size, due partly to water been diverted for agricultural irrigation. But the next 40 or so miles the river becomes a viable fishery.  A few miles prior to the town of Afton Wyoming,  three creeks and several streams flow into the Salt. The river grows, water quality improves and deep undercut banks are now present. It is also in this same stretch public access to river becomes available.  The resident fish in this stretch, Brook, Rainbow and the Snake River Fine-Spotted Cutthroat tend not to be sizeable, averaging 10- 14 inches in length.  Brown trout are present also,  but they normally stay in deep cool waters of Palisades Reservoir until fall. 

Author sporting a larger than average Brook.

Surprisingly the river is not as easy to fish as it looks. Its main appeal just might be the solitude and its surroundings.  The current is swift, strong and in many holding areas the banks are chocked with willows. If you do wade, plan on doing some walking as a share of good holding areas are hidden around great big bends not visible from a distance.  Floating the river may be best the way to fish the Salt, but use a canoe or a skiff.  It's also advisable to go with someone who knows the river fairly well. If you hire a guide just remember floating this river can be very labor intensive because of oxbowing characteristics of the river. There are also a few areas where it may be necessary to take your boat out of the river because of low bridge clearance or a fence crossing the river. 

Typically you can fish the river year-round with the exception being November and December.  These two months fishing above Wyoming bridge 238 is restricted because of spawning.  In early months of the year it's not unusual to see one or two anglers fishing the Salt on a warm sunny day, however I being a Wyoming native must mention "warm" in Wyoming is around 32 degrees. In May and early June the river is at its highest and it best to float the river.  Summertime brings the caddis, stonefly and PMD hatch.  Unlike some rivers matching the hatch is not critical and the fish tend not to be spooked easily.   An anglers choice of flies need not be more than 8 or 9 patterns for the entire season.  Elk Hair Caddis, Blue-Winged Olives, Beadhead Princes, Pheasant Tails, Stimulators, PMD Emergers, Parachute Hopper, Fly Fur Streamers and many similar patterns are all productive.  

The Salt River

Fall may be the best time to visit and fish Wyoming's Star Valley.  With the tourist season at its end, life in the broad valley returns to normal.  Now the only thing this place they call "America's Little Switzerland" has to offer are brisk mornings, beautiful autumn colors reaching on to the Salt and Caribou mountains and maybe two months left of excellent fishing. Fishing the Salt River in autumn is rewarding.  Bruiser Brown's leave Palisades Reservoir for a little action, bringing with them a "move out of the way punk" attitude. In autumn on the Salt you can't go wrong using streamers to catch those 6 and 7 pound bullies and if want some real entertainment try the same light tackle used during the summer. Overall the Salt River is a very good fishery.  The people you may see on the river are more than likely trout bums or locals with more emphasis on nymphs and streamers than dry flies. 

Species: Brown, cutthroat, rainbow, and occasionally brook trout.

Equipment: 7- to 8-foot rods for 3- to 5-weight line. Hip waders in the cooler months (Sept-June). Anglers might consider hiking in wearing hiking boots with a lightweight pair of wading boots and breathable waders packed in a daypack. 

Articles of Interest

Fishing the Famous South Fork

Wyoming's Greys River


Wyoming Mountain & Fishing Properties


Books of Interest



 

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