The Trout of Wind River Canyon

The Trout of Wind River Canyon

Photo essay by Jim Klug (

While Wyoming’s Wind River country rivers are by no means new or undiscovered, what is new is that long-time guide and outfitter Darren Calhoun has opened a lodge on the banks of the Wind River in the middle of the Canyon (a place we feel is the most exciting new fishing lodge in the West!).

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Wind River Canyon Whitewater and Fly Fishing is a 100% Native American-owned company with the most seasoned, professional guide staff in that area. Besides their conservation and resource protection outlook on the area, Darren and his team are the only guides allowed to work in the Wind River Canyon on the Reservation. This means that when you fish with them, you have an entire river all to yourself within the Canyon sections.

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They fish the Wind River Canyon in two stretches, which they call upper and lower floats. Their daily limit of one guided boat per ‘float’ per day relieves this amazing tail water fishery, that offers some of the best wild brown trout fishing in the United States, of fishing pressure.

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The large browns are complimented by impressive numbers of heavy and colourful rainbows. The white-water sections between the trout fishing adds to the excitement of these trips. Along with the Canyon, guests can also float sections of the Bighorn River, above and below the town of Thermopolis, as well as the Upper Big Wind at Crowheart.

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This amazing river system (the names ‘Wind’ and ‘Big Horn’ represent the same river) winds from the Wind River Indian Reservation border just east of Dubois, Wyoming for over 100 miles before completing its amazing journey with a 15-mile plunge down the spectacular Wind River Canyon just outside Thermopolis. Exiting the canyon it soon leaves the Reservation and enters the Big Horn Basin where it is then referred to as the Big Horn River.

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Wind River Canyon

There are two sections to fish in the Canyon, the Upper Wind River Canyon and the Lower Wind River Canyon. The white-water rafting in these sections is exciting to deal with. Large trout that hold in pools and runs willingly eat large flies in an unbearably slow manner, which can test one’s hook-set patience. These fish are famous for smashing large streamers fished against the rugged canyon banks and in the myriad pockets, seams, and tail-outs throughout the Canyon.

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Bighorn River

The Bighorn is a classic dry fly stream that flows through the centre of Thermopolis. Big fish hold in its characteristically slow, meandering water, in which they will rise to small dries. Bighorn trout may feed in pods that can be so prolific that they may be mistaken for a shallow riffle even in deep water. Over and above catching large fish on dries, there are several beautiful nymph runs and some very deep pools that hold some very big trout that can be caught on streamers.

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The Crowheart is one of the last remaining freestone streams in the west where you have a legitimate shot at some unbelievably large, trophy trout on waters where you will not see another boat. The upper Big Wind is in the heart of the Wind River Indian Reservation. The scenery is like something out of an old western movie with soaring eagles, grazing elk, whitetail and mule deer, beaver and waterfowl. The magnificent Wind River Range, the longest continuous chain of the Rockies in the lower-48 sates, provides an incredible backdrop as you float and cast into one beautiful pool after another while passing by ranches, homesteads and untouched cottonwood forests. Although the grasshopper and terrestrial season will bring big fish to the surface, the largest fish are caught on streamers.

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More information about Wind River Canyon trips is available on

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