Smith's Fork of the Bear River in Wyoming
8 August 2006 By Dan Bachman • Fishing-Spots • Comments (2)
The Bear River begins and ends in Utah but has tributaries in and flows through the states of Wyoming and Idaho. The Smith’s Fork of the Bear River is entirely contained in Wyoming and joins the mainstem of the Bear River at Cokeville, Wyoming. An article in last fall’s Trout, the Trout Unlimited magazine, along with the fact that it holds Bonneville cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki utah), once considerd extinct, was enough for me to add the river to my calendar.
After more than 350 miles through Idaho and into Wyoming I crossed a bridge just outside of Cokeville that carried the clear waters of the Smith’s Fork. The previous 60 miles from Soda Springs follow along the Bear River where slow and murky meandering water leaves little confidence in successful fly fishing along it’s course. The Smith’s Fork is not that river. The burbling water is the classic small trout stream with pools and riffles and small boulders providing current breaks.
The first 10 miles of Highway 232 from Cokeville heads north along the Smith’s Fork where plentiful private property surrounds the river. I found a couple places where one could access the river but continued north exploring the river and looking for wide open spaces. A beatifully maintained fence follows along the road for nearly 7 miles after pavement end on the dirt road where just beyond Collett Flat the road nears the river and a large bend in the river below a bluff had me pulling on my waders.
A small stimulator fooled an eager Bonneville cutt on the first cast to the pool below the bend. The silver and golden belly of the fish had a slight tinge of blue near the base of the gill covers. A beautiful and healthy fish with the trademark slash. After a quick release I continued downstream and found good water behind several large rocks near a cut bank. I took half a dozen fish from the water that was only a couple feet deep and the size of a card table.
I didn’t fish the river long, only covering a half mile of it’s length and landing perhaps a dozen fish before I was back in the car heading to another trib of the Bear River.