Smith's Fork of the Bear River in Wyoming

8 August 2006 By Dan Bachman • Fishing-Spots • Comments (2)

Smith's Fork of the Bear River 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.

An inviting bend on the Smith's Fork 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.

Bonneville Cutthroat on the Smith's Fork 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.



  1. 9 August 2006 Eric

    what you described is very similar to the Owhyee River when you cross the bridge right before Owyhee Junction. The river looks nasty as heck. But travel up 10 miles and totally different. Was up a week ago and coulnt catch any browns however caught a lot of crappie on a fly still fun

  2. 10 August 2006 FishonYukon

    Your stories are starting to reinforce the need to travel to your part of the states. I am in some of the most incredible water in Canada and within an hour drive of Alaska but I still have this romantic notion of fly-fishing the mid-west. Maybe one too many viewing of A River Runs Through It. I know its cheesy but hey it works. If I had a week of mainly unguided fishing and rented a car, where would you recommend fishing in your state? Ever in my part of the country drop me a line at Fish on Yukon.

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