Fish your park: Grand Teton National Park

Editor's note: This summer marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, and the formal creation of theuniquely American national park system. Trout Unlimited is celebrating with the National Park Service by sharing stories from staff, volunteers and other anglers who chase wild trout inside the protected lands of national parks from coast to coast. Check back often, as stories from our "Fish your park" series will appear regularly on the TU blog. 

By Beverly Smith

As we approach the Fourth of July, I’d like to pause and celebrate what Ken Burns rightly called America’s best idea.I have the great fortune of living in the backyard of two of our nation’s National Parks, Grand Teton and Yellowstone. These Parks are not only among the most scenic, wildlife-rich parks in the nation, but they also symbolize the birthplace of conservation – the American idea that has me running for my red, white and blue. This summer we celebrate the beginning of this movement with the Centennial of the National Parks System. What better way to celebrate than to fish!

When you’re out this way for the Trout Unlimited Annual Meeting, you should most certainly schedule in some time to visit both Parks. The early fall is really the perfect time of year to be in the Parks, with visitor traffic dwindling, the leaves changing, and spawning brown trout on the Henry’s channel.

In the last decade and change of living in the shadow of these two amazing Parks, I’ve remained relentless in my pursuit of exploring with fly rod in hand. And, I’ve only scratched the surface. Grand Teton National Park is more my “home park,” and where my husband, daughter and I tend to spend quite a lot of time.

In the off season when our rivers are high and muddy, the Park’s lakes offer a chance at either lake trout or native, Snake River finespotted cutthroat. The lake trout, in particular, will school up on a shallow sandy bottom area of the lake, and if you find a day without the Wyoming Wind you can sight cast to them, much like you would for bonefish. It’s a kick. My daughter’s Disney princess spinning rod works pretty well too!

It’s certainly not all still-water in Grand Teton National Park. The famous Snake River (below) runs right through the park with iconic, Ansel Adams-esque scenery at every turn. This section of the Snake is almost entirely native trout. The parks often offer us these uniquely pure, native and wild ecosystems, as is the case in Grand Teton. Because you’re in the Park, access to the river is easy. Just grab a map and a Wyoming license (special licenses only required in Yellowstone) and go. Fishing the Snake through the Park by boat is pretty spectacular too, and offers the opportunity to sneak into little spring creek gems for a chance at some big trout.

There are dozens of tributaries to the Snake that hold healthy, fishable populations of trout. Just as one example, find your way up to Spread Creek. Wave the tour busses and crowds goodbye and enjoy an epic small stream experience largely to yourself. Imagine tall grass hanging over a deep water cut bank, and trout looking up, desperately hoping a grasshopper makes a misstep. This spot was made much more fishable thanks to TU’s efforts to remove an obsolete dam providing more than 50 miles of connected habitat, critical for cutthroat spawning and rearing.

There are hundreds of little gems like this in Grand Teton and probably twice that in Yellowstone. So, go celebrate the birthday of our Parks, celebrate the grand idea that is conservation, and do so with fly rod and Park pass in hand. See you out there. #FishYourPark

Beverly Smith is Trout Unlimited's vice president for volunteer operations. She lives in Jackson, Wyoming, with her husband and daughter.


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