Fremont Canyon aka Cardwell Access Area is a very scenic canyon between Pathfinder and Alcova Reservoirs.
Fremont Canyon is the traditional streambed of the North Platte River. When the hydroelectric power plant in Fremont canyon was constructed the North Platte River was diverted through the canyon walls to the power plant located several miles down the canyon. The only water that entered the original streambed was seeping through the granite block dam of Pathfinder Reservoir.
Several years ago The Wyoming Fly Casters, Wyoming Game and Fish, Bureau of Reclamation and the Cardwell Ranch joined forces to develop Fremont Canyon into trout fishery. They manufactured a smaller streambed to accommodate a flow of 75cfs. This one mile long section is accessed by foot only and is available as a public fishery.
Where is Fremont Canyon?
Fremont canyon is located immediately downstream of Pathfinder Reservoir.
Pathfinder Reservoir is only 10 miles from The Reef Fly Shop and Alcova, Wyoming. The most scenic access is via Kortes Road in Alcova, Wyoming. After driving through some very interesting geological formations along Kortes Road you will come to a fork in the road. A large road sign will direct you to the left for Miracle Mile or to the right for Fremont Canyon and Pathfinder Reservoir. Merge right and you will drive toward The Cardwell Access area.
Folks who suffer from a fear of heights may be alarmed when you come to the bridge that crosses Fremont Canyon. At this point the canyon is shear granite walls several hundred feet high. There is a great observation point on the other side of the bridge...take your camera! You might also observe some rock climbers top roaping or belaying from above their climbing route. Winding up the canyon for several more miles will deliver you to the clearly marked Cardwell Fishing Access.
What will I catch?
Rainbows, Browns and Cuthroat trout coexist, in small numbers, in Fremont Canyon. The Wyoming Game and Fish has stocked this section of the North Platte River for several years. The stocking program has been largely unsuccessful. Their initial study, before the stocking began, found that there were approximately 150 fish per mile. This is still the accepted population of Cardwell. While the stocked fish don't seem to survive the wild fish are alive and well, which makes for a more interesting fishery.
There are not very many trout in this section, but plenty for the small size of the stream. Cardwell is a technical place to fish simply because the fish are not easy to catch. You can fish this water without getting your feet wet and there are very few obstacles to interfere with casting. Rainbow trout make up a majority of the population. But, all species grow to incredible size in Fremont Canyon.
What techniques catch fish?
Nymphing is the most productive method to catch Cardwell's trout. Use the same nymph rig as you would use on the Grey Reef Section. Fly selection will vary throughout the year, but a long dead drift remains the same. A high stick or tight line method can also be productive. The Reef Fly Shop will provide you with the most current conditions and fly selections.
Streamers are also a good way to catch fish in Fremont Canyon. Again, use the same streamer rig as you would use on the Grey Reef section of the North Platte River. Water temperatures will dictate the speed of your presentation.
Dry flies will catch fish at Cardwell, but will be isolated at best. During a caddis hatch you may see a rise or two near the bank. A long drift is not necessary with dry flies in Fremont Canyon.
What is Cardwell like?
There is a short, steep hill as you descend from the parking area. This is a very rocky area. Take caution as the rocks are a tripping hazard and can hide bull and rattle snakes during the warmer months. There is a relatively flat path along the water, but it will also have rocks that can trip you up. The stream bank is made up of large boulders that can be slippery. The bottom of the stream is a mix of boulders, cobble and silt. The few gravel areas are trout spawning grounds and should left alone during the spawn. Rainbows will spawn in the spring and browns in the fall.
Cardwell is not a good choice to find protection from the elements. During snow storms, large drifts will develop across the road. The roads are asphalt, but are not a priority for snow removal. If you get stuck here it will likely be a while before you are found. There is no cell phone reception in the canyon. Wind is amplified inside of Fremont Canyon and typically blows straight downstream.
The Cardwell Access Area is a fun and challenging place to fish. Large rainbows and browns are not uncommon. Water and weather conditions are variable in Fremont Canyon. Call or log onto The Reef Fly Shop web site for a current report.