The Grey Reef section of the North Platte River is an awe inspiring fly fishing destination. The rainbow and brown trout that live in the North Platte River grow to rival trout in New Zealand, South America and Alaska.
The differences are that this is a very easy and inexpensive place to travel to, and you can catch large numbers of very healthy, strong and sizable trout while on your quest for the trophy trout.
What will I catch?
Rainbow Trout make up nearly 90% of the trout population. There are a number of different varieties of rainbows including cutbows, a rainbow and cutthroat hybrid. The average size of these trout are 1.5 lbs. A 1.5lb rainbow will be a thick 17 to 18 inch fish. A rainbow in the 20 to 22 inch class are a common site at Grey Reef and can weigh upwards of 5 pounds. The Reef Fly Shop and North Platte Lodge consider it a "big" fish when it reaches 25 inches. These fish are available during all seasons and will be caught using nymph and streamer techniques and only occasionally on dry flies. Grey Reef's trophy trout can reach lengths in excess of 30 inches!
Brown Trout make up a small percentage of the population in the Grey Reef section of the North Platte River. The remaining 10% are brown and cutthroat trout. While browns make up a small percentage of the population, they are a large percentage of the 'big' trout that are landed on our Trophy Trips. They seem to become more available as the North Platte River's water volume increases and warms in the early summer. The increase in volume creates more structure and depth along the banks where the browns like to forage for crawdads and baitfish. Browns of all sizes will be a fool for a fly at any time during the year and are caught on nymphs, streamer and dry flies. There are many days that we don't catch browns, but the rainbows will keep you very busy. Browns are a favorite of the guides at Grey Reef, simply because they are not a daily occurrence and when you find one it is usually big.
Cutthroat Trout share the other 10% of the total trout population with the browns. While we don't typically see cutthroats in the trophy class, a 23" plus cutthroat is not unheard of. They are also available at any time of the year and will eat nymphs, streamers and are suckers for dry flies.
With the trout population at Grey Reef hovering in the neighborhood of 3000 fish per mile you are sure to get lots of opportunities at catching trout of all varieties.
What is the Grey Reef section of the North Platte River like?
The Grey Reef section emerges from the dam of Grey Reef Reservoir. Grey Reef Reservoir is a small impoundment or afterbay a short distance downstream of the much larger Alcova Reservoir. The afterbay's job is to regulate the flow of water downstream and it happened to create a world class fly fishing destination.
Grey Reef Reservoir rises and falls as Alcova Dam's demand for hydroelectric power rises and falls. The North Platte River below Grey Reef Reservoir meanders through a 5500' above sea level sagebrush plain. The gradient of the river is minimal creating a calm environment for excellent trout growth. The North Platte River is not a stream, but rather a sizable river even during low flows. The winter flows stabilize at around 500 cubic feet per second(cfs) and during high water years can be as much as 5400cfs. Our typical summer flow is 2500cfs when irrigation demand is at its highest.
The North Platte River is easily accessed by drift boats and is an easy river to navigate. There are drift boat rentals available for the angler who doesn't own or want to haul their own boat to Grey Reef. A river shuttle service is available through The Reef Fly Shop. We will safely transfer your vehicle and trailer from the 'put in' to the 'take out'. Grey Reef is a very forgiving place to wade fish as the river bottom is not difficult to walk on. The bottom of the river is a variety of sand, gravel, cobble and silt.
While Grey Reef has plenty of public access, most of it flows through private land. In Wyoming the bottom of the river belongs to the land owner. This is also the case with Colorado. In some states, like Montana, the land between the ordinary high water mark is public domain...not so in Wyoming. Wading, anchoring or even beaching your boat is considered trespassing in Wyoming. But, this fact keeps pressure low on most of Wyoming's rivers and the fly fishing productivity high.
How is the weather?
Central Wyoming experiences all seasons as you would expect them. But, we often experience periods of other seasons when you wouldn't expect them.
Spring is our wet season, but Wyoming is a very dry place so moisture is limited. Spring ( as early as March) can deliver warm conditions. There will be days when the sun is so warm that you will be fishing in short sleeves. And, there is also spring snow storms. The springtime is the most popular time at Grey Reef and if visiting during this time of year you should be prepared for all conditions. Cold and warm weather gear are appropriate during the spring.
Summer is very pleasant in central Wyoming and a great time to fly fish Grey Reef. The temperature can reach 100 degrees, but mid 80s are the norm. Our air is very dry so folks from humid climates find relief. The North Platte River will also warm making wet wading very comfortable. Afternoon thunderstorms are not uncommon and a light insulating layer under a waterproof jacket will keep you comfortable during these short outbursts. A long sleeve lightweight fishing shirt and quick drying pants or shorts are a good choice. Sandals are great for wading during the summer. It is a good idea to bring waders or rain pants in the event of a rain storm. There are rogue cold spells, as with any season check the weather conditions and plan accordingly.
Fall is a beautiful and temperate time to fish Grey Reef. The mornings start crisp and you warm up nicely during the course of the day. A sweat shirt over a lightweight fishing shirt and pants or shorts with sandals will normally get you through September, Although there are periods of cooler weather and sometimes snow. Treat the fall like you would the spring and bring warm and cold weather gear.
Winter is the forgotten season of the North Platte River. Grey Reef is an excellent fishery year 'round and winter is no exception. Wyoming has unusual winter weather. Of course we experience cold temperatures and periods of snow. But, at elevations below 7000 feet we also have periods where the daytime temperature can be in the 50s or even 60s. Winter is a fantastic time to come and remedy your cabin fever. The upper Grey Reef section stays ice free for most of the winter so floating the river is very possible. But, be prepared for the worst. Bring extra cold weather clothing and a change of clothes in case of an unexpected "swim". Call The Reef Fly Shop for current ice and weather conditions before venturing out.
What techniques catch fish?
Nymphing is the standard method of fly fishing the Grey Reef section of the North Platte River. It is typically done with a two fly rig located 12 to 18 inches below a weight and an indicator located 6 to 10 feet above that. An even longer leader will be recommended by some. A long dead drift is the most productive means of tricking Grey Reef's trout. The Reef Fly Shop suggests using a 9 or 9.5 foot 5 or 6 weight fly rod. A 9.5' rod is nice for longer casts and longer mends. Different hatches and water temps will dictate what type of water is more productive. This information is always available at the fly shop.
Streamers are a great way to catch trout on the North Platte River. It is typically done with a two fly rig on a leader between 4 and 10 feet long. We recommend a longer leader for use with a floating fly line and a shorter leader with a sink tip fly line. If you plan on fishing with streamers bring floating line and an add on sink tip or an extra spool with sink tip fly line. A stout 6 or 7 weight rod will be appropriate to throw a pair of heavy streamers. We feel streamer fishing is most productive between the end of June through the middle of November, but Grey Reef's trout will take a streamer at any time during the year. Your presentation will change with the seasons. Again, you are welcome to call The Reef Fly Shop for current conditions and advice.
Dry fly fishing is the least predictable method of catching trout at Grey Reef. Our fish are very happy eating subsurface, but will come up to the surface when the conditions are right. If you are fortunate to get an opportunity to cast to rising fish...take it! Dry fly fishing on Grey Reef is incredible. When they have settled into a routine they are not very leader shy and are tough to put down. Look for pods of risers, as singles will generally spook more readily.
Our favorite dry fly hatches are any bugs that bring them to the top. The spring and fall baetis, PMDs, Yellow Sallies, caddis, pseudos and especially Tricos will get the trout to look up. You can expect fish up to 22" eat your offering, but we have seen many larger trout take dry flies.
An 8.5' or 9' 5 weight is a good size rod for casting to, fighting and responsibly landing these fish. Leaders can range from 7.5' to 9' or more with 4x or 5x tippet.
Consider pinching the barbs on all of your flies when you fish Grey Reef. It is not illegal to fish with barbed flies, but fishing barbless is a solid conservation practice. Releasing fish quicker and doing less physical damage is the least we can do to repay for the fun they provide us.
How do I get to Grey Reef?
Driving to Grey Reef is an easy proposition. The main boat ramp at Grey Reef is located only a quarter of a mile off of Wyoming Highway 220. It is a short 25 mile drive up the North Platte River, from Casper, Wyoming, via HWY 220 to Alcova, Wyoming. Alcova, Wyoming is a small community located at the beginning of the Grey Reef section. Grey Reef Road (Natrona County Road 412) is the only access to the main boat ramp. The Reef Fly Shop is located at the corner of HWY 220 and Grey Reef Road. The other public boat ramps are a short drive off of HWY 220 and are clearly marked along the road.
Flying to Casper, Wyoming is a great option. The Casper/Natrona Airport is served by United Airlines via a SkyWest connection in Denver, Colorado, Delta Airlines via a SkyWest connection in Salt Lake City, Utah and North West Airlines via a connection in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Car rentals are available at the Casper/Natrona Airport. Guests of the North Platte Lodge will enjoy a complimentary shuttle service to and from the airport to our facility located a quarter mile from the boat ramp at Grey Reef.
The Grey Reef section of the North Platte River has it all when it comes to a well rounded trout fishery. Beginning fly fishers and advanced anglers alike will find it difficult to leave once they have experienced Grey Reef.