FISHING AND BOATING

XStream Angler Instream Flow / Clarks Fork River

Clarks Fork River

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Length: 5.85 miles
Priority Date: 12/04/1986
Printable Access Map: Download Map
Technical Report: Download Technical Report
X-Stream Angler Article: Download XStream Angler Article

*Angling regulations may have changed since X-Stream Angler Articles were written. Please check current Fishing Regulations for current fishing limits.

About the segment - The Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone was the first stream where an instream flow water right was filed. Of the many spectacular rivers and streams in the state, few if any strike as awesome a pose as this river and the canyon it carved through the rugged Absaroka Mountains just east of Yellowstone National Park. Hundreds of Native American teepee rings flanking the river serve as mute testimony to the lure this special place has had on people for countless centuries. People seeking this destination today are usually in search of recreational adventures but in the late summer of 1877 the river and canyon served as a backdrop for one of the epic stories of the West's settlement. On the evening of September 8th of that year, Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce Council faced a tough choice. U.S. Cavalry troops were chasing them eastward from the Yellowstone area. More troops were poised to intercept them at the mouth of the Clarks Fork Canyon, and they appeared trapped at last. But in one of the great stories of human will to survive, the entire tribe of 700 men, women, and children; all their possessions; and over 2,500 ponies did the impossible, they slipped up the side of the canyon and out of the trap. There's a bad jeep trail up a part of their likely escape route today that tests the fortitude of even the stoutest souls, or soles, for that matter. The river, though, remains much the same. In fact its rugged, natural essence was given the ultimate recognition as Wyoming's first and only nationally recognized Wild and Scenic River on November 28, 1990.

Rationale - The recommendation protects base flows for native Yellowstone cutthroat trout. At the time of the filing the Clarks Fork was a highly popular and valuable fishery to the state and it remains one today.

Fishery - Yellowstone cutthroat trout is the species managed for here but other native fishes include mountain whitefish; white, longnose, and mountain suckers; and longnose dace. You'll also find non-native brown, rainbow, and Snake River cutthroats as well as an occasional grayling.

This is a free-flowing stream with no dams upstream from the instream flow segment. The river is relatively wide, with deep pools and fairly strong current most of the summer, though when flows drop you can cross at most of the riffles. Large boulders and cobbles line the banks and deeper pools of this geologically young river. Though the water is incredibly clear most of the year, afternoon showers in the high country can occasionally leave it a bit off-color after most of the snowmelt has come off in the summer.

The trout and whitefish hit a wide range of flies, both dry and wet, that change with the seasons so it's best to check with the local sporting goods shops in Cody to see what's working when you're there. Small spinners also work well and there are no regulations that prevent the use of garden hackle if that's your preference. The daily limit downstream from the Forest Service boundary is the statewide standard of six trout, only one of which may be over 20 inches long. Upstream from the Forest Service boundary to Reef Creek the limit is three trout per day, only one of which may exceed 12 inches in length.

How to get there - Take Highway 120 north out of Cody for 29 miles.  Turn left (west) on Highway 292 about 0.75 mile after you cross the Clarks Fork. This road is paved all the way to the Shoshone National Forest Boundary (about 12 miles). At the boundary it turns into a bumpy two-track road. You'll want a higher clearance pickup or SUV to go the next several miles on the two-track to where it dead-ends.
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