Clear Creek - Segment No. 1





The instream flow water right in the stream below the dam was an essential part of the approval process for the dam. The specific flow recommendations were developed to provide enough water for trout to survive during the winter, maintain or improve spawning habitat for rainbow trout in the spring and ensure there was adequate water for trout growth during the summer.
The stretch of Clear Creek below Tie Hack Dam consists of diverse large cobbles and boulders that provide a good mix of deep (3-4 foot) pools, under-cut bank cover, and swift runs. There are also lots of riffles with excellent gravel for trout to spawn in and to produce aquatic insects that trout need as a food supply. Fish population studies we’ve done show an impressive number of trout and a range of species and sizes. The dominant fish found here are rainbow trout that maintain themselves naturally by spawning in the stream. There are also pretty good numbers of Snake River cutthroat trout that mostly originate from fish stocked in Tie Hack Reservoir and drift downstream. This high mountain stream doesn’t look like classic brown trout habitat but there are actually quite a few of those fish in this part of the stream and we’ve seen some up to 20 inches or more. The majority of rainbows and cutts average about 12 to 14 inches long. They will all readily take a fly or small spinner of your choice – if presented properly or persistently enough. Statewide fishing regulations apply that allow you to keep up to six trout, only one of which may be over 20 inches long.
From the confluence of the North & South Forks down to the Buffalo diversion.
Take State Highway 16 about twelve miles west of Buffalo. You’ll see a small Forest Service sign directing you to turn left (east) to Tie Hack Campground and Reservoir. The Tie Hack Campground will be within about a quarter mile of the highway, but continue on this well-graded gravel road another half mile or so and you’ll come to a parking area on the edge of the reservoir. From the parking lot, hike over to the dam and then follow the foot trail down to the stream at the bottom of the hill. The stilling basin at the base of the dam is packed with smaller trout but as you continue down stream to more natural habitats, you’ll encounter some great fishing and few, if any, other anglers. The road from the highway to the dam is only open during the spring, summer and early fall and is closed once heavy winter snows begin to fall.
On October 18, 1933 folks in Buffalo, Wyo. filed a water right for a new reservoir in the Bighorn Mountains west of town to store water for the town’s use. Their original plan was to build the dam on a stream called Little Sourdough Creek. Over the years they looked at lots of other options on about every stream in the Clear Creek drainage. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department first got involved in this process in 1982 when we took a look at fishery issues on ten potential reservoir sites. After many studies by us and other folks and many meetings, the original water right filing was changed slightly to move the site of the dam downstream to the South Fork Clear Creek. In 1997, after over six decades of planning, Tie Hack Reservoir was built to provide water for Buffalo and recreation for the state’s citizens. This 63-surface acre lake flooded a Forest Service campground as well as several acres of important wetlands and a few miles of stream. As with all new dams, these losses were off set by a mitigation agreement that restored these public resources to conditions of comparable value. New camping facilities and new wetlands were created to replace those flooded by the new lake. Guaranteed instream flow releases from the dam were also required to replace the lost stream habitat and fishing opportunities that were destroyed by the reservoir. Today this important mitigation feature helps maintain an excellent stream fishery below the reservoir. We often hear people say that you have to have a dam in order to have an instream flow, but that’s seldom the case. In this situation, the dam was not needed to make a new fishery because a healthy stream fishery also existed. In fact the opposite was the case – a guaranteed instream flow release from the dam was actually one of several things that were needed to get all the permits so the dam could be built.