By T.B. Yerden
There are many idyllic portraits of Wyoming. But among the most memorable are its picturesque wilds, especially the gorgeous rivers that snake and cut through the state’s mountainous curves. Standing amongst these sometimes glassy, sometimes turbulent waters is the wader-laden fisherman. Whether tying a fly line or tossing a weighted sinker, the numerous brooks, creeks, streams, and rivers of Wyoming make for pristine fishing. For all of the appropriate bait, tackle, and other gear, check out these 10 shops.
Sheridan is one of those welcomingly-nostalgic western towns, still growing and modernizing, but not completely separating itself from the frontier past. Right on Main Street in downtown, Fly Shop of the Bighorns has happily stocked generations of avid fishermen, all the while preserving its unpretentious, rugged and down-to-earth Wyoming mentality. And this store is a true one-stop shop. Want to buy some new “tasty bug” flies, or learn how to make your own? No problem. Need some waders, some pole repair or some new line? They’ve got it. Itching for a guided expedition, with all the gear, know-how and natural beauty one could desire? This shop is happy to oblige. Beginner or veteran, one-day or one-week, a completely new gear setup or just a pair of socks: this store is a full-service warehouse.
This regionally-renowned shop has blossomed over its 40-year history. Though owner Bob Littlewood has been at the helm throughout its modern incarnation, this store dates to the 1930s. Once a one-room store for intricate, hand-tied flies, this preeminently local labor of love has grown into a one-stop fishing destination, literally providing (almost) anything an angler needs. They’ve the mandatory gear and repair capacity, from rod & reel to bait and line, from waders and boots to shirts, vests and hats. But unique to this location, they’ve also everything else the traveling fisherman needs: gas, food, fishing licenses. It’s all here, and the locals swear by it. And if its pedigreed history of fishing supplies doesn’t suffice, ask any other sportsman: this shop happily supplies hunters, archers and gun-owners as well, all of whom leave this mecca happy, if not just a little bit lighter in the wallet.
When Buffalo Bill fell in love with an area that would become his namesake, he inevitably noticed its bountiful streams, overflowing with a host of salmonids. At an intersection of the Shoshone River and various forks of the Yellowstone, Cody sports a number of guided fishing adventures and the shops to supply them. While North Fork Anglers is guide-centric, the company has an impressive catalogue of provided gear, for rent or purchase. And even though it may not have a warehouse of tools and knick-knacks, the overarching ideals are most attractive: fully-stocked, professional expeditions and an emphasis on respecting and preserving the fragile river ecosystem, a cornerstone in the surrounding biosphere. So, whether one forgot their gear at home, requires gear for a new hobby, or simply wishes to rent and enjoy a river tour, this operation is an unbeatable go-to.
Long before it titled a recent film, the Windriver Range in Wyoming is one of the most ruggedly beautiful, harsh and isolated wilderness areas in the lower-48. As such, the bounty of fish and game attracts sportsmen nationwide, particularly to its challenging but rewarding forks and tributaries. And like its environs, the gorgeous Dubois area, Marlow’s remains a hidden gem. It’s isolation and well-managed flow of tourism makes any river feels as though it’s one’s own. And this asset requires a well-stocked and well-staffed equipment operation. Top of the line gear, staff instruction and accessories are available, from big items to minuscule repairs, all affordably priced. And if on the rare occasion, a competitor’s price is lower, Marlow’s will “meet it or beat it.”
A great organization starts with great people, and this spot is comprised entirely of fish-loving experts who live for the river, on the river. It’s large outdoor-gear umbrella encompasses anything camping, hunting and fishing, with all the gear, repairs and advice any amateur or expert would appreciate. Bookended by Yellowstone Park and the Teton Range, the natural bounty makes any outdoor operation lucrative, if not easy, and provides an obvious wealth of headwaters from which to pull fish. And this fly shop will happily oblige any customer, be it with a guided trip with experienced outdoorsmen and women, or a deep-inventory of quality gear, all employee-tested and approved.
Near the entrance of Grand Teton National Park and renowned for its guided river adventures, Westbank Anglers makes full use of its Jackson Hole-area beauty. While the company takes fishermen on exotic expeditions to the likes of New Zealand and Alaska, the environs of its Wilson location are next-to-none, as is the professional gear on offer. Families needing a starter-kit or river veterans needing a repair or upgrade will both feel welcomed, with an extensive menu of rods, reels, apparel and tech for any fishing adventure, however involved. The most impressive asset here is an experienced staff offering quality gear and time-tested wisdom.
For over 15 years, the Four Seasons Fly Shop has sated the needs of fishermen in and around Laramie with gear that’s not only quality, but often new and cutting-edge. A unique facet of this operation is the availability of instruction and happy dispensation of advice. While this store boasts all the top-name brands and veteran repair services, in addition to offering licenses and rebates, its classes are an important asset. A host of courses cover a range of fish-centric skill-sets, including fly-tying, casting lessons and private one-on-one instruction. There’s a special sense of accomplishment reeling in the day’s first catch, on a brand-new reel, employing some newfound wisdom from friendly, passionate teachers, all the while surrounded by some of the most enviable wilderness in the United States.
Gear and advice: that’s what any sportsman is looking for in a good shop. And the Ugly Bug has been doing just that, in spades. This shop is popular in its well-rounded inventory, and convenient in its location: Casper is a thoroughfare that’s easily accessible, full of amenities, and most importantly, a stopping-point for those destined for the outdoors. It’s a great sport oasis prior to tackling the remoteness of Wyoming’s best fishing spots. Despite the tongue-in-cheek name, Ugly Bug’s stock is top-of-the-line and the staff are happy to dispense their stories and recommendations. Whether it’s a pair of polarized sunglasses or mosquito-repellant clothing, or an expertly-crafted fly meant for the season, or an advice-laden story about fishing misadventures, this is fly shop is anything but ugly.
Johnny’s unpretentious name is entirely appropriate, coming from a locally-loved, one-room space. All the necessities are here, and affordably priced. While many can go to national chains or larger operations for the sleekest, most modern rods and reels, this institution provides an eclectic list of (relative) esoterica. For one, in addition to traditional fly and reel, Johnny’s stocks ice-fishing equipment, a seasonal activity requiring specialty gear. Secondly, this proud shack has a host of live and fresh bait for any aquatic palate.
Snake River Angler is focused on memorable guided trips and the rental equipment required to make these fun and successful. With over 13 rivers to draw from, all of various difficulty, stock and seasonality, this company tailors trips to their clientele. And with a deep well of knowledge, experience and passion, these customizable adventures are eternally enticing. The proximity to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks provides the bucolic backdrop to any fishing inkling, be it a white-water battle to fish for stubborn salmonids, or a leisurely float to cast-and-reel against wily, still-water breeds. And this always entails quality equipment (provided) and a guide that won’t only bolster the experience, but perhaps even impart a little luck.