Located a few miles from the town of Jackson, Wyoming sits the National Elk Refuge. Established in 1913, the refuge spans almost 25,000 acres and supports a "wintering" population of around 7,500 elk. More importantly to the fly fisherman, this wildlife sanctuary is home to a premier stretch of "spring creek-like" water called Flat Creek. The fishing season is open from August 1st through October 31st.
Flat Creek meanders through a valley floor of meadows and marshes. The flow is generally slow, although there are some interspersed riffles. The grass bordering the stream offers the fly fisherman little opportunity to hide from the fish’s field of vision. When fishing Flat Creek I often feel if I get too close to see fish they are also seeing me. After sighting an actively feeding or holding fish, a stealthy approach in a low stance or even walking on your knees may be necessary. These fish also have a keen sense of hearing and vibration, so walk quietly.
Flat Creek is an incredible venue for dry fly fishing. Blind casting does not do justice to the stream or the fish. Most of the time is spent locating and sight-casting to a particular fish. These "educated" fish are very selective and picky. If the fly is presently properly a trophy size Snake River Fine-Spotted Cutthroat may be your reward.
I have had the most success using a long 5X leader and small mayfly patterns including PMD’s or Blue-Winged Olives. Terrestrial patterns are also effective. Towards the end of the season I go to 6X tippet. In the absence of active surface feeding or difficulty spotting fish, I have also had success working a streamer such as a Zoo Cougar along the banks or through a pool. Although there is no absolute approach to this stream, I work downstream because I feel I can be more accurate in placing my fly in the correct feeding lane to the targeted fish.
Overall, the fly fishing on Flat Creek would be described as "technical." For success plan on a stealthy approach, an accurate cast with a drag-free drift, small flies, and a long fine leader.
Dino “Doc” Frangos