Fishing the Sweetwater River – Carp in Wyoming

The east-flowing Sweetwater River in Wyoming begins in the Wind River Mountains and flows to its eventual terminus at Pathfinder Reservoir, where its waters join the waters from the larger North Platte River. The valley along this river is full of history and historical sites, some of which are managed and maintained by the LDS Church, and are open to the general public. The Oregon Trail, the California Trail, and the Mormon Trail all converged and followed the same route along this valley for nearly 100 miles.

There are several geographic landmarks along this river that are beautiful and provide good photography opportunities. These include Independence Rock, Devil’s Gate, Split Rock, and the Rattlesnake Mountains.

The country along this river has large populations of pronghorn antelope, mule deer, whitetail deer, and rattlesnakes. Access to the river, throughout its length, is a little tricky, however. Friends who were performing volunteer work for the LDS Church at Martin’s Cove along the Sweetwater River were able to give us access one afternoon. We were there in early August and though we saw a few nice-sized brown trout, they were not biting in the 90+ degree afternoon temperatures.

We also found public access near Independence Rock. Parking at the Independence Rock parking lot (rather than the nearby Rest Area), we walked along the left side of the rock toward the river. A half-mile hike took us to the river, which was very low and the water was warm – probably too warm for trout other than brown trout. We followed the river downstream, away from the highway and towards where it enters Pathfinder Reservoir looking for any sign of a trout in the low clear water. We suspect there were a few browns lurking under the banks, but we did not see anything that tempted us to wet a line.

After about a mile, we saw a couple of carp. A fairly recent craze among certain fly fishermen is to fly fish for large carp, and these carp were large. A little further down the river was a large school of carp, holding in a deep trough on the far side of the river. Even though we were carrying only our light-weight trout fly and spinning equipment, we decided we would rig up and try for some of these large fish.

Several hours later, we decided to stop after having caught nearly a dozen of these carp. All of them were big, with the largest around 20 lbs. and the smallest near 15 lbs. Each fish was a unique challenge and took 15-20 minutes to land. When carp are this large and come from such clear and pure water, they are beautiful fish to catch, photograph and release. Both common carp and mirror carp were among the schools of carp and we enjoyed catching both and comparing the unique features of these two species of large carp.


While we fished, there were several small herds of antelope, and a lone buck or two, that got curious and came close to see what we were doing. It was our first time to specifically target large carp and we will definitely be back for more.

For the great trout fishing the Sweetwater River is supposed to have, we recommend going earlier in the summer, after runoff, but while the water is still higher and cooler. We suspect most of the trout drifted downstream to enter Pathfinder Reservoir and its deep, colder water.

While you are in this part of Wyoming, you may also want to check out fishing opportunities on the two large reservoirs along the North Platte River – Alcove and Pathfinder Reservoirs. The North Platte River is also a world-class fly-fishing river. Hiring a guide for any of these waters would be a great way to learn how to fish them.

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