North America, Reviews

Learning to FlyFish with Will Dornan, the Snake River Angler, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

October 9, 2011 • By

Unrealized childhood dreams.  When it came to the subject of fishing that was mine. My dad was in the habit of taking each of his children to the local lake for fishing lessons. I eagerly awaited my turn but it never came. Fast forward to the present and the opportunity to learn how to fly fish presents itself in freaking Jackson Hole, Wyoming, no less!

I jumped at the chance to realize something that I thought I’d missed out on. I wanted to experience the sport and would be taught by none other than Will Dornan, a well-known fisherman from Jackson Hole who has over 30 years of experience under his belt.

He owns the well-established Snake River Angler, a full service fly fishing shop and guide service. Be aware that there are many ‘guides’ in the area. However, they are limited to a very narrow part of the Snake river because they do not have permits to work as official guides. On the other hand, the legitimate guides like Will can work the entire length and breadth of the river located in the beautiful Grand Tetons.

snake river

Being the romantic at heart, I had been influenced by the grace and fluidity of the movie, “A River Runs Through It”. I mentioned to Will how I was spellbound by the flyfishing scene. He quickly brought me back down to earth and told me that it was more theatrical than reality, but wasn’t that the point?

We would be spending half of the day with him after our fantastic white water rafting earlier that morning. It was a great way to end the day by sitting on a quiet lake focused on reeling in a trout or two. I didn’t have any delusions of grandeur that I would suddenly become transformed into a trout magnet where I willed the poor fellas to jump into the boat to their doom without any fuss.

But before I could get too caught up, we were told that we had to get a fishing license. We went to the nearest convenience store and proceeded to step to a back room in a very cloak and daggerish way to show our picture ID and cough up 14 bucks for the license.

Here are the seasonal Summer Fishing Rates

Note: Rates are for one or two persons. Third person add $100.00 (except on Walk-in add $50.00). All trips include required gear (rods, reels, waders, snowshoes if needed) transportation to and from place of lodging, and beverages. Full day trips include full lunches. Rates do not include fishing licenses or terminal tackle (leader and flies).

  • Snake River Full Day Float Fishing Trip – $500.00
  • Yellowstone National Park Full Day Trip- $550.00
  • Snake River Half Day Float Fishing Trip – $395.00
  • Green River Full Day Float Fishing Trip – $500.00
  • *South Fork Full Day Float Fishing Trip – $485.00 please call 307.733.3699

Soon we were on our way to a more placid part of the Snake river where the water was calmer and more serene and seemingly begged for our company. We were surrounded by a literal paradise that was immensely enticing and inviting, so much so that we were picturing ourselves there not just for this trip but perhaps for the rest of our lives. Then we began to think of the 751 inches of snow that fell this year and were brought back to our senses.

I can tolerate a lot of things but snow is a deal breaker for me. We’d reached our destination and Will pulled out a couple of rods and reels and began to thread them for us. He was too fast, so I decided that I would just figure that one out later. I think he was ready to get going because the day was quickly slipping away from us.

After demonstrating how to cast and reel, he gave us a go at it. It’s harder than it looks but he thought we were prepared enough to move on to the real thing, so he began to pull the truck with the boat trailer attached down to the edge of the lake. After disembarking the drift boat and pushing it into the lake, we hopped aboard and Will started rowing away from the shore.

It was idyllic and magical…..but since we had to focus on our casting and actually trying to catch fish, I couldn’t take as many pictures as I would have liked to capture the moment. We were rowing a good five minutes before he handed us our own rod/reels and instructed us to cast closer to shore since that’s where the little darlings loved to cluster in groups.

Unfortunately, they must have known that we knew their strategy and scattered away from us. Carisa was lucky enough to catch a mid-sized trout….heck she was the only one who caught anything since I couldn’t even catch a cold on that windy, but beautiful day. I guess it wasn’t meant to be, but the fact remains that I now know how to fish….flyfish even and I have Will Dornan to thank for it.

You will notice during your visit to Jackson Hole that Will’s family is quite established there. Most people visit Jackson Hole because they know that aesthetically, it’s a glorious wonder of nature. What better way to get closer to it than to spend a day drifting down a cascading river enjoying the fine sport of flyfishing.

Snake River Angler contact info:
Toll Free: 888-WYTROUT (998-7688)
In Jackson Hole: 307-733-3699

Whether you are a newbie or an experienced fisherman, you will learn something interesting about the sport and will become more adept at it. The Snake River Angler staff are experts in casting instruction, stream tactics, entomology and fly tying.

Depending on the time of the year (and Will fishes all year!), you can learn to fly fish for Loch Leven brown trout on Lewis Lake in Yellowstone National Park, for big brown trout and rainbow trout on the green river and cutthroat, brown and rainbow trout on the south fork at the Lodge at Palisades Creek.

Will and his staff will personalize fly fishing lessons for the individual; focusing on your own unique strengths and weaknesses. It will be a day that you won’t soon forget. Happy Casting!

Full Disclosure: I was a guest of Will Dornan and his Snake River Anglers which was arranged by the fantastic Heather Falk with the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce. However, my review is and will always be my honest impression of my experience there.