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The Green River, great fishing with history to boot
 
The Green river, from it's majestic, yet humble beginnings in the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming to it's confluence with the mighty Colorado River, is still a beautiful, inviting slice of nature. It's largely unsettled territory and wealth of natural resources beckon to those who know of it's timeless qualities.
The Green River below Fontenelle Dam.  

Mountain men of the 1800's and characters of the old west were drawn to the Green River country and legends from that era still abound. Jim Bridger called this area home base for a time and Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch often retreated here to escape pressure from the law.

Today, it is an anglers paradise, drawing fishermen from all over the world. Green River country also attracts many hunters, whitewater enthusiasts, backpackers, sightseers, mountain bikers, x-country skiers and all-round nature lovers.

Even the natural history of the Green River corridor is intriguing. Geological formations of all types abound and nearby is one of the largest deposits of fossils and dinosaur bones found anywhere. If variety is the spice of the outdoorsman's life, then this river system must be one of the great Mecca's of the natural world. It's world class fisheries boast six species of trout, something that can be said of few river systems. The cutthroat trout was native but the brown trout, rainbow trout, brook trout, lake trout and even the elusive golden have been successfully introduced and are prospering. Grayling inhabit some of the headwater lakes. Largemouth and smallmouth bass are available in Flaming Gorge Reservoir, as are kokanee and catfish. Even a few northern pike exist down around the Colorado, Utah border.
Rafters enjoy the beautiful colors in the canyon that evenings produce during summer.  

Flaming Gorge Dam - To The Colorado River

The Green River from Flaming Gorge Dam in Utah to the Colorado State line is the most popular section of river for anglers. It sometimes sees 150,000+ anglers days per year and holds up remarkably well despite the numbers of fishermen. Eighty percent of the fishing pressure is located on the seven miles from the dam to Little Hole. The canyon  Little Hole (formerly Little Brown's Hole) is known as Red Canyon and was named by Major John Wesley Powell's expedition in 1869.

The river currently is one of the best fisheries in the continent and is definitely a world class fishery in every sense of the term. It has a fascinating angling history that aptly illustrates the value of special regulations and informed management.
Flaming Gorge Reservoir.  

 Flaming Gorge Dam, near the Wyoming State line, was authorized in 1956, begun in 1959 and finished in late 1962. Previously, the river was warm, muddy and supported few if any trout. Squawfish, chubs and suckers, including some varieties that are unique to this drainage, were the main river inhabitants. Powell's expedition called a species of fish in the river "a queer mongrel of mackerel, sucker and whitefish", and another one "an afflicted cross of whitefish and lake trout". Descriptive terms for fish that are now endangered, protected fish. The protected species include the Colorado squawfish, razorback sucker, humpback chub, bonytail chub and roundtail chub. The canyon was regularly ravaged by spring floods that carried huge volumes of silt, sand and rocks, creating rapids and sandy beaches.

 

When the dam was completed and the water behind the dam began to rise the once muddy waters cleared of silt and became cooler. The state fish and game officials took quick advantage and stocked brown and rainbow trout. The fishing was very good for a few years but as the waters rose in the reservoir, the water coming from the bottom of the dam began to cool until it was in the 30's and 40's (Fahrenheit), year-round. The growth rate of the trout slowed considerably and fishing suffered. The problem was acknowledged and in 1978 modifications were made on the dam to draw water from various depths of the reservoir. Being able to control the water temperature helped the fish considerably and it soon became a popular fishing destination. With ideal conditions rainbows, cutthroats and browns grew at a staggering one to two inches a month, during prime seasons. 

Before long fish averaged 13 to 24 inches with a number of even bigger fish. One in ten fish was over 20 inches and a few monsters in the 30 to 36 inch range were available. A fishery like this can not be kept secret for long and by 1987 a number of guide services were operating on the river and articles began appearing in the major fishing publications. Fish surveys during this period reported up to an incredible 22,000 fish per mile, in the first few miles below the dam. 

Today there are fewer fish because of reduced stocking but their growth rates are back up and most of the fish are nice, fat and healthy. With fish numbers from 6,000 to 15,000 fpm now, the Green River is still a world class fishery, but the fish do require more finesse to catch. Some anglers quit fishing the river the past few years and others became disillusioned because they were catching fewer fish than before. The fish have been educated. 

The 30 miles from Flaming Gorge Dam to Colorado State line is divided roughly into three sections. Section A (as it's referred to by the Forest Service) is from the dam to Little Hole, Section B is from Little Hole to Taylor's Flat Bridge (in the upper end of Brown's Park) and section C is from Taylor's Flat Bridge to the Colorado State line, near the bottom of Swallow Canyon. Each section has access points by road and each makes a nice day float. As mentioned earlier, Section A sees 80% of the fishing pressure because of better trout numbers and easier access. It is also the most scenic section of river.

A Remarkable Fishery

The Green River has crystal clear water for most of the year. Flaming Gorge Reservoir is nearly 100 miles long and cleans the sediment that comes down feeder streams and the Upper Green River drainage. It collects dissolved nutrients in the lake and gushes out the bottom of the dam as a rich, man-made spring creek. Having such a clean, fertile water is bound to increase the overall biomass of a river and the Green is no exception. One study showed over 1000 scuds per square yard of stream bottom! There are nearly that many mayflies and several times that many midges in addition to caddis, craneflies, aquatic redworms and a few stoneflies. As with many tailwater fisheries, there are only a few species of each insect group but what it lacks in diversity it more than makes up for in overall numbers or biomass. There needs to be lots of food to support the fish populations mentioned earlier. Most of the seasonal changes in trout feeding behavior parellels insect movements, hatches and other food sources.

 

Because of the clear water the trout are very visible. There are few rivers where trout are easier to see than on the Green. On shallow riffles, in big eddy lines, on the bottom of deep, slow runs and even on the edges of rapids, trout can be seen cruising and feeding. Having such a clear view of the trout we fish for has made the transformation of the fishery very interesting and visible. Even with all the changes in the fishery in a short time there are some fishing techniques and types of fly patterns that are standards, but many of the fly patterns change as fish get used to them. Flies like the Chernobal Ant, Peacock Crippler, Tar Baby, Disco Scud and hundreds of other variations have been developed to get the attention of Green River trout. Each guide has his own favorites that he keeps undercover - except for his clients. 

Seasons on the Green

Winter is a fun and uncrowded time to fish the Green River if your clothing system can keep you warm. The surrounding mountains often get lots of snow but roads are kept open and the river itself seldom sees more than one foot of snow. Daytime temperatures fluctuate anywhere from -20 deg. to + 50, depending on the day. Weather systems on the Green River usually come from the Salt Lake City direction and take about a half day to get there. Watch the weather reports and figure that the Green will be about a half day behind and about 15 degrees colder. 

Spring brings ubiquitous baetis hatches and the trout group up for spawning as well. It is the best time of year for large trout because they have been through winter with little fishing pressure. They move into shallows to begin spawning or to feed and you can spot-fish these large cruisers. Fish egg patterns, scuds, small nymphs and San Juan Worms to nymphing trout and olive duns, midges or emerges to risers. If the fish reject dry flies, use emerger or nymph versions. 

Summer brings crowds of recreational floaters but fishing stays good with pale morning duns, midges and caddis supplying the main hatches. In mid-summer evening, try large attractor dry flies in fast water and watch out. Caddis can be effective near dark. Terrestrial insects like beetles, ants, grasshoppers and cicadas are plentiful and streamers sometimes work well. Most nymphing is done with very small nymphs. 

Late summer and fall sees some of the most challenging fishing of the year. The fish have become re-educated and light tippets, accurate, drag-free presentations and small flies are a must for consistent hookups. Small baetis are hatching, with a large one going only a size 18. If the selectivity of slow water fish are frustrating you, move to the riffles and use tiny nymphs. If you want to sight fish and test your skills against some of the most selective trout found anywhere, this is the time of the year that is most challenging. Weather can be quite nice or not so nice. Prepare for anything.

Floating the Green

Floating Section A from the dam to Little Hole is a great way to see Red Canyon and get some great fishing along the way. From April through October shuttles can be arranged through Flaming Gorge Flying Service (Dutch John Airport) or Flaming Gorge Lodge. Have them shuttle your car for you or meet the morning shuttle bus at Little Hole and ride back to the dam (launch your boat first). If the river is crowded try putting in in the afternoon and doing a late float. You're likely to see people floating down the river in all kinds of watercraft from dories and rafts to canoes and float tubes. The first two are fairly safe. The last two are dangerous. The rapids of the Green River are not extremely dangerous but serious enough that unskilled or unaware floaters can get into trouble fast. The worst culprits are the big rocks in fast water just under or above water level. They often have enough suction or turbulence to flip small craft.

Flaming Gorge Bass

In my opinion the most fun a fly rodder can have on Flaming Gorge Reservoir is to go after the smallmouth bass. Their populations have exploded since their introduction a few years ago. There are incredible numbers of eight - to 15 inch smallmouths. Some beauties to four plus pounds are around. They are widely distributed through the lake now and go nuts on anything that looks vaguely like crayfish, their favorite food. It is also the home for many trophy lake trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout.   The Green River [Wyoming/Utah, USA] is one of those places that can get into your soul. It's a relationship that can become a part of who you are. Since humanity left life as hunter-gathers and turned to communities or what some call "civilization," we have also seen the need to turn back to seek refuge in nature. Many seem compelled to seek out the sensations of our primordial heritage, which seems to awaken senses that are dormant or dulled by our civilized existence. ~ Larry Tullis

 
History Note: When the Union Pacific Railway made its way across the West, the Green River in Wyoming was used to float timber from the mountains to be made into railroad ties at the small town of Green River.

Area Attractions

Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge

 

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