The Green river, from it's majestic, yet humble beginnings in the Wind River
Mountains [See map, click here.]
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.
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 anythere.
If variety is the spice of the outdoorsman's life, then this river system
must be one of the great meccas 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 sucessfully 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
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 above
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 facinating
angling history that aptly illustrates the value of special regulations and
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
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 vew 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.
[For the flies for The Green River, click here.]
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
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 primodrial heritage, which seems to awaken senses that are dormant
or dulled by our civilized existence.
~ Larry Tullis
For a MAP of The Green River, click here.
For the FLIES for The Green River, click here.
To ORDER the Green direct from the publisher, click
Credits: From The Green River part of the River
Journal series, published by Frank Amato Publications.
We greatly appreciate use permission.