By Mark Francis
There are many great trout rivers in the west, as those that seek for excitement and challenge already know very well. From big waters to tiny creeks, big rainbows and giant brown trout are lurking around just about every bend, just waiting to slurp in your fly.
If you have the resources to fish the best waters and pay for top guide services and all the other amenities, good for you. But, if you are like the rest of us and have to keep a little closer eye on our budget, there are other ways of experiencing many of the same waters at a more affordable rate.
Now when we talk about Blue Ribbon rivers in the west, many great destinations quickly come to mind. But, one of the most widely known waters lies below the Flaming Gorge Dam, just below the Wyoming/Utah border. Yes, I’m talking about the Green River.
About 150 miles east of Salt Lake City, Utah, on the eastern edge of the Uinta Mountain Range, lies the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, created in 1964. The 91-mile long lake encompasses over 350 miles of shoreline and was created from the waters of the Green River, which flows from Wyoming, to Utah and then to Colorado before joining up with the big waters of the Colorado River, just south of Moab, Utah.
The Green is one of the very best trout fisheries in the country, in fact in the world and draws thousands of fishermen from all walks of life to its waters every year in the spring, summer, fall and winter. Why? Because the fishing is that good, especially for the fly fisherman and if you are a seasoned fly fisherman, the lure of having the chance, basically year-round, of chasing rainbows and browns on dry flies, this is truly the place to be.
The main fishing waters of the Green are split into three sections:
- The section from Flaming Gorge Dam to Little Hole is called the ‘A’ section.
- The section from Little Hole to Indian Crossing is called the ‘B’.
- The third section, from Indian Crossing to the Colorado/Utah border, is the ‘C’.
Each of these sections are different, with the A section a high gradient, traversing through rugged canyon walls, the B section more moderate and the C section even slower. Fish densities in the A section are estimated at somewhere around 16,000 fish per mile, with the B and C sections home to lower densities, but don’t let that fool you. There are still 5,000 to 8,000+ fish per mile here, along with these sections holding many of the larger fish as well.
The A section would be considered the most fished, since its access is by far the best. If fact, on many days you can find wade fishermen traversing its banks all the way from the dam to the ramps at Little Hole. And if the flows are such that you can do some wade fishing, it is definitely worth the effort.
But, the best way to fish the Green River is by a drift boat. You will also see rafts and personal float tubes or pontoons floating it as well, but you had better have plenty of experience and good swimming skills if you are going to take it on by yourself!
Now during the peak season, from April 1st through October 15th, the rates for a full day float for two fishermen or women is about $475. Accommodations are available, with great new cabins available through Trout Creek Flies/Green River Outfitters (www.troutcreekflies.com) as well as The Flaming Gorge Resort (www.flaminggorgeresort.com). Good dining options are also available, especially during the prime season.
Now, although I love to fish during the summer months as well, one of my favorite times to hit the Green is during the months of February and March. The temps can be, of course, a little cooler, but the fishing can be fantastic and you can also find some great discounts as well. This past March I was able to book a trip, which included a seven-hour float, with a one night stay with Trout Creek Flies for two people for $400. Now, that is over a $200 savings from the peak season rate for the same package and the fishing was still superb!
Of course, every year is different and the flows in the river can definitely affect your fishing success. But, even with the high flows during the early part of 2017 from the exceptional water year in the area, we were able to catch good numbers of fish, with our top brown measuring in at over 22 inches. And, if we wouldn’t have been so distracted by all of the fish swimming under our drift boat as we made our way through the A section of the river throughout the day, we probably would have caught even more fish if we would have been watching our indicators instead!
Techniques vary with the time of your visit, but fish can be caught by throwing streamers, nymphing or on dry flies throughout the year. During the winter months, throwing big streamers towards the bank and then using quick, short stripping stokes of your fly line on the retrieve can be deadly. Make sure you take along a sink tip or full sink line for the best results with streamers. Five and six weight rods, with matching reels and floating lines are the norms for most on the river.
Well, there you have it. A trip to the Green River, fully guided for three days and three nights, with great accommodations and food for under $700 per person, plus travel expenses and tips – not bad for a trip to experience one of the most prolific trout fishing waters in the world. I can’t wait for my next trip to the Green and I hope to see you there too!