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Flaming Gorge Lake
Flaming Gorge Lake

Fly-fishing the Magnificent Green River in Utah
By William Walker
Executive Fly-Fishing Services


  In the extreme Northeast corner of the state of Utah and spilling over into a large section of Wyoming there is a beautiful and pristine wilderness known as the Flaming Gorge National Recreational Area. This area boasts some of the best trout fishing in the U.S. because of the Green River that flows through it. The Green originates high up in western Wyoming and winds its way south through the Flaming Gorge area, then eastward into Colorado, and back into Utah where it eventually empties into the Colorado River. The Flaming Gorge Lake is a huge body of water formed by the Flaming Gorge Dam located at a small town called Dutch John, Utah. This dam releases the river through the towering walls of Red Canyon and offers twenty-seven miles of great fishable trout habitat. There is no doubt the Green is one of the great tailwater rivers in North America.

  In my many years of escorting fly-fishing groups to the great rivers in the Western United States, I have to admit the Green River is one of my favorite trout fishing spots and preferred by many of my clients as well.

  From the Flaming Gorge Dam, the Green River is broken up into three sections, A, B, and C. While fish tend to get bigger as you drift downstream into the B and C Sections, all have their own characteristics and special beauty. The river has very limited access and the best way to fish the Green is in drift boats. There are several good guides in Dutch John, Utah and they all know the river quite well. My favorite is an old friend and guide service I have used for many years. His name is Dennis Breer who owns and operates the Trout Creek Flies guide service and fly shop there. Dennis probably knows more about this river than anyone does and he has written several books and pamphlets on this subject.

Section A and Red Canyon, Dutch John, Utah
Section A and Red Canyon, Dutch John, Utah

  The Utah Division of Wildlife resources conducted surveys and showed a varied trout population between 8,000 and 20,000 fish per mile of river. Fish growth rates are equally impressive at 1 to 2 inches per month, mainly due to water temperatures that stay at a 45 to 54 degree range throughout the year, at the dam. The river is full of deep holes and riffles and the scenery is truly breath taking.

  Each section of the river has its own characteristics. In the A section, Rainbows dominate but you may also catch Browns, Brook, or Cutthroats. As you proceed downstream toward the B and C sections, Brown Trout become more dominant and while there are less fish per mile in the lower sections, the trout become a little larger.

  I like the A section due to the larger fish population per mile, the faster flowing water, and the spectacular scenery in the canyon. Fishing this faster flowing water requires some experience in casting techniques because casts are required to be shorter and very quick from the drift boat. In the late summer, the trout like to hang in the holes and riffles near the banks. Short casts of dry flies to the bank require accurate placement with very short drifts. These fish strike very quickly and one must be vigilant and ready to lift the rod tip quickly to hook them. I have found that roll casts are effective in many instances. When a Rainbow or Brown strikes, you can be certain you will get a good fight especially if the trout can make it into the swift current. I have had many quick strikes as soon as the fly touches the water and if distracted for an instant, it will be too late.

  I have taken beginners to the Green River and they have started catching nice fish by the second day. The guides are usually very good about instructing a novice but my advice to beginners is to take some lessons before you come. By doing so, you will have a much better knowledge and feel of casting and general fly-fishing techniques. You will have a much better chance of catching fish early and overall you will have a more enjoyable experience.

A nice Brown trout taken in section B
A nice Brown trout taken in section B

  The middle B section is characterized by open areas interspersed with red canyon walls and provides unique scenery and excellent wildlife viewing. This nine mile section receives less pressure than the upper section and wild Brown trout become the dominant species. They have Browns here that can exceed 20 inches in length. The casting in this section is somewhat easier although you will encounter some rapids. In addition, there are some overnight campsites along the river here for those who are a bit more adventurous.

  Section C is the lower section and surrounded by open lands and hills of nearby ranches. Here the river is quieter and shallow in nature. While this section holds less trout that the other two, some of the largest trout in the Green River abound here. This area was once a favorite hangout for the famous "Wild Bunch" outlaw gang with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

  I have escorted groups to the Green River at least four times and each trip seems to get better. Another great feature to enjoy is the abundant wildlife found in the Flaming Gorge Recreational Area. A few years ago, we had driven up from the south through Vernal, Utah and had taken a gravel side road so we could fish a small stream in the vicinity. As we crested a hill, before us in the middle of the gravel road was a large golden eagle with a wingspan of at least six feet. As the eagle took flight, the sight of this magnificent bird was one I will always remember. It was unfortunate I could not grab my camera in time.

Drift boat fishing on the Green River
Drift boat fishing on the Green River

  Adequate lodging is available at various motels and lodges in the area. My favorite is the Red Canyon Lodge and cabins located about three miles from the dam. The cabins are clean and the food served there is very good. There are a number of convenient camping sites as well. A trip to the Flaming Gorge Recreational Area will give you some of the most magnificent and pristine scenery in the American West and fly-fishing the Green River will fulfill a fishing experience you will long remember.

William Walker
Executive Fly-Fishing Services
State of Georgia, USA
© 2002




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