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Green River Below Flaming Gorge, Utah  at Cabela's

Green River Below Flaming Gorge, Utah

Author: Steve Cook

It is easy to see why Major John Wesley Powell named this spectacular landscape Flaming Gorge. Witness the light reflecting off the glowing orange and fiery red vertical walls that tower above the clear river. You may come here to fish, but don't forget to spend a moment or two just taking in the rich natural beauty.

Green River trout
Butch Cassidy and Harry Longabaugh (alias The Sundance Kid) were cowboys in the Brown's Park area, along the banks of the Green River. During their outlaw days, they often returned to hide out in this isolated country, where they made it a point to get along with the locals. This "Wild Bunch" liked to think of themselves as frontier Robin Hoods and were known to have donated excess booty to John Jarvie, who ran the General Store. You can visit the store and several other original structures from the turn of the century at the Jarvie Ranch.

The Green of this frontier period was a warm, muddy, high desert river. The character of the river changed when Flaming Gorge Dam was finished in 1962. The river still didn't reach its potential as a trout fishery until 1978, when changes were made to control the temperature of the water leaving the dam. Special regulations have also helped preserve the fish population. Much of the Green now has all the attributes of a spring creek - an abundance of large fish, clear water and prolific insect hatches. The Green is also a large, powerful river that lends itself to floating and fishing from a variety of watercraft. Well-maintained trails also give the wading angler good access to much prime water. The large numbers of fish give the fly fisher a unique opportunity to observe trout behavior in clear emerald water that flows through steep red rock canyons lined with ponderosa pines.

Specific Regulations and Fees

From the Colorado state line in Brown's Park upstream to Flaming Gorge Dam, including Gorge Creek, a tributary entering the Green River at Little Hole:

  • Artificial flies and lures only.
  • Closed to fishing from a boat with a motor between the Utah-Colorado state line and Flaming Gorge Dam.
  • Licensed anglers, trout limit is three: two under 13 inches and one over 20 inches.
  • Unlicensed anglers under 14 years of age, trout limit is two: two under 13 inches or one under 13 inches and one over 20 inches.

    You will need a parking pass to use the access at the dam or Little Hole. The cost is $2 per day or $20 for the season; passes can be purchased at either parking area.

    Tactics
    To float or not to float is the question on the Green. There is good access for anglers either walking or wading on the northeast bank of the river from the dam to just above Red Creek, and this approach simplifies logistics. However, floating greatly increases the amount of water that can be effectively fished.

    Fly fishers will appreciate the incredibly long drag-free drifts that are possible from a boat traveling at the speed of the current. Floating anglers can access the southeast bank of the river, which receives less pressure, and can cover many more river miles in a day than their wading counterparts. If you decide to float, be sure your equipment and skills are up to the challenge, or consider booking a trip with one of the many licensed guides who row the river regularly. There are several good outfitters on the river to help everyone from beginner to expert get the most out of their time on the water.

    The blue-winged olive is probably the most important hatch of the year. The hatch can span three months in the spring, and on a good afternoon, there are places where one can see hundreds of trout feeding on blue-winged olives. Use leaders of at least nine feet and tippet down to 5x or finer. Parachute Adams, comparaduns, and thorax patterns in sizes 16 to 20 are all effective. For difficult fish, a Quigley cripple can be the answer.

    In late May, experienced anglers begin listening with anticipation for a buzzing in the trees. This is usually the first sign of the cicada hatch. The large, clumsy terrestrial insects can cause big trout to take more risks when the hatch is on. Cicadas have cyclic populations, so insect numbers can vary widely from one year to the next. The most popular patterns are good floaters in sizes 6 to 10 with bodies of black foam and calf-tail wings.

    Nymph fishing is very popular and effective on the Green. Tungsten bead-head nymphs have been very successful since they were introduced. One popular technique is to fish a "dry and dropper." This is most commonly a cicada or another large, good-floating dry fly with a bead-head nymph hanging 18 to 48 inches below. Tying tippet to the bend of the hook on the large dry fly won't compromise its hooking ability.

    The largest fish in the river feed on other fish. If you would like to catch a real trophy, use streamer flies up to eight inches or longer. Fish them close to the banks. Fast-sinking shooting heads or sink tips help take your fly down to these big trout. Streamers that imitate small rainbow trout work well, especially shortly after stocking has taken place.
  • Hatch Chart/Availability            
    Food ItemsJFMAMJJASOND
    Midges
    Scuds
    Blue-winged olives          
    Pale morning duns                
    Tricos                    
    Craneflies
    Caddisflies              
    Terrestrials          
    InsectsSuggested Fly Patterns
    MidgesGriffith's gnats (#16-22), grizzly midges (#16-22), Adams (#16-22), mating midges (#16-20), midge pupae, gray, cream, brown, red and black (#20-26), midge emergers, black and peacock (#20-26), brassies (#16-20), tungsten bead-head midge pupae, brown and black (#12-16)
    Scudsolive, tan, pink and orange scuds (#14-18)
    Blue-winged olivesparachute Adams (#16-20), thorax BWOs (#16-20), olive comparaduns (#16-20), CDC emergers, olive (#16-20), Quigley cripples, olive (#16-20), pheasant tails (#16-20), hare's ears (#16-20), bead-head pheasant tails (#16-20), bead-head hare's ears (#16-20), WD40s (#18-20), RS2s (#18-20)
    Pale morning dunsthorax PMDs (#14-16), cream parachutes (#14-16), cream comparaduns (#16-20), Quigley cripples, cream (#16-20), rusty spinners (#14-16), CDC emergers, cream (#16-20), pheasant tails (#14-16), hare's ears (#14-16), bead-head pheasant tails (#14-16), bead-head hare's ears (#14-16)
    Tricostrico spinners (#18-22), thorax tricos (#18-22), parachute Adams (#18-22), pheasant tails (#18-20)
    Cranefliescranefly larvae, olive, sand and cream (#8-12)
    Caddisflieselk-hair caddis (#16-18), partridge caddis (#16-18), CDC elk-hair caddis (#16-18), sparkle caddis (#16-18), X-caddis (#16-18), peeking caddis (#14-16), chamois caddis (#14-16)
    TerrestrialsDave's hoppers (#8-12), Henry's Fork hoppers (#8-12), Chernobyl ants (#4-10), fur ants, black (#14-18), CDC ants (#14-18), black foam cicadas (#8-12), deer-hair beetles, black (#14-16), hi-vis foam beetles (#14-16)
    How to Get There
    Anglers flying in will most likely want to go to Salt Lake City. Rental cars are easy to obtain and it is a 3- to 3 1/2-hour drive to Dutch John from the airport. Skywest Airlines does have regular service to Vernal. However, Vernal is still one hour from Flaming Gorge Dam, and additional transportation is necessary. One can fly a private charter to the Dutch John Airport as well. There are also two shuttle services available in the area (see Resources).

    The direct route from Salt Lake City is to take I-80 East 110 miles to Exit 34 at Fort Bridger, Wyoming. Follow SR 414 through town and turn right at Lyman at the four-way stop. Pass through Mountain View and continue southeast. Wyoming SR 414 will become Utah SR 43 and continue to Manila, Utah. Turn south onto SR 44 in Manila and climb up into the Uinta Mountains, eventually turning east onto US 191. This will bring you to the Flaming Gorge Lodge and then over Flaming Gorge Dam to the town of Dutch John. An alternate route is to take I-80 East to US 40 and continue east to Vernal. From Vernal, head north on US 191 to the junction with SR 44.

    Accessibility
    There are three main sections of the Green River between Flaming Gorge Dam and the Colorado border. The "A Section" consists of seven miles of water from the dam to the access site at Little Hole. The "B Section" refers to the eight miles of river from Little Hole to the boat ramp at Indian Crossing in Brown's Park. The "C Section" is approximately 17 miles of river from Indian Crossing to the Utah/Colorado state line.

    The A Section has the highest density of fish, more consistently clear water, and the easiest access. Not surprisingly, it also has most of the fishing pressure, as well as the vast majority of recreational boaters. If you would rather not share the river with others, plan your trip for off-season (October to March), fish midweek, or plan to be on the water either earlier or later than the majority of anglers.

    About 1/4 mile east of Flaming Gorge Dam, a paved road leads to a parking area and boat ramp. A maintained foot trail goes from here to the next access at Little Hole, a distance of seven miles. The trail can be reached from the south end of the upper parking area or from the boat ramp. If you are launching a watercraft, prepare everything in the upper parking area, as there is a limited amount of room at the boat launch. Make sure you have necessary safety equipment, such as a spare oar or paddle, bail bucket or pump, and an approved Personal Flotation Device (PFD), Type III or better, for all passengers - plus a spare. There are several large Class II to III rapids on this section of the river. Make sure that your skills and watercraft are adequate.

    There are still good numbers of fish on the B Section below Little Hole and considerably fewer anglers. The water will be clear for the first three miles, but after Red Creek it can be too muddy to fish, depending on run-off. Floating anglers can make a full day of these first three miles, but all the anglers in this section will be concentrated here if Red Creek is known to be running. To reach Little Hole and the beginning of the B Section, from US 191 turn east on Little Hole Road, 0.1 miles north of the turnoff to Dutch John. Six miles of paved road will take you to the access site. The foot trail from the dam continues down river another 2.7 miles to Trails End. There are three boat ramps here, but it is still a good idea to rig your watercraft as completely as possible before backing down to the water. Most rapids on this section are Class I, but Red Creek is Class III. If you are not prepared to negotiate a large, powerful rapid with many rocks and obstacles, or line your craft around it, you should avoid this section. Once you have safely passed Red Creek Rapids, you may remove your PFD. Note: While this section is only eight miles by river, the shuttle route is over 40 miles, much of it dirt that requires four-wheel-drive in wet weather and can become impassable in extreme weather. Also, any substantial flow in Red Creek can make the last four miles of this section unfishable.

    Fishing the C Section in Brown's Park can vary a great deal with conditions. On a good day, you can catch many fish that are, on average, even larger than those in the upper portion of the river - and you may not see another angler. A bad day might mean few, if any, trout while fighting wind and dirty water. Brown's Park Road parallels this section, and there are several access points along it. From Dutch John, go north on US 191, then go right at the turnoff marked "Clay Basin" and "Brown's Park." It is about 26 miles to the river from here. There are several turns and forks; just stay on the main road. There is a newly paved section, but most of the road is dirt - and Clay Basin is aptly named. When wet, the road becomes very slick, and four-wheel drive is a must. From US 40 in Vernal, one can take a fairly rough route to Brown's Park over Diamond Mountain. Turn north onto US 191 (Vernal Avenue). Turn right at the sign for Diamond Mountain and Brown's Park (500 North). Stay left at the junction that appears in about three miles. Stay left at the "Y" another 5.8 miles ahead. It will be about 25 miles before you reach the left turn to Brown's Park. Stay on this road through Crouse Canyon and into Colorado before crossing the Green on the very narrow Swinging Bridge. Turn left at the junction to cross back into Utah. Note: This route is not suitable for large or heavy vehicles.

    Check river flows on the web http://svr1dutslc.wr.usgs.gov/rt-cgi/gen_tbl_pg?page=1

    When to Go
    The blue-winged olive hatch is the first really productive hatch of the year. It generally starts at the end of March. By April, the hatch becomes fairly consistent, with any overcast or rainy afternoon producing excellent dry-fly fishing from Secret Riffle to Washboard Rapid.

    When the blue-wings start to fade in late May, the cicadas begin to show up and can be very important through June. These large terrestrial insects have a cyclic population, so they can vary a great deal from year to year.

    The dog days of July and August can find the Green a bit slower; but afternoon hatches of caddis on the A Section, midmorning PMDs in Browns Park, and hopper and ant fishing down the entire river can all be rewarding.

    Flows above 4,000 cfs can be difficult for wading anglers, and the bridge at Indian Crossing (the start of C Section) can be impassable to anglers floating the river. Fishing can be difficult for one to three days after a major change in flows. In recent years, an effort has been made to change flows gradually, as abrupt changes are detrimental to fishing. When flows are stable, fishing can be good at a wide range of levels.

    Resources
    There are 15 river camps on the B Section between Little Hole and Indian Crossing. These campsites can be reserved at Little Hole on the day you launch.

    The two BLM campgrounds in Brown's Park (Bridge Hollow and Indian Crossing), the five campsites across the river from Little Hole, and the 14 campsites on the river between Indian Crossing and the Colorado state line (C Section) are all available on a first-come, first-served basis.

    For camping reservations in the Ashley National Forest, call toll-free at (877) 444-6777 or (800) 280-2267. You can also make reservations online at http://maps.reserveusa.com/static/ut1.html. Handicap-accessible sites are available at Dripping Springs and Firefighters.

    Campgrounds

    Ashley National Forest

    For more information, contact the Ashley Ranger District at (435) 784-3445.

  • Greendale Group
  • Dripping Springs
  • Cedar Springs
  • Firefighters

    Lodging

    Dutch John
    Flaming Gorge Lodge
    155 Greendale, US 191
    Dutch John, UT 84023
    Phone number/s: (435) 889-3773
    Fax: (435) 889-3788
    Web site: www.fglodge.com
    E-mail: lodge@fglodge.com

    Red Canyon Lodge
    790 Red Canyon Road
    Dutch John, UT 84023
    Phone number/s: (435) 889-3759
    Fax: (435) 889-5106
    Web site: www.redcanyonlodge.com

    Spring Creek Ranch (B&B)
    P.O. Box 284
    Dutch John, Utah 84023
    Phone number/s: (307) 350-3005
    Fax: (307) 350-3047
    Web site: www.quickbyte.com/springcreek

    Permittee Ashley National Forest

    Salt Lake City
    Anglers Inn
    2292 S. Highland Drive
    Salt Lake City, UT 84106
    Phone number/s: (801) 466-3921,
    toll-free (888) 426-4466

    Permittee Ashley National Forest

    Western Rivers Flyfisher
    1071 E. 900 S.
    SLC, UT 84105
    Phone number/s: (801) 521-6424,
    toll-free (800) 545-4312
    Fax: (801) 521-6329

    Permittee Ashley National Forest

    Shuttle Services

    Flaming Gorge Lodge
    155 Greendale, US 191
    Dutch John, UT 84023
    Phone number/s: (435) 889-3773
    Web site: www.fglodge.com
    E-mail: lodge@fglodge.com

    Area Attractions
    John Jarvie Ranch
    For more information, contact the Park Ranger at (435) 885-3307 or the BLM Vernal Office at (435) 781-4400.

    Taken from Rocky Mountain Fly-Fishing by Steve Cook
    Steve Cook's new guidebook is filled with practical information about how to fish the blue ribbon waters of the American West. Complete with maps and hatch charts, the book focuses on the best of the best - the classic waters around Yellowstone and the quality waters throughout Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona and Utah. The author is a professional guide who has spent years helping people learn to catch fish on these very rivers and lakes.





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