Thursday, June 22, 2023

The Green

Picture Stories From The Flaming Gorge

I'll be honest, I never heard of the Flaming Gorge of the Green River until the day before I fished it during the summer of 21'. I had just departed Oregon and was traveling through Salt Lake City, Utah to check out the famous Provo River. Disappointed in the Provo, I ended up texting my friend Austin for recommendations. When he said, "The Flaming Gorge," I remember chuckling at the name and of the local town: "Dutch John." After a quick internet search, I found that the river has insane numbers of trout that reach upwards of 15,000 per mile. In addition, it has a reputation for growing some very large trout. A few hours later, I was boondocking on some BLM land prepping for the following day of hiking and fishing. Arriving at the "Little Hole," I hiked a ways up into the lower end of the Flaming Gorge. In the early morning light, I swung up a few solid browns before the sun revealed sight fishing opportunities to brown trout up to 22". I caught them on top, on droppers, and on streamers. As I hiked further into the gorge, I was taken aback at the beauty of the canyon walls, the wildlife, and the sheer quality of the fishing experience. The only downside, especially for an angler on foot, was the amount of people floating the river. Starting around noon, an endless procession of guides, rafts, kayaks, and SUPS formed a continuous line down the middle of the river. I didn't have a whole lot of time to spend, but the river planted a seed in my mind to eventually return. In the summer of 22', I came back to Dutch John at a slightly different time and with an entirely different approach. 

It was memorable...

Fun on the Provo River

On the road, I try and make a habit of stopping at local stores and buying something. Whether it is a small gift shop, or a fly shop. I'll walk away with something to remember the area by. In this case, it was a delicious vanilla milk shake.

Van life special...

I camped at the same BLM spot two summers in a row. Each summer, there was a solitary deer hanging around camp eating greens in the aspens. I wonder if it was the same one?

A summer evening in Ashley National Forest. 

I had an opportunity to stalk an elk through the aspen trees one morning. 

Some sweet trails outside of Vernal, Utah. I was two weeks post-Covid and it was a little hard on my lungs.

Single track flow...

Every trout is unique. The Green River produces some beautiful specimens. 

Early morning swing session above the Little Hole access point. 

Loop 7x 4110-4
OPST Commando Smooth 225 gr. 

With the sun up, sight fishing opportunities abound for an angler on foot. 

You can pick and choose targets in order to work individual fish. Switch up your flies and you'll eventually find something they want. 

Check out @greenriverflyfisher for some amazing trout photography and videos of feeding trout from the Flaming Gorge area. 

A hopper eater in a side pocket. 

A pocket water playground filled with large trout.

A big 22" brown trout casually sipping midges along the eddy line of this larger boulder. Unlike a lot of the fish in this system, this one was not a pushover. We danced for awhile...

After rising to a hopper in a corner pocket, this male brown trout succumbed to a size 12 scud that I put on as a dropper. 

The Little Hole National Recreation Trail follows the entirety of the Flaming Gorge from the Little Hole to the dam. 

The names of the river, and canyon, encapsulated in one photograph.

I was sight fishing to a large rainbow feeding in an eddy when I heard some rocks tumbling down the cliffs behind me. I turned to find three bighorn sheep descending vertical cliffs. Two came down to the water about 20 yards from me and began drinking. The third skidded to a halt and looked at me as if I was a threat. I stopped fishing to properly take in the moment. 

Sight fished with a small hopper imitation along the edge of some whitewater. This brown took me for a jaunt down the bank until I coaxed her into some soft water. 


The wildfire smoke provided some eerie sunsets.

A wildfire smoke infused sunset over the Uinta Mountains

I came back to the Green River with a Watermaster Kodiak raft, which fits perfectly inside, and on top, of the van. I planned to float from the dam to the Indian Crossing Campground. I purchased a $135 dollar shuttle from Trout Creek Flies, who seemed rather reluctant for my business, but decided to move my van anyway. Apparently, they did not have too much confidence in their new employee to remember my vehicle on such short notice. Thankfully, it worked out. 

I was the first to arrive and launch below the dam. There is a steep trail from the launch to the parking area. After gearing up and moving the vehicle to the top, I hiked down back down ready to go, but realized that I left the anchor in the van. The hike back up and down was made worse from a calf strain from the day before. 

Early morning light. 

Talk at Trout Creek Flies was centered on the epic Mormon cricket hatch that I apparently missed. Nonetheless, they convinced me to buy a few of the big bugs. On a little whiteboard behind the counter, I saw a word that made my heart skip a beat: cicadas. Apparently, I also missed the bulk of that hatch too. I was assured that a few would still be hanging around. I only had one question in that regard, "what color?".

For the first few river miles, I had the place to myself and decided to float with the current and toss streamers. I moved a lot of fish in the crystal clear water with only a few willing to commit. This brown was the first, but was also "below average". 

Flaming and Green. 

The "Mother In-Law" Rapid

One of only a few rainbows on the float. I was able to sight fish a monster rainbow in the corner of the "Roller Coaster" rapid. After awhile, I convinced him to eat a dropper on 6x. It took one run into the current before that ended...

Like most of my floats on the Watermaster raft, it isn't very productive to float and fish at the same time. I found myself pulling over and beaching the raft on the banks. On foot, I was able to find targets and began having a lot more success. 

I'd highly recommend a visit to the Flaming Gorge. It is beautiful and offers views around every corner of the river. Wildlife abounds in the form of birds, deer, and bighorn sheep. 

Working up banks, you can easily spot brown trout feeding along shallow water seams. Just remember to drop your anchor. After landing this trout, I turned around to see my raft floating down the river. Unbeknownst to me, the water level rose slightly and my raft picked up off the bank. I never moved so quickly over rocky terrain. Thankfully, the wind pushed the raft into an eddy or else I would have gone swimming. 

Two weapons of choice:

Orvis Blackout H3 955

If I had to choose one rod to fly fish for trout on larger river systems like the Delaware, White, Green, or Lehigh Rivers, I'd choose this rod. 

Orvis H3F 904

This is one of the best dry fly rods I've ever casted. It is perfect for small to mid-sized creeks and streams. It will also handle larger water and bigger fish if you need it to, but I'd recommend against that. I once landed a 27" brown on 6x and a size 16 dry fly with this rod. 

As I got to the Little Hole, a series of thunderstorms and showers moved into the area. I was not prepared for rain at all. It rained for several hours. My core temperature dropped quite a bit, especially from wet wading all day in the cold water of the Green. 

If on foot, I'd highly recommend fishing any side channel. There are always eager trout that can be sight fished. This one fell for a small dropper. 

Over the years, I've found myself on more than one occasion uttering the phrase, "I won't need a sleeping bag". This was one of those situations and it was a huge mistake. With my core temperature low, I opted to push towards my campsite for the rest of the evening. I set up camp and put on all the spare clothing I had in an attempt to get warm. With several hours of daylight left, I crawled into the tent and went to bed. 

Views before bed. 

The sleeping area was set up beneath a towering evergreen. Before I crawled into my tent, I spotted a dead cicada that some ants had devoured. It was orange and black just like the magicicadas back east. Before pushing off, I made a cast with a cicada under the evergreen and it was immediately eaten by a trout. I missed the hook set. I put another cast into the zone and the same trout exploded on the fly again. It was at that moment, I knew the day was going to be epic. 

The famous Red Creek rapid. 

"You can't shoot the chutes Pauley"

The scene of some epic cicada action. 

I have zero regrets purchasing this amazing personal fishing craft.

My cicada fishing window was limited to a side channel where the trout probably had not been exposed to the last several weeks of cicada patterns. Like most cicada fishing, the action is intense, but you often miss a lot of fish. In this case, I went 1 for 5. I was fortunate to land this stud brown trout that took me about 50 yards downriver. One of the fish I lost was pushing 24". 

An elite bank. 

I parked the raft on the side of a juicy section of the Green and began walking upriver. I landed a multitude of brown trout on a hopper before I spotted this trout feeding in about 10 inches of water. He was positioned directly upstream of a log and I could see him moving side to side eating emergers. I ditched my hopper and opted for a small comparadun and a size 18 frenchie as a dropper. My first cast was pure and I watched him move two feet to eat the dropper. We danced awhile before I scooped him in the Rising net directly in front of a drift boat and clients. 23"

I was content after an amazing morning of trout fishing and decided to float out to the takeout. The lower end, or "B"section, of the Flaming Gorge is as beautiful as the "A" section. 

More expansive runs and pools. 


At the takeout, I ran into a group of older gentlemen that were all teachers living the dream.  

When the takeout area has no cell phone service, and you have no idea how to get back to Dutch John, you end up driving an hour down a dirt road that leads to nowhere. 

I openly wondered why my shuttle cost $135. At the end of my drive out, I openly wondered why it ONLY cost $135. What a deal...

Dilophosaurus footprints. 

A dinosaur femur. 

A different section of the Green.

Dinosaur National Monument


No comments: