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Fly Fishing the Green River, Utah

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Green River, Red Canyon

Green River, Utah
Credit: NC622

Casting for Browns and Rainbows at the end of Section A in the canyon of the Green River.

The section of the Green River in Northeastern Utah is my number one spot for fly fishing.  If I could go back to any of the rivers in the West that I have fished (including the Bighorn, Colorado, and San Juan) I would choose the Green.  The Green River itself runs for over 700 miles.  It begins in Wyoming and runs through Utah and a small section through Colorado.  There is a 28 mile portion of the river that I have fished which flows downstream from the Flaming Gorge Dam that is divided into three fishing sections A, B, and C.  Fishing throughout these sections is restricted to artificial flies or lures which means no bait live or otherwise.  Catch-and-release is highly encouraged, but limited harvest is permitted (check the latest Utah Fish & Game regulations for details).  The Green River is a famous fly fishing stream with crystal clear water that holds a large population of trout, with Rainbows being more common just below the dam and a mix of Browns, Rainbows, and a small population of Cutthroat downstream.  One of my favorite times here is walking the riverside trail to a suitable fishing spot and marveling about all of the huge trout that I could clearly see in the river just hanging out, almost teasing the fishermen to take their best shot.

This small sliver of the Green flows through a scenic, steep-walled canyon. The rough, steep terrain allows drive in access in only three areas: just below the dam, Little Hole and Browns Park. You can drive to those locations and fish your way up or down the stream using well marked trails, or float the river in a drift boat or rubber raft. The river is also a popular destination for rafters and can be busy in the summer.

Insect hatches here are amazing. Scuds are a primary food source and are effective throughout the year. Midges work on and below the surface during the winter and early spring. Blue-winged olives hatch in incredible numbers in the spring. Big terrestrials (Cicadas, ants and grasshoppers) produce great fishing during the early summer; many dry fly patterns work well through the summer and into early fall. In my experience, tiny green bodied dry flies work really well in the mornings. By mid-morning through the afternoon,  a big stimulator fly with a tiny dropper (small nymph, midge or scud for example) placed about 18-24 inches apart works really well. By the end of the day, another dry fly hatch usually occurs and small, dark dry flies similar to caddis usually will get a trout to rise.

Green River
Credit: TroutBum2

River Sections

The first 7 miles below Flaming Gorge dam is known as section A.  It is one of the West's top trout fisheries, and one of the most popular. The largest population of fish is found in Section A, and as a result it is the busiest section of the river for fishermen. The river winds its way through Red Canyon and holds incredible numbers of fish that flourish in the river's spring creek-like setting. This section of the Green is limited to day use only, so camping is not allowed. There is a parking area up at the top of the canyon just below the dam where there is a trailhead for access down to the river.  Once at the bottom, the trail follows along side the river all the way to the next section.  

The next 9 miles of the Green River, called Section B is controlled by large browns and hybrid cutthroat/rainbows. Although there are fewer numbers of fish, the population is still quite large and there are plenty of fish to catch here. This section eventually leaves Red Canyon behind and moves into Brown's Park. Camping is legal on Section B as there are numerous forest service maintained campsites. The canyon opens up prior to this section and the river takes on a different look.  Since the water is so clear, there is an element of stealth that may need to be used in order to be successful in this section.

Green River Rainbow
Section C of the Green River continues for more than 12 miles as it winds its way through the high desert plateaus of the surrounding countryside. There are several boat ramps on this section so floats of various lengths are possible. This section of the Green river sees far less pressure, but fishing can be much less consistent than on upper sections. It can range from unforgettable dry fly action for huge wild fish to muddy, very poor fishing conditions when Red Creek is running after a heavy flash flood.

In conclusion, I have to say that because of the beauty of the landscape, the numbers of insects, the condition of the river, and condition of the huge trout population, the Green River is the best river I have ever fished.

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Jan 8, 2015 9:45am
Great article about fly fishing the Green River in Utah. I have never been there but this article makes me want to go. The descriptions of what bugs hatch when is great inside information. Beautiful pictures too!
Jan 8, 2015 9:45am
Great article about fly fishing the Green River in Utah. I have never been there but this article makes me want to go. The descriptions of what bugs hatch when is great inside information. Beautiful pictures too!
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