Two things brought us back to fish the Green River at Flaming Gorge again… it’s a world class fishery where we’d had an epic time and our fishing buddies James Kelley and Dan McCormack. Our mode to get back to Flaming Gorge was of course the SaraLinda and our favorite campground, Pine Forest, which was adjacent to where James and Dan were staying. But first, back to those two things…
The Green is one of those TU Greatest 100 Trout Streams for very very good reasons. It has some of the largest and most beautiful trout of any of the lower 48 we’d ever seen. We’d fished it earlier with Ryan Dangerfield (“Flaming Green”) of Flaming Gorge Resort and had an absolutely stellar three days of dry fly fishing. The yellow sallies were in full bloom on the river and fish were rising to them everywhere. There is nothing in the fly fishing world more “epic” that hitting a hatch at the perfect time…. gives me the tingles every time I think about all the times on our trip we’ve been fortunate enough to have caught “the hatch”. We were hoping to catch lightening in a bottle once again, but first… that second thing.
I don’t quite know where to begin about Dr. James Kelley and Dr. Dan McCormack, so I won’t. I’ll save that for another post (coming soon), but I won’t leave you totally hanging here… well maybe just a bit. Suffice it to say that James, Dan and I have fished together for well over a decade now and worked together for even longer. When we’d returned from our River Ramble through the first 95 rivers in the TU Top 100, they’d asked what were our “favorites”, which is always a loaded question since nearly all of the rivers had become favorites for one reason or another. However, the Green was one of those where we’d had the “E” time, so we decided it was our next adventure together. They’d already joined us before on several of our stops, so we’d already had the “experience” of fishing with them, which is always a blast and full of adventure.
Our first morning, we met at the Resort, were introduced to our guides… Ryan (who we fished with before) and Dalton… and proceeded to debate just exactly where to fish. The Green is divided into three sections: A, B and C. Each is a day’s float, but you can also float AB (last half of A, first half of B) or BC (you get the idea). The “A” section is generally regarded as the most scenic, flowing through a tight canyon with towering red bluffs. This section is also generally regarded as having more fish, but slightly smaller fish. We decided to go “bigger” and fish the “B” section and a bit of “C” as our day’s float. We weren’t going to be fishing dries, but a twin nymph rig of a “Neon Nightmare” wire worm followed by an “Iron Sally” nymph was our ticket.
We put in at Little Hole and within 100 yards of the ramp, Barb had already hooked into an 18” brown. The morning continued in exactly that way, with regular hook ups and many landings. We broke for lunch at the Tree Tops Camp on the river where we met up with James, Dan and Dalton. There are several campsites along the river that are only accessible via water and luckily we found one empty for our lunch of fried chicken. We shared stories of our morning, fish hooked, fish landed and after a bit of friendly “trash talking” about biggest and most fish, we headed back to the river.
The weather was picture perfect all day and the fishing continued to be productive. Each of our boats picked up double digit fish in both the morning and afternoon, but even more impressive was the number of 18-20” fish we landed. At one point, Ryan rowed us back up to fish the inside of a run. After a long cast upstream and about 4’ of drift, my strike indicator plunged downward. This wasn’t a gentle take but an all out eat and the fight was on. After a few minutes, a 22” brown found its way into Ryan’s net. Later that afternoon, back at the resort, I was surprised when Ryan handed me a hat with “22” embroidered prominently on the crown. Needless to say, I wore it later that night around the campfire to remind everyone who landed the largest fish of the day. Of course, James would remind us that he “hooked” the biggest fish, a reportedly 24” rainbow, the biggest Dalton had ever seen in the Green, that afternoon. But as the saying goes, until there is a picture in the net, its simply a “fish story”.
Day 2 of our Flaming Gorge, Green River fishing adventure was a walk/wade trip along the “A” section, up from the Little Hole access site. Dan was the first, and only, to hook and land a fish, a beautiful 18” brown trout he snared out of a mid-river riffle. We waded several different spots of the “A” section but found that no one was getting bites that morning. About 11am, the big “W” began…. WIND!
We decided to head back to the Little Hole area and have lunch. We’d packed our usual, turkey/cheese and PB&J for lunch. After fighting to keep everything from blowing away, James and I headed back to the water for a few more casts before the wind about blew us over and downstream (it did blow my hat off which James deftly recovered with his wading staff).
Our next stop was to drive down to the beginning of the “A” section, which sits directly below the dam. The water here was moving very fast so we carefully waded out and began fishing the inside seams of some fast moving water. Dan was again the only one to pick up a fish, a small brown, but a fish nonetheless….. more than James and I were able to muster. That evening, we went back to our campsite for burgers, a campfire and more fish stories.
Day 3 was another guide day with Ryan and Dalton, but we switched it up…. James and I loaded in with Ryan, while Barb and Dan shared the boat with Dalton. We’d originally planned on fishing an “AB” float, but the reports from the “A” section weren’t very positive regarding the quality/quantity of fishing. We could have told them that in advance given our walk/wade fishing experience. So we launched down the “B” section again, and once again, this time in the first 50 yards, James hooked a brownie.
As we proceeded downstream, two things happened….. we continued to hook and land several fish in the 18-20” range and the wind continued to build. By 11am, the wind was blowing around 20mph, primarily downstream. While this made the casting a bit of a problem, it REALLY made the rowing a nightmare. Both guides were dealing with winds and waves pushing them either into the bank (in our case, going down the left side) or away from the bank. I hooked myself about 3 times as the flies on my backcast got pushed into me. Mind you, when we COULD get our flies into the water and get a drift, we were still picking up fish.
The other reality we were facing as we were pushed downstream by the wind was that our “day” trip was quickly becoming a “half day” trip. We were flying downstream at a very fast rate. We passed our Day 1 lunch spot at about 10am. When we broke for lunch at 11:30, we were only a couple of miles from our takeout spot. At the rate we were going, that was only about an hour away.
After lunch, we headed downstream to fish a few more riffles, but we found another diversion we’d seen on Day 1 that we wanted to explore…. the John Jarvie Historic Ranch. In 1880, John Jarvie, a Scotsman, built a ranch on the Green to sell goods to locals and travelers alike. It was an ideal spot along the river, where a natural river crossing was present, used by fur trappers, travelers and local natives. The area, called Brown’s Park, was so remote, it was also a hiding spot for outlaws including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. We had a great time visiting the site, learning its history, and playing frisbee with Turk, the BLM manager’s dog.
Day 3 had been an experience. One rule of fly fishing is to never speak the “W” word while in the boat. It’s considered to be bad luck and will only bring more “W”. Anymore, I’m not sure about this custom, as while we never mentioned “wind” as we were fishing, it didn’t stop steady winds of 20mph with gusts over 30mph from hounding us. We were exhausted from fighting it all day, but still had enjoyed a great day of fishing. We relaxed with dinner at the Red Canyon Lodge before turning in early.
Day 4 was moving day from Flaming Gorge to Heber City (UT). Along the way we stopped in Duschesne (UT) and fished the Strawberry River below Starvation Dam. We were still fighting the wind but saw some beautiful water. Unfortunately, the bends we fished had already been fished out by anglers who’d been keeping fish. We didn’t even see a fish on the river, but we did find some other “old goats” along the river.
We arrived in Heber City without a spot for the SaraLinda. James and Dan had already booked a room at the Swiss Alps Motel, but we’d winged it, thinking it wouldn’t be a problem finding a spot. Unfortunately, we’d not realized that a major outdoor concert was happening at one of the two campgrounds in town, and all the campsites (and hotels) in town were sold out. We were thinking this was going to finally be the time we’d be staying in a Walmart parking lot, but the owner of the Swiss Alps Inn invited us to park next to their garage and spend the night there. They even had water and electricity there for us to have the same “creature comforts” of staying in a campground. We were lucky and blessed to have found such generous hosts for the night.
After setting up, James, Dan and I headed to the local fly shop, Fishheads, to grab a few flies and head to the Provo River for some evening fishing. We nymph fished a couple of spots along the river while listening to the concert just up the road from us. After getting nothing nymphing, we headed to another spot downstream, tied on a size 16 caddis, and fished to rising trout at dusk. We were not to be shut out as this time, it was James who kept us from being skunked, landing a nice brown trout. We headed back to our motel (SaraLinda parking spot), had dinner at the Dairy Keen (not to be missed in Heber City) and crashed. Our day had included a 3 hour drive, fishing two different rivers and being lucky enough to have found a spot to rest.
The next morning, we shared coffee while also sharing the images and movies we’d shot, many of which are included in the highlight video above which we know you’ll enjoy. We started plotting our next fishing adventures, said our goodbyes, hugged and headed our separate ways…. James/Dan to SLC….. Barb and I back to home base in Bozeman.
There is nothing better than meeting up with dear friends and fishing buddies, sharing fishing stories and other experiences…. reminding yourself its really not about the fish. Stay tuned for more!