Green River - Trout Fishing Profile

Fishery in Utah
Paddle the Green River!

Canyonlands Call - Two brothers escape civilization and find Yoda's cave along the Green River's Labyrinth Canyon.

Desolation Row - The Green River at it's most rollicking: 60 rapids in all.


Excerpted from Trout Fishing Sourcebook by Mark D. Williams

Location: Northeastern Utah.
Section: The 30 miles below Flaming Gorge Dam are generally broken down into 3 sections based on put-in and take-out points for boats; these are the 7 1/2 mile stretch from the Dam to Little Hole, the 8 miles of the middle section from Little Hole to Brown's Park, and the 15 miles of the lower stretch from Browns Park to the Colorado state line (called Swallow's Canyon).
Maps: USGS Swallow Canyon, Warren Draw, Clay Basin, Goslin Mountain, Dutch John.
Type of stream: Tailwater fishery.
Stocking/wild status: The rainbows and cutthroats are stocked, and the brown trout are wild.
Best seasons to fish: The Green is a year-round fishery. The best dry fly fishing is from May through September, but the river has hatches and aquatic food enough for the trout to strike lures and flies all year long.

Species to be found: Rainbows constitute the highest percentage of the trout population, followed by cutthroat, brook, and brown trout as well as cutbow hybrids. Rainbows tend to be caught in the upper section, whereas browns and rainbows are about equal in the middle, and browns tend to dominate in the lower section.

Average sizes: Hard to believe, but you will rarely catch a trout less than 14 inches on the Green. The average size is closer to 17 inches. The Utah state record rainbow was taken in the Green River in 1983 and weighed 21 pounds. His fat relatives still live in these amazingly fertile waters. Thirty fish days are not uncommon, and an angler of any degree of skill has an excellent chance of landing several trout two to six pounds maybe bigger.

Regulations: Artificial flies and lures only from the Flaming Gorge Dam to the Colorado state line. Trout limit per angler is 3 in possession, 2 under 13 inches, and 1 over 20 inches.

Well-known areas and places to fish along the river: The Green River is big water and has enough deep pools, riffles, long runs, current seams, and back eddies that a guide is a great idea for the uninitiated fisher. The holding cover changes for the trout, and to the angler's eye is based on water levels, which run from 800 to 4,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). Prime levels run around 1500 cfs. In the lower reaches, there is more flat water and many boulders to cast to. All along the river are pools deep enough to sink a two-story building, and plenty of others would cover a careless wader's head. Some of the more productive and better-known areas of the river include Secret Riffle, Dripping Springs, Little Hole, Two Holes Down, Anticipation Rapids, the Merry Go-Round, Kong's Bed, Diving Board Rapids, Honey Hole, Rock Garden, Dead Man Rapids, and Can of Worms Shoal.

Recommended Equipment

Flyfishermen will need two different outfits, one for dry flies and another for large nymphs and streamers. A 4 to 6 weight outfit will work for dries, and a 6 to 8 weight outfit will suit tossing the bigger stuff. The wind can be a consideration since it has a tendency to whip through the canyon with ferocity. The weather can turn cold and wet even in the warmer months, so bring along appropriate gear.

Top fly patterns: The Green doesn't have great hatches or even that many dependable hatches. Don't let that fool you; the tailwater is rich in aquatic food. Scuds and cranefly larvae are the staple food for the heavy trout. Blue winged olive, and pale morning dun hatches are the best of the mayfly hatches each year and are often thick, covering the water and clouding the air. Caddis hatches are seasonally sporadic. Stoneflies do not have an important hatch, with the golden stonefly being only marginally interesting. Cicadas are a fisherman's best friend in June when these awkward insects fall into the water along the banks and provide a plump meal for the slashing trout. Patterns include: Blue Winged Olive, Cicadas (8 to 10), Pale Morning Dun, Golden Stonefly, Muddler Minnow, Elk Hair Caddis, Trico, Midge, Midge Cluster, Renegade, Irresistible, Peacock nymph, Adams, Adams Parachute, Royal Wulff, Humpy, H & L Variant, Woolly Bugger, Woolly Worm, Cranefly larvae, Cranefly adult, hopper patterns (an underrated dressing, especially in the lower section), mayfly and caddis generic nymphs, Pheasant Tail (16 to 20), Palomino Midge (16 to 20), Mayfly emergers (14 to 20), Glo-Bug, Larva lace fly (16 to 22), Serendipity (18 to 22), Brassie (16 to 20), Flashback nymph (16 to 20), San Juan worm, streamers like Dark Spruce Fly and Matuka, large weighted stonefly nymphs, and scuds in pink, orange, gray, olive, and gold.

Recommended Techniques

This is an excellent river for a beginning angler to hire a guide and expect near-certain results. A variety of techniques are used on the Green, depending on the hatch. It can be a river for small dry flies, larger attractor dries, large prospecting nymphs, streamers, terrestrials, emerging pupa, and tiny midges in all forms. Try a dropper rig with a prospecting dry fly on top and a smaller nymph pattern on bottom. Micro shot should be fixed above the nymph, and sometimes it will take BB shot to get down to the desired depth.

Best access points: There aren't many. The three major access points are at the Dam, Little Hole, and Browns Park. Some difficult trails lead to the water's edge, and a trail follows the river downstream on the north bank.

Quality of Angling

Is the Green River the best tailwater fishery in the United States? Many believe so, and the numbers back them up. Studies have shown some stretches of the Green to hold a staggering 22,000 trout per mile. Each section varies along this bug-rich trout factory, but studies also show that on any stretch, you can be guaranteed that 4,000 to 10,000 trout per mile are studying your imitations. The Green River isn't all about biomass either, because the river is as scenic as any trout stream as it cuts through a red sandstone canyon whose walls are dotted with ponderosa pine, pinon pine, juniper, white pine, and cedar. As the sun arcs across the sky during your float trip, you will be entertained by an everchanging kaleidoscope of colors emanating from the sloped 1000-foot canyon walls. The water is so clear that your heart will thump as you peer from behind polarized glasses and see a tumbling, turning mass of colors and fins, which upon closer inspection reveals a pod of rainbow trout feeding on scuds in the moss. Many believe the Green is the reigning trout fishery, tailwater or not, in the continental United States.

Wadeability/floatability: To cover the river like it should be covered, fishermen need to float this wide and often deep river. At times the Little Hole area has a flotilla of rafts and boats, but the river is big enough to house them all comfortably. Braver than most, float tubers navigate the Green and seem to do okay. Wading is done from shore and boat, but extreme caution should be taken because the river can rise quickly and strand an angler. Floating can be done in drift boats, rafts, kickboats, and even float tubes. Utah law requires boaters to wear lifejackets when floating the river. If you plan to float, talk with outfitters and read up on the river because at some places, like Red Creek Rapids, previous knowledge will keep one out of harm's way.

Fly Shops, Guides, and Outfitters of Interest

Trout Creek Flies, P.O. Box 247, Dutch John, UT, 84023, (801) 889-3735
Western River Flyfishers, 1071 E. 900 S., Salt Lake City, UT, (801) 521-6424
Angler's Inn, 2292 South Highland Drive, Salt Lake City, UT, 84106, (801) 466-3921
Flaming Gorge Flying Service, P.O. Box 368, Dutch John, UT, 84023, (801) 789-1281
Spinner Fall Fly Shop, 1450 Foothill Drive, Salt Lake City, UT, (801) 583-2602

For more information on guide services for the river, contact the Ashley National Forest. Ask for a list of authorized guides.


Lodging in the Flaming Gorge area gives the fisherman several choices ranging from the standard motels to exclusive lodges, but there isn't anything in the 7 1/2 mile stretch to Little Hole. Dutch John, Green River and Rock Springs are three communities fairly close to the Green with limited lodging, groceries and other amenities.

Best Resources

Wyoming Angling Guide, by Chuck Fothergill and Bob Sterling, Streamstalker Publishing
River Journal, Green River, by Larry Tullis, Frank Amato Publications, 1993
Fly Fishing the Magnificent Green, by Jim Williams, Brown Trout Books, 1994.

© Article copyright Menasha Ridge Press and Mark D. Williams. All rights reserved.


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