Green River – 07/25/2014

Time: 10:00AM – 1:30PM

Location: One mile downstream from Flaming Gorge Dam

Fish Landed: 1

Green River 07/25/2014 Photo Album

As I mentioned on my 7/24/14 post, I decided to fish to sighted fish on Friday since blind prospecting delivered only one fish in 2.5 hours albeit a very nice rainbow trout. Friday was forecast to be another hot day with high temperatures in the 90’s, so we had a quick breakfast of oatmeal at the campsite, and then I took the Santa Fe and drove to the parking lot high above the boat launch just below the dam. Jane decided to stay behind as she made a concerted effort to avoid more snake encounters.

The Green River Below the Dam from High Up on the Trail

The Green River Below the Dam from High Up on the Trail

I used my senior pass to cover the day use fee, and pulled on my waders and rigged my rod and began my descent of the steep Little Hole Trail to the Green River. There were quite a few rafts and boats lined up at the launch ramp already at 9:30AM, but I decided to hike for twenty minutes or so to get away from the launch traffic. As I walked along on the trail a steady procession of rafts floated by, and many rafters were laughing and shrieking as heated water fights commenced. I was very curious to know whether these youthful rafters could maintain their feverish pace for the entire seven mile float to Little Hole.

Lots of Rafting Traffic on the River

Lots of Rafting Traffic on the River

After I hiked for 20 minutes I reached a nice area where a wide eddy of slow moving water presented three visible fish that were facing downstream. I picked out landmarks across from the positions of the observed fish and then waded upstream and began making casts to the areas where the fish held. Unfortunately each of the three fish scattered when I presented a fly in front of them.

After I spooked the three fish at the start of my fishing day, I noticed several rises just off the main current seam that fed the huge pool and eddy. Upon seeing this welcome surface activity, I moved upstream a bit and began shooting long 30-40 foot downstream casts to the area of the rises. Finally on the tenth long cast a fish bulged and engulfed the size 12 gray stimulator with a zebra midge dropper. I set the hook and a strong battle ensued, but I was finally able to land a sixteen inch brown trout. I attempted to photograph my prize catch, but as I was gripping the fish to hold for the camera, I slipped from the slimy square rock I was standing on, and this momentary diversion allowed the brown to squirm free.

I was hopeful that this experience was a harbinger of a morning of casting to rising fish, but that was not the case. I resumed sight fishing in the manner described earlier. I walked the path and looked for fish and then dropped down to the water and cast to visible targets. For the most part these fish were in slow moving deep pools above dense aquatic weeds, and they were quite wary. Generally these fish were not risers, but I attempted to target fish that were close to the surface and avoided fish that were hugging the bottom. Adding to the difficulty was the warm air temperature, the cloudless sky, and the constant commotion created by passing water enthusiasts.

After landing the gorgeous brown trout I moved upstream a bit and stumbled across two fish that were once again facing downstream in an eddy. I worked these fish for quite a while as the brown trout closest to shore rose occasionally and sipped something small from the surface. During this time there were some strong gusts of wind, so I hypothesized that the brown was sipping ants that were blasted into the river. I switched my stimulator for a parachute ant and made a nice presentation in front of the fish. I held my breath as the brown finned up to the surface in a leisurely manner and pressed its nose against the fly and then returned to its holding spot. Once again my parachute ant had been refused!

A second fish was further out in deeper water, and it circled in a small pool, but I was never able to generate even a refusal from this fish despite repeated casts. After spending half an hour on these obstinate targets, I turned around and scanned the water upstream, and I was surprised to see a splashy rise 25 feet above me and eight feet out from the bank. The parachute ant was too small to see, so I returned to the gray stimulator and zebra midge and dropped several casts in the vicinity of the rise. On the third drift I was surprised to see a swirl and instantly set the hook and felt the weight of a fish. The penetration of the hook point caused a nice rainbow to leap entirely out of the river, but before it splashed back down the fly came free, and I was once again frustrated in my attempt to land a nice Green River trout. I’ll never know for sure, but I’m convinced that this fish grabbed the tiny zebra midge because it didn’t feel like my fly had much penetration in the lip of the fish.

Once again I slowly walked upstream on the Little Hole Trail and gazed into the water with my polarized sunglasses, and again I approached an eddy with several fish facing downstream but into the reversing current. Initially I spotted two fish, but as I stared into the water I eventually saw at least five trout in the 13-17 inch range. History repeats itself, and I suppose this explains why these fish also ignored my offerings. During the early afternoon time period more frequent episodes of strong wind gusts hampered my ability to look beneath the surface of the water, so I once again decided to change tactics.

I was using my Scott six weight rod, and I’d placed the spool containing a sink tip line in my backpack, so I removed my floating line and loaded the sinking tip. For the last half hour on Friday I experimented with a damsel fly nymph and a conehead sculpzilla, but this tactic unfortunately also failed to excite any trout. I finally hooked the sculpzilla in my rod guide and walked back to the boat launch and then slowly hiked the steep trail back to the parking lot. Once again I landed one nice fish in 3.5 hours of fishing, and the Green River was proving to be a challenging river in late July. I vowed to never return to the Green unless I was drifting the river or wade fishing early in the season when the blue winged olives cause a feeding frenzy.

This Gap Is Part of the Hiking Trail Out of the Green River Canyon

This Gap Is Part of the Hiking Trail Out of the Green River Canyon

Green River – 07/24/2014

Time: 12:00PM – 2:30PM

Location: One mile upstream from Big Hole

Fish Landed: 1

Green River 07/24/2014 Photo Album

Jane and I planned a combination fishing and camping trip for July, and the date finally arrived. Originally I hoped to visit Flaming Gorge and then Strawberry Reservoir and end at the South Fork of the Snake River, but we decided that was too much for six days, so we eliminated the Strawberry Reservoir stay from our itinerary. I used the online reservation system to reserve a campsite at Firefighters’ Memorial Campground in Flaming Gorge Recreation Area for three nights, and then Jane called the Hansen Guest Ranch in Swan Valley to reserve a room for three nights. Our trip would begin on July 23 and end on July 29.

For lodging near the South Fork of the Snake River we originally considered the South Fork Lodge or The Inn at Pallisades Creek, but these proved to be too rich for our tastes, so we downgraded a bit. After three nights of camping we felt it made sense to stay in a hotel and gain access to showers and a bed.

We packed the Santa Fe on Wednesday morning and made the seven hour drive to Flaming Gorge. We discovered that the heat wave that enveloped Colorado also rested over northeastern Utah when we arrived at our campsite on Wednesday afternoon. When we picked our campsite on the reservation system, it only offered sites on Loop C, and it was difficult to see what we were choosing. Upon our arrival we found site number 87 and discovered it was close to the highway, lacked shade and was quite near the neighboring site. We circled loop C and found site 80 was much more desirable and unreserved for our stay period, so we traded sites and left a note for the campground host.

The other complication to the camping portion of the trip was our tent. On a camping trip the week before, I experienced some severe winds ahead of a rainstorm, and the rain fly ended up sheared in five or six locations. We were unable to contact Eureka, the tent manufacturer, over the weekend, so we purchased a new tent from REI on Saturday. Before I departed for work on Monday morning I called Eureka and discovered that I could purchase a replacement rain fly for our Equinox 6 model tent. I placed an order for the rain fly and paid for overnight shipping, and sure enough the new covering arrived on Tuesday, and Jane returned the back up tent to the REI store in downtown Denver for credit.

Once we determined that site number 80 was our home for three nights, we put up the tent and covered it with our new purchase. Our original rain fly was a silver cover, but we soon discovered that the replacement was gold even though the salesperson called it tan. After a quick dinner and an evening exploratory hike on the Bootleg Trail across from the entrance to the campground, we decided to crawl into our tent and read and then go to sleep. It was quite warm, so we decided to sleep on top of our sleeping bags rather than curl up in a toasty down cocoon, but it didn’t take long for the new rain fly to be put to a difficult stress test. For some reason the wind began to blow relentlessly and continued through the night. At one point I woke up and exited the tent and discovered the tablecloth had blown off the table and came to rest fifteen feet away. A towel was on the ground and the tent actually shifted several feet from its original position. The poles supporting the awning over the entrance were on the ground and the rain fly flapped repetitively against the tent. Much to our amazement, we were able to fall asleep again, and when we woke up on Thursday we took inventory of our belongings and found nothing missing. The rain fly had managed to survive the night and high wind without tearing.

As the wind continued in the morning we repositioned the rain fly, and then I pounded stakes through the rings at the bottom of all the tent poles. When we shopped for a new tent, we discovered that all modern tents are equipped with stakes that hold the tent poles in place, so this became valuable information for our camping success.

Jane at the Little Hole Overlook of Green River

Jane at the Little Hole Overlook of Green River

To start our day Jane and I took a three mile bike ride on the Bootleg Trail to the canyon rim and back, and then Jane prepared a tasty meal of eggs and cornbread muffins. We were now confident that the tent was secure, and my thoughts shifted to fishing. For my first day I decided to drive to Little Hole, seven miles below the dam, and hike up the river to fish. Jane decided to accompany me, but we hiked a short distance up the trail and encountered a long slender silver snake wrapped around the dead branches of a shrub next to the trail. Jane is deathly afraid of snakes, so that would be the furthest penetration of the Little Hole trail for her, as she returned to the parking lot and the comfort of her book.

A Snake Among the Branches

A Snake Among the Branches

We said our goodbyes, and I agreed to meet Jane back in the parking lot no later than 3PM. I was now by myself so I increased the pace and hiked for another twenty minutes until I reached an area that I remembered from my visit in September 2013. This stretch reminded me of the Arkansas River as the current swept parallel to a rocky bank, and there were numerous pockets and deep slots in the space in between. I decided to approach the river in the same manner that I approach this type of water in Colorado, and I tied on a Chernobyl ant, a beadhead hares ear, and a salvation nymph and began prospecting all the likely fish holding spots. After some time elapsed, I saw a handful of caddis on the water, so I swapped the salvation nymph for a bright green caddis pupa, but again my efforts were stymied.

Unfortunately more time transpired with no success other than a rainbow that followed the Chernobyl ant as I lifted to recast. This all took place no more than four feet in front of me. My allotted time to fish was slipping away, and I wasn’t having any positive results, so I decided to change tactics and removed the dry/dropper configuration and replaced it with a size 12 gray stimulator. This took place just before my turnaround point.

The Green River on Thursday

The Green River on Thursday

I began prospecting the same type of water that I was casting the dry/dropper to and in some swirling water along a current seam, the large dry attractor disappeared. I reacted with a timely hook set, and my line began spinning off my reel at a rapid clip. I allowed the fish to make a furious run, and when it slowed down, I applied a bit of pressure. This produced several acrobatic leaps in which the entire fish cleared the water, and I was now able to see the wide crimson stripe of a silvery glistening rainbow trout. Eventually I was able to tire out my noble foe, and I slid the net beneath the bright and hefty rainbow and then migrated to the bank for a photo. Catching and landing this fish was a thrill and totally unexpected given my lack of action before and after this episode.

My Only Catch, but a Nice One

My Only Catch, but a Nice One

I glanced at my watch and realized I needed to start my return hike in order to meet Jane by 3PM, but as I walked briskly along the path, I observed closely to spot fish. I was quite successful in recognizing numerous fish in slow moving water hovering near the bank. In fact within .2 miles of the parking lot I noticed a pair of fish close to the bank, and I cast to them for a short while. Initially I drifted the stimulator, but that was ignored, so I clipped it off and tied on a small fur parachute ant. Surely with all the strong wind and with the fish positioned within several feet of the grassy bank,. the fish would jump on an ant! Unfortunately my strategy was a near miss, as the closest rainbow rose in the water column and put its nose against the ant only to drop back down to its holding spot near the river bottom.

With that rude refusal firmly planted in my memory banks, I retreated to the parking lot and met Jane at 3:10PM. One fish in 2.5 hours of fishing is not great, but at least it was a fat 17″ brightly colored rainbow. I decided to fish below the dam on Friday and to use my hard earned Thursday experience to my advantage and fish to spotted trout. Would this improve my catch rate? Stay tuned.

Green River – 09/15/2013

Time: 11:30AM – 5:00PM

Location: About a mile upstream from Little Hole

Fish Landed: 4

Green River 09/15/2013 Photo Album

Fire Burn Area Along Road to Little Hole on Sunday Morning

Fire Burn Area Along Road to Little Hole on Sunday Morning

I ate a farmer’s breakfast at the restaurant at Flaming Gorge Resort and then checked out and found a campsite at the Firefighter Memorial Campground just down the road. Site 17 was available and featured a nice flat tent pad. It began to rain lightly as I quickly put up the tent and then prepared a lunch while dodging raindrops. It looked pretty black so I decided to drive to Little Hole and wait out the rain there where I planned to fish. Little Hole is a boat launch and take out point eight miles below the dam. Many guides float from the dam to Little Hole and take out there, and others launch at Little Hole and take out further down the river. The river spreads out in a wide riffle above the boat launch and at some flow levels it is possible to wade to the south bank and then walk upstream and fish on that side. Several years ago Steve Supple and I did this and had a decent amount of success.

Amazingly as I drove along the paved road that leads to Little Hole the sky brightened, the sun appeared, and it actually felt warm. There was fire damage in this area near Dutch John and the landscape looked as bleak as that in the vicinity of Himes Peak along the White River. I stopped at the overlook above the boat launch at Little Hole and took a panorama shot of the river from high above. Once again I used my Senior Pass to cover the daily use fee and quickly pulled on my waders and prepared for a day of fishing. Several fishermen were crossing in the wide riffle arm in arm, but I decided I didn’t want to risk getting wet as I was solo and didn’t have an accompanying partner. Just as I was ready to depart, I noticed some heavy dark clouds just over the hill on the other side of the river, so I quickly removed my front and backpack and slid on my raincoat. Now I was ready for anything except what actually happened. I walked a short distance from the car and the skies opened. Buckets of rain dumped from the dark cloud so I quickly raced to a picnic table with a roof overhead and sat on the table to escape the blowing rain.

Overlook of Green River at Little Hole

Overlook of Green River at Little Hole

This continued for 10-15 minutes and then the rain abated a bit so I decided to continue on my way to the Little Hole Trail. As the rain slackened a myriad of poorly dressed fishermen drenched from head to toe emerged from the river and headed to their cars. I found the entrance to the Little Hole Trail that followed the north shore of the river all the way to the dam and began hiking in the muddy trough. It reminded me of my hike along the South Fork except that this soil was red instead of black. After I’d hiked ten minutes or so, the intensity of the rain increased again, and I found a spot next to a high vertical wall where the upper portion angled out over my head and blocked the rain.I waited here another ten minutes and then the rain slowed to a drizzle and I continued on my way. Another fisherman just above me used this break in the storm to return to the parking lot as he was wearing a fleece top under his waders. He looked quite wet and chilled and told me his raincoat was in his truck.

Dave Waited Out Rain Where Fly Rod Leans

Dave Waited Out Rain Where Fly Rod Leans

On I marched in the by now light drizzle until it was 11:30 and I decided to cut down to the water and begin my fishing day. Amazingly that would prove to be the last of the rain and the skies gradually brightened so that the afternoon turned into a delightful sunny day. I  decided to begin my quest for Green River fish with a Chernobyl ant and a brown bead midge larva. These two flies worked will on a previous September trip with David Luther when we drifted the river, so why wouldn’t they work today? It didn’t take long before I landed a nine inch brown on the Chernobyl ant. The size was disappointing after seeing great numbers of large fish, but it was a start.

Unfortunately that was the end of the action for quite awhile despite the sky clearing and the wind picking up.Since I began fishing at 11:30 I waited until 12:30 to pull out my lunch and the timing seemed appropriate since I wasn’t experiencing any action. After lunch I was once again tired of struggling to see the low riding Chernobyl so I converted to a yellow Letort hopper with a beadhead hares ear. Later I added an orange scud below the hares ear as I’d seen several fish nosing about in the aquatic weeds on Saturday, and I assumed they were knocking scuds loose and consuming them.

With these three flies now in action I came upon a stretch of faster water that reminded me of the Arkansas River so I decided to approach it in the same manner and made upstream casts into pockets, along current seams and to moderate depth riffles. I kept the line off the water to prevent drag and also made some downstream drifts with stack mends. It was while executing these techniques that I tossed the flies into the center of an eight foot wide pocket between two faster runs. Much to my surprise I saw a swirl for the hopper so I set the hook, but as the fish began to battle it seemed that the underwater force was connected to one of the lower flies. At this point I began to wonder if the fish was foul hooked but it fought fairly normally so it seemed to be hooked somewhere in or near the mouth. The fish initially ripped out line and then I brought it back across from my position and it made a major move downstream. I gave it line but when it got in heavy current, I applied pressure to bring it back toward shore, and bling, the flies came free and shot back over me and wrapped around the line of another fisherman!

Where did he come from? I asked myself this question as he emerged out of nowhere at the most inopportune time. I waded over to the victim of my fishing misfortune and apologized for cutting into his space but he was very nice about it and said he was back away from the stream working on his line and was about to say something when I hooked the fish and didn’t want to break my concentration. He was quite a gentleman and after he unwrapped my line I continued to apologize and moved upstream quite a ways to give him adequate space to cover the water.

When I re-entered the river I was perhaps half way through the long stretch of faster water and on one of my drifts I felt a bit of weight as I lifted to recast, but in a split second the fish was off and I saw the outline of a nice brown drifting back downstream. After this near miss another long dry spell developed, and I grew weary of constantly dabbing and drying the Letort so I exchanged it for a yellow pool toy. I was skeptical this would produce and assumed it was serving as a buoyant indicator for the trailing beadhead hares ear.

It was however quite windy and there was a lot of streamside vegetation that certainly harbored grasshoppers so it wasn’t unreasonable to expect that the yellow hopper could represent a food source that was quite prevalent in this area. It wasn’t long until I cast the pool toy to the top of a wide slot and a nose appeared and I set the hook and was attached to a head shaking and diving brown trout. When I finally netted the big boy and stretched it across my net it measured 16 inches. What a thrill to catch a fat brown on my pool toy creation!

16-17" Brown Was Prize Catch on Sunday

16-17″ Brown Was Prize Catch on Sunday

This episode prompted me to continue on with renewed optimism and in a shallow side channel with a thick amount of aquatic weeds I spotted two or three fish. I was back in sight fishing mode similar to Saturday, but my hopper/dropper had no impact other than to cause the fish to move after several casts. But as I scanned the channel and moved on a bit I spotted another fish closer to where the water branched off from the main river. I stripped out line and measured the distance with a couple false casts off to the side and then shot a cast toward the sighted fish. The hopper dropped just above the nose of the fish and then ever so slowly the fish finned over to the pool toy and gobbled it in! This fish thrashed for an instant and then allowed me to strip it in to the net almost as if it had been through this numerous times and just wished to get the game over with. Once I examined the rainbow in my net I realized that it appeared to be blind in one eye and wasn’t in prime shape.

Close Up of the Classic Drift Boat

Close Up of the Classic Drift Boat

In the next half hour I landed one more eleven inch brown that snatched the hares ear on a downstream swing but that was all the action before 5 o’clock rolled around and I made the 30 minute hike back to the parking lot and the Santa Fe. When I returned to the campsite I discovered that the tent had dried in the afternoon after the heavy morning rain and I enjoyed a peaceful night of rest with cooler temperatures prevailing. On Monday morning I packed up the tent and decided to make the 6.5 drive back to Denver and skip another day of fishing on the Green River. It was an interesting couple days, but much slower action than I was used to.

Site No. 17 at Firefighter Memorial Campground

Site No. 17 at Firefighter Memorial Campground

Green River – 09/14/2013

Time: 4:00PM – 7:00PM

Location: One mile below dam

Fish Landed: 1

I went a whole day without rain on Friday on the South Fork of the White River so perhaps the weather was clearing. Not a chance. I woke up several times during Friday night to the sound of thunder, the flashes of lightning, and the sound of rain pounding on the roof of the tent. It was still raining when I awoke so I skipped making breakfast and reorganized the car to isolate all the belongings that I didn’t want to get wet on the passenger seat, and then rolled up the tent and tablecloth and tossed in the back of the Santa Fe. Once again I was thankful for the tent pad.

I drove to Meeker and bought some pliers that enabled me to remove the reel from my Orvis rod. Somehow in the course of fishing on Friday the reel seat had become wedged so tightly that I couldn’t twist it with my fingers and needed the added leverage of a tool. In addition the first two sections of the rod were connected and I was unable to separate them thus adding worries over breaking the exposed rod in the back of the car.

Next I stopped at a supermarket and purchased some lunch meat and ice and then found a nice breakfast cafe and consumed a hearty breakfast and called Jane since I was in cell range for the first time in three days. Jane informed me of all the tragic flooding in Denver and along the front range, and I was no longer feeling sorry for suffering with a bit of rain on my tent. After breakfast I drove to Vernal, Utah and ate lunch there before proceeding on to Flaming Gorge where I checked out the Deer Run and Firefighter Memorial Campgrounds. The weather continued to look threatening so I decided to book a room at the Flaming Gorge Resort for Saturday night, but planned to camp again at the Firefighter Memorial on Sunday night.

Flaming Gorge Dam on Saturday

Flaming Gorge Dam on Saturday

After reserving a room I wandered over to the fly shop and purchased a new dispenser of floatant and a Utah fishing license and then headed to the parking area below Flaming Gorge Dam. I was pleased to avoid the day use fee of $5 by placing my Senior Pass on the dashboard as instructed by the sign. After putting on my waders and assembling my Loomis 5 weight rod I hiked down the Little Hole Trail for a mile. I carried my Adida pullover and raincoat, but it only rained lightly and was actually very pleasant for most of my time on the Green River on Saturday. In fact is was very quiet and I didn’t encounter another fisherman until on the way back at the end of the evening.

I began fishing with a caddis but it seemed futile in this huge wide river so I switched to the Chernobyl ant trailing a beadhead bright green caddis, but these flies provoked no response. I chose the caddis because it was mentioned several times on the white board in the fly shop as a fly that was producing. After spending a half hour or more flailing away and blind casting, I discovered that I could spot fish by walking slowly along the shore and staring at the water, and this is how I occupied my fishing time for most of the remainder of the evening.

Typical Stretch of Green River

Typical Stretch of Green River

Initially I failed on a couple nice sighted fish and spooked a few that I didn’t see soon enough along the edge, but then I noticed one next to a large submerged rock. After a few casts the brown rose and sucked in my caddis in an exciting visual display fifteen feet away. The brown went into a vigorous head shaking and diving routine, but I was able to maintain contact and landed and photographed a fine fish in excess of 15 inches. After this exciting experience my optimism was renewed, and I continued sight fishing but failed to land any more fish. I probably sighted ten fish in total, but could only tempt the one just described to eat my fly. In addition to the caddis I tried a black parachute ant and a predator beetle and then added a hard body ant as a dropper off the beetle. Judging from tail twitches and body movement, several fish noticed the flies but they were rejected.

16" Brown Was Sole Catch on Saturday

16″ Brown Was Sole Catch on Saturday

Three hours of fishing yielded only one fish, but it was a nice one. Stalking large fish in clear water and sight fishing certainly held my interest because I could see my target, and I was challenged to develop strategies for positioning, casting and fly choice.

After hiking back on the Little Hole Trail I returned to Flaming Gorge Resort, obtained my room key, and had a nice dinner at the Flaming Gorge Restaurant next to the fly shop. Sleeping in a warm dry bed was certainly an enjoyable luxury on Saturday night.