Fishing The Crowded Green River Of Utah

My friend and I pulled into the parking area at the Little Hole Campground at 11 a.m. on a warm, spring morning.

“Sorry, fellows,” Kenton Williams, U.S. Forest Service ranger said. “The parking lot is full, but I do have one senior citizen’s space left. You’re welcome to have it.”

We learned later that there were more than 135 vehicles crammed into the parking lot, with perhaps another two dozen parked on the road above the lot.

Here’s the Flaming Gorge dam at Dutch John, Utah.

The Green River below Flaming Gorge Dam in Utah has been a pleasure for me to fish for well over 20 years now. The dam was completed in the early 1960s, and my young son and I fished and floated the Green many times during the ’60s and ’70s.

Ninety percent of the fishing pressure comes in the 7.2-mile section from just below the dam to Little Hole. Fish biologists estimate this section of the river carries some 17,000 fish per mile. But I’m afraid that if drastic measures aren’t forthcoming, many anglers such as myself will have to find another river to fish.

The Peace Of Fly Fishing?
One of the reasons many anglers pursue their sport is for the peace and quiet it affords — the great outdoors, the sights and smells of the forest. So what did we find on our recent trip to the Green?

We found wading anglers in almost every run on the river, shoulder to shoulder in some places. There was trash along the banks and also in the water and at least a dozen ill-trained dogs running loose along the river and in the water. I sat and watched one charming couple throwing sticks into the river so their dog could retrieve them, much to the chagrin of the anglers nearby.

Rude and ill-mannered fishermen were crowding into holes where other anglers had established positions. I witnessed one near fistfight between a pair of overly aggressive young fly fishermen, arguing over who had first rights on a run.

The river was low — extremely low — our first day on the river. This allowed wading anglers to cross the stream and fish the far south side of the Green.

My friend and I grabbed our gear and headed upstream, where we looked forward to fishing a 100-yard-long run — a shallow spot of not more than two feet in depth, but one in which we had both taken spawning trout on several occasions.

In fact, I walked up to the hole one fine spring day, dropped my boots on the bank, hooked up a large, weighted Bitch Creek nymph, and proceeded to release six 16-inch to 18-inch rainbows — all from this one run, which contained a redd. The trout were attempting to spawn.

So as we rounded the last bend in the river, we hoped that we would be the first ones to discover the long run again. Wrong. I counted eight anglers standing in the middle of the run, and three or four more along the bank, casting into the run. I took a picture of what was once my favorite hole and we continued on up-river, hoping to find a place to fish. But it was not to be, and we finally had to settle for any place that didn’t have a fisherman on it.

I’ll bet that 10 percent of the anglers on the Green account for 90 percent of the fish caught. There are lots of good, young, gung-ho fly fishermen on the river; they work hard, fish all day, and catch most of the trout. For the first-time angler, it is a difficult river to fish. The trout are well-educated. They’ve been caught and released several times, they’ve been waded over and through, floated over by float tubers and boats, and have felt the vibrations of hundreds of booted feet as the anglers pound the foot trail upstream from Little Hole to the dam.

The whole experience was certainly not what fly-fishing is all about.

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