Fly Fishing the Green River in Wyoming
“Fly Fishing the Green River in Wyoming”
By Scott Sanchez
The Green River in Wyoming offers great fishing under the shadows of the Wind River Range. The Wind River Range contains the highest peak in Wyoming, 13,804 foot Gannet Peak, and has numerous fishable lakes and streams. In the Green itself, a mix of trout species can be caught here including, rainbows, browns, Colorado strain cutthroats and brookies. Of course there is the ever present whitefish. The river flows primarily though a high sagebrush plain at over 7000 feet. The best access to this water is in National Forest land above Cora, Wyoming and in the Game and Fish and BLM accesses above Warren Bridge, 51 miles southwest of Jackson. There is also some wade access near the Daniel Fish hatchery. Beyond this, access is limited to float fishing, since Wyoming water law read that if a land owner owns land on both sides of the river they own the river bottom. Floating is permitted, but anchoring and wading are not allowed. This is reinforced.
The National Forest section of the Green parallels a dirt road with almost unlimited access. There is a campground at Green River Lake, but primitive camping can be had throughput the National Forest. Sometimes in the area, below the lake you will catch lake trout that have moved out the lake. Suncreen and insect repellent are mandatory on the Green. At over 7000 feet and out in the open not much blocks the sun. Early summer mosquitoes are very dense. I like to use the water resistant Ultrathon repellent.
The Warren bridge area has 12 designated access sites, and can be driven to on a dirt road. Camping is allowed here for up to 14 days. In wet conditions, a four wheel drive is not a bad idea on the main road, and it can be helpful on the side roads. The Warren Bridge area is a mix of wide meandering fairly uniform depth areas intermixed with fast rocky, boulder runs and pockets. The fast water sections look very much like Montana’s Madison River. It seems to me that the smooth sections are much more reliable during hatches, while the pockets sections are good most of the time. This area can be wade fished or floated. But launches here are pretty creative, and the fast sections require some rowing skill to maneuver the rock gardens.
When I first fished the Green River, over twenty years ago, there was a big population of small rainbows. Kind of a rainbow behind every rock, and a great pocket water attractor fly fishery. There were also a few good size browns. Part of this was due to stocking and limited winter habitat. About fifteen years ago Trout Unlimited, the Forest Service, and Game and Fish put in artificial log structures to improve winter habitat. The first few were put in above Cora in the National forest and were a success. These are now found throughout the upper river, and the Green has evolved into a trophy fishery. Browns in the 14” to 20” range are now pretty common, and these fish can found sipping dry flies during hatches.
The road isn’t plowed in the winter, so snow can limit some pre-runoff access. April can be a fun month, most fishing will be subsurface, with nymphs and streamer, but occasionally you may find fish up on Baetis and midges. When streamer fishing the cold water a slow retrieve and sinking lines are very helpful to put the fly in the trout’s zone. As with most spring fishing, it is weather dependent, warm weather warms the water, but it also brings out the chance for snow melt runoff. I have had some good spring fishing during golden stone hatches and brachycentrus caddis, but it can’t be relied on. However, the goldens and caddis are present subsurface and my Spandex Stone and Glass House Caddis are a reliable nymph combo. Runoff, will start sometime in early May and will start clearing around the end of June. Fishing is still possible and it gets less dirty that other regional rivers. Slow and deep in slack water pockets is the key.
Around the end of June and early July, the river will drop and clear. At this time you will find golden stones, a few salmonflies, yellow sallies and caddis. An attractor dry with a nymph below it are very effective in the pocket water sections. I like a Convertible or Stimulator, and these will fish well for most of the summer. Shortly after it clears, the summer season kicks in with a good Grey Drake and Pale Morning Dun hatch. In the flatter water sections and log structures, you can find noses up on top. As with many hatches the more subtle the rise, the bigger the fish. Parachute Adams and Hare’s Ears in size 12 or 14 are standard flies for the Gray Drakes, but on selective fish a more imitative parachute is better. For the PMDs, I start out with a visible size 16 PMD Parachute, match the hatch patterns will come into play. H-Vis Para PMDs, Comparaduns and Sparkle Duns in sizes 16 and 18 are good bets. I also use my tan Everything Emerger in sizes 16 and 18. This will do double duty when you have a mix of PMDs and tan caddis on the water. Evening Caddis hatches can be very heavy, and there are quite a few different species, however,
Elk Hair Caddis, Everything Emergers and X Caddis in tan and dark olive in sizes fourteen and sixteen will usually cover them. The edges of seams next to fast water are prime spots, and can be a challenge when a good fish runs out to the heavy current. Streamer fishing can give you shots at fish up into the ten pound range.
For really big fish, I think the best areas are in-between Warren Bridge and Big Piney, but they require floating through private lands. A six or seven weight with a big wiggly fly or two is normal, and you will work for the fish you catch. This is chuck and duck at its best, pounding streamers into bank structure, undercuts and seams. Kiwi Muddlers, Double Bunnies and Woolly Buggers are among the best patterns. On the upper River, streamers will work too. I like to fish the pocket water. The better browns here, seem to be in water you associate more with rainbows. Pockets in front and behind the boulders, plunge pools and seams are good bets. You can pick your way through miles of prime water. Hit a spot from a couple of angles and then move to the next. This is playing the numbers game. While brown trout streamer fishing is usually better in low light, this pocket water can fish well all day. Vary your retrieve to find the best action for the day. Rubber legs like Yuk Bugs, and Rubber Leg Woolly Buggers work well here because of the large stoneflies but also because of action. Rubber legs can be fished slower than other streamers, which can sometimes keep them in the zone longer, and it is a different angle. To fish them most effectively, twitch and pause them. Pumping with a rod tip works well for this. A twitch compresses the legs and the release lets them kick out. It will take a little practice to learn how to do this and still maintain contact with the fly. If you get a refusal or miss with a larger, bright fly, try a small black leech. Sometimes, this will work.
The banks around the Green are sagebrush and grass, and summers afternoon winds can blow terrestrials into the water. Hopper patterns are prime July and August flies. The fishing here is pretty straightforward. Put your fly next to a grassy bank with depth. However, try working the flies around the log structures, and in boulder runs and pockets. Strong winds can blow them out there and in combination with the stones found here they make good attractors. I think these best hopper fishing is on the private float sections, partially due less pressure, but also because of agriculture. Hay feeds livestock as well as hoppers, and mowing it pushes hoppers into the river. Don’t forget some foam ants and beetles. These go to flies will work here.
At 7,000 feet plus fall comes early. Whereas many brown trout runs are in late October and November, the Green’s browns start getting hormonal in mid-September. The Upper Green isn’t a lake run situation, but the river fish will pick up an attitude. Streamers are the usual fare, and I would add some yellow and brown colored patterns. This is the color of another brown trout and it seems to provoke a response. Double Bunnies, JJ Specials and Platte River Specials will give you different profiles in this color combo. Instead of bank cover many of the fish will be in mid-river runs. Egg patterns and nymphs can also work.
- Scott Sanchez