The Big Brown Road Trip: Chapter 3

Like the famed tailwater below Flaming Gorge, the upper Green is trout fishing in high-definition. You could spot a penny on the river bottom at 20 feet.

Green River Wyoming
Phil spots a nice brown while Justin makes his move

My first stint in college was at the University of Utah, and the Green River below Flaming Gorge is partially responsible for my sophomore slump. I extended many a weekend honing my midge and BWO game in the trout aquarium around Little John, to the detriment of my GPA. The chief tributary of the mighty Colorado, the Green begins in the Wind River Mountains, cutting an emerald swathe through sandstone bluffs in the Wyoming desert.

To my chagrin, I had never fished the river on the Wyoming side, but that was about to change as our small caravan pulled into a mostly vacant campsite, framed by a rock outcropping that likely contained triceratops bones. Alit by a ripe moon, the sandstone glowed as the smoke from our sagebrush fire conjured glimpses of a youth spent wandering the Great Basin. A preemptive smudge couldn’t hurt, and might just provide some measure of olfactory protection from the looming aftermath of ground beef tacos in the confines of the camper.

Heaven on earth…a smoldering sagebrush fire

On a river the size of the Green, it would take a considerable fiberglass regatta to eat up the elbowroom. However, the unanticipated COVID-surge in fly fishing participation has made us Montana-folk a little jumpy, and when two rigs pulled into the boat ramp adjacent our camp, I could sense the angst in my comrade. I walked down to do a little reconnaissance under the guise of glassing for wildlife, binos strapped around my neck. Two dudes and a gal dressed in the casual, unkempt manner of guides on an off day were taking their time, swapping stories and launching skiffs.  “Mornin’…just working on a Big Year,” I said, raising my binoculars and scanning the bluff across the river. A couple of guides on a busman’s are more likely to relax, drink beer, and bullshit a float away than fish very seriously.

I returned to camp and reported my findings, to which Justin decided we should change tact and move to the next section of river downstream. He had fished here before, and apparently, any company was too much company. An advantage to camping along the banks of the river is that you don’t have to be in much of a hurry. We headed for the next boat ramp downriver and discovered that we would have about 8 miles of the Green to ourselves. 

Boat launch on Green River Wyoming
Shoving off on the Green

Like the famed tailwater below Flaming Gorge, the upper Green is trout fishing in high-definition. You could spot a penny on the river bottom at 20 feet. We slipped into the first side channel we came to. After two days in the boat on the Platte, we were all anxious to do some walk-n-wade, and hopefully, sight-fish to big browns. From an elevated vantage, we spotted a nice brown working a tailout and Justin made his move.

Taking our respective turns as spotter and angler, we picked off fat cutthroats and rainbows, and had our chances at some big, wary browns. Justin lost a beast that ate a streamer, cleared the river by several feet, and spit the fly (who says brown trout don’t jump?) Measured on the sight-fishing aspect, technicality, and quantity and quality of fish, you’d have a hard time convincing me that there’s a more intriguing trout stream in the country than the Green. At twilight on the second day, we pulled stakes and angled back towards Montana. In the rolling badlands south of Jackson, an immense meteorite streaked through the sky and burned itself out, signaling an end to our exploratory expedition.

A beautiful Green River cutthroat