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Our Adventure to Wyoming's Green River and its Tributaries.

By Scott Heywood

(Note: I always get asked this question, so I'll answer it this time before I get inquiries. If you're interested in this trip, give Angling Destinations a call at 800-211-8530. I'll fill you in on all the details.)

As a strong August sun blasted the blacktop, I climbed over South Pass cutting through the southern extremes of the Wind River Range. Eventually, I reached Farson, Wyoming, the little village where we so long ago used the Big Sandy Opening to access the Cirque of the Towers and the East Temple area on various climbing adventures.

This time though, I buzzed right past Farson on my way to Kemmerer, Wyoming and the high desert sage flats pierced by the spectacular Green River and its tributaries. Hot in the summer and wind swept and very cold in the winter, this southwest corner of Wyoming is a harsh and beautiful place... with great fishing!

Scott Sawtelle, Chad Olsen and I met in Kemmerer intent on fishing the main Green River below Fontenelle Dam, but also a few of the prolific tributaries that eventually flow into the main Green.

On our first day, we fished the Smith Fork. The Smith Fork is a beautiful freestone stream descending out of the southern end of the Wyoming Range. It's a major tributary of the Bear River and is one of the the last strongholds for the rare native Bonneville cutthroat. Winding its way though beautiful irrigated fields, cottonwood groves and willows, this freestone shelters some of the most healthy remaining populations of Bonnevilles, a trout many biologists thought was extinct until it was “rediscovered” in the 1970's.

The Smith Fork is somewhat quirky... maybe like all high elevation cutthroat streams, it's good till it's not and not till it is. In any case, I've long since quit trying to figure out fisheries. I just do my best to predict the good times to go, then when I arrive do my best to catch fish. Somehow that seems to be enough. More often than not, I have a great day on the river.

On this day, we had a slow morning as we probed the many classic runs and bends. The spots that should have held fish, seemingly didn't until early afternoon when we started connecting to some of the bigger fish. What impressed me most was the strength of these Bonneville cutts. Powerful fighters, they acted more like rainbows than either Snake River or Yellowstone cutts who in my opinion, are neither the strongest nor the brightest bulbs in the trout family. Don't get me wrong, Snake River and Yellowstone cutts are wonderful, beautiful fish that live in some of the most gorgeous spots on planet earth. I love them, BUT these Bonnevilles have definitely upped the ante. They seem both more clever and more athletic and as such, quickly earned my respect as I made my way upriver on the Smith Fork.

Tough and beautiful fish, these Bonneville Cutthroats are a true trophy.
Scott Sawtelle works a run on the upper Smith.
And he took a hopper!
Sage grouse, their range threatened elsewhere in Wyoming, were often seen by us.

On our next day, we floated on the Green below Fontenelle Dam. This was, from the get-go, a perfect day. We reveled under bright blue skies, calm waters and pleasant temps. Plus, no other boats complicated our day. Put the weather, the scenery and the seclusion together and the question becomes, what more coud you wish for?

The answer to that is simple... FISH. And this perefct day delivered on that request too. We caught deep-bodied stong rainbows, beefy browns and colorful cutts all in the 18-22", 3-6 lb. range. Sandhill cranes, great blue herons, and sage grouse added to our enjoyment while a giant moose did his best to fill our viewfinders. We had great success using a large hopper with a zirdle bug dropper or, in the deeper runs, a straight nymph rig with a zirdle and a sow bug. In the shallows, crawfish were everywhere so it's easy to explain why zirdle bugs worked so well. We fished any structure, seams or recirculating eddies. Takes were subtle, the fights were not. These well fed and porky trout stripped line off in a blaze and came to hand slowly. It was a great day!

Scott Sawtelle on the stick, me on the net.
Zirdle bug.
Another big cutthroat
Scott with a great brown!

On our last day, we fished the Hams Fork of the Green. This stream was completely different from either the main Green or the Smith Fork. From the moment we stepped into the stream's gin clear water and watched the flowing green grass meander at our feet, we could see big rainbows feeding on the surface. This stretch of the Hams Fork looked and fished like a spring creek. I had early luck on size 20 trico spent wing spinner. Then I switched to a New Zealand strike indicator with 18 inches of 4X to a tiny tungsten bead emerger. Scott and Chad went upstream and had great luck also in the riffles. They caught one 'bow pushing 24 inches and another half dozen in the 19-20 inch range. It was a windy day but somehow, tucked down in the willows, this strong breeze didn't ruin our day.

We had a spectacular trip! You can always tell when a trip is good because a few days after you get home, you're already dreaming about how to get back... and soon! I'd love to get another shot at each river. I'd do some things differently, but not too much. Really, I'd just love to be knee deep once again in those streams running through the high Wyoming desert in SW Wyoming.

A typical Hams Fork 'bow... not too shabby!