In the spring of 1989 I floated and fished the Green River below Flaming Gorge with a couple of friends. Since my friends primarily use spinning tackle and I prefer a flyrod, I realized that I would not be fishing a lot of my usual nymphing riffles and runs.
I brought a 9-foot, 5-weight flyrod for nymphing, of course; but I also brought a 9-foot, 7-weight flyrod for streamer fishing. Just for good measure, I took along a 3-weight rod in case there were some dry fly opportunities. While loading my gear in the raft, I mused how I could sure use a good caddy.
FLYFISHER: "Hand me the 7-weight, please."
CADDY: "Good choice, but watch that dog leg current to the left."
My 13-foot Riken whitewater raft didn't have enough room for a caddy, so I kept the idle rods in a scabbard.
Trying to be a good host, I tended to seek out the pools and back eddies to accommodate my two guests. They were using black marabou jigs on ultra-light rigs. The 7-weight rod equipped with a HI-D sinking line and a brown wooly worm or a gold-bodied Zonker worked well for me. After catching several fish, I came to realize that I was catching just as many fish with streamers as I usually did with nymphs.
I found success stripping a streamer through a current seam, or casting up and across an outside current and allowing the streamer to sink. A current sewn is that point where fast water and slow water join. Feeding fish tend to cruise the slow water close to the current seam waiting for a "Big Mac" to wash by . . . well, maybe a little Mac or sculpin. Big Macs tend to have big teeth. Anyway, it's sort of a fast food hangout. Minnows and sculpins will use fast water to escape predators, but downstream will soon seek a slack water pool with weeds for safety.
A streamer fished along a current seam will imitate a sculpin dropping out of fast water seeking a safe place to hide. Casting up and across the current close to the opposite bank if possible, will resemble an escaping minnow running for fast water. The streamer is allowed to sink as it drifts downstream with the current. Soon a belly forms in the fly line from the fast current, and drag sets in. That's bad, right?!? NO! That's good. The streamer darts for deep water; and any hungry fish worth its salt will have that little Kipper Snack so fast it will almost jerk your rod out of your hands.
What a revelation! Circumstances had forced me to give up my security blanket, the nymph, and apply the float tube, flat-water tactics to the Green River as a steady diet. It was great!
I wondered why so much emphasis has been placed primarily on just nymphing the Green by the fishing community. I looked around to mentally gather some statistics. In excess of 90 percent of the flyfishers I observed were nymphing. The rest were dry fly fishing. As far as I could see, I was the only one using streamers. The exact numbers are not important. The point is that at least half of the water on the Green is streamer-type water; and it is being highly underutilized.
There were hordes of people on the Green this particular early spring Saturday. Navigating about Little Hole was quite a challenge. Trying to avoid the staggered jumble of humanity congregated at each little nymphing run was a feat that would have given my Coast Guard commander nightmares. (We used to call him "Crash Carlson.") Fortunately, I managed to slip through without too much misguided adulation. Some floaters and waders I observed were treated to a good share of heckling. Like penguins in a rookery, if you invade someone else's space, look out!
For the individual who wants to avoid such unpleasantries, take along a sinking line and some favorite streamers.
The flyrod is by far the most versatile fishing instrument ever devised (dynamite doesn't count). The drawback is that one is required to have a little patience to either re-rig from floating line to sinking line, carry more than one rod, or get a caddy.
I must admit I was a bit comical at times while floating and fishing. Just when I got my nymphing line out conditions would change. We would enter a deep pool or slow run. I'd reel in the line, carefully stow the nymphing rig and get out the 7-weight for streamer fishing.
Then the fish would begin to rise. Hurry up now and stow the streamer rig and get out the dry fly outfit. One could end up spending more time re-rigging than fishing. While floating, conditions can change so fast you may never do anything right unless you slow down, observe and think about what you are doing — advice easily given but hard to take.
While walking or floating the Green River there are plenty of opportunities for solitary streamer fishing, and it works. I believe you will find that the fish you land are generally on the large size as well.
Just over a mile down from the Flaming Gorge dam, we beached the raft and fished from shore. I found a spot that offered enough room for a good back cast with a lovely limpid green pool in front. Many times while floating the Green, I get preoccupied with watching for obstacles in the water, rapids or places to fish and don't really see the beautiful setting that surrounds me. Standing on the shore and looking around I was captured by the character of the river.
Steep vermillion cliffs rise up a thousand feet on each side of a serpentine river course. Green pinion and juniper dot the canyon scape until the red sandstone walls give way to the azure sky. The gray and black camp robber birds make a "rachety" call to mates as they patrol the riparian corridor for food.
On this day, it was cool in the early morning. The sunlight began to descend the far water-sculpted cliffs and the scent of pine drived on a gentle breeze. As I turned and looked upstream, I paused to enjoy the sweet symphony of water dancing and splashing through the riffles.
Curtis Elton, of Tooele, one of my fishing partners, sang out as his rod strained against a nice rainbow.
"Yes, trout!" I thought to myself. "That's why I'm here." I pulled myself from the hypnotic trance of my surroundings. Locating a spot to place my streamer, I cast out 40 to 50 feet. I paused and waited for the sinking line to take my streamer down. After counting to some predetermined number, I began stripping in line, 15 inches at a time. Using a steady rhythm of about 2 seconds between strips, the gold mylar-bodied zonker minnowed its way near the bottom toward shore.
The sudden jolt on the fly line was met with a short but firm rise of the flyrod tip. Got him! The fight was on. The fish bulldogged its way out into the current pulling the excess line between my firm grip until a taut line met the reel. The 7-weight rod bowed to the determined run of my worthy opponent while the reel played my favorite tune. Not quite to the backing, the tiring opponent paused for a breather. I began retrieving line. Lowering the rod tip to the side without giving up pressure, I eased the tenacious fish out of the current, back into slack water. It was give-and-take for a few minutes.
I admired the strength of the trout I still had not yet seen. Finally, a magnificent fish succomed to superior technology (but not to a superior opponent). I carefully held the 18-inch, 2-3 pound brown trout gently in the water and removed the barbless hook from the side of its mouth. Allowing myself a few seconds of pleasure, I held the brown in the current and admired its beauty.
"Only God could have conceived such a design and color," I said to myself softly. At that moment of spiritual fulfillment, the brown revived, broke free and returned to where it rightfully belonged.
Using streamers to fish the Green River is not new; it's not a panacea; it is at times not even as productive as other methods of fishing. But it is, I believe, an under-utilized technique. It offers an opportunity to catch (and release) larger trout, to achieve some measure of solitude, and to broaden one's skills as a flyfisher.