Revisiting the Upper Green River

None of our 2020 planned fishing trips were as anticipated as our return visit to the Upper Green River near Pinedale, Wyoming. This year we would dry camp along the river in the dusty prairie above Warren Bridge for two weeks.

Anxious to leave, we left our cabin on Rock Creek in Montana in the early morning to start the seven-hour trip. Stopping for fuel just an hour into the trip, Tim suggested I pump the fuel while he gets coffee. No problem. Tim returns with coffee to see that I just pumped 26 gallons of gasoline into our diesel truck. 

Next day and $1000 later, we are off. The weather was amazing and our desired spot was waiting for us.

Camping on the Upper Green River in Cora, Wyoming

View from the Camper Window of the Upper Green River at Sunset – Spectacular!

The Green River as it winds the sage desert

Belle and I Watch for Big Brown Trout 

July Insect Hatches on the Upper Green River

Drake Hatch

According to our notes from previous trips, arriving mid-July should place us just ahead of the grey drake hatch. We know to be on the water by 9 am or a little sooner to be ready for the hatch. 

The first day, we’re ready. But the fish were not. How could we manage only one whitefish between us? Crazy. Day two, the Whitefish bite was strong; but no trout. A short drake hatch between 9:30 and 10:30 really turned the whities on.

That afternoon, we were visited by a Wyoming Fish and Game officer who patiently waited for me to remember where I stored our digital licenses on our phones. During our conversation, I learned our experience was similar to other anglers on the river. Slow trout action. Drakes hatch, trout don’t care.

Pale Morning Dun Hatch

Day three and the fish have discovered the Pale Morning Duns, aka PMDs, that start hatching at 9 am. I tied on a PMD dry and dropped at size 16 bead head flashback pheasant tail off the back. It was a 50-50 mix of brown trout taking either the dry or the nymph.

For the next two weeks, the PMDs were on the breakfast menu. I stopped adding the dropper on week two as there was enough top-water action to skip the nymph.

As the hatch wore on, the duns were getting noticeably smaller and my size 16 was just too big. A quick trip to Two River Fishing Company for some size 18 and 20 hooks. An afternoon at the vise, the problem was solved.

We are big fans of CDC flies so I created my own variant pattern. I used PMD dubbing that was a dull, pale yellow – almost tan, dubbing spun onto a dark tan thread. I left a long tag end after winding the thread onto the hook shank. Then, I tied in a few strands of white Antron to act like a tail on this delicate sized 18 fly. Wind up the dubbing, wind up the tag thread to create a segmented body, then tie in two CDC feathers. Using natural CDC, I used the lightest ones I could find in the package. They were nearly white. Whip finish and wait until morning.

Pale Morning Dun Adult Mayfly on the Green River in Wyoming

A Larger Adult Pale Morning Dun May Fly

Tying a CDC Pale Morning Dun dry fly

Tying a CDC Pale Morning Dun Dry Fly

Caddis in the Cupboards

Caddis are plentiful on the Upper Green River. Very plentiful. However, the fish don’t always key in on them as a meal. Last year, I can’t remember catching anything on a caddis – this year was different. While PMDs, BWOs, hoppers, and mayfly nymphs worked great during the day, this year, caddis imitations were the ticket in the evenings. 

The morning hatch winds down most days by noon, 1 pm on some days. For those that keep fishing, it’s hopper-dropper time. For those like us that take a break after the hatch, it’s time for lunch, time for work, or a nap. The river glides by with only small dimples from juvenile trout. Opportunistic browns move to the edges in hopes of a big meal. 

By 4 pm, the evening scene begins. It starts slow; a few disturbances just under the surface. Then, a head appears, then another. Browns and Whitefish begin to feed on any opportunity- spinners, caddis, pale evening duns, and BWOs with bright green egg sacs.

It can be difficult to figure out which bug they are feeding on if the food sources are plentiful. But in that last hour before dark, a CDC caddis with a grey body fools most of them.

Just a note on camping by the river – caddis invaded our space every night. There was caddis on the ceiling, caddis on the windows, even caddis in the cupboards. With no electricity and bad to no cell service, the caddis were entertaining. When they landed on the kitchen table, we found if you touched their antennas, they became aggressive. Ashamed to say, we provoked a few caddis fighting matches which we found to be quite entertaining.

Green River Brown Trout Caught in July

Green River Brown Trout Caught on a PMD

Brown Trout in weeds

Brown Trout Sneaks into Weeds

The Water Master and Belle

This year I brought my Kodiak Water Master raft along. Fishing from a kick boat or raft, in my opinion, is the best way to fish the Upper Green in July. You can reach so many great spots that you cannot by wading. And you can cover much more water. I was blessed early in our trip to make a new friend, Mike, and got to float the river with him from Site 12 to Site 5.

Our youngest Brittany Spaniel, Belle, loves to fish. If you follow us on social media, her photos are often some of our most popular posts. While she loves going in the drift boat, the Water Master is her new favorite. She even sits in it onshore, just waiting.

Fishing the first morning with the freshly tied CDC PMDs, and it’s an instant success. I bring in trout after trout to the boat. This success sends Ms. Belle into a frenzy and chaos ensues.

Picture this – I forgot my net, fish on, dog walking on the raft’s tube gunwales, I’m trying to film the action and the dog falls in. The video will become a Sunday Short.

Using a watermaster boat on the Upper Green River

Kodiak Water Master on an Evening Float

New Friend Mike fishing from a kick boat on the Upper Green River

Fishing With a New Friend on the Upper Green

Getting There

Map

If You Go

We camped upstream from Warren Bridge. While friends tell me how amazing the photos are, I want to point out a few negatives.

  • It’s dusty as hell
  • Cell service is either non-existent or irritatingly spotty
  • Many nights there is a frost – the elevation is about 7600′
  • The camper got infested by mice near the end of the trip
  • On the last day, red ants decided to colonize just in front of the camper steps – not pretty
  • Dust infiltrates EVERYTHING
  • Many evening fishing outings were ended due to very strong wind/thunderstorms
  • A mysterious explosion/quake late one night rocked the ground beneath the camper. Did I mention this is oil and gas country?
  • And the damned dust!

If you want to be real close to the river, you need to camp. At Warren Bridge, there is a nice campground. There is a dump station there and every site has water. While there is no electricity, there is good cell reception. Many of the sites are on the river.

If you don’t mind a short drive, Pinedale WY is a few miles east. There you’ll find box hotel lodging as well as some Wyoming style accommodations. There are numerous restaurants, shops, and services there too.

Life By The River

In the sage prairie along the river, so abundant with life, we witnessed some pretty amazing scenes

  • Two buck antelope sparring for dominance with one retreating in haste
  • A mother mallard picking a fight with a heron – it was amazing she lived
  • Nighthawks shrieking at dusk every night
  • Neowise Comet was visible in the northwestern sky
  • The struggle for sky dominance between an eagle, an osprey, and a barred tail hawk
  • A small bird that frequented our campsite to feed on bugs
  • Twin antelope fawns that obediently stayed by their mother as we drove past every time
  • Alpenglow radiating on the mountains of the Wind River Range to the east every clear evening
  • Friendly waves from anglers and kayakers

Local Experts

Two Rivers Fishing Company in Pinedale, WY are the local experts for the Green and New Fork Rivers. They have a well-stocked shop and a friendly staff.

Flies That Worked For Us

It’s always wise to check in with the local experts. Here’s what we used during our trip on July 15 – 30, 2020.

  • Pale Morning Duns 14-18
  • CDC Caddis (gray and olive) 16-20
  • Foam Hopper
  • Hatching Pupa
  • Beadhead Flashback Pheasant Tails 14-18
  • Beadhead Flash Prince 14-16
Fly fishing the Green River Above Warren Bridge

Tim Caught Several Sizeable Trout in the Soft Water

Big Bend in the Upper Green River above Warren Bridge

I Hooked a MONSTER on this Bend With a Hopper-Dropper Rig One Afternoon

Green River and the Wind River Mountain Range

Green River and the Wind River Mountain Range

Structure in the river

Lots of Structure in the River

Afternoon thunderstorms on the Green River in Wyoming

Afternoon Thunderstorm Often Meant No Evening Fishing This Year

Gray Drake on Camper window

Gray Drake on Camper Window – Trout Could Care Less

Pie and freedom in Cora Wyoming

Pie Unsure of New Freedom

Belle happy to be back on the Green River

Belle Happy to be Back on the Green River

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