Tucked away in northeastern Utah, just under the notch, is a nexus of nature with lush green forests, cascading rivers and emerald lakes. Flaming Gorge is the kind of place you'd think would be overrun, but lucky for you it's not.
The Green River below Flaming Gorge Dam offers blue-ribbon fishing for brown and rainbow trout. Special regulations require the use of artificial flies and lures and restrict harvest, protecting populations and ensuring plenty of large fish. Most anglers catch and release. The Green is a large river by Utah standards and it can be fished in several ways. A trail system extends downstream from the dam and provides access to many auspicious spots. Perhaps the best way to fish here is to float the stream, pulling over to concentrate on productive runs. Guides are available or you can fish it on your own. Bring your drift boat or raft or rent one locally.
Fishing with the family. On the surface, it may sound like a disaster waiting to happen. Lure your kids to Flaming Gorge with the promise of a Flaming Gorge Burger at Flaming Gorge Resort and wild berry cobbler at Red Canyon Lodge, then hijack their phones and get them out on the water, hooked on fishing. Here are a few tips for getting the family fishing tradition started:
Basic starter gear costs less than $50. You’ll need a spinning rod with line, needle-nose pliers (to safely release all the fish you’ll catch and/or to get little Johnny to stop complaining), and lures or bait.
Bait gear includes your bait of choice (like worms), hooks, a little weight and a bobber. This is a popular method if you plan on keeping the fish, but can get a little annoying since you have to constantly re-bait the hook. Lures attach easily and are much gentler on the fish you intend to release. Stop by one of the local tackle shops to get the best advice on the right lures to use.
We know. Getting the kids to follow rules can be a challenge. But this rule is simple (and you’ll be the one who gets cited if they break it): Get a license. If your kids are older than 12, they need their own. You can get a three-day, seven-day or annual permit online.
The fishing itself is free, though, so a little gear and a couple licenses might still cost less than a trip to the movies.
Lots of family-friendly fishing spots in these parts. The Moose Ponds, Flaming Gorge Dam Fishing Pier, free kids fishing hole at Red Canyon Lodge, and Little Hole on the Green River will give you the best chance of not coming up empty and having your kids hate fishing forever.
Pros, semi-pros, wannabe pros, etc. — don’t get your waders in a bunch. Here are some deets on the secret (not anymore?) fishing tips and spots in Flaming Gorge Country.
Eleven state fishing records. Two former world records. It may sound like a claim from Uncle Rico, but this place is teeming with trophy lake trout (mackinaw), kokanee salmon and smallmouth bass. Fish the top water down to 50 feet and you’ll likely snag rainbows, browns, tiger and some smaller lake trout. Larger trout are generally 70–120 feet down, but feed in the shallower water in the spring. All summer long, the bass are super active in the warm water and can be found in the shallow rocky points, humps and ridges throughout the reservoir. Trolling (not the kind millennials do on Twitter), vertical jigging (that’s fun to say), casting/retrieving, and bait fishing are all common and effective techniques.
NBD, but Field & Stream called the Green River “America’s best tail water.” The river’s water released from the Flaming Gorge dam is regulated to maintain an optimum temperature and flow that has created a world-famous, blue-ribbon trout fishery. Like, legit blue ribbon. Some streams that make that claim have around 6,000 fish per mile. The Green can carry as many as 14,000 fish per mile. Fishing techniques are limited to artificial flies or lures, and catch-and-release is highly encouraged. Insect hatches are prolific. Scuds are effective throughout the year. Midges work on and below the surface during winter and early spring. Blue-winged olives have a massive hatch in the spring. Big cicadas produce amazing fishing in the early summer. Ants, hoppers and many dry-fly patterns work well all summer and into early fall. The three popular areas to fish are Little Hole, Browns Park and just below the dam. You can drive to these spots and fish from the shore, or float the river in a drift boat or rubber raft.
Six hundred natural mountain lakes. Thousands of streams. Brookies, cutthroat and rainbows waiting (okay, not necessarily waiting) to be caught. The High Uinta Wilderness is an ideal place to fish. If a certain lake or stream is slow, just take a short hike to the next one. Some of the more popular lakes include Matt Warner Reservoir, Browne Lake, Sheep Creek Lake, Long Park Reservoir and Spirit Lake.
Flaming Gorge is crawling with guides, shops, marinas and lodges that sell licenses and fishing tackle and offer plenty of free advice. For the best experience, hire a guide. These experts know where the fish are biting.
For more information or to plan your trip, visit flaminggorgecountry.com