Utah's Friendly Neighbor - Wyoming's Seedskadee
- Posted On
- Apr 15, 2016
By Pat Ronneburg
Fly fishing in Utah is great! There is so much water from which to choose, but if you must wander...
Fly fishing right next door in Wyoming is great, too! What makes a trout stream a great one? Is it scenery? Trout per river mile? Size of the fish? Fishermen per river mile? Is it wind or the lack of it? Miles of access?
Southwestern Wyoming’s Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge provides all of the above and then some in a great opportunity for the adventurous angler. The Refuge protects a mosaic of riparian, wetland and upland shrub habitats along 36 miles of the upper Green River. The Refuge takes its name from the Shoshoni word for the Green River: Seeds- kee-dee-Agie, meaning River of the Sage Chicken.
We started fishing the Green River on Seedskadee in the late 80’s. There is not a lot of public access for the Green, so we were always on the lookout for places to fish when travelling to Flaming Gorge. I was a beginner and never caught a thing. My husband did not suffer this fate and was always happy to stop here, even though it was more than off the beaten path: there were no paved roads on the Refuge then and there are still none today.
I skipped over Seedskadee for about 10 years and started fishing it again around 2005. In that time, I’ve seen angler usage increase as “the word is out.” But not even close to the popularity of the Green below Flaming gorge dam. The trout and the river still hand me my head, but I’ve also landed some catches of a lifetime. By that I mean fish approaching 30”. These monsters are not everywhere in the river and not all the time. I don’t know what the average fish size is in this section, but I do know that in the last measure, there were 250 fish per river mile. Downright sparse by the “A” section of the Green and Provo River standards. No guarantees here. Risk vs reward, but huge if you’re fortunate to be rewarded.
The Green River below Fontenelle Dam is a tailwater fishery. It is also a high desert stream and can provide action at certain times on terrestrials—big dries! I usually start with a streamer to find the fish, unless I spot a rise. (Just a hint: Summer is also fraught with plenty o’ people-biting insects. Take your bug spray for the mosquitoes. In deer fly season, bug spray is of no help. Take a head net, long sleeve shirt, gloves, long pants. It’s the only time of year you will hear me praying out loud for wind.)
Knowing how to read water, understanding western hatches and weather patterns, and knowing the spawning habits of fish in Flaming Gorge Reservoir is helpful in deciding how, when, and where to fish. Because you may have the opportunity to hook a trophy, you should consider tackle carefully. I take a 9’ or 10’ 6 or 7 wt rod with the heaviest leader and tippet that I can use and still attract a bite.
There are special Wyoming regulations in addition to regular state fishing rules and license requirements that must be observed. Find these and purchase your license online or in person in Evanston, Rock Springs, or Green River, WY). For fisher people: Artificial flies and lures only; one trout per day with all under 20” released alive.
I always fish on foot because I love to walk the banks of the river and spot the water, (sometimes) the fish, and wade. I see cray fish the size of my hand in the river. And I see their blue shells scattered on the ground after losing the lunch argument to a big bird. And I see the brilliant red orange of the kokanee swimming past as they travel upstream to spawn. And birds birds birds. And moose and antelope. Try to look up once in a while. Seedskadee is truly a lush, beautiful wildlife refuge for their home.
For boaters: canoes, drift boats, and rafts are recommended as the water is swift and shallow with gravel bars and big drop offs and other impediments that move around from season to season depending on winter snows. There are no rapids but there are Wyoming style rock diversions and side channels that can become so small as to be impassable. The diversions can be the end of your day until you learn to read where the pour-over is so that you can get through without crashing. Use a river map so that you know where to launch and what’s coming up. Motor boats and personal watercraft are not recommended. If you are going to “boat,” you will need to know and abide by the Wyoming boating laws, including the new Aquatic Invasive Species laws. There are enforcement officers on the refuge every day to check your knowledge and your licenses so don’t be tempted to forget.
Because Seedskadee is a National Wildlife Refuge, there are a few other special rules:
Dogs must be on a leash.
“Collecting” (anything) is prohibited, just like a National Park. If you find it there, leave it there.
No off road vehicle travel or camping is allowed on the Refuge. (There are three BLM campgrounds nearby. Nearest town is minimum 30+ miles.)
Stay at least 400 yards from trumpeter swans. Stay a safe distance from all other wildlife and birds. If you don’t know how close is too close - if they are moving as a response to you moving towards them, you are too close! Especially moose!
Editor’s note: The author, Pat Ronneburg, is an experienced and expert fly fisher woman. If you are a beginner, or novice, you’re likely to get skunked at Seedskadee.