Anglers who avoided the Green River near Dutch John all summer because of the crowds will find the closest thing to solitude the river offers this month. They'll also find finicky trout.
The section of the Green immediately below Flaming Gorge Reservoir tempts Routt County anglers to make the four-hour drive because it boasts 3,000 fish per mile.
But fishing and catching are two different things, and even veteran fishing guides found it a challenge to land trout Sept. 6.
The effects of the Mustang fire that swept by Dutch John and burned the campground at Dripping Springs in July 2002 are noticeable on the river this fall.
The campground has reopened, but large plumes of red sand enter the river at various points below the cliffs, where heavy rains are causing erosion. It may be years before new grass and shrubs can stabilize the soils. There are noticeable red sand bars in the river where before, there was rocky cobble.
The fish are in the river, but they were difficult to catch during the first weekend of September, and insect hatches were negligible.
Steamboat guide Chuck Klesath, based at Dutch John, recommended fishing with a large terrestrial attractor fly on sunny days, with a small nymph on the dropper. It was a technique that produced occasional fish.
The prevailing wisdom is that the delicate mayflies, known as baetis or blue-winged olives, are most likely to hatch on overcast, drizzly days.
But the high Uintah country has not experienced the prerequisite cold snap and the bugs weren't out on the water.
The only significant hatch of the weekend came during a rare patch of sunshine when countless tiny mayflies were on the water. The hatch, which lasted for two hours, from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., was so prolific there were brown trout that poked their heads out of the water and munched two or three flies before slipping beneath the surface.
Jeff Ruff of Steamboat Fishing Company had some wisdom to share on this phenomenon.
The insects hatching on the Green River during those magic two hours last week were a microscopic size 24 and difficult to imitate. Ruff said the savvy angler realizes that in this special situation, it isn't necessary to attempt to catch the trout on a fly pattern as small as the naturals.
What matters most when fish are feeding so heavily is presentation and drift -- present a size 20 mayfly imitation in precisely the right feeding lane, and the trout are apt to Hoover the fly in along with a mouthful of naturals.
If the wind didn't blow in the canyon below Flaming Gorge, fishing to the hatch might be a simple matter.
Fishing guide Brett Lee of Straightline Outdoor Sports recommends changing flies -- and changing flies often -- during tough autumn fishing on the Green. He also recommends going back to some favorite old fly patterns.
"I think people get into a funnel-type deal where everybody is using the same stuff," Lee said. "The fish have been pounded all summer, and they've seen it all."
Anglers shouldn't hesitate to poke around in their fly boxes to come up with a pattern that might just connect with jaded trout, Lee advises.
"I remember eight to 10 years ago, scuds were all anyone fished with over there," Lee said, but they now seem to have fallen out of favor.
Scuds. Why didn't we think of that?
You can't go wrong with an autumn trip to the Green. When the fish aren't cooperating, there are always otters and osprey to observe.
And with that many fish in the river, it's hard to leave without having caught a dozen fish, some of them worthy of snapshots.