View Full Version : Flaming Gorge and Hebgen Lake Trip

07-18-2004, 10:59 PM
We just got back from our trip "Out West" to Flaming Gorge UT and Hebgen Lake MT. I've always wanted to fish these lakes with a boat, so we dragged ours behind the camper. *Let me start by saying that both of these places are at least an order of magnitude (10 times) better than anything we have available to us in CA. Nothing you may have heard about either place is an exaggeration. *Put both places on your "gotta go there before I die" list.

Flaming Gorge: *This is a 91 mile long impoundment of the Green River, which is the major headwater of the Colorado. The lake is in both WY and UT. The place is known for giant kokanee and at one time for monster browns and rainbows. *It is now managed for trophy macs and kokes, which are all now the products of natural reproduction. *Large numbers of rainbows are planted as well and there are still some big browns available (read on), but they are being displaced by large numbers of smallmouth bass. *We spent four days fishing out of the Lucerne Valley campground near the WY/UT border.

Day 1: We did not fish but spent the time scoping out lake in the vicinity of the campground. There were loads of what looked like macs along the steep rock walls and sitting right on the bottom over gravel in 90 - 120 ft of water. *There were scattered suspended fish (which we assumed were kokes) over the old river bed. *Most were between 35 and 65 feet down along the outside bends of the channel. *We spent the afternoon figuring out trolling lanes for the next couple of days. Figuring out a lake is more fun for me than actually catching fish, so we never asked for any local information.

Day 2: Fished from 6-9 AM and got 6 macs between 14" and 26". *StingKings did not work at all. All fish were caught on 5" green/silver Coyotes pulled behind ProTroll e-chip flashers. *We fished along the walls in an area called the Pipeline between 70 and 80 ft down. *It was sort of like fishing the Hells Kitchen area of Pyramid Lake. Kept 1 small mac for lunch.

26" mac:

Day 3: Focused on the famous Flaming Gorge Kokanee. Corn is not legal here, so we started out with mealworms cut in thirds and spiced with ProCure shrimp/prawn scent on kokanee bugs with 4/0 Sepp's dodgers. *Absolutely nothing! *Switched over to red and green e-chip kokanee specials and immediately got 6 hookups. *Dropped them all including one that pulled out 50 ft of line against the drag! *Just when I was getting ready to believe the kid at the dock that you needed to use snubbers, we figured out how to rig the bait on the e-chip lures correctly and landed the next 6 fish. The kokes here AVERAGE 18" and we got 2 over 20". *Since 6 kokes are a daily limit (and possession limit) for two people, we packed it in by 10 AM.

Flaming Gorge Koke:

Day 4: Mrs. Doc Stressor hurt herself falling out of the camper (don't ask) and spent the rest of the trip with her arm in a sling. *This left me on my own. So I figured that I would spend the morning figuring out the kokes, although I couldn't keep any. They still would not touch bugs, but the green e-chip and green dodger was the ticket with either mealworms or exude synthetic corn soaked in shrimp/prawn scent. I C&R'ed 16 fish between 6 and 9 AM. I don't normally release kokes, but it was just too tempting to keep fishing for them. I was able to release all of the fish without taking them out of the water. *I hope they made it.

I then came in to some shallow rockey bars and trolled Jay Fair flies for smallmouths and anything else I could catch. The smallmouth fishing is just unbelievable! I caught a dozen by 11 AM including this 18"er:

Day 5: My plan was to go submarine chasing after some big macs I had spotted over a gravel bottom in 110 ft. On the way across the lake, I had to stop to answer nature's call. I turned on the fishfinder and saw a huge school of kokes from 30 to 60 feet down. I dropped a koke rig over the side, jigged it a couple of times and got a fish! *Repeated the same thing and got another! *So I stacked a koke rig on top of mac rig and trolled over to where I had seen the macs. *Nailed yet another koke! *This was just too easy, so I stopped fishing for kokes and concentrated on the macs. *I tried the e-chip flashers and 5" Coyotes that worked well earlier in the week without success. *I ended up using a green/glow Coyote without a flasher trolled 10 feet off the bottom Pyramid Lake style and bang, the rod goes off with a good fish. *10 minute later I had a huge mac on the surface. I was going to release him in the water, but since I had to grab him by the tail in order to "depth bomb" him to deeper water, I figured it wouldn't hurt to put him up against the tape for 5 sec. *He turned out to be 35", which is 1" longer than my personal best mac. *I'd estimate him to be 25-28 lb.

35" mac:

After releasing the mac, I went over to a rock bar that extended out for a boat launch ramp at a place called Antelope Flat. *There I nailed over 30 smallmouths throwing Jay Fair flies against the rocks. Most were small, but I learned that the larger ones will come out further away from the rocks to take a fly. *So I could target the ones over 12" by stripping quickly away from the bar. *While I was fishing for smb's, I saw 2 browns that were over 10 lb shoot out from under the bar as my boat drifted over the rocks. *Not many people seem to target browns anymore at Flaming Gorge, but there are still some big ones. *Next time I'm going to make sure to bring some big plugs!

That evening I fished below the dam in the Green River. *I got 3 browns and 2 rainbows using bead head nymphs 18" below sponge bodied hopper flies. *That made 5 species in a single day!

The amazing thing about Flaming Gorge and the Green River below the dam is that the place is not crowded. *The camp ground we were at was only maybe 20% full. *The were more people on the weekend, but most were cruisers and water skiers. *And most of the people fishing from boats didn't seem to have a clue as to what they were doing. *There we a few regulars who really slammed the macs and kokes, but most people were just trolling aimlessly using whatever lure they had.

Hebgen Lake MT: This is a lake about the size of Eagle Lake with a wild trout fishery for both rainbows and browns. *We stayed in the Madison Valley with our fly fishing fanatic friends but kept the boat a slip at Hebgen.

Day 1: Scouted the lake but ran aground and bent the prop so bad the boat wouldn't plane. We limped back to the dock after several hours of pushing thought he water off plane and put 19.6 gal of fuel into my 20 gallon tank. *That was close one. *After major surgery on the prop, we were able to straighten it enough to let the boat plane so we could continue fishing.

Day 2: Hebgen is famous for "gulper" fishing. These are trout that swim just below the surface and gulp 6 - 10 bugs in a row before dropping deeper. *This type of fishing was just starting while we where there. *In order to appease our friends, who continuously extol the moral and aesthetic superiority of fly fishing over any other method, we trolled flies with fast sinking line along the drop offs. *We only managed 1 brown and 3 rainbows while we watched belly boaters do a lot better that we did. But the fish are Eagle Lake size and fight as well or better.

Hebgen rainbow:

We found what we thought were springs that had fish stacked over them. *The fish turned out to be large chubs and the bubbles we saw were the result of their feeding activity.

Day 2: No longer willing to pander to the elitist attitude of our friends, we trolled chub colored needlefish and Rapalas using downriggers and nailed 11 trout and 5 big chubs. *The chubs were attracted to our blackbox wired downriggers and were so thick in places that the rods would bob as the lines dragged through the schools. If I had brought large chub patterned plugs, I would have loved to have tried for large browns. *The lake is so oriented toward fly fishing that I doubt that may people even think about pulling plugs for big browns. But with a decent population of 17-20" browns and a good chub population, I would imagine that there must be some monsters in that lake.

All and all we had a great trip. I'm going to try to make Flaming Gorge an annual event if I can find the time. *It's a day and a half from Reno, but well worth it.

07-19-2004, 12:38 AM
drstresor - Welcome back! Great photos and report. I will definately add these places to my list of wanna goes. Hope the Mrs. has recovered from her fall.

07-19-2004, 03:45 AM
Doc, so you found me another "have to go fishing trip" keep up the good work ;D. Great pictures!! We missed you on the boards so catch up on all your reading ;) Check out the Kokonee board and read "HELLSTOCK" AND "Hell Hole Gathering" I know its only a California lake but we'd love to have you and the Mrs join in. Welcome back ;D ;D

07-19-2004, 05:27 AM
Welcome back and it's good you got in some real good fishing. Me and the Mrs. have been talking about the gorge and are still trying to get a week planned up there. Great pics, and I'll bet you were the only guy on that lake with those Coyote spoons ;)

07-19-2004, 06:47 AM
An incredible trip!

Excellent report and pictures, thank you for sharing!

07-19-2004, 08:56 AM
Thanks for the pics and story...made my monday...wow what great fish !!!

07-19-2004, 04:38 PM
What a great fishing trip. Thats the kind of trip that dreams and memorys are made of. After I read about your trip my day at work was pretty nonproductive since all I did was day dream about heading to Flaming Gorge myself some time.
Thanks for sharing
Waterdog ;D

07-19-2004, 05:17 PM
Here are a few shots of Flaming Gorge scenery:

Red Canyon

Hideout Canyon

More Hideout Canyon

A wall that holds macs


Antelope in the Lucerne Valley campground

07-19-2004, 06:01 PM
Nice pictures Doc ;D this is killing me, my wife has a week off at the end of August and we were planing to do a few lakes (Eagle, Almanor, and one other) Now you postt all these pictures of giant fish, beautiful senery and rave about your trip. Whats a guy to do? I need more info about the drive, campgrounds, etc. Would you email me and give me all the scoop? We might be changing our plans ??? and its your falt ;D

07-19-2004, 08:22 PM
Doc, what a great report and some really great pics! You do what most of us talk about doing.


07-19-2004, 08:24 PM
Wow, what a great trip Doc. Fantastic pictures too. I had driven past there a few years back. I wish I had wet a line then . ;)


07-20-2004, 06:39 AM
Nice Doc! ;) Great pics and story. ;D

07-20-2004, 07:27 AM
Hey Lee...you've pretty much been to the summit on that trip. I'm not sure taking you in to Davis this fall is going to do more than make you yawn! Terrific report! My daughter just called from Bozeman this morning & wants me to come up on or about the 16th of August to bring her stuff home to Reno...I've fished Henry's Fork and Henry's Lake (and a few of the rivers around Livingston & Bozeman), but have always had a hankerin' to give Hebgen a try. Your report solidifies my plan...since the crum cruncher is leaving MSU in favor of UNR, I won't be making my thrice a year trip up there after this next one...so Hebgen is a must. Beautiful gulper! RFT

07-20-2004, 06:24 PM
I have heard that wyoming has started to put browns back in the gorge to help control the smallmouth problem. Who knows what will become of it, it will be interesting. Definately a place I want to fish myself.

07-20-2004, 07:13 PM
It's more like smallmouths controlling the brown problem.;D Browns can't compete with smallmouths in a warm water environment such as the shore lines of FG. But I did learn after I got back that browns in the 6-8 lb class are making a bit of a comeback, particularly in the Wyoming part of the Gorge.

07-20-2004, 07:30 PM
I am GREEN with envy. What a great trip! The Coyotes are not just for Pyramid anymore, eh?


07-20-2004, 07:55 PM
I have caught browns as small as 18" and as large as 26" that spit up 4" smallmouth. the macks will do the same.

07-20-2004, 08:05 PM
hey doc.thanks for the great,in depth report.and picures.i almost felt like i was there.congrats.also on your 1001st post. mark

02-16-2006, 08:30 AM
Thanks for the great report Doc. Great pics and very informative as usual.

02-16-2006, 08:35 AM
Huh? That report of from July of 2004.

02-16-2006, 08:37 AM
I posted this link on the Freshwater board since we are having a long range snifferfest there this year. I guess when Troutfan posted a reply, it brought the thread back up on this board.

This probably should be locked.

02-16-2006, 08:38 AM
TS, just a little chum in the water to inspire folks for this summers trip listed on the Freshwater board. ;D

02-16-2006, 08:40 AM
Huh? *That report of from July of 2004.
Thanks for pointing that out TS. *I saw it near the top and just started reading without looking at the date. *I missed it the first time so I'm glad someone brought it back up. If you want it locked Doc, it's done.