DUTCH JOHN — There are periods when feathers, thread and silver tinsel tied in a bundle to look like a bug will appeal to fish, and there are times when fish will ignore even the most tasty-looking creations.
Faced with this wishy-washy appetite, the best approach for a fisherman casting into the Green River is to stay focused, be patient and don't waver.
That advice came from Dennis Breer, owner of the Trout Creek Flies/Green River Outfitters in Dutch John as he recently talked about one of the most famous stretches of river in the country — the seven miles of meandering water from the Flaming Gorge Dam to Little Hole.
This section of river has one of the highest concentrations of fish in the country. The number 20,000 fish per mile is often bantered about.
There's no doubt there are a lot of fish in the river. Fishermen can see them holding in the current, some only inches from shore.
It is true, too, that some anglers, even the most experienced, find this section of river to be one of the most difficult waters to entice a bite.
"During peak times, the fish along the banks see, oh, maybe 100 anglers a day walk by. People see the fish and think they should be able to catch one or two," said Breer. "But these fish are good at what they do. They've seen it all."
The fish are, as he explained, through experience, good at what they do, which is recognizing the difference between real food and fake. The job of the fishermen is to make the lure or fly look as real as possible.
The problem, if there really is one, is that like fish, fishermen have their favorite days and too often they correspond with those of other fishermen.
In June, for example, when the cicada hatch comes on, fishermen have learned they can catch a lot of fish, big fish, easily.
"This has become an extremely popular time, but this year the cicada didn't show," said Breer. "The fishermen did. June was overbooked.
"We're victims of our own success. I could have booked 100 boats a day, every day during June. I turned so much business away. I would like to see people quit focusing on just those times when they think fishing is good. It's good all the time. Things are slow in September, for example, and fishing in the winter is wonderful."
He also explained that some of the best bargains are offered during the colder months, between Nov. 1 and March 31.
"People would be surprised at the quality of fishing offered in the winter. Somehow, people think it's too cold, and we're all frozen up. There are days when temperatures are in the 50s and it's sunny and the skies are blue.
"I've made it a habit in the winter to take a couple of hours off in the afternoon, drive down to Little Hole and fish right off the boat ramp. I'll catch a dozen fish in a couple of hours and drive home happy and relaxed.
"The No. 1 complaint I hear from fishermen is the Green River is too crowded. Well, it can be if you're locked into coming on those weekends when everyone else is here. There's no question there's good fishing in June and July, but there's also great fishing in November and December and January."
What anglers need to realize, he continued, is that there are times when fish are interested and times when they're not.
"You need to be ready when it happens. And instead of changing flies and moving away from what you know works, you've got to be patient."
Meaning, instead of changing flies after a dozen casts produce little more than a wet fly and casting practice, "stay with what you know works. You may have to match a fly to the right water in order to get fish in the right mood. But people need to realize there are times when a fly is so hot you can't keep fish off, and there are times when the fish are just not interested."
One technique he likes is attaching a dropper off a big dry fly. This involves tying about 30 to 36 inches of tippet on the hook of the dry fly and tying a small nymph on the end.
The dry fly stays on top, to attract those fish willing to come up for a bite, and offers a small nymph to those who choose to remain submerged.
"It doubles your chances," said Breer. "I've even caught fish that have both flies in their mouth. They've taken the nymph on the way up to take the dry fly. You may not want to fish the dropper all the time, only when you're not having much success with the dry fly. You add the dropper when you can see the fish aren't responding to your fly."
He also pointed out that the 36 inches of tippet is simply a starting point. If the fish are shallow, then the tippet needs to be shortened to whatever depth the fish are holding.
"What people need to do is start with something they know works and then stick with it. Maybe, if nothing happens in an hour or so, then it may be time to try something else."
The fact is there are few rivers in the world that can teach fishermen as much as throwing flies or artificial lures into the Green River.
There are days when even the oddest-looking fly will attract fish, and days when the most popular fly on the river won't attract so much as a glance.
The challenge comes in learning new things, said Breer, "New approaches. Too many fishermen get locked into doing one thing. They try to use things that work on other waters to fishing on the Green. They're not willing to try new things.
"It comes down to being willing to spend the time and the investment to learn. This river can teach you more in two days of fishing than most rivers will in a year."
Which, of course, is why the 7-mile section of the Green below the dam has attracted the attention of fishermen the world over.
And, why at times, finding enough room to swing a fly rod is the most difficult job an angler faces.