The New Fork River – Private Refuge for Trophy Trout

June 18, 2009 by Will W Leave a reply »

New Fork Brown

New Fork Brown

A watershed’s ability to provide sanctuary for both the angler and the trout is an important and often overlooked attribute of prime trout water.  As more people learn about the outdoor opportunities in the high deserts of the western United States, the pursuit of solitude here can be a challenge.  Fortunately, the West has an abundance of trout-filled waters that largely flow through public lands, and on some occasions you experience that riffle or run all to yourself.  However, imagine a wild, freestone stream that has the fertile growth of a tailwater without the crowds!  The New Fork River of the Green River drainage in Western Wyoming has these characteristics and more.  The river flows over ninety percent of its length through vast private ranchlands, which protects the resident browns’, rainbows’ and cutthroats’ refuge from constant angling bombardment.

The River

Near the headwaters, the New Fork is rather small and is settled deep in the southern slopes of the Wind River Range, where snowmelt accumulates in the natural lake basins of the foothills.  The New Fork Lake outlet is the primary feeder of the original river branch, which descends upon the valley gathering flow from smaller streams and springs along its journey to the Green River.  The upper section of the river extends from the lake downstream to the confluence of Pine Creek in the town of Pinedale, Wyoming, and is characterized mostly by meandering undercut banks lined with willows and cottonwoods, occasionally broken by soft riffles.  This upper section is non-navigable with drift boats because of its size (20’-25’ width) and lack of access strengthening this section’s sanctity.  Beyond Pine Creek, the river almost doubles in size and float traffic increases during the summer months.  The river in this mid-section cuts through picturesque pastures lined with cottonwood bottoms along the river channel.  The channels slow and deepen with less gradient, thus accumulating deadfall jams that provide excellent habitat for the trout.  Stream flows are steadily refreshed from the many feeder creeks to the east.  With the confluence of the East Fork, the river’s character changes once more highlighted by shale and sandstone bluffs and the wide open range of the Great Basin.  This lower section runs to the junction of the Green River near Big Piney, Wyoming.

The Trout

The New Fork showcases the three major species of trout in the West; browns, rainbows, and cutthroats.  All three species reach trophy proportions and either reside or migrate through the river for spawning or in pursuit of food and coldwater habitat not easily found downriver.  The trout most encountered by anglers is the Salmo trutta, or the brown trout.  River behemoths can reach well over 20,” with a rare 10lb. specimen reported on occasion.  Browns are more prolific than the other species due to available food, favorable water temperature and fall spawning habitat.

Nonetheless, rainbows and cutthroats live in the river system in decent numbers and reflect the stream’s nourishment by reaching trophy sizes.  Often these trout favor spring outlets and sloughs; this creates exciting site-fishing scenarios when the conditions are right.  In the upper section of the river, stream habitat has been enhanced on some of the large ranch parcels creating awesome runs with adequate winter housing for the big trout. Winter habitat is an integral part of the equation in producing large specimens of trout in rivers of this nature.

The Seasons

Much of the New Fork River flows through a high desert landscape with a sliver of oasis surrounding the channel during the brief mountain summer.  Spring dawns on the New Fork around April, most years releasing shelf ice that formed over the river’s flow during winter’s near-Arctic grip.  This rebirth slowly edges upriver during April and May and offers some of the finest angling of the season for the resident lunkers and migrating chrome rainbows from Fontenelle Reservoir.  A streamer junkie is the perfect match for the New Fork until the snowmelt runoff from the Wind River Range overtakes the river; however, the upper section stays true to its tailwater form and remains clear throughout the spring, providing excellent angling when downstream sections are experiencing runoff conditions. The “Glory Season” arrives most years in late June as the aquatic bugs begin to show, revealing those brutes that just would not move for your best streamer weeks before.  In July the insects are a pure joy to watch and fish.  The most celebrated are the grey drakes (siphlonurus) and PMD mayflies. Large extended body patterns move surprisingly big trout days before and after the hatches.  This prime window lasts, with noticeable highs and lows, well into August if the water temps remain hospitable.  The upper reaches of the river can produce fantastic terrestrial action during the hot periods of summer, and streamer mania begins again in the lower reaches as autumn approaches.  October through November brings the monster browns up from the lower Green River and the reservoir as they seek out prime spawning gravel and perhaps a meal or two in the form of sculpins or chubs before the big chill hits.

The mind and emotions of a New Fork angler are satiated, yet completely captivated by anticipation of seasons to come, hoping to meet that trout of a lifetime.

Current properties available on private sections of the New Fork include the Bar Cross Ranch.  Check out other trophy fly fishing ranches for sale.

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