Floating the Green River: What Could Have Been?

Hillary and one of her rainbows

by Nick Walrath

I sit in my office on a cold April afternoon in southwest Wyoming, watching my dog sleep by the door. He is soaking up the last of the sun and making sure he is the first to inspect any intruders. As a German shepherd, he would tell you that’s “his job.”  My mind wanders to a warm fall float on the Green River. Last year, my wife Hillary and I floated the river through the town of Green River, Wyoming, many times, often hooking some great fish. On this particular float, Hillary said she wanted to improve her rowing skills and row all day. I know every guy probably thinks they are lucky, but after my wife said that, I felt that I was the luckiest. With Hillary at the sticks and me fishing all day, it had the makings of a great day on the water.

It was a gorgeous early fall afternoon with no wind. Kokanee from Flaming Gorge were on their annual spawning run up the Green River and the big rainbows and browns were on full feed. With the kokanee excavating their redds, the water was loaded with protein rich kokanee eggs and other tidbits.  As the day went on, I boated a few small fish here and there, saw hundreds, if not thousands, of kokanee. Best of all, I got to fish and Hillary was having a great time at the oars. I was thinking… this could really work out, her rowing and me fishing.

In the last 400 yards of the float, the dream of my wonderful wife rowing me down the river changed. Hillary said, “O.K. I’m ready to catch a big fish." Being content, and thankful that I have a wife who likes to row, I quickly traded her spots and she began to fish.

I rowed the boat to the head of an island near a really nice run.  On her second cast of the day, 400 yards from the boat ramp that was the end of the float, the fishing gods were smiling on her as she hooked a big fat rainbow. As the fish fought, I rowed the boat near the shore and pulled out the net. Hillary’s excitement was building as she was realizing this was the biggest fish she has ever hooked with a fly rod.  After a few minutes of tug of war we managed to get the bruiser in the net. It was great to see my wife, whose first time fly fishing was on one of our first dates, so excited about catching a big fish.

With the last fish still burned in our minds, we floated around the bend to the boat ramp. Within minutes after the last fish, she had another big fat rainbow pulling line off her reel. It was deja vu as the big fish fought and she realized this fish could be bigger than the fish she had just caught. We landed the fish and smiled at each other, what a day!

That afternoon I watched a magnificent dream take shape: my wife rowing me down the river while I fished. Then it faded away in less than a quarter mile of river and half a dozen casts.  Although my wife will still row after that day, it’s a little harder to get her out of the front of the boat. We can all remember that one (or two in this case) fish that started our obsession.  The "one more cast syndrome."

I just wish it would have been a few years later for my wife. . . .What could have been?

Nick Walrath is the Green River Project Manager for Trout Unlimited’s Wyoming Water Project. He lives with his wife and German shepherd in Green River, Wyoming. 


It's a fabulous piece of water, isn't it? God bless you and Hillary for taking care of it - and for enjoying it.