Tenkara Trip Reports Trout & Char

Fossils and Fish

Article by An Dinh

I’ve been planning this trip for years.   This was a birthday trip designed to entertain a gaggle of kids and for the kid in me.  Blending the interests of wives and children with an opportunity to fish is a delicate matter.  Luckily my kids love dinosaurs as much as I love to fish.

My first fascination with Dinosaur National Monument began in the 4th grade.  I chose to do a presentation on Duchesne county because along Utah’s far eastern border lay Dinosaur land.

There is an actual dinosaur quarry where kids and the kid at heart can touch actual fossils embedded in rock and walk among dinosaurs.  When I was a kid it was still a working quarry for paleontologists but now they no longer remove fossils from the rock in order to preserve the massive wall of fossils for future folks to wonder at.

Every layer of rock dives deeper and deeper into the past.  What earned this area national monument status is the juxtaposition of the Cretaceous and the contemporary, with ancient rock erupting to the surface for curious tourists.  It’s fitting that the Green river slices deep into the red rock cliffs that border the park, each passing year eroding further into our Earth’s past. 

An Dinh - Fossils and Fish - Vernal Utah Dinosaur

The city of Vernal, more a town by most people’s standards, has come a long way since I was 8 years old. 

The fracking boom brought a handful of nice hotels for families and some great restaurants. 

Plaza Mexicana with its brightly colored décor echoes of Oaxaca and Tijuana and serves up platos as big as your table.  Parents will enjoy the Flint Stone-sized margaritas.

An Dinh - Fossils and Fish - Plaza Mexicana

The Vernal Brewing Company is our favorite new addition.  Not just because it offers great microbrews that exceed the normal Utah beer alcohol limit of 3.2%, but that they serve greens and herbs they grow in their patio garden.  The Cuban sandwich and steak salad pair well with a Little Hole Lager and the Allosaurus Amber.  The kids will want to stay for desserts like the giant cookie served a la mode in a 9-inch iron skillet.  Afterward the family can stagger across the street to the new Utah Field House to explore exhibits and walk among life-size replicas of the prehistoric locals.

There are many hikes in the park.  But, my eye was on the trails that followed the contours of fishable water along the Green river.  One of these hikes in the national monument took us along a clear creek full of feisty rainbows. 

The kids were troopers on the 2 mile hike down to ancient petroglyphs and pictographs left by the Fremont Indians who once inhabited the area.

Of course, in between wrangling kids I’d slip into the stream and catch a few.

In 1869 when John Wesley Powell’s crew camped on this tributary of the Green River it was chock full of giant native cutthroats fed by the rich spring waters.  Now it is all rainbows and a few brown trout.  A working time machine would be nice.

An Dinh - Fossils and Fish - Trout

The park and fishing are good year round.  Crowds are significantly reduced in the Fall and Winter months making it a favorite area when other areas are too cold to fish.


An Dinh is a physician, filmmaker, and fly-fisherman.  Not necessarily in that order.

Peter Vordenberg is a professional photographer, writer, joyous father of two little girls, a life-long adventurer, a two-time Olympic athlete and two-time Olympic coach.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2016-17 issue of Tenkara Angler magazine.

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