Emmett caught his first trout on the Green River below Flaming Gorge Reservoir before the dam was even completed.
Barely a teenager, Heath was sitting on a rock watching a wet fly twirl in the current when a rainbow trout startled him out of a mesmerized trance. Nearly 50 years later, the waters and the trout of the Green still have Heath in a spell. “There is nowhere on earth I would rather be,” Heath said last week while floating past the same stretch of water where he landed that first trout back in the early 1960s.
Heath became one of the first registered fly fishing guides on the Green in 1986 working for Western Rivers Flyfisher out of Salt Lake City.
Most people think he earned his title as “Dean of the Green” through years of hard work of untangling knots, putting up with grumpy clients and figuring out how to get fish in the boat when others failed. The truth is that the label came as a sideways compliment from Steve Schmidt, his partner at Western Rivers. “I always hated it,” Heath said in all seriousness. “I never liked the name, but it was OK. I liked the attention, but I hated the idea of it.” That is not to say Heath doesn’t deserve the title. Being labeled and quickly recognized as the “Dean of the Green” made the Salt Lake native work even harder to do a job he already knew well.
Heath quickly became the most famous guide on the river and one of the best in the country. In the early 1990s Fly Rod and Reel named him guide of the year. He appeared in numerous video clips, magazine and newspaper articles and became a popular guest speaker at fly fishing events.
The ride almost came to a premature end in 1997 when Heath’s heart gave out. The life-giving organ was operating only at 15 percent and he needed a heart transplant. After a lifetime of living and working in the outdoors, Heath ended up stuck in a hospital just hoping to see the mountains and rivers once again. After three years, he got just that.
He didn’t like the idea of leaving Western Rivers, but a job offer came from Trout Creek Outfitters that made it easier for him to keep living in Dutch John. But after a 10-year stint with Trout Creek, Heath is back with Schmidt and Western Rivers.
“It feels good to be back — like I’ve come full circle or something like that,” said Heath, who is now serving as the Green River Guide Manager for Western Rivers.
As far as Schmidt is concerned, Heath’s role in Dutch John and on the Green River hasn’t changed during his three decades of guiding. “He is there to make sure every angler headed down the river is taken care of,” Schmidt said. “He will be doing that officially for Western Rivers, but Emmett has always made sure everyone, whether they are being guided by a competing outfitter or a guy walking the bank on his own, is having a good time.”
Steve Schmidt and Emmett Heath started Western Rivers Flyfishers in 1986, and have been a huge part of the Green River ever since. These two men are responsible for Western Rivers Flyfishers Guides’ ethic and old school approach on how a guide should conduct themselves and what makes a great experience for our Flyfishers.