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Aug/Sept 2000

Table of Contents
Green River, UT
Flying to Seldom Used Airports
Planning Makes a Difference
Dream Plane
The Spartan Executive
The $100 Hamburger
The Flight Deck Restaurant, North Las Vegas, NV
Back To Basics
Flying in the High Country
Hangar Flying:
High Field Departures
SWAV News Update

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SW Aviator Magazine
3909 Central NE
Albuquerque, NM 87108
Phone: 505.256.7031
Fax: 505.256.3172
FLY-Fishing, Green River, UT
story and photos by Mark Swint

Sometimes, when I’m just out flying for the sheer joy of being aloft, skimming over mountain ridges or closely inspecting a stretch of desert seldom seen by the average person, I think to myself, "It just couldn’t get any better than this"! The mere act of "slipping the surly bonds of earth" to "dance aloft on laughter silvered wings" is often its own reward, and it is my firm belief that those so blessed with that ability, and privilege, are the better for it. Occasionally, though, there are times when the flying is only the beginning of an extraordinary experience. On those occasions the saying "getting there is only half the fun" applies.

About 150 miles to the east of Salt Lake City, on the eastern edge of the Uinta Mountains, lies the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, created in 1964 when the Department of the Interior finished the Flaming Gorge Dam. The 91 mile long lake encompasses over 350 miles of shoreline and was created from the waters of the Green River, which flows from Wyoming to Utah to Colorado before joining up with the mighty Colorado River just south of Moab, Utah. The area is now under the auspices of the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. Small airports at Manila, Utah and Dutch John service the lake. The Dam and the river are most easily accessed by the Dutch John Airport (33U) elevation 6561 feet.

Dutch John (a small settlement populated mostly by Dam personnel and river guides) can be accessed from any direction, but our flight from Salt Lake City has to be one of the most spectacularly beautiful flights anywhere. After leaving Bountiful Skypark Airport (KBTF) just north of Salt Lake, we climbed over the 8,500' ridge of the Wasatch Mountains just to the east. From there, we chose to traverse the north slope of the Uintas (the only mountain range in the U.S. which runs east and west) to Flaming Gorge for our trip to Dutch John. We climbed to 10,000 feet and cruised just above the terrain at that level. You can easily fly lower by flying just slightly more to the north, but we chose that elevation because the north slope is heavily forested there and peppered with small lakes and beaver ponds throughout. A pair of sharp eyes will spot many elk and moose, and as you approach Dutch John you just might see a herd of mountain goats as well. The area also sports a good population of pronghorn antelope, mule deer, and river otter. The cliffs overhead support aeries for ospreys and bald eagles. The fall is probably the most spectacular time of year to make the journey, as the Aspen trees begin to turn their brilliant hues of yellow, gold, orange, and red. If you catch it just right, the sight is indescribably beautiful and unforgettable.

As the Green River continues its march towards the Colorado from the base of the 502-foot high dam, it winds its way through some of the most rugged and scenic canyons in the country. The water is highly controlled by the Bureau of Reclamation, and they take great strides to keep it at a nearly constant temperature and steady flow rate. A few years ago, environmentalists won a ruling mandating that the river flow had to approximate the "water year conditions," so that in a drought (which Utah is experiencing right now) the flow would be diminished. This is thought to protect a small fish called the chub, which is believed to need that fluctuation to prosper. I don’t know why, but smarter people than I say it is so. In any event, right now (mid summer) the river is flowing at a drought-adjusted rate of 1,240 cfm (cubic feet per minute), which is lower than optimal for fishing. Its normal flow is about 3,000 to 3500 cfm. Regardless, the dam gives the river an always clear supply of nearly constant 45 degree water. The water managers can control the temperature by taking water from different levels of the dam and, in fact, do vary the temperature slightly according to a schedule. This constant temperature and steady flow helps promote an abundance of marine growth and aquatic insects and the river, because of this, has become an outstanding habitat for fish. Green River is now world famous for its fishing, and is considered one of the ten best trout fisheries in the world.

My friend, Chris Tuckfield, and I decided we needed a professional guide for this trip. Although we both love to fly fish, we knew that our knowledge of the habits and feeding patterns of these Green River trout was inadequate. With the recommendation of professional guide Hank Boehm, himself a highly respected guide who was busy farther up the river in Wyoming during our trip, we checked with the folks at Green River Outfitters, located right there in Dutch John. We were set up with a guide and all arrangements were made for us from that point on. Our guide for this trip was John "J.D." Magee, a young river guide with experience far exceeding his tender 22 year old age. J.D. has grown up on the Green, and told me he couldn’t remember not fishing the river. His father was a guide before him, and though he has only been a professional guide for 4 years (18 is the youngest age permitted to be a guide), his knowledge of each and every hole in the river has been developed over a lifetime of experience. He currently works under the supervision of Emmett Heath, a legend on Flaming Gorge and the Green River.

We announced our arrival over Dutch John by making a slow lazy pass over the settlement. We then turned around and entered a downwind for landing to the west on Runway 29. By the time we had landed and taxied the 6,800 length of the runway to the tie down area, a courtesy van from Green River Outfitters was waiting to pick us up. A short 4 minute ride to the newly erected headquarters and general store (and grill) and we were introduced to J.D., who had his boat loaded and ready to go. When I say loaded and ready, I mean everything! He had drinks of every kind and a full lunch, including chips and salsa, potato salad, macaroni salad, and pork chops, which he expertly cooked right on the river bank later that day. Before our arrival, J.D. had tied up a batch of flies that were the particular favorite of what have to be the pickiest fish in the world. He had line for leaders, and everything else we would need for the day. Chris and I brought our own fly rods, but if you don’t have one the folks at Green River Outfitters, or any of the other places there, can set you up with that as well.

Numerous outfitters provide guided float trips down various sections of Green River in shallow draft drift boats. The river is divided into three sections, A, B, and C. The A section includes the first seven mile stretch, from the base of the dam to Little Hole, where there is a boat ramp and facilities. The river is host to rainbow, cutthroat, and german brown trout and the river guides can usually tell you which type you have hooked even before your first glimpse of your trophy.

Because of the abundance of food in the river, the fish are very picky eaters, and the flies have to be not only the right pattern, but also the right size. Once again, J.D. proved invaluable, as his intimate knowledge of the various hatches and patterns helped him set us up with the perfect rigs for each period of the day. The morning started with some wet fly fishing, also known as nymphing. This is a particularly difficult, but effective, way to catch trout, as the strikes are VERY subtle. I was not as adept as Chris was, but J.D. very patiently helped me recognize a strike on the wet fly. By the end of the day, I can say that the biggest fish I caught was on a nymph! It was by no means the only fish I caught. The river is full of fish, and with the right pattern on the end of a line, they are more than willing to strike. Because of the expert guidance we received, Chris and I had the time of our lives, angling a good number of worthy and noble fish.
And the fish are HUGE!!! The current river and Utah State record was set just four years ago on December 13, 1996, when Don Brown of nearby Vernal, Utah pulled out a 29lb.12oz. german brown! Knowing the fight I had with several very fine but significantly smaller specimens, I can’t imagine what it took him to land that monster. I can say that the fight put up by a two or three pound fish on a light fly rod is one of the most exhilarating experiences an angler can have. I should add here that all the fish caught on guided trips are catch and release only, and the guides are trained in the gentlest ways to handle the fish. I think it is only fitting that the fish, which fight so valiantly, are afforded the opportunity to return to the river and perhaps fight once again. With a fish density of up to 16,000 fish per mile in the ‘A’ section, chances are they get a good rest before again providing some of the greatest thrills any fly fisherman will ever have.

You should plan to spend an entire day for your Green River FLY-fishing adventure. The trip down the seven miles to Little Hole started, for us, at about 9:00 am and ended that evening when we finally pulled out of the water at 6:00 pm. Of course, that time included our stop for lunch, and numerous stops along the way as J.D. pulled the boat over and dropped anchor while we fought the big one. Occasionally we would latch on to a good sized fish as we entered the faster water (a few places on the river have white water of varying intensity, predicated on the output from the dam), in those cases we just did the best we could to lead the fish along with the boat. It was all quite exciting, and I can’t say enough about the invaluable assistance from J.D.

While the river supports a good number of sport fishermen with professional guides, there are also boats and rafts available for rent for those who want to go down river by themselves. Additionally, there are generally, during the summer months, large numbers of youth groups floating the river just for fun. They will scream, holler and splash their way down, and the tendency is to get a bit frustrated with them. The good news is the fish don’t seem to be very bothered by this, and many times we had fish on while rafting groups watched us in wonder and awe. Good etiquette and manners should always prevail and, in fact, the guides are required to take courses in river etiquette as part of their certification. There is plenty of river for everybody. If you come to Green River with your family or with non-fishing companions, talk them into renting a raft for a float down the river as you fish from another boat. It is impractical to fish and play in the same boat. Your outfitter or a shuttle service will drop you off at the dam and pick you up at Little Hole when you’re done.

Accommodations at Dutch John can be arranged through Flaming Gorge Lodge, which has the largest float fishing operation on the river, or the Red Canyon Lodge. There are a few restaurants in the area, and many other activities to supplement the fishing excursion. Three marinas support lake activities with numerous beaches for recreation. The lake has mackinaw trout, kokanee salmon, and small mouth bass fishing year round. Various sizes and types of boats are available for day or weekly rental. The Bureau of Reclamation offers tours of the dam and there are several nearby wildlife refuges you may want to visit as well.

If you would like to look into fishing the Green River, give Green River Outfitters a call at (435) 885-3338, or contact them on the web at They’ll be glad to send you some brochures. Be warned though, once you see pictures of the fish their clients pull out you may not be able to wait until you too can FLY-fish the Green River.

Dutch John Airport (33U)

The Dutch John airport lies on the top of a flat mesa that borders the river on the north. The runway is oriented east and west, and is aligned 11-29. It can be found on the Salt Lake Sectional and in your GPS data base as 33U. Its coordinates are N40.55.06 W109.23.44. From the Vernal VOR (VEL 108.2) it lies on the 353&Mac176; radial at 32.7 DME.

The wind usually picks up in the afternoon, so an early morning or evening arrival or departure is recommended. The 6500' elevation means you must check the density altitude and the performance of your plane. The approach and departure areas are wide open, and pilots of almost any ability will have no trouble landing at Dutch John. There is no fuel available there, the nearest big airport is Vernal, Utah (KVEL) to the south and Rock Springs, Wyoming (KOCS) to the north.

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The material in this publication is for advisory information only and should not be relied upon for navigation, maintenance or flight techniques. SW Regional Publishing, Inc. and the staff neither assume any responsibilty for the accuracy of this publication's content nor any liability arising out of it. Fly safe.