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5/24/15

From the Desert to the Clouds

The last month sure has been a fun ride!  To begin, my family and I started itching for a camp out and made a last-minute decision to go and play in one of our favorite places, Goblin Valley State Park.

May 2nd-3rd:

As the Goblins get more popular, the reservations at the park's campground tend to stack up early in the year.  Since we didn't reserve a site in January, we were out of luck as we figured we would be.  Figuring we'd end up finding a spot on our own, it wasn't a disappointment and we really scored on the one we eventually found.

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After camp was set, we spent the rest of the day hiking around the San Rafael Reef, making our way to and from the Wildhorse Window.

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The Window is a new favorite detour of ours when in the area.  The hike is easy enough, but still requires some work for the rewarding scenery at the end.  What a cool place!

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(Notice the petroglyphs to the right.)

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Similar to our last visit, we got back to our car just in time, as the daylight faded off.  Luckily, we were already setup at our campsite and quickly got the fire going.  It was a wonderful night in the desert under a full moon and a thin veil of clouds.

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Upon the morning, we wasted little time packing everything up and zipping over to the park, where we scampered throughout the Goblins for several hours.

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There's really no place like it.

May 9th:

The following week, Holdsworth and I went to check on a lake that has given us trouble, our last few trips there.  Again, we were unable to pull in any real hogs (a few escaped), but I broke 20" on a skinny tiger and got to ogle some pretty cutts.

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It was a long day with several storms passing and many nice fish missed.  Still fun to get out though and Aaron got to break in his new tube.

May 16th:

Last week, we wanted to get our "local" brookie mojo flowing in preparation for our upcoming trip to harass some in unfamiliar territory, out of state.  Knowing we were a little early for the most productive fishing of the year at this lake, we still did our best to crack the code.  

Upon arrival, we ran into a fellow forum member and someone I had fished/visited with in the past.  Nice to see Jim again and meet his son.  With brookies on the brain, I zoned in on my favorite spot, where fish were present.

After a few heartbreaking misses, a good brookie was on.

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A short while later, a male with a slightly twisted jaw came in.

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Though bigger fish were cruising through the area, all that were hooked were quickly lost.  They seem to have learned to use the mess of logs quite effectively and skillfully snap lines or dislodge hooks with them.

The biggest cutthroat I could catch was a mere shadow of the ones I had hooked.

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Still a pretty fish though.

While I remained obsessed with the same tiny spot on the lake for over 5 hours, I neglected my tube until the final two hours of our stay, catching nothing in that time.  Aaron had been floating since our arrival, only landing two small cutthroat all day.

While deflating his tube, I asked to use his rod, which was still rigged and ready.  After several casts, another two mid-sized brookies were caught and that only fueled Aaron's desire to catch a thumper.

The time we planned to leave had passed, but it was clear that we would need to wait a few more minutes.  Feeling supremely beaten by the day's events, he was about to call it and that thumper hit.  Watching close by, I was ecstatic to see a deep arc in his rod while the beast was pulled in.

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Yes!

A fairy tale ending to a rough day, complete with about 8 separate snow storms and few fish, the 19 inch, 3lb 2oz male was the fish of the day and very easy on the eyes.

I love it when that happens.

May 22nd-23rd (The Big One):

After several months of obsession, Holdsworth, Keoni, and I took a much needed day off from work and embarked on a journey to the renowned Wind River range in Wyoming.  Having stumbled upon some photos of big brookies on the web, further investigation provided a valuable nugget of information and this trip was the result of that find.

Our departure time was 3:41am from my driveway.  I called my wife from Pinedale, WY at 7:35am.  Thanks to Keoni for driving and making such great time!  We were setting up a tent within a half hour and getting our gear ready for the unknown hike that lay ahead.

Unknown was right, as we took a warm-up hike on accident, thinking the trail head was in another place (a poorly worded sign steered us wrong).  Then, we found the actual TH, but I realized quickly that my camera was back at camp.  That warm-up was worth a mile.

A quick jog later, I informed the guys that I had seen what looked like a shortcut right by our campsite, where I hoped to find a spur to the trail.  Regardless, it was all new to us and we stayed on the "official" trail for a bit until getting nervous about how far in the wrong direction we were headed.  

After a few minutes, we turned back and went for the shortcut, which led us right to the trail I'd been studying on the maps for a few months.  Whew!

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The hike was roughly three miles with over 1000ft of ascent.  Had we packed lightly, it would have been much easier, but a trio of mid-30's guys with bulky loads ended up having to take a few breathers on the way up.

Keoni got to test the water while Aaron and I caught up and pumped up our tubes.  As we approached, he was hollering about a big brookie he had just caught.

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We measured and weighed it, out of curiosity and to gauge our guesses.  We all overestimated the weight at only 3lbs, 4oz, but it was 20.5 inches long.

Nice fish!  Keoni caught a couple more while Aaron and I got ready.

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(Keoni's camera)

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(Keoni's camera)

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(Keoni's camera)

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(Keoni's camera)

Walking up to such a scene gave us great hope and we shoved off confidently.  The confidence was short-lived though, as a cold wind blew freezing rain in at a steep angle.  The float didn't last too long and I caught only one fish by chance, a foul-hooked redside shiner.  Wow.

Aaron caught a 20" cutthroat while far away from me, but that was the most of his float as well.  Keoni's fast start had also fizzled out, so we worked the shoreline for the next while.  Time passed with nothing happening for anyone and we were all a bit concerned about the weather getting worse.

Finally, the silence was broken when Aaron hooked a big brookie, giving us all hope that the day wasn't over:

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Check out that under bite:

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Soon enough, he had another.

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Keoni was a bit farther away, but I believe he may have picked up a couple more, down the shoreline.

After several grueling hours of nothing, I was elated to set my hook into a big male.

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What a smile!  I could at least sleep that night, knowing I had caught what I came for.

Meanwhile, Aaron wasn't done:

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Most of our stay was wet and dreary, but who notices that when the standard catch is a 20 inch brookie?

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(Keoni's camera)

Aaron couldn't resist finishing off our stay with a float, so out he went while Keoni and I tried our best from shore.  It wasn't meant to be though and we found ourselves eventually staring across the lake at Aaron, wondering when he would come back so we could retire to a warm fire and some food.

On his way back, he hooked into the last fish of the night for that lake.  Keeping his net in the water, he dragged it over for a couple of photos:

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Once he was ashore, we discussed how the day had gone, needing to make the call as to whether or not this lake would be our target for day 2.  After some deliberation, Aaron and I decided to leave our tubes in some bushes overnight, as motivation to make the hike again in the morning.  

Keoni was unimpressed with his floating experience, having had much better success from shore, so he brought his tube back to camp.  The hike down took almost as long as the hike up, but we still had plenty of light left to build a fire and get our snack on.  

With only one real fish under my belt on the day, I couldn't shake the urge to take a quick hike and fish the nearest lake we were camped by for a few minutes.  Just a quick visit, I was able to trick a pretty rainbow that put up a good fight.

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That made me feel a bit better and I yielded the area back to the big angry beaver that was aggressively protesting my presence.

We ate well and were glad to have set up the tent beforehand.  The rain never really let up and the pitter-patter of droplets sang us to sleep as we recalled our day.

Morning came and we then realized that my very old tent's zipper didn't close well at the bottom, leaving a good 8 inch separation for the rain to enter.  Apparently my big sleeping bag was on top of a pretty good puddle running right down the middle of the tent.

Meh.  I didn't notice.

Getting right to work, we kept the morning pleasantries short and got ready for another push up the mountain for more big brookies.  Hauling less gear this time, we kept a good pace and were soon up in the clouds.

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(Keoni's camera)

Some grouse were seen along the way.  They didn't even take to the air, slowly ducking behind cover instead.

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(Keoni's camera)

The lake was draped in clouds when we arrived and Keoni snapped a couple of cool shots:

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(Keoni's camera)

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(Keoni's camera)

In contrast to the previous day, nobody caught anything right away. That left us moving down the shoreline quite a bit, casting all the way.

After awhile, I finally hooked into the first fish of the day:

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(Keoni's camera - Special thanks to Aaron for letting me use his spare jacket.  My poncho died young.  Life saver.)

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(Keoni's camera)

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(Keoni's camera)

Another 20.5" brookie of 3lbs or more, we were quite lucky to be at a lake where the smallest fish caught are 18" or better.

We kept working new shoreline, opting to abandon the idea of floating with ice falling on us periodically.  Eventually, we found our way to a marshy area with a weed line extending out into the water for some distance. 

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We waded out to the edge of the submerged grass and fished a small drop-off that would prove to be a good area.  Pretty soon, Keoni got hit:

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Nice brookie:

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Another one for me followed shortly after:

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About two seconds into that fight, Aaron hooked one and we were both battling nice brookies to hand.  Keoni whacked another one right after that.

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It was on!  That was one of the bigger fish of the trip.  It wasn't measured, but pretty nice.  He got another one moments later too:

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The marsh was treating us well and we had a great backdrop:

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Another big brookie for me:

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They were loving the black marabou on day 2.

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The bite shut off after that and we had each fought a few fish in that short spurt.  We really needed that, if only for a few minutes.

Since we had already hiked so far around the lake, we contemplated doing something seemingly ridiculous, judging by the amount of downed timber in the area.  Earlier, I had somewhat jokingly mentioned a slow meander about 1000ft upstream from the lake, as the crow flies.

Of course, 1000 linear feet equals kajillions in bushwhacking math, but we were feeling a little scrappy after the 10 minutes of glory and the following minutes of nothing.

The first step was to navigate the marsh to the hillside, where we'd trade between thick willows in the marsh or dead-fall bushwhacking on the hill.  Eventually, the main inlet in full form was visible.

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Having found that, our next goal was to follow that up the 150ft wall of granite, to the meadow.  We were afforded a great overview of our lake too.  Our hike started on the far left side in this photo, walking around the far edge to the right, through that marsh at the bottom center, then up the inlet.

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It's not a terribly small lake and we had already done almost 8 miles the day before.  We pushed it hard and were happy to see a beautiful meadow cut by a cold deep channel.

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Alas, there were no fish to be found and we'd mashed a lot of land to get there.  As sad as that was, a question was answered and some incredible scenery was enjoyed.  Keoni chose to get back to our lake while Aaron and I had a little break for water and snacks before marching.

The area was gorgeous and everything was covered in moss, deadfall, new growth, and wildflowers.

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Once we'd reached the lake again, we stopped to fish every once in awhile.  After a solid strike, I had a hard time moving the fish.  It wasn't much bigger than the others, but it took forever to get in.  After a few minutes of stubborn pulling, my biggest fish of the trip came in.

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At 21", it was the longest fish I measured and it was pretty thick.

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Nice to meet ya.

Another nice brookie took the jig right after it hit the water and gave me a good fight for a moment before shaking free.  Bummer.  Throughout our trip, I'd only lost one other fish and that one broke me off near my feet.

Aaron also scored another big brookie on our way back to Keoni:

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Before long, we were all back together where we'd staged our tubes/packs.  Our fishing time was basically over and it was time to get back and take down our camp if a pair of wives were to be cordial upon our return.  They were great sports to let us do this.

Off we went, taking in the sheer majesty of everything around us along the trail.

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That one looked inviting.

We finished our hike having logged over 17 miles over the course of our stay, according to Keoni's pedometer.  Those weren't easy miles either.  Whoof!

Once otherwise packed, we chose to keep our waders on for one last casting session at the lake I fished the night before.  Parking along the road at a spot we were looking at on the way in, we scrambled down and got busy.

Nothing happened right away but I caught a small brookie a few minutes in.  Keoni mentioned missing a rainbow and Aaron got a small brookie as well.

Missing a bite myself, I switched out my jig to a Gulp! leech and instantly brought in a feisty rainbow:

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Another one came in on my next cast and two more before our short stop was over.  Catching a few fish in a short amount of time was a nice way to end our trip.  We came to fish a lucky find and catch big brookies in the Winds.  Mission accomplished!

With our objective complete, a long drive awaited us and it wasn't long before we were kissing it goodbye in the rear-view.

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Thank you, Wyoming.  I will be back.

(A lot.)

Happy Fishing, Humans.

Some Background...

WHY FISH?

Why not go jogging, hit the gym, start a garden or whatever it is that normal humans do? What's so fascinating about these slimy little creatures that live in the water?

Fishing is a bit more to me than a hobby or a sport. It's an essential part of life that helps me connect with the Earth in ways similar to the long-practiced traditions of mankind. Wherever man has had a water source, there has been fishing.

It's only natural.

Happy Fishing, Humans.

Feed my pets