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8/24/14

Red Fleet Camping & Southern Beauties

Two weeks ago, a stream I enjoy was calling me and it seemed only right to introduce my friend Holdsworth to it as well.  Given the stream's rocky terrain and difficult access, I knew he'd appreciate it, not to mention the quality fishing.

After hiking about a mile, we went off trail to follow the water at the bottom of the canyon, where some nice fish live.  Holdsworth had been on a major skunk run, having not caught a fish since our camp out, over a month before.

He ended up doing pretty well and caught quite a few good browns on the day, including a nice 20 incher.  I topped out around 18", but caught plenty as well.  It was a great day, however I have to kick myself for committing the cardinal sin of trip reporting: FORGOT THE CAMERA!!!

So sorry.  I never do that.  A stream of such beauty deserves further appreciation, but I'll be there again.
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Last week, my family and I had camping on the brain.  Courtesy of my work, we had 80lb's worth of scrap lumber trimmings and we needed a good reason to burn them!

The venue was to be Red Fleet State Park, where incredible geology meets water to create a unique landscape, similar to Lake Powell.

Day 1:

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After getting camp situated, Mom and the kids took the hike (heavy draw-down this year) to go and splash around in the water while I took to the tube and kicked over to my favorite feature of the lake.

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The water level is so low that many interesting areas of structure are visible...and accessible.

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Pitching a Gulp minnow against the near-vertical walls, then adding a light twitch before allowing the bait to drop picked up a 3lb, 8oz largemouth after about 45 minutes of fruitless fishing leading up to that.

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A new personal best for me.  That was a welcome sight after thoughts of getting skunked had crept into my mind.  It put up a great fight too!

Some bluegill, tiny walleye, and little smallmouth also paid me a visit before the sun dropped.

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The sunset on any camping trip is always appreciated, but witnessing it from the tube was fat city.

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Just lovely.

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The float was short but sweet and after kicking back to shore, the rest of the night was spent enjoying the smell of spent cedar, roasting sausages, s'mores, and hanging out in a cool place with my favorite humans.

Day 2:

We awoke and packed up our gear before setting off on a fun hike through the nearby sandstone formations.

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The landscape is amazing!

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Shade was a precious commodity when found.

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(photo by James)

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We really had a blast.  Everyone was happy to have made the trip, even the kids, who had voiced their concerns previously about the long drive.

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This week:


Holdsworth and I set off yesterday with a loose bearing of "south-ish" as we pulled out of the driveway.  With an open agenda, we let the day's venue come to a last-second decision at whichever off-ramp caught our fancy.

After the tires were done spinning, we found ourselves gearing up for little hike, then some serious fishing.  The recent spell of unusually wet weather and cool temperatures caused me to think that the fishing might be prime at one of my preferred waters.

My only concerns were for Aaron, who would have to fish from shore.  The shoreline is a beast at that lake and finding a hole in the submerged vegetation is really tricky from land, this time of year.

That didn't stop the man from pulling in a good sized female brookie on his first cast though.

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Not long after, he had a mid-sized cutthroat on the line as well.

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I hadn't even rigged up yet and he was getting into them, so I wandered off to check out a log jam that looked inviting, only catching a couple of pretty little cutts before getting back to my gear.

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Right before shoving off in my tube, Holdsworth struck gold.

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That's exactly what we had come for.  I wanted to show Aaron why I love that place so much.  I'd love it for the cutts alone, but the brookies are just stupid-great.

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Finally able to scratch a classic example of a colorful buck off his list, I was thrilled to see him holding such a fine specimen.

Now to find my own...

At first, fishing from the tube wasn't working out too well.  Aaron kept catching fish from shore while I kicked over to my go-to spot.  After a bit of silence, something cooperated and I briefly introduced myself to a ragged looking male with a messed up jaw.

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After that, it was slow fishing for small cutts on occasion.  The Gulp was working, but I tried some other gear to no avail as well.  I really wanted a bigger brookie and they were playing hard to get.

Needing to come ashore and check up with Holdsworth, I found a couple of good holes to work along the way and pulled in a few nice cutts and numerous smaller ones.  It was nice to get more activity before beaching.

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Aaron stayed busy while I was out.  A good cast got him out just inside the edge of a hole in the vegetation and he ended up breaking his personal brookie record three times before we left, the biggest being a 19" - 3lbs, 1oz female.  Nice!  

I just had to get a good one, so I went out again and spent another 45 minutes trying for my prize.

With the last of the direct sunlight on the water, I was able to situate myself at the edge of another hole.  The water was crystal clear, so I could clearly see the vertical wall of weeds below.  

The wall took a sharp curve to the right, just in front of me.  It was a blind corner. anything hiding on the other side didn't know about me yet, so I tossed out carefully and hopped my rig into the zone.

The line shot tight and I was fast into a colorful male.  After the initial tug, it swam out underneath me and I was able to get a good look at it while I brought it in.

Big male brookie.

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3lbs, 2oz - 18"

What a slug.

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That's more like it!  We both had a great day.  From starting without a plan to fat rewards, we were very pleased with the way it turned out.  Not having a plan was icing on the cake, as my next two weekends are set (stay tuned...).

We came, we fished, we won.

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Happy Fishing, Humans.

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(On a side note, I must thank two companies for their exceptional customer service:)

A strap broke on one of my new fins and when contacted, The Creek Company was more than cooperative in getting me a pair of new straps and a pair of buckles, one of which I also lost due to the broken strap.

My previous pair of the same model had lasted 7 years without an issue before I accidentally left them at the end of an awful road, so I'm witness to their durability.  The breakage was definitely not typical.

Thanks to them, I'm kicking pretty again on my preferred fins.

The other company I need to thank is Caddis Systems.  I had an issue with some wading boots that rendered them virtually useless and Barbara was extremely attentive and helpful.  She agreed that the boots I had were defective and went above and beyond my expectations to get me a proper pair.

She even collected some photos of the problems from me, which she forwarded to their factory for further analysis.  Not only did she make it right with me, she did what she could to make it right at the source of the issue.  I'm impressed!

So to the Creek Company and Caddis Systems, thank you for keeping it fair when things go wrong and keeping my boots wet.

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.

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