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Strawberry is a world famous fishery because of its large cutthroats (Bear Lake subspecies), thick rainbows, and kokanee salmon. This large reservoir sustains more fishing pressure than any other trout lake in the state, yet still keeps strong populations of large sport fish.
Holdsworth and I were fishing the Berry as often as possible, be it together or alone on a compulsive trip. As any new water body, we didn't exactly know what we were doing. Sometimes we got lucky, but most of the time, the fishing was slow. Granted, every fish was a worthy catch, but the slot limit forced us to go home empty handed quite often.
One time, we endured a serious downpour for over an hour just so we could test out the post-storm bite. Besides catching fish afterward, our reward was obvious (please pardon the old pics...they're scanned):
The amazing mammatus clouds provided us with a truly incredible skyscape to behold.
Like a painting.
I even lucked into a rainbow for my patience.
Here's Holdsworth waiting for a take:
Despite having some slow days, we had some pretty good ones too. Eventually, someone threw us a bone.
While on a solo trip near the main marina, Holdsworth got a tip from a local: Use minnows. After a couple of demonstrations in just a few minutes, he was convinced.
When he returned home that night (we were room mates at the time), he was very excited to show me the lofty treasure he'd caught and to share the new method. From then on, we fished primarily with minnows.
We really liked fishing the Soldier Creek side along the cliffs, by the dam. The steep drop-off into deep water was great for our new rig. A minnow gently drifting down the water column in deep water can be seen from all around for quite a distance. This makes it much more likely to be seen by nearby fish than tossing out into the shallows. The cliffs, themselves, actually hold some hogs under ledges and outcroppings.
That area was also good for sight fishing. Walking the shoreline, we'd keep a lookout for cruising slot-busters that looked hungry. In the early morning when the air and water are still, it's easy to spot fish from shore. Once the prey was found, a well placed minnow (about 10 feet in front of the target) would almost always get a take.
The best part about the minnows is that they dramatically increased our odds of catching larger fish. Now our trips ended with a fish in the oven more times than not and that was warmly welcomed by a couple of starving bachelors.
The rainbows aren't included in the slot limit and general statewide regulations apply to them. They, too grow well at the Berry and I've taken them up to 20 inches, although they're known to exceed 8lbs:
Strawberry is also a popular destination for pontoons and float tubes. My own experiences floating the Berry have provided some decent cutts, but I still have a lot to learn about this incredible fishery.
Here's a 23 inch slot-buster taken on the fly rod:
And another slot-buster that ate a rainbow Kastmaster:
Many a time after getting skunked at the lake, Holdsworth and I would walk down to the spill basin below the dam. It was often our last resort to chase off the skunk for the day. We'd throw spinners right into the wash at the mouth of the outlet tunnels and let the lure dance with the washing motion of the water for a moment before reeling them in slowly. The hole is deep and some nice fish live there. It's hard to catch them because they lie right on the bottom, below the swirling wash. Getting anything to the bottom in that area is a real chore.
Just downstream, the water calms to a slow, moderately deep run for a couple hundred feet. Rapalas work pretty well in this area as do spinners and jigs. The river gets shallower for a bit before developing into a network of medium sized beaver ponds. The beavers are alive and well in this canyon, so conditions change.
Brown trout will likely be the most prevalent catch, but cutthroat, rainbow, and brook trout can also be found.
The browns are really pretty in the river. They keep a deep gold year round and some beautiful speckling. The fish are wild and it's obvious by the way they fight. There are cutts and rainbows in the Strawberry as well as the browns and brookies. The browns are relentless when hooked and often take to the air several times on the way in. I've had several lures thrown back at me by the "attitude browns".
The fish can get pretty large, but are very hard to entice with most tactics. The regulations prohibit the use of bait, so it must be done with flies and lures. I've seen browns that were well over 20 inches in length.
I've heard rumor of large brookies as well, but haven't had any luck finding them over 15 inches. The best method for targeting the brookies is to use marabou jigs. Natural colors have worked best for me: Brown, Olive, Ginger, and Black.
The river is always a fun place to go when the lake isn't cooperating. It's also a great change of pace vs fishing the lake.
It's no secret that it gets cold at Strawberry. The ice is known to get about 2 feet thick or even more in the winter. People still fish it heavily though, as some big fish are brought through the hole.
There's an area called "the ladders" where water flows into the lake and it stays open longer than the main body. It's actually a pretty good place to fish since the cold keeps the crowds low until total ice-on. I usually catch a nice rainbow and a couple of slot sized cutts before the slow bite dies completely.
Don't ask me what it is about the Strawberry area, but I've come across some pretty interesting ice formations between the lake and the river. It's usually right before the lake freezes and the shoreline rocks provide the willing with an impressive display of Nature's artistry. Same goes for the river, along the bank.
While fishing the ladders in late '07, I noticed this natural handiwork for the first time and spent most of the day taking pictures. A couple of them turned out nicely:
In December of 2008 and I was witness to some very unusual ice down by the river. When viewed closely, the micro patterns crawling the surface of the ice are quite noticeable. The macro function of my little point and click camera actually did a pretty good job of picking it up.
Most of this ice was formed by the splashing of water against the mossy rocks, beneath the many spring pipes that empty into the spill bowl.
The texture was amazing to see, firsthand. It really made the trip worthwhile, aside from catching some gorgeous fish.
What a treat! Gotta love the Strawberry area.
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