Flaming Gorge - Cherry Koke

About a month ago, I was graciously invited to join a member of one of our local forums here, "Dodger", who had spent most of the month of August at Flaming Gorge Reservoir. He was nice enough to offer me a spot on his boat, using his finely tuned equipment to hopefully pop my koke cherry.

That's right, up until now, I'd never had the pleasure of catching a kokanee salmon (land-locked sockeye). Dodger fishes for them quite frequently, so my hopes were high.

Flaming Gorge is a huge body of water; an impoundment of the Green River and many smaller tributaries. Its claims to fame are the very large specimens of its sport fish including lake trout, kokanee salmon, rainbow trout, and brown trout. Other species include smallmouth bass, channel catfish, burbot, cutthroat, and a small population of tiger trout.

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Saturday was determined to be the best time for us to meet and we did so at Lucerne Marina, near the Wyoming border. Our plan was to troll for kokes and macks (mackinaw - lake trout) on the Wyoming side for a bit and see where the day would lead us. On the boat were Dodger, his wife, his brother, and his wife.

We ran two downriggers with two lines each, plus lead core and pop gear out the back. Somehow we only had one tangle all day with 5 lines out. Dodger knows his craft.

Though it wasn't very fast action, we did have some luck for smaller kokes, pulling in several after a couple of hours of trolling.

My first kokanee:

A couple of others from this stretch in Wyoming (my first time fishing outside of Utah):

Faces blurred to protect the GUILTY (by request).

Face and sweatshirt blurred to protect the Ute fan on this Cougar boat.

Here's a very small lake trout, caught by Dodger's brother.

Ominous storm clouds eventually moved in and cued us to cruise back to the Utah side for shelter in Hideaway Canyon. What an awesome place!

For the next couple of hours, we caught some rain, but every once in awhile we got to reel in some kokanee and a couple of planter rainbows. Eventually, we found our way back to Sheep Creek, where the red rocks provide a fantastic backdrop for our trolling.

Mimicking the landscape, the last kokanee of the day appeared, dressed in red.

We also tried trolling deep for macks for a little while, but nothing came of that. I'll have to add that notch to my belt some other time.

It was a lot of fun to get out and try fishing a different way than I'm accustomed to, and with good people.

Leaving the park, several pronghorn antelope were gnawing away at the manicured lawn by the forest service office.

The drive home took three hours, but that's not beyond my day trip threshold. The drag through southwestern Wyoming can really put you to sleep, but luckily the skies were exciting enough to keep my eyes peeled.

The clouds intensified as I got closer to Ft. Bridger, showing serious potential for an exciting thunderstorm, which I was about to drive right into the heart of.

The sky went dark just after that last photo and my next half hour was spent in awe as lightning bolts struck all around the truck and everywhere else. The flashes of lightning would seemingly crawl through the clouds, occasionally dropping a bolt in front of me or somewhere very close by.

Very intense. I wished I had pulled over to get some shots since they were so frequent, I couldn't miss.

By the time I reached Evanston, it was beyond downpour status. Sheets of rain were falling and the lightning hadn't let up. It was a real storm. The kind I love seeing.

What a day! I finally got to cross kokanee off my list, meet some good folks, and drive through an incredible electrical storm. Good times.


Central Utah Stream Fishing

Sunday was supposed to be a family trip, but the forecast called for some possible foul weather and that never plays out well for our group. Personally, I don't mind the rain, so I went on ahead and got into some streams!

My first stop was about halfway up Fairview Canyon, at Cottonwood Creek. This stream holds some pretty good browns if they can be found. Getting to the creek is really rough though. There's a steep hillside to descend and thick brush to chug through. Not recommended for the novice hiker.

As can be seen, once the creek is reached, further navigation either requires getting wet or getting beaten by the brush even more. The holes are deep and snaggy with plenty of obstacles to keep the angler's offerings from finding an open mouth.

It's very scenic though and as previously mentioned, the browns are pretty stout...if they can be located. Today wasn't my day to find the fishy holes and I didn't want to spend too much time looking, as I had higher altitude on the brain.

Though I hadn't found success from my first whim, my next impromptu stop showed promise.

Oh how I love a gentle meander.

Just upstream from Gooseberry Reservoir, its respective creek was very weedy with deep grooves where the current had carved its channel.

The only fish I saw in the first few minutes were small suckers that surely fed something larger, I figured. After about 20 minutes of schlogging through the marshy banks and missing some bite-sized trout, my suspicions were finally confirmed.

Just around a bend from this beauty was a nice undercut bank that I was able to guide my spinner into. Another good sized cutt came out and hit it, but I failed to set the hook and that was it for my interest on this stretch.

The tailwater below the reservoir held my focus at that point, having never explored it, and I set off to park at the dam. Along the way, a much smaller feeder caught my fancy and I spent the next 15 minutes concentrating on some ambush fishing on Japanese Creek.

As small as the creek was (about 18 inches wide in most spots), it was necessary to get on my hands and knees to creep up to any significant bends to avoid spooking the tiny cutts hiding in the nooks and crannies.

Several of these bends provided nips and bumps, but I was only able to catch one small cutthroat from the downstream pool of the culvert, under the road.

With that, it was time to get to the real fishing on lower Gooseberry Creek. The wash below the dam was great fun and kept me occupied for a little while as I hooked into many finless planter rainbows, likely washed out from the reservoir. Here's the longest of those:

A little further downstream, the creek flattened out into some shallow riffles and the fish were in every possible dip in the stream bed. It was fast fishing for planter rainbows with the occasional wild one in the mix.

And let's not forget the wild cutties either.

Once the riffles subsided, I hit a stretch of nice bends and deeper holes between big rocks. Plenty more fish came to hand, mostly nubby rainbows, but it was still a lot of fun to have the fast catching. Cool area, too!

This one looked like he'd met a bird one day.

The creek just kept getting better and better as I made my way downstream.

The fish seemed to get prettier too. Cutthroat were showing up with much more frequency and every once in awhile I felt the need to pull out the camera to capture the colors on these gorgeous fish.

There were still some occasional rainbows and I could usually tell right away by their aggressive fighting, usually accompanied by some airborne maneuvers.

The flowers are still out in force on just about every available hillside.

The catching continued for quite awhile and I ended up much farther downstream than I had planned. More than a few times, I told myself that my next cast would be my last before turning around, but I just kept getting seduced by the next run.

"Next cast" turned into "next fish", then "next cutthroat". Finally, I forced myself to turn around and made pretty good time ignoring the fishy holes I'd just visited.

A few spots beckoned and I found myself trying to find a couple of really nice ones that I missed. They never showed themselves, but I still got into a few more. Here's a really pretty one that required some closer examination:

They look so good wearing my favorite "gold" jewelry.

Finally, I made it back to the truck and started driving to a favorite stream of mine, where I hoped to find some bigger cutthroat. Once again, however, I succumbed to a passing temptation and had to pull over for some stillwater fishing on Huntington Reservoir. My intention was to catch a big tiger trout and to do it quickly.

Well that almost happened, but I failed to properly set the hook twice on good bites and ended up burning a couple of hours there, awaiting the next. The only thing I caught there was a good rainstorm, foreshadowed in the photo below:

It was hard to do, but I managed to peel myself away from the earthen dam, accepting my skunk from the fickle waters of Huntington Reservoir.

Pulling up to my creek, I knew my time was limited. My moves needed to be calculated if I was to get what I wanted out of this water and no time was wasted getting to my honey hole.

Due to an error of judgement, I left my gear bag in the truck and only had one lure at my disposal, a Lucky Craft Pointer. Not a bad lure at all, but it prevented me from changing up my presentation when the big one hit and wouldn't come back for more.

This prompted me to hike to another spot to kill some time, hoping that the hog would forget what had just taken place and readily swipe at my tasty lure once more.

For the next half hour, I worked some familiar holes and pulled in several smaller cutts, only two of which warranted a photo:

Back at the honey hole, my bruiser was nowhere to be found. The only explanation for this would be that he had moved into an undercut bank, just upstream in the small feeder creek that also spills into the hole.

A very sneaky jaunt through the bush and I was about 10 feet above his bank, staring at it and trying to formulate a plan to drift my neutrally buoyant pointer under some twigs and swim it right next to him in hopes of a spectacular take and an equally impressive battle.

The only problem was his buddy, that I didn't notice until right before I made my move. This buzz killing fish was right under my nose and spooked violently downstream as my arm lurched forward to drop the pointer.

Naturally, the big guy caught the vibe and I watched in horror as he blasted out of his spot, cutting a large wake as he vanished into the honey hole.

One more try at the honey hole was in order for the sheer principle of the matter. Perhaps I still had a chance.

My casts were well placed, but the beast wasn't interested. It wasn't all bad though, as I'm pretty sure I got his buddy as a consolation prize. They're probably both mocking me as I type this. I'll get the boss next time.

Feeling somewhat defeated for the moment, I fished my way back to the truck to call it a day. As a result, I ended up catching a couple more cutthroat and a decent sized finless rainbow.

All things considered, it was a really great day and I couldn't possibly be dissatisfied, catching fish almost everywhere I went, not to mention the beauty of my surroundings.

Once again, I drove home grinning as I revisited the day's events in my mind.

Happy Fishing, Humans.


Saturday Streamin'

Wow, what a day I had on Saturday! For the last five years, I've known of and wanted to visit a creek that isn't even very far from where I live. For some reason or another, I just never got around to it. Well yesterday I finally made that happen.

Part of a grand water conservancy project, Sixth Water Creek is heavily supplemented at its upper reaches by a tunnel that channels water from Strawberry Reservoir, into a completely different drainage system. Sixth Water flows into the Diamond Fork River, which doesn't appear to be much more than a small stream until its confluence with several other tributaries.

While making my way to the West Portal, where the tunnel spills into the canyon, I couldn't resist pulling over a few times to fish Diamond Fork and also to do some sightseeing. The river is a tough one to fish in its lower reaches, but higher up, the gentle pools are easy to exploit.

The higher elevation stretches of the river are mostly full of cutthroat, but brown trout and rainbows can also be found. Most of the cutts are rather small, but it's always fun to fish for them.

It's a beautiful drive through marvelous terrain. Pity I didn't snap a few more photos of the canyon, which transforms dramatically from its headwaters, to its confluence with the Spanish Fork River. Cool place.

Finally reaching my parking spot to get to the West Portal, I walked down the closed road that leads to the initial pool where water collects before tumbling down the many ledges of the canyon. The flowers were in bloom and the wildlife was running about.

Arriving at the spill pool of the portal, I saw many small fish swimming around and started casting a Lucky Craft Pointer in hopes of hooking into a big brown that I hoped was hiding out of sight. It never came, but a few small rainbows bit the lure, which was almost as big as some of them.

After a short while, I thought it best to get going downstream to seek out the large browns I'd heard and seen photos of. Getting downstream, however, proved to be quite the task with the steep canyon walls, loose footing, and sheer cliffs.

It's a really neat canyon though and I love that the water drops from shelves into deep pools and so on.

After having to take a leap of faith off a ledge that was too high to get back up, I knew I'd just crossed the point of no return and that getting out of this canyon would be tough. It was tough enough just getting from one hole to the next.

Great looking water though. Every pool provided bites from tiny rainbows and I started to notice a trend. Was I too high for the browns? I knew most people fished the creek from an access point a bit further downstream. Maybe it was the method I was using.

Every pocket looked like a gold mine, but I was still only catching dink rainbows. Finally, I switched to a trusty Blue Fox on a whim and the bites were really coming in. I'd caught about 30 small rainbows for the day so far and not a single brown, but at one really big hole, allowing the lure to sink a little bit in the deeper holes brought my first brown of the day.

Prior to taking the chance of sinking the lure, I was worried about snagging and losing my gear. Add to that, the current made getting the right presentation difficult. Nevertheless, sinking the lure in the wash was what I focused on at that point and my catch rate increased greatly, and with more variety and size.

I was already having a good time toying with the tiny rainbows, but now it was just sweet! That big hole by itself consumed over 2 hours of my fishing time and it occurred to me that I need to start contemplating an exit strategy for this deep canyon. Of course, working my way back upstream required some more fishing in the holes where I'd only used the Lucky Craft before.

Getting out was really hard as I ascended the hairiest hillside I've had to take on in a long time. In retrospect, I should've followed a small trickle of water that I'd seen earlier, up to the top, but I somehow made it up the barren hillside, using the small clumps of dirt from a landslide as hand and footholds. There were many times where my anchors crumbled out from under me and I was lucky to flatten myself against the hillside before gravity could take me down.

Beaten, scraped, and elated, I made it back to my truck and started driving home. I couldn't resist fishing some small pools on Diamond Fork as I passed by though. Those little cutts couldn't resist.

Great fun!

So as any incredible day should be, mine was full of adventure as I fished a new water and caught probably over 60 fish. I'll definitely be back to find the hogs, although I may try a lower section of this awesome stream.

Happy Fishing, Humans.

Some Background...


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.