Starvation Smackdown

Recently, the word got out that the rainbows at Starvation Reservoir were spawning and shallow gravel shorelines were stacked with nice fish.  Yes, rainbows usually spawn in the spring, but these have been historically tricked into spawning in the fall, at certain hatcheries.  Kinda crazy, I know.

Having never caught a trout from Starvation, I was excited to hear about the easy pickings and went to check it out on Black Friday, instead of contributing to the retail madness.

My arrival was met with a stiff breeze and I was unsure how much fly action I'd be able to get in.  The first spot I fished was a sheltered cove, although no trout were visible or biting.  It didn't take long for me to realize that I was in the wrong spot and I started walking along the shore, watching for dark masses moving about.

After a march of only about 100 feet, my eyes met several of those dark masses, some of them not even two feet from dry land.  Sneaking up on them, I started to cast an olive sculpin pattern.  The wind was horrible and I could barely get my fly out 10 feet, if that.  Not to mention, aiming my cast was nearly impossible.

Despite my difficulty casting and spooking fish with hard line slaps, I still managed to entice one of the smaller masses to give chase.  Half-guessing when the fish took, I lifted the rod and had a connection!

Though it was one of the smaller fish mulling about, it was still a nice catch.

Ah, my first trout from Starvy.  It felt nice to shrug that monkey.

A few more attempts at fly casting were made, but the wind was just too much to deal with and out came the Blue Fox, so I could pick on these brutes more effectively.


What a difference that made!  She was large and feisty.  I never got a tape on her, but I'm positive she was over 20 inches.

Some smaller ones also found my lure while I moved on to another area where I could find some shelter from the wind and hopefully find more active rainbows.

Once I arrived to a nice little bay, the wind was still annoying, but nowhere near as bad as the other spots. One side of the bay was shallow while the other had a steep, rocky shoreline.  Though it was the most sheltered from the wind, the rocky shoreline left me wondering where the fish were, so I tried my luck on the shallower end, where many casts were chased by more nice fish.

The action was hot for big fat rainbows and I even got a little bit more fly casting in.  It was a blast.

The Blue Fox was working well, never going more than 10 casts without a strike.  Some smaller fish also came in, but with the super cold water on my hands, they didn't warrant a photo.

Here's another really good one, this one coming from my favorite sculpin:

The wind was still a factor and I ultimately lost that fly, trying to cast into the breeze.  After that, I didn't feel like trying anymore and it was back to casting the Blue Fox.

My day started a bit later than I would have liked and the evening was approaching, so I started moving back toward my car, picking up a couple more rainbows on the way out.  Here's the best of those:

On the way back home, I stopped in and fished some moving water for about 10 minutes, catching three browns and seeing a lot more hanging out in an eddy.  One of them was huge, but he wasn't interested in my measly Blue Fox.  I could only pull in two little dinks and this one:

What a day!  Sight fishing for big rainbows all day long, overcoming the tenacious wind, and finally catching some trout from the mighty Starvation Reservoir.  It was a great time.

Happy Fishing, Humans.


Dry Creek

Since Ma Nature seems to only throw tantrums on the weekends lately, that has left me no choice but to fish in the snow.  Not wanting to take a long trip this week, I decided it was time to finally fish a local creek that I've overlooked for a long time.

Dry Creek flows above the town of Alpine, which isn't far from where I live, and I've always felt a subconscious tug as I've passed through that area.  The tug came from the water that I knew had to exist somewhere around there, since the high peaks immediately to the north collect plenty of snow each year.  It has to go somewhere.

Being the map hound that I am, it was somewhat surprising to me that I wasn't aware of exactly where the creek flowed or its name.  A few months ago, someone mentioned that I should check out a little creek in Alpine, told me how to get there, and all the dots were finally connected.  Dry Creek, eh?  Sounds nice.

Well today was a great time to go and check on it and several hours of map study had been donated throughout the week, getting a feel for what I should expect to find.  Granite stream bed, steep gradient, brown trout, possible brookies...This was going to be fun.

My first look at the creek had me wondering if I was properly equipped to offer the trout something they would bite.  

The pools were there, but they were mostly small.  The current was quick to sweep my Blue Fox away from the sweet looking spots and when I could find a good enough pool to drag it through, nothing struck or followed.  Spinners would have to sit this game out while the jigs got to play.

How's this for a jigging pool?

That pool was so nice that I also tried my luck with a heavy sculpin pattern on the fly rod.  It worked, although it was impossible to get down into the wash, where I wanted it.  Luckily, a brown followed it out and took it right where I could see it.

Yeah, I got two fish, but covered a lot of stream before I lucked into them.  They were quite focused on their spawning and seemed lethargic to attack my jig or my fly.  Something needed to change, so I switched my jig to a Gulp! emerald shiner (soft plastic) on a 1/8th oz jig head.

First cast, blind catch.  Perfect!  It was nice to be able to cast into the wash, jig a couple of times, and pull in a fish without having to see it take the bait.  

Now that I had their attention, the catch rate increased nicely.  Most holes that looked fishy ended up with a fish in the hand.  I even switched back to the fly rod on occasion, just to see if I could work something out.  A couple more fish came from that as well.

It's a beautiful creek with plenty of good pockets.  

Here's the biggest fish for the day:

It wasn't a big fish trip, just a good time to satisfy my curiosity about that little nook in the valley that we call Alpine.

The weather ended up cooperating too.  It warmed up enough to melt a bunch of the snow, that was covering everything this morning.

Those peaks will be white until July.

Great little canyon.  I'll be back next year, although I'll probably do a summer trip so I can hike up to the brookies.

Happy Fishing, Humans.


Daniel's Creek / Strawberry

This weekend's forecast called for snow, pretty much everywhere around the state.  The only proper way to deal with it, I thought, would be to fish through it.

As I left home, the weather in the valley wasn't very bad at all; overcast with visible snowfall in the mountains.  Even in Heber, it was hardly sprinkling rain.  As I made my way up Daniel's Canyon, it seemed necessary to pull over at a couple of spots on the creek.  

Often overlooked by others, Daniel's Creek is a beautiful little stream with rough access through thick brush.  Historically, it's had a lot of beaver activity, providing some great ponds to fish for the lovely locals, though most of them were washed out by this year's overwhelming runoff.  Wild cutthroat, browns, and sometimes rainbows can be found throughout the canyon. 

The first hole I stopped at was fishy, but the crystal clear water and lack of a good spot to fish from alerted the wary residents to my presence.  Further up the canyon, I got out to check on some beaver ponds that I hoped survived the spring.

Unfortunately, I found myself wading through shallow runs where grand ponds existed, only a year ago.  There were, however, a few small pools remaining and I was able to catch some gorgeous little cutthroat from those.

Much of the water was imprisoned under a shelf of ice, but the open areas were ripe for the picking.  Same fish as above, but showing the pool:

It was actually a lot of work to get to the tiny pool where I found most of my catches.  A good chunk of time had already slipped away and I had some other water on the brain, so I navigated my way back to the car and cruised over the summit and on to Strawberry Reservoir.

Conditions at Daniel's Summit were snowy, but the road remained wet (rather than frozen) so I continued without incident.  The Strawberry Valley was very windy though and the snow was blowing sideways, drifting across the asphalt in several areas.

The lake didn't look very inviting in the sustained winds of 20mph or more.  The water was white-capping and large swells were visible from the highway.  Visibility was low, but as far out as I could see, the water was brown around the shallower shores.

Knowing I was crazy to even attempt fishing there, I pulled over at a rocky spot on the Soldier Creek side, where the shoreline dropped off quickly to deeper water.  On one rod, I rigged a weightless minnow and side-armed it as far out as possible, making sure to keep my rod tip low to minimize the amount of line exposed to the wind (acting as a sail for my bait).

Setting that rod aside, I worked a gold Kastmaster on the other.  Surprisingly, the catching was phenomenal for small planter rainbows near the surface.  Hooking fish quite often on consecutive casts, I pulled in and released many while hoping for something a little bigger.  No need for photos of the dinks, but there were a couple that were more noteworthy:

Still somewhat small, they brought a smile to my face and broke up the monotony of catching 9 inch carbon copies.

Occasionally, I brought my minnow in with a twitch/pause retrieve and tossed out again, hoping for a bruiser to take notice.  While my attention was on casting my lure, something had grabbed my minnow and was taking quite a bit of line when I realized what had happened.

Picking up the rod and closing the bale, I allowed the line to tighten until I could feel the resistance of the fish on the other end.  Once I felt it, I jerked back firmly to set the hook and the battle began.  Immediately, I knew the fish was a good one and from the drag it was taking, I figured it was a rainbow.  The cutthroat in the Berry aren't known for a good fight until they hit the net or touch your hand, so it was a bit of a surprise to see a large cutthroat, once I got it close enough to view.

I knew right away that it was over the slot and it appeared to have some girth as well.  It actually took me awhile to get it into my hand, as the typical shoreline frenzy ensued and resulted in several more strong runs to deeper water.  It was a delight to finally get it on the rocks, a quick tape, then onto the chain.

Nice fish!  It measured a little over 23 inches and weighed 3lbs, 9oz.  It's hard to beat the taste of a good sized cutthroat from Strawberry, so I was thrilled to get myself another slot buster for the oven.  

So the fishing was faced-paced in the cold wind and it was one of my most productive days at the Berry, as far as quantity.  My stay was rather short and I took note of the bad weather getting even worse.  It was time to go while the roads were still passable for my little Sentra.

The ride home was pretty treacherous and I was on high alert for the other vehicles on the road.  Just as I started climbing the hill to the summit, the previously wet road had turned to ice with slushy snow and I was nervous for the people in the Rodeo that passed me.  Just a couple of minutes later, they attempted to pass another vehicle and spun out of control into the oncoming lane, where another SUV had to swerve to avoid hitting them, resulting in their own spin-out, off the road.

Of course, I saw all of this coming, so I had already pulled over and turned my hazards on.  Had I kept going, I surely would've been hit at high speed by the oncoming SUV.  Each vehicle stayed on its wheels and I had no way of towing the other vehicle back onto the roadway, so I got going.

Just a few minutes after that, after cresting the summit, a tanker (fuel) hauling doubles was having a hard time keeping his load in tow.  The rear tank slid into the oncoming lane three times before the driver regained control and pulled over.

It was nerve-racking.  Making out of the canyon was a big relief.  Hopefully other people using the road were cautious because the highway was hungry for some wreckage last night.

Happy Fishing, Humans.


Big Tiger Trout / Fat Cutthroat

Originally planning to head south for pig brookies, my buddy Keoni and I made a wise decision to avoid the big storm forecast for that area.  Instead of trying to jig and fly fish in gusting winds and snow at a small pond, we ultimately chose to go and hassle some test tube babies and beautiful cutthroat at another lake with a better weather outlook.

Arriving very early, we were the first people at the lake.  The air was very cold and frost covered the ground.  Ice had formed at the inlet and extended out about thirty feet.  The float tubes would remain in the car, we decided.

Not wasting any time, we got busy throwing hardware in the shallows near the outflow, but couldn't get anything to strike.  A second vehicle motored in and parked at a spot near mid-lake when we thought it best to relocate near the inlet.  It was a good move.

Right away, I picked up several healthy cutthroat on the Blue Fox.

They're really putting on weight, these days.  That last one was the smallest fish of the day for me.  I'm used to catching much smaller cutts from the lake.

It was too shallow and weedy for Keoni to work his Lucky Craft, so he moved to an area with a better drop off, where many fish were visible and cruising close to shore.

Joining Keoni, the cruisers weren't cooperating with either of us and I chose to make my way down the shore to my favorite hump, where I'd previously had a lot of success for big tiger trout.

The tigers didn't want to bite anything for quite awhile, but many were cruising by in groups of up to four at a time.  The smallest tiger I saw was likely about 18" and many were substantially larger.

Finally, I got one to bite a J-11 Rapala (firetiger pattern) that I had found on the shoreline of Deer Creek, the week before.

Not bad.  Not the biggest one in the lake, but it gave a good tug and filled up my hand nicely.

The other fish in the area would only give chase without striking, so I switched to the fly rod and did some sight fishing.  

Dropping a tiny black chironomid below a killer caddis, I was able to get another female of similar size and a brightly colored male before my lucky 'mid broke.

Once my productive fly broke in half, I sifted through my fly box in search of another.  Sadly, my supply of those was exhausted and nothing else I had seemed to work.

Meanwhile up the shoreline, Dr. Kauwe was putting on a clinic (Keoni's a professor at BYU):

Nice fish!  Looks like it's been caught a few times already with that crooked smile.

He had been catching quite a few fish while I was away, so I missed a lot of photo ops.  Apparently, his largest catch was even bigger than the last one pictured.  He had a very good day and caught his personal best tigers, twice over.

The rest of my time at the lake was a frustrating bout of rejection with the picky tigers.  Bouncing flies off their snouts couldn't even provoke a reaction.  It was rough and my bugs weren't doing the trick.

Finally, I switched back to the trusty Blue Fox and picked up one last cutthroat before we took off.

It was a great day and we were both glad to have avoided the awful weather we initially planned to endure at the brookie pond.  Thanks to Keoni for the good company on another excellent adventure in Utah.

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.