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.