Back in June, I had made plans to visit Flaming Gorge Reservoir with a buddy who tends to do pretty well there, trolling. About a year ago, we went out and were able to cross kokanee off my list of species yet to catch. This year, it would be lake trout (and hopefully more kokes).
As the weekend approached, I had been mentally preparing for the big water fishing, when my phone rang and I learned that my Father would be in town for the weekend.
Having been only 10 years old the last time we’d fished together, I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to get together with him in a nice setting.
Friday arrived and I had made prior arrangements to take off early from work, check my boy out of school early, get my wife a ride to her job, and venture off into the Uintas for some good looking tigers and brookies.
About 15 minutes into the hike, however, it was obvious that the altitude was messing with my Dad, in conjunction with his heart medicine. His equilibrium was off and he’d actually fallen a couple of times.
We turned back from the original target, which was actually farther away than we’d thought anyway and required a little too much uphill hiking.
Saving daylight, we stopped at Pass Lake along the roadside, hoping to catch a few fish, for the sake of fishing somewhere. The lake was every bit as beautiful as it always is, but the fish weren’t cooperating very much.
Several bites came and went for me, and one for Dad, but in the end, one tiger on my line was all we could get to stay on. No fish for Dad, but at least we fished together.
It was a really nice afternoon though and spending time in the high country with my Father (plus my kids) was especially enjoyable.
There was a moment while we were fishing, where he’d gotten his lure stuck on something, out in the water. After a couple of minutes of trying, he handed me the rod and asked if I had any “magic”.
Almost immediately, the lure gave in and came back to me, to which I responded with a smirk, “Magic”.
The last time we’d fished together, he had spent much of his time unhooking my snags. 22 years later, the tables had turned and it was humbling to see this hero of mine in so many ways have to play the cards that life had dealt him.
It struck a deep chord with me to look into his eyes as he came to the full realization that he could no longer do many of the things that used to be second nature to him.
In another 22 years, there’s a possibility that my own son will be unhooking my snags and helping me off the ground as I struggle to move, prisoner to the medication that keeps me alive.
Life really is too short.
After getting back home that night, I picked my wife up from work, kissed her goodbye, and drove to Salt Lake Valley to meet up with a fellow forum member and his bro-in-law, then we made the long drive to Flaming Gorge.
We arrived at 2:00am. What a sight to see all the stars again! A quick nap in the bed of his truck and we were getting the boat ready for a long day of trolling.
Flaming Gorge really is an amazing place. It’s so huge, yet still manages to keep the screen on a fish finder loaded with arcs, seemingly everywhere.
Using the downriggers, we trolled spoons behind dodgers between 80 and 100 feet, then stacked kokanee gear in the 50-60ft range.
It didn’t take long and we were getting hits. Thanks to the Captain’s homemade rods, the action was easy to detect. Keeping fish on the line was our biggest challenge.
The B-I-L scored first with a lake trout:
More came to hand, including some kokanee, then I finally got my first ever lake trout:
Not a bad one at almost 3lbs. That list has gotten pretty small, aside from some rare species that I doubt I’ll ever target.
Quite a few more fish met the boat throughout the day, though we had a few dry hours in the middle, where nothing was working. We even got rained on and blown around a bit by a couple of quick storms.
Sadly, much of the camera fodder for this trip was never recorded, as my battery died halfway into our morning.
It was a great day though, and the fishing was pretty good for the most part. Special thanks to Mr. Dodger for the invite and great company, and extra special thanks to my loving wife for giving up her husband for a couple of days.
A few forum members and I got together to raid the Uintas on Saturday. Scientificangler (Keoni), Brookieguy1 (Dave), Sawsman (Jason), and myself had a collective mind to hunt down some nice brookies in a region where smaller fish are typically the norm.
This was sure to be a good trip, considering the guest list and the venues. Having been forum buddies for quite some time, and part of our little “trout underground”, it was a bit strange that Keoni and Jason had never actually met each other in person until this trip.
Our first stop required a bumpy ride and a little stomping, but promised healthy brookies for the willing. Near the lake, we stumbled upon (and subsequently awakened) a crazy old Russian guy who had been camping in the area for some time.
He was quite protective of the mushrooms growing in the surrounding area and was quick to shoo me away from “his” prize, an 8 inch muffin that I thought was neat. His plan was to take it home on Monday, he explained.
Once we’d shoved off in our tubes, Jason started the catching clinic, hooking up left and right. Keoni seemed to keep his rod bent too. Both were getting some pretty good ones in the mix, up to 18 inches in length.
My own success was limited to a lot of missed bites on jigs and flies. For some reason, I had really hard time setting the hook. In retrospect, using my stiffer rod I had may have increased my catch rate.
Not all the fish got away though. A couple of smaller ones stayed on for me and a pretty good one at 17.5".
Unfortunately, what seems to be a trend of bad luck continued on this trip for Dave. Whenever he and I fish together, he gets wet. Somehow, it never fails and I even predicted it this time.
Starting out with a leaky bladder in his tube, he was banished to the shore, where the fishing on this lake would be much more difficult. Deciding to wade out for a better casting position, we were all glad to see him hook up with a keeper. Nobody would be skunked today.
It wasn’t too long after that, we all jerked our heads around in response to the high-pitched whooping of poor Dave, whose head and shoulders were all that remained above the water.
He had stepped into a deeper trench next to a beaver lodge and had taken “the plunge”, which was jokingly forecast earlier. We all had to laugh, but still felt bad. It’s never fun to fill your waders with cold water.
After Dave had some time to dry off and attempt a jerry-rigged fix on his tube, we decided it was time to investigate our other lake, which required yet another bumpy ride. The drive took a pretty long time and we enjoyed some gut-busting laughs, swapping stories along the way.
Finally reaching our target, we all hoped that the lake had fared well over the 2 years since Dave had last visited.
Time ticked on and all casts were unmolested by the mythical fish that supposedly existed. We were all a bit dumbfounded, wondering what we could be doing wrong or if the lake might have somehow killed.
Shuffling through our tackle boxes and trying every trick in the book, the outlook was grim until Keoni finally coerced a gorgeous beast into munching a Gulp! leech.
Needless to say, this gave the rest of us hope and we continued to work hard in search of our finned friends.
Despite our efforts, the action was still brutally slow and it took a long time before a brown maribou jig was taken by what might be my new personal best brookie at 18.5":
What a beautiful specimen! It was quite the surprise to me that I’d catch something like that from the Uintas, of all places. Sure, there are some real sleepers within the thousands of waters in this mountain range, but it’s great to have some confirmation.
The next to score would be Keoni again, across the lake from me. Jason finally nailed one too and was pretty close to me when it happened.
As I was preparing to get a photo of the nice female, it was able to free itself and slipped away, sadly. It was also a good sized fish. He was able to wrangle in one more during our float, a little while later.
Dave’s bad luck continued, however. He diligently worked the fishy looking structure and the lily pads, but just couldn’t buy a taker. While I was in the same area, he finally hooked into one, but it shook off, only a couple of seconds into the fight. What a tough day for Dave!
One more fish decided to grace my hands before we left, eating a nightcrawler I was drifting as a last resort. It was a 17" female that I somehow failed to photograph.
What a great bunch of guys to get out with! It’s been awhile since I’ve laughed that hard and had that good of a time fishing in a group. Special thanks need to be extended to Keoni for driving, and to Dave for being the “martyr” of this trip.
I had a blast and would gladly rearrange my schedule at the drop of a hat to fish with any of these guys again. Thanks, guys.
It's been a busy couple of weeks and with the Olympics on top of it, it's been hard to find enough time to drop any reports!
The fishing wasn't very productive last week, when a friend and I took his boat to Willard Bay Reservoir. We had a great time, but the fish completely ignored me. He was able to catch a small channel cat and a medium sized walleye.
A couple of other fish gave him some strong runs and ended up getting off the line, but we believed them to be wipers. Pity we didn't get to meet them.
On my way home, I took a drive up Weber Canyon and attempted to redeem myself on the river. The hole that I chose looked really fishy, so it was no surprise to nail a decent brown on the first cast.
A few casts later, after peripherally seeing a really big brown rise, I realized that my jig was right by the edge of the eddy the big one rose from.
Letting it sink a bit, the line suddenly shot off and started zipping from my reel for about 3 seconds, then snapped. I'll never know just how big it was, but it convinced me to stay for awhile.
That was all the river would give me though. It was slightly disappointing, but at least I didn't get skunked on the day.
This weekend, the family and I decided to go and fish a small lake in the Uintas. Yet another gnarly road took us to our destination and it seemed as though the fishing lull had carried over from the week before.
Several fish took to the surface and we tried for a couple of hours with little more than a couple of quick bumps. One stayed on for awhile, but escaped at my feet.
The kids were getting impatient and my wife started feeling sick, along with a bad headache. This really cut our trip short and it killed me to have to leave so soon. It was a pretty lake and the fish seemed to displace a lot of water, when they would rise.
Right as I was about to leave, I finally got one to hang onto the hook. It was a bit smaller than what I was hoping for, but a fish in hand is better than nothing.
On the ride home, my wife actually needed me to pull over for a minute. Poor girl had the funk. She ended up feeling a lot better once she got home, took a nap, and ate some pizza.
She felt good enough to show me her sweet side and told me I could go fishing the next morning. What a lady!
Waking up on the recliner at about 3:30am, it was clear that there was no going back to sleep for me. This is when I came up with the day's plan:
Float Strawberry and drag kokanee gear, while fishing for trout with my other rod. Though unlikely, a koke from the tube would be awesome.
The fishing there was slow. Dismally slow. I kicked quite the distance and only got one bite, which I landed. It was a small rainbow and quickly released.
The kokanee didn't want anything to do with my pink UV Assassin behind a neon pink/chrome dodger. They probably weren't in the area I was fishing. My gear wouldn't stay very deep, even at a slow kick. I didn't really expect to catch any, but wanted to try.
Nothing on the fly rod either.
Once I finally parked my tube for a pit stop, a couple of cutts in the slot showed up, but that was it.
Back they went.
My focus started to shift, thinking a trip downstream would be nice, so I made the long kick back to my put-in and drove down to the river. The river has been a spot I've fished for about 10 years now and I just knew it would treat me right.
Hiking to a long stretch that I like, a black marabou jig and a gold blue fox accompanied me on two rods. The first quarter mile of river I walked didn't yield a single hit, so I started to wonder if the black cloud of slow fishing still loomed above me.
A few fish at the top of a deep run finally started showing up. The Blue Fox was first to get bit, even by a couple of brookies. A few smaller browns also came in, only one deserving a photo.
It felt great to catch several fish from that pocket and the river started to work its magic on me, like it had so many times before.
It even started raining for a short while, but it wasn't a bother. My "healing" had begun and for the next two hours or so, the river cleansed my spirit.
The browns in the river tend to have really rich hues and it's always so satisfying to pull in some good ones, which can be found in all the right spots.
The first big one came when I approached a rocky stretch with some good sized boulders popping out of the water. My jig landed right where it needed to and a great fight ensued. It took awhile to fight it in and the strong brown really made a production of it.
What a blast!
That thug made my day, which had already taken a turn for the better.
Soon after, a gorgeous brookie took the jig. Its halos were practically glowing blue. Pretty chubby too.
While walking to the last hole I fished, another nice fish spooked, showing me where he liked to hide. I made a mental note to check it again on my way back...
Once at my final spot, many strikes were missed, but a few smaller brookies were caught, along with a couple of browns. One of them was really pretty and also provided some strong tugging:
Thrilled with the way my day unfolded, I started to make my way back to the truck. As I passed the hideout of the fish I spooked earlier, I tossed my Blue Fox (now silver) behind where I saw him and buzzed it through the hole.
Bam! Got him!
Such quality fish in the river. What a great place.
It was such a relief to catch fish with regularity again. Those slow streaks can be really brutal for me and it carries into other aspects of my life. It's good to be "back", so to speak.
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.
This is a photo of my kitchen blinds, through the bottom of a drinking glass.
Collect Neat Stuff?
Relic Mercantile might have just what you're looking for.
Travis Sylvester, of Travzart.com
Travis Sylvester is a local Utah artist, whom I've known for a few years. His artwork is sensational and he seems to improve with every new piece. He reproduced one of my cutthroat photos in colored pencil and it turned out great. Check out his website and click this pic.
While Googling trout images one day, I stumbled upon some art by A.D. Maddox and became a fan right away. Photos link to her site.