It was pretty productive and I caught quite a few browns, some with great spawn coloration.
The Blue Fox was treating me right, but when I saw two very nice browns swimming together and mirroring each others' movements, I switched to a Gulp! and hoped for the best.
Unfortunately, those bruisers were busy and didn't care at all about my offerings. What a tease to have them in plain sight and not get them to budge!
Oh well. Armed with the Gulp!, I was able to convince a couple more browns to bite before calling it a day.
It was a pretty good trip, for the river and the fish were pretty good sized, albeit a bit spawned out.
This week, welcoming the month of December with a float trip was the perfect kind of crazy to symbolize this year's unseasonable weather.
Strawberry Reservoir doesn't usually ice over until about January anyway, so I thought that it would make the perfect setting to attack with my tube.
Naturally, my path to the lake was riddled with distractions that I felt obligated to stop for. One distraction is a small creek that runs alongside Hwy 40, just east of Heber City.
Daniels Creek is a great little freestone that holds cutts, browns, and a few rainbows, none of which are currently stocked.
The first fish of the day came from under the highway on a black marabou jig.
It's a rocky stream and it can be very difficult to navigate, let alone attempt to fish. There are some decent pools though and careful, stealthy presentations can result in a visit from the beautiful little residents.
Keeping my main destination in mind, it was time to go. There was still one more distraction that I needed to get past before making it to the lake.
I've always wanted to try my luck on the Strawberry River, upstream from the lake. The river is much smaller where it passes under the highway and every time I drive by, I'm tempted to stop for a few tosses.
Special regulations state that all catches much be immediately released and can only be caught using artificial flies and lures.
Wasting little time, I made some sneaky casts into the tunnel and caught two very different looking cutthroat. I found their contrasting appearances quite interesting, as the historic range is that of the Bonneville cutthroat, while the lake is heavily stocked with the Bear Lake sub-strain.
The second, smaller fish is clearly a BL. I won't attempt to ID the first.
That was pretty fun and it only took a couple of minutes. Just a few minutes later, I arrived at the lake, readied my gear, and walked to the inlet.
Even with the warmer weather of late, ice has still formed in the shallows during the cold nights.
Pushing my way through some ice slabs, I set off on my voyage, where my first victim met me within 20 yds of where I put in.
The river channel was the only place worth fishing, though it vanished under an ice sheet and I had a hard time finding it again. Most of the bay I was in was only a few feet deep and loaded with vegetation, making fishing very difficult.
It took a long time to find deeper water and I ended up getting skunked for more than an hour while I kicked and kicked. Finally, halfway across the large bay, I got a strike on the fly rod and fought something stubborn for several seconds before it shook itself free. Bummer.
Another 30 minutes or so passed before I found the far shoreline and an area that was loaded with fish. The next hour was spent chasing them, both from the tube and from shore while I let my legs warm up a little.
One fish that bit within 10 feet of shore would have easily been my largest cutthroat to date and it was certainly the best fight I've had this year. Sadly, for reasons unknown to me, my hook pulled free after battling the large fish for a couple of minutes. It was so close when it happened that when it came unbuttoned, it kept splashing around for a few seconds and threw water all over me.
The horror! My mind raced, trying to comprehend what had just happened. It was hard to accept that the fish got away without even breaking my line. Oh well. It has happened before and it's sure to happen again.
Back on the tube, it was time to make the long kick back to the put-in spot, most of which was churning through shallow weed beds. A couple of fish struck my fly while I kicked away from the sweet spot though.
When I finally got back to my car, I had easily kicked for over three miles, most of which was over shallow water. It was pretty rough, but I'm glad I did it.
I found a lot of fish, fought many, and caught several. Accessing the lake from that spot and fishing that bay has been on my to-do list for quite some time.
It likely won't happen again anytime soon though. Here's an outline of the path I took.
Happy Fishing, Humans.