One or two nights before Holdsworth and I were going to explore a "new" small stream, we learned of an awful tragedy as one our close friends had passed away.
I had three friends at my very small wedding and Weston was one of them. Three "best men" to send me off from the world of bachelor bro-dom to a new life starting a family. He's the guy on the right, in the first photo below:
He and Holdsworth:
More on that in a bit.
Aaron and I both agreed that getting away and pounding a couple of small streams was definitely in order. Our first stop was just a quickie, on our way to some new water.
Usually a better place to fish, we left without much action. A small cutthroat on the fly was all I could wrangle.
Finishing our drive to the main target, a short hike was required along a VERY small stream, only about a foot across in most areas, if that. A few pools on round bends grabbed our attention and I was able to pull in a pretty little wild cutthroat.
The stream we hiked to wasn't a whole lot bigger, but much fishier looking. Not long after getting in there, a colorful brown grabbed a black marabou.
The fishing wasn't great, but we both missed big fish, especially for the size of the stream, which could easily be hopped over in the straight runs. A couple of small browns and cutts met me before we ran into a property line, complete with a sign.
It's a gorgeous creek though and I'll be back:
Using the rest of our daylight where we could, we burned the last 45 minutes or so at Huntington Reservoir, where a couple of small tigers came in.
It was nice to meet a new stream and blow off some steam with my best friend, while we reverently mourned the loss of our friend in a beautiful place. We had actually fished Huntington with Weston before, so it was good to stop there on the way home.
The next week, we attended his funeral and didn't get any fishing done. Having meant so much to so many people, a lot of old friends were reunited to observe and pay tribute to such a great guy. Because of this, a small get-together with some of his close friends was improvised.
My cousin Aaron was in town for this and that meant it was time to hammer on our guitars and sing our hearts out around a campfire in celebration of his life. It was a great time for everyone, with Aaron and I laying it down like never before. The force was with us and Weston probably was too.
He was loved and will be missed by everyone who knew him. RIP, buddy.
Staying close to home, Holdsworth and I fished another stream that we hoped would provide some steady action, but only after a couple of hours at a pond that skunked us, previously.
The first few minutes made us nervous, with no signs of activity from the fish. Soon enough, I landed a cast just inside a submerged trench in the weeds and hopped it out to see a flash darting around behind my jig.
With the next flash, I saw the take and set the hook to a pretty good sized cutthroat of about 20".
A long quiet spell ensued before we'd worked our way around the pond, where Aaron got a decent one to play.
We stayed another fruitless half hour before relocating to some more productive water, we hoped. The fishing wasn't spectacular, but a few fish were had.
There were many line issues for me, with break-offs leaving me out of ammo, so to speak. Before losing all my preferred gear, I did get a pretty good brown to hang on.
Aaron got into some cutthroat, though he never got any browns to hand.
It was still nice to get out. We both got a fish out of the pond that skunked us on our last visit and both caught some fish from a great stream.
Knowing our time was running out for open water at some of our high country waters, Aaron and I took a chance and hiked in to find a mostly-capped lake with limited access to open water from shore. An extra hike to the best launching area put us in position to see if we could at least float to the edge of some of the holes in the weedy pond.
The edge of only one good hole was accessible, but not enough for a proper presentation. The rest was covered with about 1/2 inch of clear ice. Most of our stay was spent breaking ice and the sun was on its way down before we'd even fished very long in "good" water.
A good hike, lots of work to open some water, and one small cutthroat all day.
Still worth it! Taking note of the ice development, I vowed to go back within the next two weeks.
My Step-Dad had made plans to fish Strawberry with me from his boat, but something went wrong with the engine and we agreed on a rain check. Regardless, I had my heart set on the Berry and set off to float by tube instead.
My arrival was later than it should have been and the wind was already blowing in several areas. After driving a bit to find a settled bay, I found Mud Creek lacking whitecaps and went for it.
It took some time, but I finally started getting into a rhythm and got a 21" cutthroat.
Working that same area, a few smaller cutts and rainbows came in, with a big one breaking me off in between. After thoughts of leaving had passed my mind, a good thump led to my first slot buster in quite awhile.
At 22.5", it made my day and I pointed my tube toward the car to make an early homecoming with some daylight left. While kicking back, a frivolous cast provided a 20" rainbow that fought like crazy.
Already satisfied with my float, the rainbow topped everything off perfectly. My family was thrilled to have me home so early.
Needing to make sure all of my accrued time off at work gets used before year's end, I had made arrangements to take last Friday off. My plans were to try my best to get back to my lake with the thin ice from 13 days prior.
Reaching out to some fishing buddies, a plan was made to go with an old Jr. High School classmate in his 4x4 to see how close we could get. At 5:00 on Friday morning, I met Dan Kennedy in Spanish Fork and we took off for southern Utah.
The last mile or so of road was loaded with snow and we didn't quite make it to our intended parking area. Looking around, the snow depth away from the road looked daunting as well, but we decided it could be worth it to endure some punishment and finish what we'd set out to do.
The hike took us about an hour, having to do our best to follow the trail in the knee-high snow. An occasional peek at a GPS kept us mostly on track, but I did get us a little turned around for a bit before finding the real path again. It was pretty rough and had us sweating in the frosty air.
We'd joked about doing all that work to find dangerous ice conditions, but fortunately, we were good to go. The ice was 3.5 to 5 inches thick throughout and we used Dan's ax to break out a lot of holes, based on my pre-set waypoints.
Being a nerd has its benefits, as we were getting bites quickly after beginning to fish. After a couple of good missed bites, I finally landed a healthy cutthroat.
A couple of smaller ones followed and Dan got his first of the day, with small fish honors.
Another good one hit the deck for me in colorful fashion:
Some time passed without getting many hits, so I grabbed the ax and pounded out a few more holes in choice spots hoping to find some willing mouths to sink a hook into. The weather had deteriorated a bit, but at least it wasn't storming. We continued to fish in a cool fog.
After some trial and error in a few more holes, I started getting into some better action, especially after switching jigs to the apparent winner.
How about this paint job?
Having caught several fish from that productive hole, things died down again for me. Dan was catching some smaller cutthroat from time to time and had moved closer to where I was doing better.
One hole that was still untouched was calling to me, so I moved in for look. It appeared to be over thick weeds, but after a minute or two of active jigging, a legitimate strike was missed, leaving my jig torn a bit.
A new jig was readied and another drop led to a fast take from a nice brookie:
At 18", my day was made. Nice cutts and a nice brookie on the day were well worth the effort it took to get there.
Dan was motivated to get his own and it showed. He had his game face on and stayed focused on his presentation. More little cutts came in for the time being.
Meanwhile, I tried another hole and pulled up another brookie after some active jigging. This one was a bit smaller and had a messed up jaw, like some of the other brookies in the lake.
Dan was next to score on a better fish, with a pretty nice cutthroat. It was his best fish thus far and gave him something to smile about:
Still working on that brookie though.
Speaking of brookies, one last untouched hole had mostly refrozen and escaped our attention. It also appeared to be over some weeds, so I wasn't sure how productive it would be. Still, a new hole always holds promise.
While pulling my jig up to see if it was covered in weeds, I noticed a nice fish moving around below it, through the hole. It was a brookie, as the fins would have me believe. Another dip was all it took to confirm, as another 18" female hit the ice.
With my day already over par, this fat girl payed me overtime in the satisfaction department.
The next hour was much slower, but held a couple more small cutthroat from a set of holes farther away from where we'd been fishing. While focused on a missed bite with follow-ups, I heard Dan shout "Brookie!" from the last hole I'd fished over there.
Dropping my gear, I ran over to him in time to see the beauty get hoisted out of the hole. A dolled-up male in full autumn apparel shone in his hands.
Talk about payoff for one's patience huh? Wow, what a great looking fish! At 19", it was also tall and girthy.
Right after the quick photoshoot, he released it and gave me a nod stating that "Now we can leave". His steadfast will to catch a brookie was rewarded handsomely. We packed up our things and stopped to fish our first holes for a short while before embarking on another grueling push through the snow to leave.
The snow was pretty deep, though at least it was fluffy and much easier to move through than late season ice-crusted snow. It still kicked my butt though.
Dan seemed unfazed on the hike back, taking point and blazing the trail through the parts I'd mistakenly led us around, going in. He was likely charged by that awesome brookie. I'm grateful he was in front because my legs were screaming by the time we were back to his truck.
Furthermore, I must thank Dan for offering his vehicle for the trip. My Sentra wouldn't have gotten us close enough to Shangri-La for us to effectively hike to the promised land. He was a good sport all day and great company for such an ambitious trip.
As I reflect upon the last several weeks, I'm left with gratitude for this beautiful world we live in and the opportunity to enjoy this life that is a blessing. Keep on living, folks! We're lucky to be here.
Happy Fishing, Humans.