Welcome to the Utah Water Log. Join me as I travel across the picturesque state of Utah in search of great fishing and a chance to take in the beauty that can be found along the way.
Summer Vol. 2
They say time flies when you're having fun and there's a lot of truth to that. Suddenly, the kids are back in school and the daylight is fading more quickly every night. The second month of summer has blown right by and I'm left wondering where the time went.
Luckily I take a lot of photos to help me remember what I've been up to.
My family and I have continued to go on quick evening hikes, getting into more of our local canyons. One that I was really excited to share with them was Slate Canyon, a place where I spent quite a bit of time in my late teens and early 20's.
It was a bit sad to see the condition of the old campsite that my friends and I had always used. There were three large thrones made from big slabs of stone, circling a great fire pit. The "Rock Chairs", we called them. What used to be a great spot to spend the night had evolved to a pile of rubble with trash strewn about carelessly.
Regardless of the current eyesore, the dominating beauty of the rest of the canyon overshadows any blemishes.
We also found a couple of huge slugs that were the size of my finger.
Slugs may be known for being gross and slimy, but I found them to be quite beautiful. Beautifully gross and slimy.
Slate Canyon is a great place to work the legs and emerging from the canyon walls offers a splendid view of Utah Valley.
Another local hike we attempted was a canyon at the northeast corner of Springville. I believe it's called "The Sisters", but I'm not 100% sure about that. I'd actually never hiked it in the past, but had spent most of my life looking at it, thinking I should.
Having never ventured into this canyon, the best route to get there wasn't very clear and we ended up on a bumpy road to get close to it. Parking in an old retention basin, we used the rest of the daylight to get as far as we could.
The jagged spires of rock poking out of the hillside on the way in were really cool looking.
Since we'd spent so much time creeping up the gnarly road in my Sentra, we forteited much of our hiking time and only ended up a short distance past the mouth, but we'll be sure to be back to take on what looks to be a steep hike into a toothy canyon. Can't wait.
August 1 & 2: Red Fleet
This year has provided a bit more camping opportunities for me than usual and to make sure my family didn't feel left out, we all piled into the car and traveled east to Red Fleet State Park.
Holdsworth accepted our invitation to join, but had to drive separately, due to space constraints. That just meant more cedar trimmings could be brought along for our campfire.
Red Fleet is a place that has captured our hearts as a fun family getaway. Sonia and the kids can hike and swim with an incredibly scenic backdrop while I hunt for fish from my tube. It's a win-win.
Unfortunately, the illegal introduction of walleye and smallmouth bass has prompted the state to poison the lake this year, as some endangered species are present downstream. With that being the case, we needed to get out there one last time. We won't likely be back for a couple of years after the treatment.
Having Holdsworth along was an added bonus this year. He and I got right to work, once camp was setup.
Even though I've seen it all before, the beauty of Red Fleet keeps me in awe.
We made sure to kick quite the distance, up into the winding canyon a bit. The near-vertical canyon walls made us feel like ants next to elephants.
The fishing wasn't spectacular, but we each caught fish perdiodically. We were a bit distracted by the scenery, just enjoying a pleasant float in a beautiful canyon.
We got back to camp as the light was fading, just in time to conjure up a roaring fire. I sure love the smell of cedar and the taste of sausages roasted over it.
With day one behind us, we awoke to the sunlight giving us a morning spectacle on the surrounding sandstone.
Sonia and the kids went and enjoyed the swim beach while Aaron and I went for round 2 with the fish. Some were caught, some were missed. Nothing very noteworthy, but again, what a great place for a float!
After taking too long on the water, we got back and loaded everything up to leave. Before we could call it a day, we had unfinished business on the other side of the lake though.
Last year, we tried to find the dinosaur tracks and got turned around, due to the many trails that connect to the main one, plus there wasn't a lot of signage to keep us "on track". The hike was great anyway and we saw some beautiful landscapes before deciding it was too late (and hot) to keep poking around. The tracks are right next to the water, so no matter what draw we chose to follow, they could have been found.
I vowed to my boy that this time we'd get there. Luckily, I had spent more time studying the route this time, plus I noticed better signs and other landmarks to follow.
Here we are, getting ready and going over the route once more. (Sonia's camera)
The hike was pleasant and led us right between two of the "ships" in the Red Fleet, plus the rest of the eye candy was incredible.
Aaron and I scrambled up to that little cave for a bit, which was neat. It wasn't very level inside, but worth a quick climb to look around.
Back to the main attraction, it wasn't long before we were at the trackway, observing the various impressions left eons ago.
It was nice to see the other side of the cave that I'd spent plenty of time under.
Most of the tracks were difficult to see and even more difficult to get a decent photo of, but we did find the most famous one, which is deep and well defined.
We all had a wonderful time at Red Fleet, but we had a bit of a scare, when Aaron couldn't find his keys. We'd almost made it back to the cars and some thick storm clouds had rolled in. Finding those keys was the top priority. I handed Sonia my keys and promised to hurry.
Aaron and I retraced our steps and somehow missed the cave we'd visited earlier on the way back to the trackway. We both felt as though the keys would be there, since we spent a little bit of time in and around it. Either that or at the tracks, where we were also seated for a time.
Some other hikers appeared on the trail and we asked them if they'd seen anything, which they hadn't, but promised to keep their eyes open.
Lo and behold, we made it all the way back to the tracks and didn't find a thing. The weather was starting to sour, much like the taste in Aaron's mouth I'm sure. The rain started falling pretty hard, just as we got to the cave on our way back (it's easier to spot from that direction). No keys were found and the grim reality of dealing with that mess started to set in.
As we approached the same spot where we'd left my family and turned back, the hikers we'd run into earlier were excited to see us, claiming that they found the keys and ran them back to the waiting family in the car! Of course, they'd found them dangling from their lanyard on a bush right next to the cave. Go figure! Had we noticed the cave while back tracking, it would have saved us a fair amount of time.
In the end, all was well and a mild heart attack was averted. We made our way back home having enjoyed another fun-filled adventure at Red Fleet.
Special thanks to those hikers for going out of their way and running those keys back. Life savers.
August 8: Strawberry
With the various local fishing forums abuzz with reports of fast fishing at Strawberry, I got the bug and decided to try something different. The wild hair that gave me the itch had me drooling for some kokanee salmon. I figured that kicking fast in a known koke spot while dragging some kokanee gear might provide a fish or two, plus the cutthroat had reportedly been biting well.
Kokanee are not usually caught from a float tube and I ignored this in hopes of collecting some, but it wasn't meant to be. Instead, my float turned out to be a gruelling journey filled with rain, wind, and poor fishing.
In total, I fished hard for over 8hrs, fighting the wind much of the way. Several miles were traveled on the tube with hardly any action to show for it. Only two cutthroat came to hand and one small rainbow that I didn't even catch, but snagged the line it was still attached to. Snipping that, I wished the little guy well and sent it on its way.
One more cutthroat was caught, but only after I'd packed up the tube and made a quick stop on my way home. It was also the biggest fish of the day at 21", but it wasn't terribly satisfying, having built up my hopes for something I could take home. The slot limit at Strawberry is 15-22 inches, which meant mine was a mandatory release.
Still, it's always nice to get out and work hard for a chance to catch anything. The Narrows of Strawberry sure is a pretty area.
Maybe next time, Strawberry. I'm sure it won't be too long.
Holdsworth and I originally had a different plan for this day, but some obligations at home kept us from making it happen. Instead of driving almost 6 hours and camping, we chose to go and check on one of our preferred waters and its beautiful inhabitants.
Being the first day of Utah's archery hunt, we were hopeful that any crowds in the area would be watching hillsides rather than fishing and we were happy to be correct. The lake was all ours, all day.
Like usual, it wasn't giving up its bounty easily, but we stuck to it and ended up having a pretty good day. My first catch was a thick brookie of 18.5".
A few smaller cutthroat came in before a decent one of about 19" grabbed my jig.
A couple more little cutts tasted metal before the next noteworthy catch, another nice brookie:
Those two brookies were enough to make anyone's day and I was glad to have caught them. They were small in comparison to the monsters I floated over the top of though. Drifting over the edge of a weed bed to find a submerged blimp with white-edged fins is an exhilarating feeling. Tapping them on the snout until they snap at the jig is a very delicate process and more often than not, they slowly swim away before offering their mouth.
The big ones are big for a reason there. They know the tricks. The biggest one I saw on this trip actually took that swipe after I'd bothered it for a moment, but the swipe was over before I was able to process what had happened. That's been a real issue for me this year, especially at that lake.
Regardless of my failure to collect on a sure strike, it sure is fun to watch them and learn their favorite spots in the shallow pond. Every trip holds a lesson to be applied on the next.
Our trip wasn't over though. Poor Aaron had only been harrassed by some smaller cutthroat so far and one small brookie that shook itself off the line before he got to touch it. He was getting pretty frustrated until something special happened.
I had just drifted over a hole in the weeds, when a really nice cutthroat came cruising under me. It wanted nothing to do with my jig, so I hollered over to Aaron that a big boy was headed his way. He kept working the area.
Before long, I heard him exclaim that he had one and after a few moments, he mentioned that it wasn't small like the others. Pretty soon, he caught a glimpse of it and mentioned it was a really nice cutt.
We were both very excited about the fish and after a bit of a tussle, he hoisted it out of the water for its photoshoot.
What a great fish! It was 23" long and weighed just a hair over 4lbs. Another look at this fine fish:
Still, we had more fish to catch. Aaron got a few more dinks as did I, although I did get a couple on the fly that day, which is unusual for me at that lake.
That last brookie was nice and long, but I don't think it has eaten well in its life. That mouth doesn't fully close. I'm almost positive I've caught and released it two or more times now. I suppose a fish in that lake can still survive, purely by swimming around with its mouth open though. There's more bug life suspended in that water than anywhere else I've seen.
Aaron never ended up with a brookie on the day, but the beast he caught surely left him smiling. Nevertheless, we stayed later than we should have to give him as much of a chance as we could. Watching the sunset from there is a beautiful thing.
August 22 & 23: Tiger Hunt
The previous week, Holdsworth and I had to forfeit our planned camp out to the southern part of the state, but as you can see above, that worked out quite well anyway. This left us free to play in the mountains without leaving any loose ends at home, this week.
We rose early for a 5 hour drive through some really nice places.
Once the parking brake was set, we loaded up way too much gear and hauled it a couple of miles to our chosen campsite, near some lakes with rumored trophy tiger trout.
The first lake ate up a lot of our time, giving us very little in return, but we fished it hard, hoping for something similar to what we saw rise when we got there. The splash it made had us thinking that a fat kid just did a cannonball off the rocks.
We never found the monsters though. Any bites we got were usually so quick that we couldn't set the hook, although I did get a couple of small cutthroat to hang on. Aaron did the best with a mid-sized tiger.
Despite our efforts, the lake wasn't giving up its treasures. It's a pretty place to be though.
After spending too much time on the first lake, we marched over to another one that held some promise.
Aaron shoved off right away as I stayed behind to cast from shore for a little while. A small tiger trout and a couple of missed bites within minutes helped me gain some confidence for the float and soon enough, I was also on the water.
Working the shoreline, I picked up another small tiger and a pretty little cutthroat.
The brushy shoreline gave way to a grass-lined area and a well-placed cast landed within a few inches of the edge. A quick twitch right away was all I had time for before I saw a golden flash and felt a hard take. My hook set was solid and the battle was on with a very stubborn tiger trout.
Yelling to Aaron that I had a big tiger on, he started kicking my way while I continued to let the fish take line from my reel. The only glimpse I had seen thus far led me to believe that I had something over 20", but probably not too big, though it was pulling like a semi.
Time passed and I horsed it in a bit closer, when it went under me and spun me around in circles three times or more before shooting off toward the middle again, making my drag work overtime.
Throughout the fight, we could both see it, but it was hard to gauge its size. The water and the variable depths we could see the fish from were playing tricks on our eyes and both of us were a bit surprised when it finally breached the surface, showing us its full mass.
At that point, Aaron offered the use of his net, which I gladly accepted. Shortly thereafter, I guided the beast up next to me, where I tried to get it into the net. Holy cow, it wouldn't fit! Any resistance it offered sent it flopping right back out to make another attempt at freeing itself.
Eventually, the tiger relaxed long enough with the net under it that I was able to hoist it onto my lap. This thing was much bigger than we had thought, by looks alone.
That's the most of it I could force to stay in the net. What a catch! A new personal best trout (by weight), the bronzed beauty was mine.
At 25", that fish was tall and thick. My eyes were in further disbelief when I watched the digital readout on my scale hold steady at 6lbs, 5oz!
Having taken some trips to that area in the past with less than stellar results, this was a really sweet catch for me. It really made my day and only motivated Aaron to keep casting. The rest of the float was spent catching small cutthroat like this one:
Aaron also stumbled upon a 14" brookie, which was unexpected but welcome after the slew of little cutthroat.
The day was getting shorter by the minute and we realized that we had to make a run back to the car for a couple of key items before calling it a day. With headlamps and sidearms at the ready, we made the 4 mile round trip in good time without having to use either.
After the hike, a fire was built and a hearty meal Aaron had prepared fed us very nicely. A great day was over, leaving us to dream about day 2.
Morning came and we wasted little time preparing for our float. With the long drive requiring an early departure, we needed to jam as much fishing in as possible. After some deliberation, we chose lake #2 from the day before to be our host, hoping for a big tiger on Aaron's line.
Upon arrival, I worked the area around our put-in (again) before beginning my float. While shore casting, an aggressive tiger that wasn't measured hit hard and gave us an aerial display while being brought in.
At most lakes, that would be a good fish. At this one, it was "small". In fact, once I got out on the tube, I drifted into a mess of huge tigers. There were some real monsters swimming directly underneath that made my 6lber look small.
We worked hard, trying everything we could think of to get those beasts to bite, but the only thing that would cooperate were the little cutthroat. After quite some time, a lucky cast landed where it needed to and another "small" tiger (of around 20") came in for a quick meet and greet.
As hard as it was to watch those huge fish reject our best efforts, we were glad to be all alone in a beautiful place.
Having it to ourselves was great, and somewhat hard to believe, considering the residents of the lake. The lack of luck for large fish persisted until we'd stayed longer than we should have. It wasn't until we were already beached and getting ready to hike back to camp that Aaron picked up a hunch back from shore.
Short and fat! That was somewhat of a consolation prize to end our fishing for the day.
Back at camp, we broke everything down and tried to make sense of how we'd haul everything back to the car. The two of us tend to bring too much stuff, pretty much anywhere we go. Aaron's pack was stuffed to capacity and his hands were full.
My own pile of gear was also large, forcing me to get resourceful. A long piece of wood served as a yoke across my shoulders, between myself and the tube on my back, allowing my pack to dangle on one side while my sleeping bag and some other bags balanced out the other. Sort of.
So long, mountain. See you next time!
It was a very uncomfortable hike back, which seemed twice as long with the awkward loads we had. My "yoke" cracked in two during the hike and I had to suck it up and haul the load by hand for the last leg of the march. Though that was not fun, the reward of having gone was satisfying enough.
We hit the road two hours later than we'd wanted to, but still made pretty good time. More than 600 miles rolled under the car, with somewhere between 11-12 miles on foot over the course of the weekend. The last of the day's sun smiled upon us as we finished up the last 100 miles of highway.
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.