It all started with a specific catch. It was my first "big" brookie. At 18.5 inches and 3lbs, 10oz, it put a mean bend in my rod and worried me that my line would break as it weaved through the many logs in the area. It was a glorious, beautiful specimen and I was instantly charmed for life.
From then on, a healthy percentage of my exploits have revolved around beating that personal best, admiring all of the contestants along the way.
With that quest, I've also managed to cross off a bunch of waters that I hadn't previously visited. In September, Holdsworth and I took a long drive to a spot where I've always heard some "bigs" lived.
I'll take any excuse I can to get to this end of the state.
Higher and higher we climbed, enjoying the scenery in anticipation of what was swimming in the small lake at the end of the terrible road.
Though most of the fish were just "nice", I did see a couple that could have been in the 5lb class. They were all very easily spooked and the catching was rather slow. A few "nice" fish did come to hand though.
Future journeys up that awful road are certainly warranted.
My next trip worth mentioning was a fun family escape to the Wasatch Plateau, aka: The Manti. We've historically had a lot of fun in the area, and there's a ton of water in every direction, so we left our plans rather loose for a long day trip. The main priority was to go fishing, somewhere in a certain drainage.
The weather in the lower elevations was awful, driving through several heavy storms as we made our way south and east. It didn't appear as though we'd be able to get up very high on the mountain until we were at the mouth of the canyon below our target area.
Suddenly, the dark, ominous skies had made way for sunshine. In a rare twist of fate, the weather actually got better, the higher we climbed in elevation. It was very strange, but welcome, nonetheless.
We were lucky enough to catch the last displays of high country fall colors along the way.
With the weather cooperating so well, we decided to try a place I had driven by a fair amount, but had never actually stopped to wet a line. We parked close to the shoreline and my family decided to stay in the truck while I tested the water.
On my 2nd cast, I was thrilled to feel the pull of a strong brookie. It was a solid female of about 17 inches. Just a few casts later, another good brookie was on the line.
The good fishing continued for awhile and I was as happy as could be. Eventually, I got my boy interested enough to come out and try to get his own.
Like usual, whenever I try to get others into great fishing, the bite vanishes and I end up looking crazy. Eventually he got it done though and it was a nice proud moment for both of us.
At the end of the day, I had caught a bunch of decent brookies from 16-19", a couple of small cutthroat, and a nicely colored rainbow with some size.
What a day!
That brookie was one of the prettier males I've ever handled.
Strong rainbow. Great fight on that one.
Another great day in the books.
My next noteworthy trip took place on the 22nd of October, when Holdsworth and I felt the urge to get down to Boulder Mountain before the annual closure (Nov-April) of many of its lakes.
To have such nice weather was a real treat and we had a great time in a beautiful setting.
Between two lakes, several brookies were caught, but the real challenge was getting the splake to bite. Someone needs to tell them that they can't actually reproduce so they should stop trying. Still, a few good ones came in, mostly for Aaron, but I got some too.
This one was dark!
It was a lot of fun, though we were expecting to catch some tiger trout as well. Strangely, we never even saw one. Still good to get down there, one last time.
Our next adventure was very satisfying. We decided to get one last float in at my favorite brookie spot before the freeze.
Before launching, I wanted to toss a few casts out from shore. My rod still had a 1/8oz jig head tied on from my lunch breaks, earlier in the week. Rather than take the time to tie on a different size, I chuckled at myself a little while grabbing the only plastic I had with me that wouldn't require me to cut my line to apply.
It was a green curly tail grub. Still laughing, I launched my first cast way out into the middle and worked it back to me, doing my best not to get hung up in the thick weeds. About 30ft from shore, it got hit and the battle was on with something big enough to rip some drag.
As the fight played out, I saw the tell-tale signs of a big brookie on the line and the sheer pull of the fish had me wondering if I was about to land my first brookie over 4lbs.
Aaron's attention had also been grabbed by the arc in my rod and we were both amazed when I guided the beast into my net.
Any wondering whether or not it was over 4lbs was squashed when I hoisted the up the beauty to behold.
Are my fingers really that tiny or is that just a really nice brookie?
My former personal best of 3lbs, 10oz was smashed by over a pound! This fat Betty weighed in at 4lbs, 13oz @ 21.5".
What a slug!
Now that's a satisfied angler! The rest of the day was actually really slow and we had a hard time catching anything bigger than a 13" cutthroat. I ended up catching yet another big brookie that matched the weight of my former best at 20.5", near the end of our stay. Aaron eventually got a pretty good sized cutthroat, but no big brookies. His turn would have to wait a little longer...
My big catch was enough to keep me buzzing for 2 weeks, so the next week was slated as a last-ditch effort to do some family camping at our favorite place, Goblin Valley.
The weather was still sunny and mild, so we had a great trip and even took a gnarly dirt road to the east to check out some of the other buttes in the region.
We can't get enough of the surreal landscapes around Goblin.
Always a pleasure.
The following week, Aaron and I loaded up our tubes and made a rare trip to the north. Our hopes were for big tiger trout, but found a lot of small rainbows instead.
Personally, it was a relief to catch anything, as I'd been skunked for the last 2 trips to that lake. Aaron fared even better, hauling in a new personal best rainbow of 23" and 4lbs.
Good looking fish. It made the trip worthwhile.
Aaron's big fish mojo would carry over to our next trip, where we braved fresh thin ice for the chance to shake some jigs at big brookies.
We met my buddy Dan, who had already been there for a couple of hours by the time we showed up (we're laggers). Dan was with me for my only other time fishing that lake on ice, where he ended up with a gorgeous male brookie at the end of the day. We all hoped to see similar results for this trip.
Upon our arrival, Dan had already caught quite a few small cutthroat and right after we got setup, he hooked his first brookie of the day, though small.
Aaron followed suit, pulling in his own pint-sized brook.
Don't let that smile fool you; he was sweating bullets with less than 2" under him. Still, it was nice to know that brookies were in the area.
A fair amount of time passed before we had any more action. This time it was my turn to hook into something. After setting the hook, I saw a tall red body flash below the hole and knew I was into a larger male brookie.
As it came up, my excitement faded somewhat, seeing that my colorful catch had torn up fins. It was still a solid fish, but it wasn't the perfect specimen I was looking for.
Nice fish anyway and that's some jaw!
I met briefly with a small cutthroat later, then a slightly bigger one with a good belly.
That was it for me though. The fish gods were busy lining up a special fate for someone else that day.
After deliberating when we should call it a day for a bit, I heard an excited holler from Aaron, and looked over just in time to see a big red blob flop up and out of his hole.
Making my way over to him, it was clear that this was the fish of the day and exactly what we'd stuck around for. He lifted it for me to take a photo (or seven) and I almost could have cried for him.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is a perfect brookie:
I mean good grief! What a beauty!
I got trigger happy with the camera, but it was well warranted. 19+ inches, 3lbs, 3oz.
That smile is genuine too. Any fear of the ice he had was negated, as he was floating on air at that point.
I can't think of a better way to end a slow day of fishing, and for that matter, it seems to be a proper way to send off this report as well.
Happy Fishing, Humans.