________________________________________

6/8/17

Waiting for the High Country

Hello everybody.  The weather has allowed the north to remain in a half-winter state so far this year.  It's very strange to think that lakes in the 9000's are still holding ice up here.

Meanwhile, I've stayed busy in the south, where it's mostly open water and access opens up more every week.

For starters, some water I'd never explored opened up in April and I was happy to poke around that hillside with Aaron.

We stopped for a bit at a lower lake, where Aaron picked up a good sized brookie.

 photo DSCN6125 600x450_zpsgp14stky.jpg

Then we marched on for some scrappy tiger trout.

 photo DSCN6131 450x600_zpsw8qzhltn.jpg

 photo DSCN6133 450x600_zpsupv74pxy.jpg

 photo DSCN6134 600x450_zpsjuyye0vw.jpg

 photo DSCN6137 600x450_zpsxaptvzqq.jpg

Most were just medium sized fish, but a few were in the upper teens in length.

 photo DSCN6139 600x450_zpssduju4o3.jpg

 photo DSCN6140 600x450_zps5frp9v2l.jpg

 photo DSCN6141 600x450_zpso6jv0elg.jpg

In one pond, I managed to float over the top of a really nice tiger over 20 inches, then I hooked another one about the same size that fought its way off the hook.  Wish I could have those back.

Still, it was a fun trip and any time I get to fish "new" water, I'm happy.

After that trip, the next was a march through snow with both Aaron and my wife, who was happy to come along.

The fishing wasn't great though.  I caught four fish all day while Aaron and my wife got the skunk.  A couple of brookies came in and two cutthroat as well, one on the fly.

 photo DSCN6142 600x450_zpsgdbmirm7.jpg

 photo DSCN6143 600x450_zpst5s0nhho.jpg

 photo DSCN6145 600x450_zpspejdf2av.jpg

All in all, a fun day, although I never like it when my fishing partners get skunked.  Such is fishing though.

The next weekend, I had a solo day to go and check out some water I hadn't visited in awhile.  First stop was a small pond where I've historically had slow fishing, but some quality fish.

Upon arrival, I cringed to see the water in its chocolate runoff state.  Having already made the trip, it seemed necessary to at least cast for a bit to see if anything could be coerced into biting.

Turns out, a nice cutthroat decided to play after all!

 photo DSCN6165 600x450_zpsvhvh31wh.jpg
(That grass was wet - partially submerged)

More casting was answered with nothing, so I left to check some moving water, up another canyon.  Much like my pond, the creek was swollen, brown, and really moving quickly.

I decided to stick it out like I did at the pond, but it wasn't long before I realized that I couldn't even wade in the raging current, nor could I present anything effectively.  Call it a wash!

Literally.

So the one fish of the day was still pretty cool to end up with, considering the conditions.

The next trip was a long day trip to the south, with Aaron and our friend Serge coming along as well.  Our target destination has a specific area where the fishing is much more productive than the rest of the lake and we were a little put off to find 5 tubes already in the spot when we arrived (they had camped).

Regardless, the folks that beat us to the water were quite friendly and welcomed us to join them for some slow fishing.  That's a plus.

The fishing wasn't spectacular, but occasionally one would give us a bite.  Serge had joined us in the past and wasn't always very focused on the fishing, but this time he was equipped with a brand new float tube and got to experience that for the first time.

He was actually the first one to catch a fish and continued to catch several more throughout the day, which we were all happy to see.  His first brookie ever ended up being the fish of the day.

I also had slower fishing, but still got four on the day, this being the heaviest:

 photo DSCN6170 600x450_zpsaljfgml6.jpg

Quite the shape on that one.  We hoped for bigger, but it was nice to get down and float a southern lake.

The next week, Aaron and I went to Currant Creek Reservoir to hopefully find some nice tiger trout.  Starting near the inlet, the water was a bit too murky to keep fishing.  The wind was blowing pretty hard as well, so floating was out the window.

We ended up at the dam and fished fruitlessly for quite some time.  A small cutthroat came to hand eventually, but we kept casting away in all directions, hoping for a bruiser.

Finally, after thoughts of leaving invaded my mind, a firm take pulled my rod into a steep arch while I fought a pretty nice tiger in.

 photo CCtiger1 600x450_zpskcfgobuw.jpg

4lbs, 8oz @ 23.5" - That'll do.

 photo CCtiger2 600x450_zps4r5qelvj.jpg

 photo CCtiger3 450x600_zpsnmirethr.jpg

It was barfing minnows out of its mouth the whole time I handled it.  Kinda funny.  I wonder if it would've broken 5lbs had it kept its lunch...

 photo CCtiger4 450x600_zpsh2dfzbi8.jpg

Really needed that, especially after such a grueling day.

For my next trip, I met up with some web buddies from out of state for some southern Utah fishing.  We got right to work and they ended up doing pretty well.  The Smokin Jigz plastics they were throwing were doing a good job on the wary cutthroat and even a nice brookie.

Everyone caught fish and had a good time.

 photo DSCN6180 600x450_zpshkmsatxw.jpg

 photo DSCN6185 600x450_zpszs9ksj3a.jpg

 photo DSCN6187 600x450_zps3otn3e1h.jpg

 photo DSCN6191 600x450_zpsmju6gm2l.jpg

 photo DSCN6193 600x450_zpssg3lnaxe.jpg

 photo DSCN6197 600x450_zpshlghg7of.jpg

Purple.

 photo DSCN6199 600x450_zpsprpj8xxj.jpg

Fish of the day was a 22" cutthroat, though several larger fish escaped after a few head shakes.

 photo DSCN6208 600x450_zpsrp1wdl4z.jpg

 photo DSCN6210 600x450_zpsxtfrpimv.jpg

Quality fish were met by all and it was a good day.  It was especially nice to fish with a group of good guys that know what they're doing.  We'd been talking about it for awhile.

The past week, my cousin from Phoenix (another Aaron) made plans to come home to Utah for a spell.  He came up on Wednesday to meet Holdsworth for a couple of days of camping/fishing, then they met up with me on Saturday for more fishing.

Their camp out went especially well for Holdsworth, but we'll get to that in a bit.  Our trip on Saturday was also pretty fun.

I'd been hunching on a little lake that I believed to be "under the radar" and a potential sleeper, so we hiked about three miles to go and check.

 photo DSCN6221 600x450_zpshgt667qx.jpg

As we approached the small shallow lake, we noted many rise forms, hinting that the lake would be full of small fish in numbers.

That observation was correct.

 photo DSCN6223 600x450_zps6qiqwlmf.jpg

Having just lugged all of our gear there, we decided to stay for about 45-60 minutes to enjoy the fast action, but ultimately knew we'd leave to fish some more exciting water, somewhat close by.

That, we did.

 photo DSCN6224 600x450_zpsbw8xassq.jpg

 photo DSCN6225 600x450_zpsttlkvl1f.jpg

 photo DSCN6226 600x450_zpsccq4d8ak.jpg

Holdsworth and I pulled in quite a few feisty brookies from our tubes, but the shore fishing wasn't as good for PHX.  He ended up with a couple to hand, but most of the action was in the deeper water that we could reach.

Now let's go back to the Aarons' camping trip.  Holdsworth met PHX down south, mid-week, and they setup shop at a tiger trout lake.  The tiger fishing was slow, but they both got into a few good fish of almost 4lbs.

Holdsworth took the big fish honors though, as he found his jig in the mouth of a real beast tiger that took him for a thrill ride from shore.  He was lucky to land it without help!

I learned of this by way of text message that afternoon, while at work, of all places.  Having two more days of work in front of me after seeing the photo they sent me was pure torture.

The monster was 27.5" long and weighed 7.8lbs!  Holy crap!

All I can say is CONGRATULATIONS, buddy!  What a pig!

 photo IMG_1493 600x450_zpsmzwdpxwr.jpg

As more great water and access to it opens up, we should see some more excellent fish this year, however that one may be tough to beat.  This late winter up north is crazy!  It's June and a lake here in Utah County sitting at only 9000ft still had ice on it yesterday when the Aarons hiked to it.

The Uintas are still in Christmas Town in most places.  It's warming up significantly now though.  It shouldn't be but a couple of weeks until we can play in them thar hills.  Looking forward to it!

Happy Fishing, Humans.

4/12/17

Spring Update '17

Hello, fish people!  2017 has had a sluggish start, just like '16 and '15 did, but the onset of Spring has brought some better fortune with the warmer weather.

Like usual, the ice fishing season wasn't very good.  There are still places to go and drill holes, but I'm not interested in that at all.  Bring on the high country!

The first trip of this year was just a local quickie at Deer Creek Reservoir with Holdsworth, where we both caught and released a couple of long, skinny browns.  Nothing special, but it was still good to cast in January.

 photo DSCN5982 450x600_zpsyipa8afb.jpg

 photo DSCN5984 600x450_zpsdpzgrmnl.jpg

An ice fishing trip to Otter Creek Reservoir was really slow, yielding only one small rainbow from the lake and a mid-sized bow from the river.

 photo DSCN5987 600x450_zpsqugm2aiy.jpg

We mostly just stared at the stormy skies around us that day.  Aaron got skunked.

 photo DSCN5990 600x450_zpstqo03wtl.jpg

We tried our luck at Starvation Reservoir the next week and still got skunked, reverting to the river for some bendo.  The river was pretty slow, but a few good fish were caught.

 photo DSCN5996 600x450_zps4tojslve.jpg

 photo DSCN6000 600x450_zpsehodtdik.jpg

 photo DSCN6002 600x450_zpsk5xhxilf.jpg

Our next trip was pretty fun, considering the very slow fishing we'd endured thus far.  A lonely warm spring lake at the far western margin of Utah had been on my hit list for a long time and a moderately long drive through the Great Salt Lake Desert delivered us to Blue Lake.

We donned our waders and pumped up our tubes for our first float of the year.  Ambient temps were in the 40's, but the water was in the 60's.  Floating open water in February was reward enough and we even caught a few fish as well!

Here's Aaron with a big tilapia.  These were illegally introduced to the lake and a mandatory catch and kill regulation is the result of that.

 photo DSCN6005 600x450_zps0yshowwr.jpg

Pretty big.

I did alright for largemouth bass, this one being the largest:

 photo DSCN6009 600x450_zpsgakh093f.jpg

It was a good trip!  Floating a warm lake, catching bass, and wearing a hoodie in February is just fine in my book.  Neat place!

 photo DSCN6013 600x450_zpsmd6frzyp.jpg

 photo DSCN6014 600x450_zps7t5uhgrp.jpg

I'll surely be back someday.

Having taken our first float of the year, doing anything else the following week would have been an insult, so off we went to some more open water.  Minersville Reservoir hosted us on a windy day, but the ice was gone and we made the best of it.

Okay, Aaron made the best of it.

 photo DSCN6017 600x450_zpsfp5msrfm.jpg

Over 22 inches.  Nice.

 photo DSCN6019 450x600_zpsihouvxxn.jpg

My own experience wasn't great, but after all was said and done, I caught one fish for the day.

 photo DSCN6020 600x450_zpsu8ifkynn.jpg

We floated all over the place, but that one was all I could talk into playing.  Much of my time was spent fighting the wind or stretching out cramps on the shoreline.  Ouch!

Refusing to ice fish any more for the year, we chose to fish some moving water the following week.  A local creek in our area provided us a quick afternoon trip and an excuse to put our waders on.

Size wasn't part of the motivation, just scenery and a chance to get out.

 photo DSCN6028 450x600_zpsq2esvwia.jpg

Though there are some decent fish in the stream, most of the fish are small, colorful brown trout.

 photo DSCN6029 600x450_zpshaznat9n.jpg

 photo DSCN6030 600x450_zps7nnfnfio.jpg

 photo DSCN6031 600x450_zpsmzaobm5h.jpg

 photo DSCN6036 600x450_zpsaalv4njn.jpg

Mission accomplished!  It's such a beautiful place to be.  Cold clear pocket water flowing over granite boulders does a great job of rinsing the spirit.

 photo DSCN6040 450x600_zpsx1j1w9om.jpg

Gorgeous!

 photo DSCN6042 600x450_zpslbcvhu1d.jpg

 photo DSCN6043 600x450_zpsyvxe1ia1.jpg

Love that place!

Speaking of loving places, the weather warmed up quite a bit in March and my family and I took a weekend to go and visit the Goblins again.  We are trying to wear that place out!  Is there such a thing as "too much Goblin Valley"?  I think not.

This time around, we scouted out some potential future campsites and almost stayed in one of them.  With my boy's new telescope coming along with us, tight canyon walls on all sides was off the menu.  Next time, awesome campsite, next time.

We also did some real desert off-roading, driving straight up the sandy bed of a wash to go and find some sand dunes.

 photo DSCN6047 600x450_zpsslrcrbax.jpg

 photo DSCN6048 600x450_zpsmseo9zxe.jpg

We thought about camping there, but it was quite breezy and too much sand flying around discouraged that.



Those adventures led us through new parts of the San Rafael Swell and inspired future trips, for sure.

 photo DSCN6049 600x450_zpssjhllul4.jpg

 photo DSCN6050 600x450_zps9idos3ut.jpg

Once we'd established that our best skywatching opportunities would likely be had from one of our normal spots, we fought the stubborn wind and eventually got our camp setup.

Time for a hike!  I hope these kids understand how lucky they are to get out and see so much of the incredible land we live in.  They certainly seem to enjoy it, once those long drives are finished.

 photo DSCN6051 338x600_zpsinskrg5r.jpg

Though our site was situated in a small wash with some rock formations, the surrounding land was relatively featureless.  The desert is full of things to look at though, upon closer inspection.

 photo DSCN6051a 338x600_zps9kpioaya.jpg

Crazy stuff.  Looking at something like this, I can't help but question how these anomalies with contrasting patterns are formed.

Back at camp, we were a little bit irritated to see that we had neighbors in that small area.  It's not really a multi-family site, but whatever.  They turned out to be alright.  I'm sure they were disappointed to see someone already occupying "their" spot when they rolled in.

I guess privacy wasn't as important to them as getting their camp setup before dark.  Meh.

Our stargazing was pretty fun though, despite a thin veil of clouds that blocked some of our view.  Venus was impressive and my boy spent a few hours on the eyepiece.

In the morning, we went to the park and did our "GV Standard" hike to the eastern shelf that overlooks the main valleys.

 photo DSCN6052 600x450_zpsq4prekyg.jpg

 photo DSCN6055 600x450_zps3jool3k3.jpg

 photo DSCN6056 600x450_zpsxt2gcopd.jpg

 photo DSCN6057 450x600_zpsfyxdv3yl.jpg

 photo DSCN6065 600x450_zpsbpqsnrxs.jpg

 photo DSCN6066 600x450_zpsx2vs9ukn.jpg

Always enjoyable.  It was a great way to spend the last two days of winter and welcome in the spring!

The southern Utah bug embedded itself deeply into my mind, which carried over to the following weekend, when I took a solo trip to explore a couple of waters I'd never fished.

First stop was a small pond that has been stocked with brook trout for a couple of years and I was curious to see how they were doing.  My first dip into a twiggy section of shoreline provided a quick swipe from a small brookie that wiggled its way to freedom before a proper introduction could be made.

A quick hike to the other side and a more forgiving shoreline provided a couple of better hosts for a quick meet n' greet.  This was the largest I could wrangle.

 photo DSCN6066_zpshlbqqwnp.jpg

With that curiosity satisfied, I proceeded onward to what I believed was my main destination.

 photo DSCN6067 600x450_zps3unijtz6.jpg

 photo DSCN6068 600x450_zpsdnluedlq.jpg

 photo DSCN6069 450x600_zpsfdpnfdkg.jpg

After floating around the lake for over an hour with no signs of life, I began to wonder if my info about the lake was accurate or not.  Seeing I had LTE coverage, I reached out to a knowledgeable local guide and established that I had, in fact, been floating the wrong lake.  Thanks to Mike at the Quiet Flyfisher for setting me straight, and no thanks to Google for having it wrong on the map!

Once I righted my wrong and got on the lake I was looking for, I still didn't get into fish right away.  It took about an hour until I made my way to the opposite side, where a group of logs harbored a concentration of solid brookies.

 photo DSCN6070 600x450_zpstu3ckvi6.jpg

 photo DSCN6071 600x450_zps13bdjh3u.jpg

 photo DSCN6072 600x450_zpspwygxkkh.jpg

 photo DSCN6075 600x450_zpsv6fcyv2e.jpg

That last one went 19 inches.  Not bad for a lake I'd never fished!

 photo DSCN6077 600x450_zpsbhjp4pmi.jpg

The fishing wasn't super fast-paced, but once I found a willing mouth, things fell into place quite well and I ended up with steady fishing for the rest of my stay.

 photo DSCN6086 600x450_zpsqwyjltj4.jpg

So finally, a good day on the water was had!  Fishing aside, any day with a view like this is a winner in my book.

As was the case the week before, the southern Utah bug maintained its grip on my brain, causing me to visit another area that had recently opened up.  Originally planning to carpool with Aaron, my plans changed at the last moment and whether or not I could fish that day was up in the air.

Aaron took the news well and carried on without me.  I ended up meeting him down there after tending to matters at home.

The drive was pretty sketchy with really bad mud and 4" of new snow on the road, leading up the mountain.  Had I not seen Aaron's tracks in front of me, I may have turned around to fish other waters.

After some sloppy climbs and a healthy layer of mud came to rest on my truck, I made it to where Aaron had parked.  We met up and discussed his fishing up to that point.  He stopped at a lower pond where he caught a mix of smaller trout and had just started prepping for the next spot, where we both floated.

Within moments of our arrival to the shoreline, a large fish rolled on the surface and we made haste to get floating.  Aaron missed a strike before I even shoved off and claimed it was a bigger fish with red on its belly.

Once I was afloat, a feeling came over me, prompting me to grab my fly rod to start with.  Casting a brown "zuddler", it only took two casts and I was hooked up with a nice cutthroat.

 photo DSCN6088 600x450_zpsg8e6mnqe.jpg

 photo DSCN6089 600x450_zpsiwn0vahp.jpg

Having only caught tiny cutts from that particular pond in the past, holding that one was quite the thrill.  That was all the love I could get on the fly rod though and I traded over to jigging gear.  It worked.

 photo DSCN6091 600x450_zps2rqcdggx.jpg

More cutthroat around that size came to hand, but Aaron stuck a bruiser after awhile.

 photo DSCN6092 600x450_zpse5wgwqkz.jpg

 photo DSCN6095 600x450_zpsd55wg0cx.jpg

Nice fish!  A big colorful male cutthroat is easy on the eyes.

I found a "special" one:

 photo DSCN6097 600x450_zpsqpftnn0u.jpg

Once we'd worn out our welcome at that lake, we hopped over to another nearby lake that provided slow fishing for a couple of hours.  Though I caught three fish, all different species, they were small and didn't provide the same excitement as the last lake.

Hoping for a change of pace and better size, we drove to another spot, then took a little hike to investigate a small pond with some tiger trout of unknown size.  With tigers stocked up to three years ago. our hopes were high that some well-fed fish would fill our hands.

Our wishes were granted.

 photo DSCN6099 600x450_zpsownczb34.jpg

The first catch wasn't huge, but it showed evidence of a healthy diet and it fought way bigger than its size, which was great to feel on the line.  Wow, what a fight!  Colorful too.

 photo DSCN6100 450x600_zps0bden0pe.jpg

Even the younger fish had shoulders.

 photo DSCN6101 600x450_zpsa4bxlbm5.jpg

A good sized female made an appearance.

 photo DSCN6103 600x450_zpsphrxlw2s.jpg

Those fish were quite happy to taste my hooks and they fought a viscous battle every time.  It was just what I needed!

 photo DSCN6109 600x450_zpsw1dztv2x.jpg

Gorgeous tigers.

 photo DSCN6113 600x450_zpsy0zkoroc.jpg

We stayed too long and had to mud-ski our trucks down the sloppy road in the dark, but getting a taste of the higher country was well worth the trouble (and the extra tank of gas).  Good times!

 photo DSCN6106 450x600_zpsqwndcshz.jpg

Needing to stay within half-tank range this past weekend, Aaron and I pointed ourselves east and visited a few water bodies out there.

Our first stop was a place I've fished a limited number of times, quite a few years ago.  Aaron had never been, and several changes had been made at that lake since my last visit, specifically the addition of tiger trout to the stocking regimen.

We hoped to float, but when we arrived, the wind was blowing too hard to allow that, so we ended up walking around the entire lake, looking for concentrations of fish.

After all was said and done, we never found any concentrations of fish, but I did catch one fat rainbow, with another longer one slipping away at my feet.

 photo DSCN6118 600x450_zps9a4n4vtt.jpg

After our long walk and most of the way across the dam again, Aaron finally hooked one, which was a hunch-backed rainbow.

 photo DSCN6120 600x450_zpsyvf92sne.jpg

 photo DSCN6122 600x450_zpserlly0zg.jpg

It's no fun to work all day without catching anything, so I'm glad one finally cooperated with him.

Seeing the condition of the fish we did catch made us wish the wind would go away so we could get out and cover more water.  If the rainbows were that stocky, the tigers surely had some meat to them.  The wind wasn't going anywhere though, so we left and took a detour to check on Currant Creek Reservoir.

Still totally capped with ice!  The elevation difference between the two lakes is only around 400ft, but Currant Creek is tucked away in the hills a bit farther and the air tends to be colder.  The lingering ice sheet was thin enough to hurl a big rock through, so it won't be long until CC is open for business.

Left with few options for the remainder of the day, we stopped at the Ladders of Strawberry Reservoir on our way home.  There was a very large area of open water and the inflow was raging.  The strong current made it difficult to present to the fish, but I was able to catch a couple of 21 inch cutthroat before we called it a night.

 photo DSCN6123 600x450_zpsbej7aeyk.jpg

 photo DSCN6124 600x450_zpsspzpm6ky.jpg

Perhaps the last couple of weeks had already spoiled me and I just needed a tough day with few fish.  No matter, the high country is slowly beginning to open up and incredible fishing is not far away.  The future is bright!

 photo DSCN6112 600x450_zpsk5lggl5a.jpg

Happy Fishing, Humans.

Some Background...

WHY FISH?

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.

It's only natural.

Happy Fishing, Humans.