The year is young, but it's already off to an amazing start. Even though I've skipped a couple of weekends, the two trips I've taken have been more than satisfying.
The first trip of the year was a trip to ice fish Starvation Reservoir on the 12th with Holdsworth. It was ridiculously slow and I only caught one small rainbow with nubby fins. Aaron caught two. It wasn't really worth the drive, so we decided to make due on the river.
We went to a stretch that I'm pretty familiar with and nice brown trout were waiting in most of the usual spots, although some recent/current changes in effect have messed up one of the better holes for now.
Aaron struck first and the floodgates were open to some healthy butterloaf action.
My first catch:
Plenty more after that.
Some banks had a thick enough border of ice that I could stand on them.
An afternoon on a river was just what I needed to start off a great year.
It was a slow day on the ice that turned into an excellent river trip.
Really good day. Much needed.
Our next trip didn't happen until yesterday (Jan 26) and with ice thickness increasing at most viable spots, I had been on the hunt for ripe lakes with thinner ice, since we have to use a hatchet or a spud bar to get through it.
I have a good Nils auger, but dirty ice killed the edge and it's more work than it's worth until I get that sharpened. Aaron's bar works well though. 6-8" isn't too bad, but anything thicker gets rough after a couple of holes.
Reading through the DWR's fishing reports, I saw that we may have an easier time with the ice at Joe's Valley Reservoir, which I hadn't fished for about a year. I was hopeful that fishing a different location than last year's flop would yield better results.
Mid-sized splake and maybe some cutthroat were what I expected to find, based on my history at Joe's. We noted the low water level and walked well out into the Seely arm and settled right between the two points on either side of us.
I chipped out a couple of holes and Aaron dropped down into the first of those while I cleared away the slushy snow from between them and fished my other hole with a Gulp leech. It didn't hit the bottom before he had a fish on a Gulp minnow.
He pulled up a splake of about 17" and we continued to work the the bottom in about 45ft. Time ticked on and nothing else was happening, so Aaron got his own holes made and I went to change up my gear, realizing I had left the minnows and worms in the truck.
It took awhile to get that problem fixed and Aaron was just getting another bite from that first hole when I returned. It never materialized, so he moved back to his holes and I dropped a big white salted tube jig (with black speckles) tipped with a red side shiner minnow.
That never touched the bottom either and a nice cutthroat of just under 19" met me briefly.
After I let that go, I re-tipped my jig with another minnow and got another nice cutthroat, just as it hit the bottom. No pics of that one, but it was near the same size.
Rinse, repeat. BOOM! Another cutthroat on the line, this time, a big male with a set of shoulders. I set it in our little reservoir between the holes (the slush was out of the way, so about 4" of standing water filled the gap between my holes) and fumbled for my camera while it swam to the other hole and vanished. I wanted a pic of that one, but no matter.
Meanwhile Aaron wasn't getting any more action and I felt bad to announce that I had another on. He turned to look at me with my rod firmly bent and just shook his head in disgust for that last one. That's fishing, isn't it?
It was about then that we heard some excitement erupt from a tent about 100 yards away from us. We watched as two guys burst from the tent holding a nice fish. They were shouting to another angler nearby about how big it was and I thought I'd volunteer my scale and measuring stick.
As I got closer, the guy with the fish was happy to get some stats on his prize, which he said he was putting on his wall. My measuring stick is 25" and it was about a half inch longer than that and it scaled at 6lbs, 12oz.
I went back to my holes and caught another fish right away, also nice, but not like the hog I had just measured. Aaron still didn't have anything going. I gave him one of my tube jigs and my hole so he could have the best chance to get something going on.
Soon enough, more excitement came from the tent with those two guys (from Huntington) and they asked me to come and measure an even bigger fish. What?
Had it been a smaller fish I may have declined because I was just getting a bite in Aaron's hole (sad, right?), but an even bigger fish was too great to resist and I jogged over to them another time. They met me part of the way and I was aghast at the monster I saw.
The fish buried my measuring stick and we'll stay safe with 28"+ and it weighed 9lbs, 8oz!
Holy cow, what a fish!
Seriously the biggest cutthroat I've ever seen in person and from Joe's Valley! I always knew it had some nice fish in it, but no idea that they were there in numbers. Always catching smaller fish led me to believe that catching the bigger ones was a pure chance happening.
Back at my holes again, I caught a new personal best cutthroat within 10 minutes. It was a great fight and the slabby cutthroat took a few runs after letting me see how big it was. Once it finally breached, I was proud to hoist up my trophy for a couple of pics.
What a pig! Aaron worked my camera for a quick video of the release:
Talk about a great day on the ice! A little while later, I found my first of three splake on the day.
Aaron finally got a bite on his jaw jacker and pulled up a good sized spake, which was nice to see. His next fish was yet another splake, which was 21". Guess what hole that came from? Yep, my first one again.
Crazy how one hole was producing the best. To be fair, I caught fish from every hole except one of Aaron's, but the bite was noticeably better from that first one.
Nice fish. He held out for a big cutthroat that had to be in the cards for him and kept fishing. I kept fishing, but without any sense of urgency. My day was already made and I was happy to enjoy the beauty of a sunny day in Joe's Valley.
It took awhile, but Aaron hooked a solid fish in the lucky hole and a battle to the surface ensued. Finally, he had a cutthroat on the line! I was at the ready for measurements and also with my camera.
Yes! A 24" beast of 4lbs, 11oz filled his hands.
It was great to get that monkey off his back. The bite really died after that and the last couple of hours were very slow. I thought I might catch a fish I wanted to keep, but ended up with two more splake of about 20" or so.
As we debated on leaving, we were approached by a Conservation Officer who checked us out. He mentioned he had seen photos of the big ones those two guys from earlier caught, so he wanted to come and see how everyone else was doing.
It was actually refreshing to see some enforcement there, as I don't recall ever being checked at Joe's.
After that, the light started fading and we decided to leave, satisfied with one of our better days on ice. What an amazing day it turned out to be from a place I expected much less from.
This trip changes everything I thought I knew about JVR. Expect more from this place in the coming times.
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.