Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Part One: Utah Cutts 3/4 Slam

Driving up the mountain past Cedar City, a college town, we were amazed how many vehicles were making their way up the mountain. Were these people going to the same destination as us? After all this was a long weekend. Were these just college kids going to get drunk? Anxiety began to set in until we finally reached our turnoff and everyone continued straight.   Looked like clear sailing from there. 

Cedar filled the air as we opened the window driving up the mountain. In no time we were above 9000 feet.  By this time it was past 9 and dark.  We had a late start in the morning and arrived at our destination near mammoth creek late.  Too late to fish as we planned.    
At the campsite  it was packed but we found a spot. The only spot left.  Tired and in no mood to take all the gear out of the truck to get to the camp kitchen I made simple dinner langostino quesadilla with fresh salsa.   Went to bed about midnight after that.
Woke up in the morning still in no mood to dig out the mobile camp kitchen that was buried deep within the truck bed, so for breakfast we ate instant ramen that my fishing partner brought.  I rigged up my small rod and threw a few casts near camp.  Too cold to get a fish to rise as it was still too early.  Our intention was to fish the first night for an hour or so to get our Bonneville but since we didn't make it to the water until nightfall we had a decision to make, skip the Bonneville and move on or stay here a while and fish.
Given this location was the closest to us I voted for us to move on.  We could always come back over a long weekend and get our Bonneville but was vetoed and we choose to stay to try and get our fish.  He said it was only a ten minute drive to the water.  It turned out much longer than that and it was in the opposite direction.  We drove out to the water and parked near the water.  I was already rigged up and headed down to the water and within a few casts had my Bonneville.
I then had to wait for him to get his fish.  We had to drive upstream a bit to get better access.  We were there much longer than planned and we headed north to our next location to get our second cutthroat necessary for the Utah Cutthroat Slam.
Several hours later we reached our next destination. After taking an off-road trail for no reason, I got us back on track after looking over the map and noticed there was an easier way in.  The detour took us at least an hour and when we arrived at the parking spot I was itching to get out.  I failed to get my Colorado River Cutthroat earlier this year on my Southwest (and Rockies) trout tour so I was ready to rectify that.
With the detour, we were short on time and were only able to fish a couple hours.  This water holds much better fish and also contained tiger trout.  Some rather large tiger trout.  We noticed one that was at least in the 16 plus inches that refused any thing we threw at it.  Although if I had any nymphs on me I think he might have taken but when fishing small streams I tend to leave my subsurface stuff in the truck.  Had we not wasted time at the first location or had not taken a poor path we would have had more time here and I imagine much better fishing.
It wasn't long before I managed my second cuttie of the four necessary to complete the slam.  Missed or lost a few  along the way.  Before long it was time to head out to the next location.  My fishing partner never did get his Colorado and wanted to stay.  I vetoed that immediately.    I didn't take time off to catch small fish.  Utah is the closest state to us on this trip.  All these fish can be caught another time without taking a week off work whereas all the other states we planned on fishing requires much more planning and time off.  I didn't want to waste anymore time in Utah than necessary.  I wanted more time in the trophy waters.  So we were on the road again.  Another several hours northbound and we were in the Bear River range.

We arrived after dark and with all the campsites taken we boon docked in the National Forest.  A nice site along the river.   Having eaten a quick bite on the road we skipped dinner and went straight to bed after setting up camp.
We awoke in the morning had breakfast and drove to the next destination, East Fork of the Bear River, to try for the third species.   This area was popular with the Razor crowd and quite busy but few were actually angling, at least not in the area we were fishing.  I noticed a nice rise early just under a cattle gate that dangled across the river.  While I tried my best to get my fly in position but I simply did not have an angle to get a proper drift and decided to move on to easier casting water.  Wasn't long before I managed my first Bear River Cutthroat.  We continued to fish another half mile or so before calling it quits.  Again I didn't want to spend too much time in small fish water when we were heading to some premium trophy water in the coming days.
Since the last of the four cutthroat, the Yellowstone, was located in the wrong direction of our route we left that accomplishment for another day.  I'd eventually get my Yellowstone, not in Utah but in it's namesake.  I'll return someday to complete the slam so I can get my certificate and pin but that'll have be for another time.

It was time to start the journey into big trout country.
To Be Continued...Next Wyoming and the Grand Tetons.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Koji's Bucket List Fish: Golden Trout

September 29, 2019
While driving up Sherman Pass after I told him the peak is over 9000 feet, Koji let me know he'd never been above 7000 feet.  I thought to myself I hope he doesn't get altitude sickness.  Then I thought to myself, I hope I don't get altitude sickness.  I knew I hadn't drank enough during the day fishing the Kern.  I planned on re-hydrating myself at camp when we were done but going up Sherman Pass was an impromptu decision.  I should have been drinking all the way up but didn't.  I knew I was dehydrated.  When we finally found a campsite I was busy setting up camp and making dinner that I didn't drink much.
At night I awoke a few times with dry mouth and drank as much as I could but given the cold temps the water was too cold to drink quickly enough.  When I woke in the morning I was feeling nauseated.  I tried again drink water but it simply was too cold to get enough in my system.  So I fired up the stove to make tea and tried to hydrate with some warm liquids.  The morning was absolutely freezing and I was in no mood to drink.
It took some time for me to get started, spending much of my time trying to get my core temperature up.  We left last night's dishes for the morning and while cleaning them for breakfast the water was so cold it started to freeze on the dishes and our hands.  Eventually we'd get them clean and I made some scrambled eggs and toast.
After cleaning up and breaking down camp we looked at the winds and decided to fish for goldens as this was a bucket list fish for Koji.  Now the decision was which water we'd fish.  Should we off-road, drive up or hike to a creek?  It was decided we'd fish a meadow that has never been stocked with nonnatives and we'd hike into it.  I really didn't want to hike as I was feeling the affects of altitude sickness but since I'd never fished this section so I sucked it up and after a couple tylenols I felt only slightly better.
First stop was at the ranger station to throw away our trash and talk to the ladies about conditions.  They let me know that winds are only expected to be 5 mph this day.  Much more ideal for fly fishing than the 40 mph the previous day.
Around noon we arrived at the trailhead and started our descent to the meadow.  The hike was just over a mile and half.  Eventually we reached the meadow checking out the old cabins first before reaching the water.  We'd see deer hunters and backpackers throughout the day but never saw another angler all day.
We reached the water and Koji spots his first golden trout ever just off the trail.  We started to rig up and I told Koji "you're first up."   As we were rigging up Koji was ready to go and headed down the trail into the canyon.  I would follow suit about 5 minutes later.
When I reached him he'd already caught two.  Well I guess he didn't need my help so I headed further downstream and started fishing.  Unlike the spring creek meadow this water was brushy and with a almost too steep a gradient.  There were a few fishable pockets and I managed three before headed back into the meadow.
The meadow proved much better fishing.  The creek was narrow and the wind was starting to pick up.  I was fishing my one weight and had to aim far left to get my fly to land into the water.
As with most of my golden trout experiences, fishing was easy.  Almost too easy.  Every other cast produced fish ranging from dink to 8 inches.  By two o'clock it was time to go.  Not sure how many we caught but I wouldn't be surprised if it were 60 among the three of us if not more.
The slight elevation slowed us down except for Kelly who was a goat and hiked out of there like a champ.  My altitude sickness definitely had me beat and I was as slow as a turtle.  Koji was only 5 minutes behind me and given the time difference and the thin air he managed quite well.
Kelly was the first to the parking lot then me and then Koji.  When he finally reached the truck I asked him if he wanted to still fish.  There was another easy access golden trout spot I could take him or we could return to the Kern but he was beat and said he was done.
So Kelly headed back to the South Bay and I drove Koji back to Bakersfield before heading back to SoCal. I'm glad everything worked out even though it happened in reverse.  The Kern was supposed to be the end destination not he first but that's alright as ultimately I managed to get Koji both a Kern River Rainbow and a golden.
When I got back home LA traffic wanted me to turn back around and go back from where I came.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Koji in the USA: Kern River

My friend from Japan, Koji, is Stateside on business.  He emailed my a few months ago that he might be stopping by, where he'll be, and if I could arrange some fishing opportunities for him.  I gave him some options and let him decide what type of fishing he wanted to do.  Go for "big" trout or go for goldens.  He opted for goldens.  As the weeks came closing in I kept checking weather and fishing reports.  All good.  Weather, fishing and conditions all looked promising.  He asked if he'd be needing waders I told him probably not but I'd let him know closer to the departure date.  A week before his trip weather conditions changed drastically and a storm was moving in from the north.  I emailed him bring waders.
Since Koji wasn't expected to be in Bakersfield until 11pm I decided to kill some time fishing a local creek on my way up to meet him at the motel.  On my way up north I got a text from my buddy Kelly who would meet us the next day that our intended fishing destination with forecasts of 40 mph winds which changed our plans.  We would have to fish the Kern which we intended to do on our last day on our way back to Bakersfield.  I arrived in town and had dinner before retiring to the motel.  By 9 or so Koji arrived.  I gave him the bad news and told him we going to have to fish the Kern. 
In 2016 Koji was here on business and had a few hours to fish before his flight back to Japan.  He'd asked about renting a boat and fishing Newport Bay.  I recall the tides were poor and it was winter so water was cold.  Not really ideal conditions.  I told him it would likely be a waste of money.  Since he was in Bakersfield I suggested we fish the Kern.  Well that didn't go so well.  It was in the middle of the drought and fishing everywhere was poor but at least it wouldn't cost him anything.  Ultimately it was a bust and we were all skunked.   I hoped this time would be better.
In the morning we met Kelly at a local diner for breakfast before heading to the water.  We started at the power plant but had no success.  A gear angler fishing salmon eggs quickly got his limit fishing the opposite bank.  We'd drive from hole to hole looking for fish.  We'd all eventually get fish but we had to work for them.  I lost a very good fish when he popped off.  I took the two to the "honeyhole" after driving all around looking for it.  I ended up with two to hand none of them worth a picture.  Kelly took one and had a beast hit his fly hard before breaking off.  Koji with a fish already under his belt lost a nice one after a few minutes fight.
It was getting late and we were deciding where to camp.  After looking at some of the campgrounds, we decided to head up Sherman Pass and look for a place to disperse camp in the National Forest.  The would decided the next morning if we were  to try for goldens depending on wind conditions when we awoke.
We expected freezing nights but nothing compared to what we experienced.  I brought my zero degree bag and one for Koji.  I'm glad I did as temps dropped in the low twenties. It was so cold any standing water froze almost instantly making washing dishes difficult. Even water on our toothbrushes created instant ice crystals.  I set up a tent for Koji while Kelly and I slept in our trucks.  When I awoke the condensation on my windows instantly iced over.  It was probably one of the coldest nights I've spent in the wild. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Not So Local Local Creek

September 27, 2019
While on route to Bakersfield I decided to stop by a not so local "local" creek to check it out.  I've only fished it once and the last time I was here my buddy Kyung and I were kicked off the water by the Forest Service as there was a brush fire three ridges over coming our way.  That was back in 2006.  We were ill-prepared to fish here, equipped with heavier than necessary long rods for the eastside.  That's because we fished here only after calling our Eastside trip short because of poor fishing.  While on our way back home we spontaneously decided to check this place out on the drive home.  Missing the only fish I only managed to get to rise we were kicked off the water not long thereafter.  While walking to the parking lot we were stopped in our tracks when a ranger forbid us to go down the road as a helicopter was landing on out path.  It stayed there stationary for 30 minutes, routers running before we asked if we could simply go down the bank and hike around the chopper.  He agreed and let us go on our way as long as we stayed away from the blades.  Once we got in our vehicles we battled traffic to get off the mountain into safety.
Now thirteen years later I returned to check it out.  I was the only car parked in the parking lot.  Not always a good sign.  After rigging up I hiked down to check out the water and noticed the distinct smell of  "green skunk" in the air.  Three young men and one gal popped out of the brush and onto the trail stoned out of there mind.  I continued hiking up after looking at the dismal water.  Small, stagnant and stale.  No sign of life.  This was disappointing.  I continued upstream and the water started to move and look promising.  Problem was accessing fishable water.  Either it was too choked with brush or the banks were too steep and unstable to get down. 
I did eventually find some fishable water and managed to get a fish in the 11-12 inch range to rise on my dry.  He dove into a boulder and spooked a handful of fish out of there before I wrangled him out and landed him.  I tried to get my phone out of my pocket for a pic before he bucked himself loose.  While landing him I noticed the spooked fish were all unphased by my presence.  I looked closer and I noticed they were largemouth bass and a handful of bluegill.  One bass looked at least in the two pound range.  Armed only with a handful of dries and a one weight I tried futilely to get him to bite but to no avail.

I moved up and managed a few more fish but called it a day after struggling to get any further upstream.  It was just too much effort to go through the jungle.  I climbed out of there up the bank and that was an effort as well.  I decided to call it quits after that.  

Hiking back to the truck I heard another promising piece of  water through the dense foilage and decided to make the effort to get down to investigate.   When I did I manged another nice local specimen and a handful of dinks thrown in.  Now I decided to call it quits and go back to the truck.  Of the few hours I spent at this place I spent 98% of the time either hiking or looking for a way to the water and only 2% actually fishing.  Not sure I'll be returning anytime soon.  If I do I'll be targeting that bass.  I wasted enough time to start my journey north to meet my buddy in Bakersfield later that night.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Last Chance of the Popper Season

September 22, 2019
Another day at Canyon Lake.  This time will most likely be the last day for popper fishing this season as look is booked for the next few weekends and when he returns it will most likely be too cold for topwater.  Slow day even though Luc had a few rises early.  All resulted in misses unfortunately.  I tried several new flies, mostly of the mice variety but had no luck.  Eventually after changing flies several times I went for an old faithful, my rattletail, that has proven itself the past few seasons.  Not long after I had one on.  Missed another later in the day.  Luc went one for six.

The Yellowstone Road Trip Report is still in the works and posts will be out once I have time to compose it and go through the hundreds of photos.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Preview: Yellowstone Road Trip

Took to the road with another 2500 miles trip in search of fish within the Rockies.  Fished for Bonneville, Colorado River, Bear River, Snake River, Yellowstone cutthroats, rainbows and browns in multiple states.  Three out of four fish caught for the Utah Cutthroat Slam.  Two of the four of the Wyoming Cutthroat Slam. Report forthcoming.