Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fall Browns Redux

Following your intuition.

As I descended down the steps and across the bridge at Cress Creek the bugs were everywhere both midges and small BWOs. They danced upon the surface and there were some rising twinks taking the insects off of the top. I thought at the time that it was a good portent. If this had been a July day every riffle would have had five dozen fish rising enthusiastically in the choppy water, but as it is the weird season, that intermediate time between the end of the brown spawn yet early enough in the winter season that the fish aren't yet holding in the deep water, my life wasn't so easy.

Sometimes I think when I am out fishing I should follow my gut more rather than my head. After last weeks brown trip I decided that for this weeks outing, though it was good but not great, I was going to try to find a better spot, where the fish were stacked deep. And so following my head instead of my gut I spent three futile hours on a mile of river between the Cress Creek parking lot and the Railroad Bridge above Ririe. I pounded riffles, deep holes, slow froggy water, everything, looking for a pod of brown trout. I hiked, waded, bushwacked, climbed, and searched riffle and hole.

I have decided that when I am out solo fishing (my two companions for the trip today bailed at the last moment) and not catching anything, I can wax rather philosophic. It probably has something to do with a lot of free time and no one to converse with. I was remembering the halcyon days of last year where my fall Brown Trout outings were rewarding me me with 30 fish in under an hour and in the melancholy half light of a winter afternoon as I cast here and there pondering the meaning of life and where the fish were hiding, the fickle fishing gods decided to play a nice trick on me.

As I was turned directions in the riffle I was standing in and spit a roll cast out 180 degrees opposite from where I had been casting, my line would not roll nor neatly unfold. As I hadn't been looking at my indicator nor paying attention to my flies, of course I caught a fish. The deities of fishing took pity on me, but they are capricious and their charity was only a whitefish.

I fished the area till late afternoon and then decided to finally follow my gut. I hiked the mile back up to my car, loaded my gear and headed upstream. 4:20 pm saw me at the bottom of the hole where I had done fairly well last Friday. Considering that it gets dark around 5:00 pm I figure that in 40 minutes spent here, I did well.

A couple of months ago , I remember reading an editorial piece in one of the fly fishing rags about the impossibility of an 100 fish day. Anyone who affirms that this is impossible has never fished the right place at the right time. Like hitting the salmon fly, stone fly and PMD hatch on the SF just right, where hundreds of hungry Cutthroats are smacking just about everything that pass their way, allowing an angler to catch 30 fish easily in an hour, if presenting the right color and size of flies. A 100 fish day, could well have a possibility today, had I followed my gut.

I hit the bottom of the hole and saw a couple of wakes. My cast tight against the bank saw me into trout. At last. In the fading last hour of the evening, fishing by the light of the full moon I redeemed the day. It wasn't a fish every cast, like it was in the hole directly below me in the previous year, but it was better than the previous 3 hours of nothing but 2 whitefish.

When fishing solo and acting as the camera man and fisherman, composition suffers.

I continued to fish well after the sun had gone down, casting in the dimming twilight and by the light of the hazy cloud obscured full moon. Towards the end I was setting the hook by feel. There was a slight tick that I could sense as the big browns would feel the bight of the glow bug. I would set the hook and off they would charge. I finally decided to give up when I could barely discern my indicator upon the water.

New fangled "Flash" photography. Catching fish by moonlight.

They say tonight's full moon is going to be the largest appearing full moon in over 15 years. Too bad I will be traveling, or I would go to the same spot and fish.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Fall Browns

I have been out on the SF, then the Provo and the SF again since my last post. All in the hopes of finding lots of Brown Trout. The first two trips, while not utter skunks (I caught a couple each trip) were slow. As one of my goals for blogging is to take better pictures I am now carrying the camera more often, but I suffer from a malady. When I am into the fish I don't like to stop and take pictures. That and I keep proving to myself just how bad I am at framing up a photo.

Yesterday on the SF was pretty good. The first fish I caught I would have sworn was a brown. I saw flashes of a deep copper belly a few times before I brought him to hand, only to find the deep orange red slashes of a cutthroat. Deceptive fish. The colors on the fish (both the Cutts and the Browns) right now are amazing, but my only picture from the trip failed to capture the deep purple that was around the gill plates of the fish.

Glo Bug and Glue Bug, combo of the day.

After hunting around a bit (my favorite hole for this time of year was a no go as the water about 300 cfs lower this year than it was this time last year, or the bottom has moved, or both) I finally found a nice deep slow hole with lots of fish hiding in it (I had chased them out of skinny water and here they settled). I am learning that nothing is constant on the SF. After high water your favorite spot may be completely re-arranged as the water relocates the river bottom. The South Channel boat ramp at Twin Bridge is completely dewatered, and my early winter honeyhole from last year has less than 1/2 the water down it. The area for me that seems to experience the least change from year to year is right above Fall Creek, but even this area changes.

My catch ratio of trout to whitefish was about 3:1. The Browns weren't as big as I had hoped, but there were a couple in the 18 inch range and a few that fought quite hard. I need to find a new primo water for the next two weeks before the fish respond to the colder water temps and hunker down at the bottom of the deep slow holes.

I am considering making a trip to chase steelhead the 20th-21st of December, but as I have never chased steelheads before I am unsure if that is too late, and where to go. I finally have all the components of an 8 wt setup, and the water levels on the Salmon above Salmon are low. Guess I need to do some research.

My Christmas tree excursion this year was very successful, and some perusing of some other local's blogs has convinced me that I need to hike, snowshoe and ski more with my little ones so expect to see more family related content here. It will be outdoorsy but not necessarily only fishing related. That or I need to start a new blog for my other adventures. Hmmmmm.....

Friday, November 14, 2008

Didn't Happen This Year

Generally October-November provides a window of opportunity to catch very large, fat and sassy rainbows that run into the headwaters of a local waterway from the reservoir downstream. Last year saw my father and I into 25-27" fish, most weighing better than 5 lbs from mid October through mid November. This year, nothing of the kind. I tried the same tactics on the same stretch of river at the same time of the year 3 times this year and never found anything bigger than 20 inches. My only guess is that the reservoir was very high this year versus low over the past few years. I always thought it was the run of kokanees into the spawning gravel that brought the large fish into these waters, now I am thinking it is fish running from the heating temperatures in the lake late in the summer into the constant mild temperatures of the spring fed river.

What we were looking for:

Large, fat rainbows with maws big enough to swallow a duckling.
The big fish in this photo is most likely around 12 lbs.

What we found:

16-18 inch hard fighting rainbows but not the leviathans of our dreams.

Now I have a couple of more opportunities before the end of the season on this stretch, but I think I will pass. The SF is very low now and aggressive, randy browns in skinny water are calling to me. Last year the browns disappeared from the skinny water shortly after Thanksgivings so I need to get out while the getting is good.

My big rainbow run of late fall just didn't happen this year. Now I am sad.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Stunted Brown on the South Fork

I haven't written anything in the last two weeks even though I've been out on the river a couple of times. Went up to the bathtubs with Scott and Dan two weekends ago but the big fish still weren't in (though Scott did shoot the nice pic which I am now using for my title), and hit the SF last week for an afternoon at the railroad bridge area below Heise, but as I didn't take any photos, no blog postings.

So when Daryl called me yesterday morning calling due a favor (he gave me a desk this spring for my office on the condition that I take his father and him fishing later in the year) I had to say yes.

The day was beautiful, sunny and mild and the foliage has fairly much all changed color. The valley is very pretty right now. I can't remember the last time we had weather this nice for Halloween. We got into a few small cutthroats and rainbows in the first hole we stopped in a hundred yards below our put in at Spring Creek and I thought that we might have a good day, but it really slowed down after that.

We saw a bald eagle with a fish in his claws winging down river, and he did better than we did for the most part the rest of the day. Which is not to say we didn't catch fish, but by Dan's reckoning white fish count negatively against your tally for the day and so I was well into the negatives, approaching double digits. At our third stop I picked a medium brown on nymphs, but outside of that it was whitefish city.

We continued down the river and hit a small side channel maybe 15 feet across. It was a good drop into a deep channel and it looked very fishy. I picked up two white fish and moved down a bit when wham. My indicator screamed up stream quickly followed by something huge and dark that came about half way out of the water and powered away. At first I thought I had some how hooked into a muskrat but saw as it tailwalked across the channel that it was a BIG fish. I couldn't tell if it was a brown or a cutthroat. We fought for a bit and I finally got the fish under control and into a slow spot of water that afforded me a good look at it. Turned out to be a large brown.

For all my friends from Utah who read this blog and talk about the stunted fish on the Lower and Middle Provo here is what a stunted South Fork Brown looks like. This fish went about 23 inches.

Stunted South Fork Brown (the big ones weigh in the double digits)

I took the pictures while Daryl held the fish. I still need to work on my photo skills as my composition leaves much to be desired.

Daryl managed to drop the fish on it's head, which seemed to stun it a bit but it revived fairly nicely after about 1/2 a minute of resuscitation in the river's current, and hunkered down on the bottom a bit before taking off.

I picked up one more whitefish, so by Dan's fish tallying system I was still in negative territory even though the brown could have eaten the better part of all the whites I caught at one sitting without feeling like it had over eaten.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

3 Days Difference

Snuck out to the South Fork for a couple of hours of fishing with a buddy. We first hit the same spot I did so well on Saturday. The first few casts quickly saw me into a whitefish and the next 20 minutes produced bupkis, except for about 15 snags on the snarls at the top of the hole. It is amazing the difference 3 days can make.

The water has dropped another 1000 some-odd cfs, and was a good foot lower in the side channel where this hole was located. The day was mild, sunny and bright. No snow was falling, in fact all the snow from the weekend had melted off. We passed an area with a lot of great looking structure, about 1/2 mile below on our drive up to fish, and decided to return to this highly inviting area.

We drove down, dropped into the river and started fishing the numerous drop holes and braids. I quickly tied into a fat little rainbow. John (fishing buddy) leapfrogged me, up to the next hole and really started to get into the fish. He still had his nymphs on but the number of risers he was seeing convinced him to switch to dries so he tied on a parachute adams.

I continued up through the next hole, picking up a pair of whitefish and then moved on to right above where the braid separated from the main channel. I started with nymphs and in rapid order picked up a 16 inch brown, a tailwalking, tumbling rainbow and then a fat, heavy shouldered 18 or so inch cut that fought so hard that I swore it was a brown. This cutt made a number of powerful, deep runs typical of a brown, so I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that it was a cutt.

John was a hooting and a hollering so I walked back downstream to see what all the fuss was about. He had picked up a number of cutts from his little pool on dries and was releasing a nice fish.

I walked back up to the main river and as I entered the water noticed several large rise forms. The hatch was on! I took a couple of minutes to change my rigging and tied on a grumpy and a bwo comparadun. The fish were jumping everywhere in front of me. I picked up a couple of mid sized cutts on the comparadun, and it got pretty beat up, so I switched to a small parachute bwo.

I yelled at John to move up to where I was, and he wandered over informing me that it was time to head back home. I convinced him to stay for at least one fish on the bwos. He promptly burned 4 or 5 fish ;) pulling the fly right out of their mouths.

I tossed my line back out and the second drift saw me fighting a medium sized brown. I continued to fish for about 5 more minutes and managed to burn 3 decent hits. The fish were still rising...... I hate to have to leave when the fishing is hot and the fish are rising. Especially when the number of good dry fly days dwindles.

Idaho Rock Dwelling Brown Trout caught on a BWO
Note the Cat Puke Grumpy by his tail.

Two more cars had pulled into the area making two more groups of fisherman below us on the river. They didn't seem to be using dries but one of them was hooked up as we left.

I think the next time I get out it will be hog hunting on the North Fork. Hopefully before the end of the week.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

FIshing without a camera.

Well my little boy dropped our digital camera last week and somehow jammed up the lens mechanism. So I bought a new Cannon SD1100 is and was a little afraid to take it out during the first snowstorm of the year. Besides I was only going out for 1.5 hours. What could I catch in that amount of time that would mandate a photo?

I fished the South Fork. Parking at the Cress Creek nature area, I crossed the bridge across the canal and hiked down a couple hundred yards. The river has dropped significantly the last week. From 7k cfs to 4.2k cfs, which is still actually fairly high for this time of year. Access was easy as where there was previously fairly deep and swift water, was no water.

I saw some rise forms in a hole behind a drop riffle and having the rigging on from my last outing on the Portneuf, a pair of Frumpy Grumpies, I decided to try dries. The Grumpies produced a couple of hits but no hook ups, proving that grumpies will attract fish even in the middle of a snowstorm. I switched to a size 14 bead head pheasant tail and a size 18 zebra with a small sinker.

A few minutes in the hole saw me tied into 1 fish that spit the hook and landing a white fish on the zebra. I suspected that the hole was entirely populated with whitefish and decided to move up stream. The best decision of the day.

I hiked upstream about 100 yards and found a deep hole below a drop riffle, fairly tight against the bank, with some deadfall at the top of the hole. A fishy place if I ever saw one, and on my second drift my indicator stopped dead and then changed direction. I never did see this fish but from the way it fought and the power in its pull I can only surmise it was a large brown. We fought for about a minute when he headed for the snarls of the deadfall at the top of the hole and I put some pressure on him to turn his head. Well it didn't work.

The next 10 drifts saw me into a 14 inch brown, a 20 something inch brown, a whitefish a 14 inch rainbow and another whitefish. I was hoping to pick up a cut and complete the trifecta of trout species in the SF.

Oh did you see the inclusion of a 20 something inch brown....... There is one redeeming feature about fishing without a camera in the middle of a snowstorm. My cell phone takes ok pictures. He didn't fight as hard as I would have thought a fish his size could have fought, but he was in full fall colors. Picked him up on the PT.

Bad cell phone photo composure, but hey the fish wasn't in the mood to pose.

In all it was a good day on the water. Would of been nice to be able to spend more time in the second hole, but as I had a commitment for later in the evening..... When you are catching fish every other cast it is hard to leave.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

There's no fish in the Portneuf.....?

Having grown up with this river a mile from my house (where it flows through town in cement walls) you would have thought I new better. But this is not the river of my youth, it is a river reborn. Last time I was up on the headwaters of the Portneuf, on the backside of Pebble Creek, it was over half my lifetime ago. Approaching 20 years ago. Back then the river was highly impacted from cattle and fertilizes. The locals would always talk about how good the fishing was in its heyday, but during the mid 80s the river was pretty dead.

Backside of Bonneville Peak poking up above the foothills as seen from Kings Creek.
(Is this Bonneville, SnowPeak or Haystack? I think it is Haystack)

The conservation work that has been done on the river is nothing short of amazing, and those involved should be proud. There are now miles of cattle fencing to keep the banks from deteriorating. The banks are full of plant life, sedimentation is way down, the river runs gin clear and fairly cool. In most stretches it resembles a nice spring creek.

As I haven't been up that way in about 20 years, yesterday's trip was more of a scouting effort than anything, getting aquatinted with the river. The first placed I stopped was fairly far up the river and off of Topance Road. I believe it is called the Kings Creek access. Here the river is in pretty good shape and definitely resembles a spiring creek especially at the low flows of mid Autumn. The river here was pretty shallow, slow and slick. I hiked in along the access path to the footings of an old bridge. There were tons of insects on the water, mainly midges with a few small BWOs and there were a ton of small fish rising to the bugs.

Wanting something a little larger than 8" I started moving downstream with an eye on the water for risers. There were some more risers about 20 yards below the bridge, in a small riffle but the rise forms seemed fairly small. 15 feet below the bridge I had to stop. There was a pod of about 20 large fish in a deep slow hole. I thought that can't be trout, but looked into the hole and saw the magenta fins of cutthroats and the red lateral lines of rainbow. The hole was chuck full of trout, some looking to exceed 20 inches.

I drifted a grumpy over them a few times. They were skittish as all get out. The shadow from the line would send them running, but they would return after about 15 seconds. Not a one of them looked up at my frumpy grumpy. I drifted it over their heads dozens of times. This required a change of tactics. 2 zebra midges, a sinker and about 10 casts saw me into a nice fat rainbow of about 16 inches. I drifted my midges through the hole for another 20 minutes, these fish weren't having anything to do with me, and didn't even appear to be feeding. I decided to move on.

I drove a few miles downstream to the access that is now called "Mike's Place." Political correctness has renamed this spot from its old name of "Whiskey Mikes," the old bar on the side of the road. This access puts you on the driveway of a farm house on the river. Some ones private paradise (I may have to look for some land up there as it was very scenic). The water below there bridge was slow, slick and deep. I could see fish in the deep slow water but doubted my ability to catch any fish that has all day to examine my fly. I moved up along the banks to the wooden pylons of a bridge long gone. The farmer had an access point to the river here so I climbed up the fence poles and onto the old pylons to navigate the obstruction. Looking down into the hole created at the foot of the next set of pylons I saw some nice cutts and a pair of massive fish with deep blue backs that I can only surmise were some type of sucker or chub. They were huge..... could they have been 10 lb rainbows :0 ?

I moved up beyond the footings about 5 yards and started casting upstream along the bank. The fish were interested and a couple of my drifts saw some large upwellings below the fly. A sure sign of a fish coming up for a look. I moved up a little more and cast the grumpy across the river into an area with a little chop and WHAM a big fish nailed it. It took me quite by surprise but I remembered to set the hook.

Biggest fish of the day about 18 inches.
Looking at the pronounced lateral line, this may be a CuttBow.

This fish helped me meet one of my goals for the day, namely a large cutthroat on a dry fly. As I was on a bank about a foot above the river and the river was a good 5 feet deep right off the bank, and the bank was covered with weeds behind which I was hiding, landing this fish was an interesting proposition and involved along reach with the net. I am trying more and more to capture photos of the fish without taking them out of the water but this setting did not allow for it.

I spent a little more time working the river above this hole as there were some regular risers in a little riffle a little ways up. I number of little guys would molest my fly every drift but they were too small to take. I did catch a couple of more rainbows here in the 14 inch range.

Those of you who regularly fish this stretch, and whose postings inspired me to revisit the Portneuf have my admiration. Any one who can catch large fish on dry flies out of the spring creek like conditions and on this slow clear water where the fish have all day to examine a drifting fly, well you know your business. I was fishing my grumpies on a 12 foot leader and did ok... This is not the freestone type fishing that I am accustomed to. I usually fish fast moving freestone rivers and roiling alpine creeks, not this slow moving meandering slick water. It is much more of a challenge.

I had heard about a stretch called "The Canyon" and decided to investigate. I pulled off the road a bit below Whiskey Mikes at the bottom of said canyon along the side of the railroad track. I hiked over the track, and hopped a fence. I didn't see any "no trespassing" signs so I hope I didn't offend any local farmers.

Nice Colors!

I hopped down a small rockfall gully and found myself at the foot of a little waterfall. There were deep holes (over 10 feet deep in places) between large rock at the bottom of this little drop, and as soon as I got set a big fish jumped a foot out of the water at the base of the falls. I cast where he jumped hoping he would rise only to have my fly viciously attacked about 10 feet down stream. I cast at the aggressive attacker again and whamo. This fish promptly ran into a crevice between some rocks and was gone, leaving me stuck on the rocks and weeds. I fished this hole for a bit more but was getting snarled up on way too much greenery so I decide to move upstream.

I moved up to the next little drop area and started casting. I had tied a adams comparadun on as a dropper and picked a nice rainbow up after a couple of drifts. I must admit he hit when I wasn't paying attention and was pleasantly surprised to find him on the end of my line when I went to pick up my line to recast. This hole rewarded me with a couple of more nice cutthroats.

Portnuef Cutthroat

I ended up hiking the canyon from bottom to top and decided that I liked it a little more than the slower and slicker water above. It is a little faster moving and has more structure through the canyon so the fish have to react faster and don't have the seeming hours to examine a fly.

As I approached the top end of the canyon I heard thunder, the wind picked up and I decided it was time to get out of Dodge. The rain started to fall as I hiked down the canyon and the hike out seemed incredibly long on my tired legs. Hiking up and down a weed filled river with a soft bottom in areas really wears you out, not helped by the fact that I missed the rock fall that I hopped down and ended up a 1/4 mile further downstream wondering where the waterfall that was my landmark went and wandered circles a couple of times looking for the area where I left my car. The river around the fall looked completely different from the other bank ;)

All in all it was a very pleasant day. I will return to the Portneuf again. It is fishing very nicely and has some large fish inhabiting its depths. As the largest of the fish I saw (outside of the big bluebacks) were all cutts I would have to say the river is in great shape. Thanks to all of the volunteers who have put in time and materials protecting the banks! Kudos to the South East Idaho Fly Fishers and all the hard work they have done!

Friday, September 26, 2008


Colder weather in late September can usually be counted on for a couple of things, beautiful foliage in the hills and fun fishing at the "Bathtubs" for large, hard fighting rainbows.

Fall Aspens and Maples.

Finding big fish on this stretch of spring creek is a matter of timing. They move up out of the reservoir, and average about 25 inches and 5 lbs.... when they are in. As we had a new baby last week I haven't been out lately and was hoping for one of those "magical" days. One of those days where the alignment of the stars is just right, and the fishing is memorable. Again it is all a matter of timing, too early no big fish. Too late in the season..... well it gets awful cold and snowy in that high country, quickly.

The two buddies who were supposed to fish with me bailed out at the last minute. Maybe just as well for them. The hardwoods on the drive up the butte have changed color and the leaves were a site to behold. I took it as a good portent, and there were no other cars at the trailhead.

View for the hike in.

The hike in is short and I went to the top hole to scout things out. The very top hole is crystal clear water with a beautiful cobble bed. Perfect for bugs and spawning. The fish in this first hole are super spooky, though I have landed a couple from time to time including a large cut several years back who I was able to coax to the top for a large hopper. There were a couple of decent sized trout immediately visible and I saw a couple of kokanee move through the hole. The kokanee were in pretty bad shape, they have been in the river for a while now.

Nice trout sitting on the bottom in 5 feet of water.

I went down to the first bend, rigged up with a pir of zebra midges and started casting. I quickly tied into a fish but his fighting style told the story which was only confirmed by bringing him to the net. Whitefish. The next two fish were trout. The first about 16 inches, this one was a jumper and performed some amazing acrobatics. Respectable but not what I was there for. The next was larger. I fought him for about 45 seconds before he spit me, and I thought the day would turn out ok........ but I was fooled. The rest of the day (well next 2 hours anyway) earned me nothing but whitefish and 13-15 inch rainbows. I kept fishing on the hope that I would eventually find one of the large trout that I knew might be in there. Fishing on faith...... I have done quite well on this stretch in the past at about the same time of year, but I guess the big fish just haven't moved up yet. This years plentiful water had all of the major hatches about 2-3 weeks late so perhaps the run up from the reservoir is delayed.

Smaller rainbows.

I was waiting to take pictures, holding off for larger trout that never materialized. And so I finally took some shots of the smaller fish, missing out on shooting some of the larger, but not huge by any means, fish that I had landed earlier.

As I hiked back to my car I couldn't help thinking that I should have gone and fished hoppers on one of the two hopper creeks I have been thinking of hitting, but hadn't been able to as they were too far away and out of cell range, factors unconducive to fishing when ones wife is very pregnant. Well as little Joshua is now here and both mother and boy are doing great..... I will get back up to hog hunting soon, and this time, hopefully the fish will be there too.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Grumpy Frumpies, Storm Clouds and Kokanee

Kokanee swimming in Big Elk Creek
If you don't see any red..... keep moving

The disappointment I felt when my custom order of Grumpy Frumpies so ugly that "Cheech" (world renown fly tier and inventor of said fly) mentioned in his blog that they reminded him of something that a cat had puked up, was greatly tempered by the thunder storms and and rain showers that dumped from yesterday (Sunday) mid afternoon through the evening. The storms caused me to look at the weather forecast for Labor day, cold and rainy. The revised high for tonight (Labor Day) 30 balmy degrees, fahrenheit. It didn't break 60 today, happy Labor Day!

Cat Puke Grumpy Frumpy my Custom Colors tied by Cheech

Knowing that it was going to rain and be cold diminishes ones enthusiasm for tossing hoppers to cutthroats, but the period of better weather in the morning was perfect for chasing a few kokanee at Big Elk Creek. So Chad, Mike and I climbed into the Rodeo and headed for the semi-high country.

We were the only ones on the creek in the morning which was nice considering that it was a holiday. And we quickly tied into some nice fish. I pulled one out of the shallow within the first few minutes and Mike quickly followed with a big male.

Mike's Kokanee
Now that is RED

As we fished up the creek we quickly realized that we had forgotten to bring any heavy sinkers. Heavy sinkers are key when bumping big flies on the noses of single minded kokanee when one is making 8 foot drifts. If you can't get the fly down fast enough, you can't get the fish in the deep holes. We still did pretty good targeting the fish holding in riffles and shallows. At one point I ran back to the rig and found a couple of bolts and nuts and pushed the nuts onto the head of an adult salmon fly pattern, my custom hex bead salmon fly. This fly got down quickly, too quickly and was promptly snagged up and lost.

I found one deep hole under a nasty bunch of fly eating willows that must of had a couple of hundred fish holding in it. You would have thought that we were in Alaska. But good luck on picking up a fish from this hole. It was deep and fast and completely covered on both sides by willows. There was no way to get any kind of drift.

As it was fairly cold I wore a bright red wool sweater. I figured the kokanee would just think I was a big fish. Interesting to note, that almost all the fish caught today were males where last Wednesday they were almost all females.

Me with a little kokanee
Notice the sweater and waders. Quite a bit different from the wet wading of last week

Chad caught the big fish of the day. He was claiming it was 16 inches till we taped it out at 20 inches. He is the only fisherman I know who subtracts inches and pounds instead of adding them.

Chad with the big kokanee of the day. And thems good eatin

As I will probably only be able to get out one more time before my wife goes into labor (and being out on the river when she goes into labor would probably not be a good thing), I need to decide if I am going to chase kokanee again or hope the weather improves for some hoppers and cutthroats.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


are in Big Elk Creek. Like bright bolts of electric magenta speeding up and down the creek and holding behind the rocks. They would run right over your feet, between your legs and down the river when spooked, and you had to work pretty hard to spook them.

This photo was borrowed from off the intertube thingy.
I need to fish with my camera more often, though one of the guys I fished with may have a shot or two from this evening
and this photo may soon be replaced.

My son (2 & 1/2 years old), a couple of buddies and one of the buddie's wife came along. My little boy was all for fishing for about the first 20 minutes. Then he was more interested in playing. This included examining sticks, chasing a small snake, and throwing rocks. Thankfully the kokanee are fairly hard to spook, meaning you almost have to poke them to get them to move, almost. A well placed fist sized rock propelled by a two year old can get them to vacate their lie.

Daddy's Fishing Buddy

He (my son) did mention that he likes to eat fish and the adjectives that he used to describe the kokanee were "good" as in tasting and "yummy." He is really starting to understand the way of things. As I kept one medium sized koke, he questioned me about when I was going to "cut" (clean) the fish. Of course this was all in Portuguese which he is fairly fluent in. He also does a good job switching between English and Portuguese depending upon what he notes going on in the conversation around him.

He is learning to cast and waves my rod while chanting "foward" and "backwards." Sometimes he actually gets it to cast, and in July he hooked a whitefish on the SF from a pod of risers that were hitting mayflies. I think my 9' 5wt may be a little big and plan on getting him a 6' 2 or 3wt next spring.

My best fishing (when not entertaining) was on an adult salmon fly pattern weighted down heavily and high sticked to the fish holding behind rocks. For some reason they liked the salmon fly better than the white rabbit zonker that I tried before putting on the big rubber legged dry fly.

Beautiful area. I may have to go back. Now my debate for Labor Day is what creek to fish.....? One of two nice area creeks for cutthroats on hoppers or dead sticking large weighted flies to fairly decent sized kokanee. Maybe I will do both; kokanee in the morning and hoppers in the afternoon. I will try to get more/different photos up as soon as I have them.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Willow Creek

Took my 2.5 year old into Krepps Hollow on Willow Creek above Ririe Reservoir a couple of weeks ago and got some tiny little trout. Willow Creek is a meandering not very big Creek above the reservoir that has some beautiful bottoms and cottonwood flats, but with very limited access.

Well that trip got me thinking that the water quality (at least temperatures) must be better right below the dam (Ririe Reservoir). The dam is a big eathwork construction of the same vein as Palisades dam, and the Teton dam and has at least generally about 100 cfs coming out of it. So I snuck out for a quick scout into the creek after lunch.

There is no easy access to the bottom of the dam. With our terrorism paranoia the road across the dam is closed. I parked about 1/4 mile away and bushwhacked and scrambled down the talus piles to the bottom of the dam. Hiking back up made me remember that I am no longer as young as I used to be. The whole time up and down the canyon I was being cautious about rattlers as it was a warm day and there were lots of nice rocks and shade for a snake to hide in.

The creek is small, gin clear and mostly glass smooth below the dam. Resembles a spring creek more than a freestone. As I was approaching the creek I saw a decent trout rise to a hopper on some of the slick water. I cast to him a few times and couldn't get him to move. I saw another riser in a riffle about 30 feet above me. Snuck up a bit and cast to him. Whack, he took my hopper on the first cast. He was a fast running and hopping trout, probably a rainbow but I'm not sure as he spit me out after about 30 seconds. Decent size and pulled hard.

Moved up closer to the spillway but didn't get anything so I moved down to a deep bend about 50 yards below the dam. As this was an impromptu adventure and I was in jeans and sneakers, I didn't want to wade and so was standing on the bank about 10 feet above the water making rollcasts at a rising fish with willows and scrubs right at my back. There was a small rising fish in this hole as I moved in, but I couldn't evoke a strike but I did move a big bruiser up from the bottom who followed the hopper for about 10 feet before refusing.

I may have to go back into this creek when I have a little more time..... and possibly a float tube. It is slow moving meandering creek, and looking at the maps at terraserver it looks like I could make a nice couple of mile float form the dam to a bridge down a ways. Looks like it could be fun, but with the spring creek like conditions could prove to be very tough fishing.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Big Fish Small Creek

I decided to finally put a fly fishing blog together detailing and documenting some of my outings. It is a work in progress and the format will be transitory until I get it nailed down.

It is hard to beat the fly fishing opportunities that the Gem State offers. Spent a few hours this afternoon on an alpine creek in South East Idaho. The creek is 12-15 feet wide in most places but still offers cutthroat of surprising size. In other similar creeks close to this the cuts average around 10 inches and a 12-13 inch fish is large. In the creek I spent the afternoon in a 12 inch trout is average, a 14-15 inch fish good, and 17 inch fish is a large fish.

I used to fish this creek fairly regularly, but it has been almost ten years since I last tromped up this trail. I had heard a few years back that a low water year had killed the fishery and since then I just never made time to return, instead fishing other small local creeks. My loss, the fishing is fantastic and this will return to the number 1 position in my list of fun creeks to toss hoppers on to wild native cutthroats in the late summer/early fall.

The creek is a little remote and requires about a 20 minute drive on washboard covered dirt roads to get to the trailhead. There are wild raspberries hidden in the shady spots around the willows. The north facing slopes are carpeted with deep and dark growths of white pine mixed with the odd clump of aspen and the south facing slopes are covered sparsely with juniper which transitions into lodge-pole and douglas at higher elevations.

A thick growth of willows surrounds the creek and the meadows are full of wildflowers and sage. As you walk the trail up the canyon clouds of large hoppers with light cream yellow bellies take flight.

The cutthroats were hungry and a well slapped hopper pattern produced hits on almost every drift. In one deep spot under an overhanging willow, the first drift produced two fat fish knocking each other askew. The second drift resulted in the larger of the fighting pair and the third drift produced the other brawler.

These fish give you 2-3 tries max, rising and nibbling on your fly before they refuse to rise. So if you miss in the first two strikes, well you are best advised to move onto the next hole. They have a habit of grabbing hoppers by the legs and slowly rolling them under, a mannerism that is tough on rubber legs. and as the wriggly legged flies outfish the no legged flies it is best to have a good supply of hoppers in you arsenal.

Three hours of fishing produced almost 20 fish. The majority in the 12-13 inch range but 4 or 5 went 15 inches or better. All but one were hooked on a hopper pattern. The exception was hiding in a deep and tricky lie at the base of a tree. He came up 3 or 4 times and looked at my hopper but I could never quite get him to bite so I tied a wet fly on the bend of the hoppers hook and drifted through a few more times till he took the wet fly.

As the creek is remote but still gets a fair amount of pressure it will remain nameless. Those who are familiar with the area already know where it is, and those who don't well they can try to wheedle it out of me.