Sunday, May 3, 2009

Spring Outing

The rain is drumming a staccato beat on the roof as I type this (update: it has actually turned into hail and is coming down sideways. If it was any colder it would be a blizzard). It has rained almost every day for the last week and the forecast calls for another rainy week. So the good news is that the local reservoirs are almost full already and peak run off is still weeks off, the snowpacks in the region are all over 100%, and as I stated earlier there is plenty of rain in the forecast.

The bad news..... well this leaves the local rivers and streams raging torrents of chocolate milk. The South Fork has been around 17K cfs for the last 2 weeks and can only go up as the snowpack starts to melt. This makes thoughtful consideration of the local open waters paramount for a successful late April outing, you have to find a water that isn't blown out.

Some of the smaller side channels of the SF and the Henry's above where the Fall River enter it can be good this time of year, as well as some of the local stillwaters, but I rarely fish stillwater and have vowed to fish more creeks this year.

It was a sunny Wednesday afternoon and I decided as I haven't been on the water for over a month I had to get out. I called fishing buddy John and asked him if he wanted to tag along, and the close stream that seemed the best possibility for not being blown out........ Well if you are adventurous enough to withstand the 300 foot scramble down the cliffs, which is much easier and less tiring than the trip out, then you deserve to know the location, Willow Creek right below Ririe Reservoir.

Ririe Reservoir viewed from the canyon rim.

The creek is barely flowing, doesn't even reach the USGS gauge so probably around 50 cfs are coming out of the dam currently. It is low and clear. The hole right below the spillway where I had caught a couple of fish at various times last year, Willow creek being a ten minute drive from the house and convenient for quick outings, was pretty much dry. We scouted around the immediate area of the spillway and didn't see any fish, so we started hiking downstream.

The hike down looks easy. what you don't see is the 100 feet of cliffs.

After a couple of hundred yards, John spying through a break in the willows and brush saw some fish cruising in a deep slow pool. We bushwhacked through breaks in the brush and after a couple of false starts we made our way down to the pool. I at the foot of the pool where a small stream of water worked its way down towards the next hole and John at the head of the pool.

Looking at the water as it spilled from the pool, I noticed that it was liberally coated with midge shucks and there were a few midges in the air and on the water. As we hadn't seen any risers (though we did see a few as the day progressed) we both rigged up midges. I a small copper john with a midge emerger below and John tied on tandem zebras in red and black or as Ed Kent likes to call them; a chocolate and a cherry drop.

We were into fish in the first few minutes, and the fishing while not fast and furious was quite good. Slowly drifting the midges through the slow water saw a nibble every couple of drifts and a fish on every few minutes. The fish were very timid, the takes incredibly soft. I must of lost 3 times as many fish I landed, missing the majority of hooksets.

Surprisingly, the fish were all beautiful cutthroats, chunky and starting to show spawn colors. They ranged from about 10 to 15-16 inches, and were tenacious fighters.

Willow Creek native cutthroat

We worked the pool for a couple of hours then hiked further down looking for other likely water. There were a few other deep holes, but we didn't see any fish in them. Not to say that they are not there...... John and I had split up each scouting at different rates and with the thick brush you couldn't see past the next bend in the river.

Discouraged with the lower waters I returned to the pool where we had success and hooked up with a couple of more nice cutts, when I heard John calling my name. He was already up on the top of the cliffs and was ready to go. The hike out is no picnic and involves at least 300 feet of nearly vertical. Not quite as bad as hiking into the Gunnison, but still tiring.

Looking downstream from the canyon rim.

As we were driving out John was talking about bringing his kids dow to the pool as the fishing was so good. I was thinking that I would be hard pressed to take anyone down the canyon who couldn't get out on their own power, so dragging Lucas down to the creek is most likely not going to happen as I don't really want to pack him out.


Wildnative said...

Sounds like my kind of place. Thanks for sharing the story.

jabberwock said...

Come on up but, I can't guarantee how much longer the fishing will be good as irrigation season out of the dam could start at any point.

Also, you should come up at some point in June for a trip up a local alpine creek that I think you would find quite appealing.

mike doughty said...

cutties are the finest species of trout in my opinion. nice sounding piece of water

chris said...

Aww come on. Don't be such a wimp. I packed Jacob up the falls at Yosemite despite the signs warning of slippery rocks and death by falling. Did you go on that trip?

BG said...

beauty of a spot, nice Cutt!