Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Tale of Two Creeks Part 3: Willowy Creek

View down the canyon from the trail head parking lot

No "Willowy Creek" is not the actual name of the creek so if you run out to Willow Creek (another local creek) you may be disappointed. Names have been changed to protect the innocent ie to keep undue pressure off of some great creeks.

I initially was going to fish "No Tellum" Creek on this afternoon in Mid September but as I left the house later than I really wanted to, I realized that the drive and hike associated with "No Tellum" Creek would leave me with very little actual time on the water. So I decided to hit another creek that I knew about in the area that would be a 1/2 hour shorter drive, giving me an additional hour on the water. This was in some ways a scouting trip on a water that I have had on my radar for the last couple of years.

Arriving at the trail head I found no other vehicles. I hopped the fence and headed over to the creek. The creek is smaller in volume than "No Tellum" creek, runs a bit colder, and has numerous very large beaver dams which hold some decent fish. The creek is braided and locked in on both sides with thick willows. As the creek is very sinuous, there is realy no way to stand in the middle and cast up the creek as I can in some of the other local creeks. Just no room for back casts. The only place to get a longer cast is across some of the 180 degree bends of the creek. Standing in one side of the bend and casting across the banks into the far side.

After pushing through the willows and arriving up the creek I hiked up a few yards and found a beautiful drop hole where two braids of the creek came together. I must of had 10 different fish hit my flies in this first hole and I managed to land two nice cutts. This was the easiest hole of the day with an unobstructed roll cast and no snarls.

first hole I hit

After playing out the first pool I snuck up the larger of the channels casting into each deep hole. The casts were tricky and most likely spots had branches or root balls blocking the cast. I picked up the pig of the day, a 16-17 inch cutthroat out of a hole no bigger than 2x3 feet across and probably 2 feet deep.

The fishing continued to be productive as I worked my way up the creek. The fish tended to be larger than the fish from my previous outing on "No Tellum" creek, with the average fish in the 14-15 inch range and fewer twinkies.

The hot flies for the day were again the Stone Flopper as a hopper with the unsinkabeetle tied off the bend of the hopper's hook.

After working the creek up to the first major trail crossing, I hiked down to my car and drove down about 1/2 mile to a primitive camping area. The fishing was slower in this lower stretch but I still managed to catch a few. The elevation for this creek is lower than "No Tellum" and the vegetation has a more desert feel. More junipers and sage in the immediate vicinity with lots of pine and fir higher up on the North facing slopes.

There is a cutthroat hidden in this picture. Can you see it? ;)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Tale of Two Creeks Part 2: No Tellum Creek

Jon and I hit "No Tellum" creek one afternoon in early September. We fished from the parking lot up to the cabin. The parking lot was empty except for one horse trailer with a group of guys gearing up for a horse packing trip. The hoppers were everywhere and the fish were keyed on them. This trip I actually did better on the unsinkabeetle than the hoppers. The fished seemed to like the smaller terrestrial, but hit anything with legs. They really responded to the cream belly and brown backed beetle, which I think they viewed as one of the smaller hoppers.

Jon and I split up with him hiking quite a ways up above me. He forgot to bring footwear that he could immerse, so I ended fishing a bit more than he did. Which is ok, he seems to enjoy the scenery as much as anything.

There is a little spring at the cabin and a nice green meadow with a lot of shade. I keep threatening to hike the wife and boys into the meadow for a 2-3 day pack trip. I may have to wait a couple of years yet as I can't imagine packing little J (who is a right regular butterball at 1 year and around 26 lbs) and a 60 pound pack. I have tossed L on my shoulders and hit the creek a couple of times. He is approaching the point where packing him on my shoulders will no longer be an option. We hit Big Elk Creek over Labor Day and he proved that he can hike when he wants to, but will default to "daddy put me on your shoulders" whenever he deems it convenient.

Last year when we fished the same stretch I got a number of exceptionally large cutthroat for a creek this size with a couple of specimens exceeding 17 inches and one 19 inch whopper. This time nothing quite so large, though I did spook a couple of very large fish from a couple of the deep holes. The little twinkies were all over the flies. I stopped counting fish at 30..... and that was only after about an hour of a 5 hour outing. Every other cast was a strike and about every 4th cast a hookup. The large fish for this outing were in the 13-14 inch range.

Hopper fishing small creeks in the fall is truly one of my favorite times of year. Oh I must admit to some hog hunting on a couple of secret waters during runs of big fish, but the explosive takes of wild cutthroats on terrestrial in a small creek really pleases.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Tale of Two Creeks. Part 1

Two creeks on opposites sides of the drainage, about 15 miles apart as the crow flies. One a familiar haunt, the other scouting new water.

The first flowing from the west to the east, through a broad valley. Thick pine and fir on the north facing slopes creating a deep black forest. Cottonwood and willow in the valley floor, and juniper on the south facing slopes.

The second smaller and braided. Locked in on either side with thick willows. A 15 foot cast on this creek was long. Flowing to the west through a tighter valley, colder water and the toughest casting conditions I have faced in years. Technical casts to fish holding in deep pockets, hidden below branch, root and snarl. Small pockets around every bend, behind every drop and under every snarled mess of limbs.

Both replete with native snake river and yellowstone cutthroat. Cutthroat that smash a hopper at times, and at other times follow it for a while and slowly, agonizingly slowly try to sip it in. Causing a twitchy fisherman to pull the terrestrials out of hungry mouths.

These fish are not too wary, but will usually spook after the a second take. A fish rising for a third drift is rare. They love hoppers and beetles. I can't say which took more fish, the stone flopper or the unsinkabeetles (Plural as I lost a few, some to trees others to fish). But after loosing my last unsinkabeetle the grumpy frumpy (in a couple 3 flavors) also pierced its share of lips.

This is what happens to a hopper that has been nibbled by countless fish (many much too small to actually ingest the fly, but they try anyway) and eaten by over 3 dozen cutts of good size. Cutthroat are toothy critters.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Completing the Circle

My outings follow certain patterns every year mandated by hatches and my preferences in fishing. I find myself at the same haunts at roughly the same time of year.I have come full circle back to some of the waters of my original blog post from last year. I have been on the water a bit, and between family, work and fishing.... I have put off blogging and so now will try to catch up with my outings over the last 2.5 months. This will be incremental starting with:


Early July found me hitting no tellum creek a couple of times. Rumor has it that some big creeks move up into the creek in late June. this year as the creek was blown out, big and brown. I didn't find many cutts but did land a 7 lb. sucker fish on a nymph, in a deep hole right above the reservoir. I took my 3.5 year old on a couple of these outings. Here are some pics from early July to no tellum creek.

View on the drive in

little L taking in the view. The creek was blown out but we had a couple of bites

As the creek was blown out and not much happening by way of fishing, I took some scenery shots of the wild flowers.

Shortly after I took a trip up to Pine Creek, It was much lower and clearer than no tellum creek and will most likely be the creek I hit in late spring. I didn't take any pictures of the trip but highlights include having two nice cutts (15 inch range which is big for this creek) hit my flies at the same time..... and whiffing them both. The fishing was fast and furious on dry flies.

Once summer hits SE Idaho full swing, I like to spend as much time on the SF as possible. Nothing beats big fish smacking salmon flies. Fish willing to move 10 feet from their lie. Then as the hatches die off and the hoppers come on I spend time in the creeks.

Chad and I took a trip into the lower canyon stretch shortly after the 4th of July. The BOR ran the river strangely this year. They let hardly any water out during April and May and in late June realizing that they were not going to have enough room for the upstream run off blew the river out at over 20K for weeks. The salmon fly hatch was very late this year, and not very thick. Despite the lack of adult salmon flies the fish still were on them..... the fishing was still hot in the riffles and Robert's O2 stonefly caught tons of fish!

Chad stalking fish in the riffle. He must of caught 2 dozen whities before figuring out the trick for trout ;)

SF at 20K+ cfs.


River Runs Through It moment

About a week and 1/2 later as the hatches on the upper river heated up Jon, his son and I took a trip down the upper river above fall creek. We met up with Chad later in the day. The fishing was again hot and I encountered another one of my famous photo blunders. The dead battery. Highlight of the trip was catching a 19 inch cutthroat on the 6' 3wt setup I had purchased for my son's use. The fight was a hoot. The fly of the day was again the O2 salmon fly. Something about that pattern moves fish. I was well over 20 fish with the majority on the O2 and a few on pmds. I just love the way cutthroat attack a salmon fly.

I took a couple of week hiatus for family vacations and what not (the which can be seen on my family blog) and then in mid July grandpa wanted to take the grandkids fishing. So we loaded up a passel of kids and headed to Pebble Creek. L and I quickly got into fish (hucking worms on the end of his spiderman rod, though we did pack his 3 wt), but nobody else seemed to have the nack/patience/ability for catching them. It wasn't that hard...... but I digress. So grandpa took the kids to a fish pond in Lava. ;(

L in Pebble Creek having a great time.

Pebble Creek Rainbow. Planter courtesy of IF&G

I spent the next couple of weeks doing honey do's and so that wraps up July. I should have spent more time on the SF as everything that I heard was positive..... oh well.

August didn't see me on the river as much as I would have liked. Family responsibilities saw me working around the house with my spare time instead of fishing.

About mid month I started to get a little stir crazy. So when Saturday rolled around I strapped J into the chest pack, took L firmly in tow and we fished a little hole full of twinks at twin bridges. As time to leave rolled around I noticed a cow moose and calf had wondered down between ourselves and our car. With a baby in the chest pack and a 3.5 year old in hand I wasn't quite sure what I would have done if the cow moose had decided to get ornery with us.......... luckily they mozied on up the river after a bit.

Mother moose and calf between us and the car.

Say hi to the neighbors!

I don't know what it is but I have had more moose encounters this year including one on the SF where the only thing between me and a young bull was about 20 feet of brush and the drift boat. I don't know how I thought the drift boat was going to protect me, but I was adamant about keeping it between myself and the moose. I had thought the sounds in the brush I had been hearing were most likely a moose..... This was a trip shortly after the outing with the kids. I hit another dead battery day. I have to get better about checking my photography equipment.

The SF fished well that day, big pmd hatch late in the afternoon rewarded Chad and I with some good fish, including a 22 inch cutt for me on a dry fly. Chad has a picture. If I get the shot from him I will post it. Right at dusk one of the thickest pmd hatches I have ever seen exploded from the water and the fish were boiling in the riffles.

At the end of the month, I finally finished swapping the clutch out on my Rodeo so I stuffed the family into the wagon and we headed for granite creek. We arrived in the afternoon and spent the next few hours, after setting up the tent, relaxing in the big hot spring fed pool.

Sunday morning L, J and I got up while mom slept and we snapped some shots of the scenery then went for a hike. When J went back down for his mid-morning nap L and I fished the creek by the camp ground. All I can say is that creek is frigid! I soon lost feeling in my feet.

As one of my goals as a father is to pass my love of all things outdoors on to my children I think L and J have the bug. L has fished with me quite a bit since the time he was about 4 months old. Accompanying me in the chest pack. J hasn't been out as much with me, but I'll fix that. L has loves to fish, though he doesn't understand why I let so many fish go. He often describes fish as "yummy".