May 30, 1984

Mammoth Creek, Southwestern Utah


My brother, Neal, fishing Hatch Meadow in 1984
I left public accounting for good in 1981 and started a new career with EG&G Energy Measurements. My first position was internal auditor working for a crusty old guy named Jim Jones. Jim was a lovable sort, but prone to drinking cheap wine and dispensing snippets of sarcasm. Ironically, he was just what I needed at that time in my young career.
Me, age twenty-seven, with Jim at his Yellow Pine cabin, circa 1982
Jim wasn’t what you would call a technical financial auditor; he was more of an old-school operational auditor. He once tested property controls by stealing a typewriter right out the door during business hours. He was, surprisingly, a licensed certified public accountant (CPA), which was a source of aggravation for his boss, Jack Humphrey, who was himself an accountant but who could never pass the CPA exam. Jim taught me a lot about patience and perseverance (grossly lacking in all men in their twenties), but he also had a gift for writing, even if they were business reports. In the course of working with Jim he imparted upon me the importance of choosing the right word to convey the intended meaning. I worked for Jim two and one-half years, after which time I transferred into the Finance Division, eventually succeeding John Fisk as Treasurer and Director of Finance. There are quite a few stories worth telling about those EG&G years, but they don’t have a thing to do with fishing.
Interior view of lava-stone fireplace
In the early 1980s Jim was building a cabin in the Yellow Pine district along Mammoth Creek. Mammoth Creek drains the eastern slope of the Dixie National Forest into the Sevier River just south of Hatch, Utah (the Sevier is the longest river completely contained within the boundaries of a single state: 345 miles). Jim invited me there often, particularly in the early spring to open it and in the late fall to close it (I was cheap labor, working for time on the trout stream). He also allowed me to use the cabin often, which my young family, including Nick, Doug, and grandma Nanny, really appreciated. He often talked about fishing Panguitch Lake in a boat, but I was captivated by the creek.
Splitting wood for time on the creek
Badger on road to Hatch Meadow


Nick, age four, overlooking Mammoth Creek in Yellow Pine subdivision
In my early fly fishing history I snobbishly believed creek fishing required a higher technical skill than still water fishing. Stream trout were easily frightened because the shallower water seemed to expose them to more dangers, but their feeding lanes were easier to spot which made dry fly fishing more productive than on a lake (or so it seemed at the time). Casting skills were a higher premium on streams because mistakes resulted in frightened trout or tangled casts. Stream fishing also came with the added bonus that most folks didn’t explore creeks which left more of them to me. In the 1980s I was mostly fishing Beaver Dam Creek near Caliente, Nevada, and so Mammoth Creek was a wonderful challenge because it was at least twice the size and known for holding brown trout. I had caught a few brownies with my brother Neal at Cave Lake outside Ely, Nevada, so I was already bitten by the brown-trout bug. Neal shared a story about a fellow fly fisherman he knew who caught an eighteen inch wild brown trout underneath the bridge at the end of the large Hatch Meadow stretch of Mammoth Creek. That story made me willing to do any hard labor just to get the chance for one of those wild brown trout.
Nice twelve-inch brown trout at sunset on Mammoth Creek
Over the course of the next ten years or so I explored quite a bit of Mammoth Creek. The first trout I caught on Mammoth was a cutthroat. I caught it in the meadow stretch on a dry fly. I expected it to be a small brown trout and was amazed to see it was a cutthroat. In my naiveté I imagined it was a wild Bonneville cutthroat (indigenous to Utah), but my inquiry with Utah Department of Wildlife resulted in some disappointment as they informed me it was a stocked cutthroat of the common variety. Still, it was a cutthroat. Over the course of years I caught several more cutthroats in Mammoth. 
First ever Mammoth Creek trout, a cutthroat with signature orange slash on jaw
But it was the wild brown trout that really caught my interest. While brown trout are known for their propensity to rise to a dry fly, they are also known for their selectivity. If one were to rank the difficulty in catching the four major species of trout and char, I would think the order of increasing angler frustration would be cutthroat, brook, rainbow, and then brown. Being a competitive twenty-something year old male, the lore of tricking a brown trout to accept a fly as a real insect meal was more than I could stand, particularly a fly tied by myself.
Sixteen-inch brown trout on clover
Fishing the meadow section of Mammoth was not easy. There was no cover for the fish, just deep cut banks as the creek meandered through the grazing pasture. I never caught more than one or two fish during a session, usually ten to twelve inches. There was one memorable trip wherein I caught a very healthy sixteen inch brown trout. I was casting upstream using a nymph pattern I tied myself from fur I had raked off Buffy, our gray calico cat. I think the fly resembled caddis fly larvae in a stone casing. I had cast blindly upstream from the left side just below where the creek cut deep into the bank as it switched directions. From my position I couldn’t see the fly or my line, and I was simply stripping line in as it drifted back down to me when I felt the line go taught. The fish fought stoutly; it was the largest trout I had ever caught at that point in my fishing experience. It was beautifully colored. The season was early fall, and the female was full of roe. I felt very guilty for killing her, realizing that the opportunity for her to spawn new wild trout was lost forever.
Another view of the beautiful sixteen-inch brownie
The competitive streak in me during those early years often caused me to kill the fish I caught; otherwise who would believe me without the evidence? Jim egged on my competitive spirit as he saw that I had a snobbish fly fishing streak, and he frequently used sarcasm lubricated by Petri labeled wine to challenge my fishing prowess. Perhaps my current propensity to count the fish I catch is driven by that old geezer’s banter about the performance of worms vs. flies. Looking back, I know he meant no harm other than to knock me off that high and mighty ego- supported perch. Still, I’d love to fish with him on Panguitch Lake today and see who’d catch the most and biggest fish!
Southwestern view of Jim's Yellow Pine cabin, circa 1983
A few years after Jim retired from EG&G he could no longer enjoy the cabin. Age and a failing heart deterred him from trips to the cabin, and when he did go they were punctuated by a sort of perpetual inebriation that made the whole experience somewhat vacant for me. In the early 1990s Jim reached the point where he wanted to sell the cabin and retire to San Diego where his children and grandchildren lived. The cabin was paid for by EG&G stock options and 401k withdrawals, and so Jim was willing to sell me the cabin for $45,000, owner-financed over ten years at a very reasonable interest rate that resulted in a monthly payment of about $500. At that time my family was still growing, and although I could swing the payment I really didn’t think we’d use the cabin often enough to get any real benefit. I declined his offer. Today that cabin, complete with a full kitchen and bath, is probably worth $250,000, which is a 10% annual return on investment. So much for being a financial wizard, eh? 
A very young FisherDad, September 1982
Although it’s been a couple of decades, I still have warm memories of Jim and the cabin. He enjoyed dispensing fatherly advice about everything from marriage and children to career development, and I honestly appreciated all that he shared with me, much of which I took to heart. I wish I had bought his cabin as it would have kept even more memories alive. I will visit Mammoth Creek again, probably drive by the old cabin, and cast a line out in memory of Jim Jones and his beloved cabin.

3 comments:

Shannon said...

FisherDad

Just returned from Yellowstone, Montana and Jackson Hole fishing trip. Took a week off with Conor and we fished 7 days straight including a float trip on the Madison and one on the Snake. We spent 2 days fishing DuPuys Spring Creek south of Livingston, Montana. Lots of great dry fly fishing. This was a trip I've always wanted to do and finally decided to get it done.

FisherDad said...

Ah yes... the Armstrong and the DuPuys. I'd love to have a week on one of them... it'd take me that long to get it figured out.

Sounds like a great adventure but even more important an opportunity to spend time with your son that is rare but will last a lifetime. Way to go, dad!

Some Guy said...

Hello!

Love the page, I would like to get in touch with about fishing in this part of UT. If you could shoot me an email at l.addis@mac.com that would be amazing!

Hope to hear form you

Logan