December 9, 2011

Ice Man at Cold Creek

Bright rainbow; first trout of the day on a beaded prince nymph
We had a little cold snap in Las Vegas this week, a precursor of the colder winter to come.  It made me reflect upon the Cold Creek pond, wondering if the freezing overnight temperatures had sealed its fate for the season.  But yesterday was a nice day for late fall standards, and the weekend forecast was good.  Being an impulsive fisherman I decided to see about the ice status for myself this morning.

Perfect reflection on tranquil pond of Cold Creek
I dropped off Evan and his friend at the high school around 6:40 am and headed west on U.S. 95.  When I reached the pond about forty-five minutes later my Trout Truck temperature gauge reported a sub-freezing temperature of 30 degrees, but the sun had just come up over the Spring Mountains so it was certain to warm up.  There was ice forming on the pond, but the central and deepest part of the pond was still clear.  As soon as I slid out of the truck I saw a trout break the glass calm surface.  I was prepared for the cold weather as I had brought my down jacket and fingerless polar fleece gloves.  Anxiously I fumbled to string up my rod, partly because the gloves and cold temperature impeded my dexterity, but also because when I reeled in my line from the previous outing it was carelessly wrapped too loose so that when I pulled the leader from the reel I got a tangle of fly line.  This only frustrated me more as I only had about forty-five minutes to fish since my wife expected me home by 9:00 am so she could keep an appointment while I watched over our foster daughter.
Ice encroaching from the south-eastern inlet area
Same ice area from different Angle; note trout rise form in the center
It took what seemed like ten minutes to unwind the mess, but I did manage to fish the iceless portion of the pond for about thirty minutes.  It was a calm, quiet thirty minutes.  At first a little wind kicked up and I noticed some ice forming on the stripping guide of the little four-weight rod, but as the temperature rose with the sun everything calmed down and laid still.
Second Cold Creek trout of the morning
There were a couple of trout that routinely worked the surface, and I wondered a little about my decision not to bring the floating line.  I did manage to catch two trout in that half hour, so everything worked out just fine.

Trout about to be released
I saw nary a feral horse or other wildlife.  It was a tranquil visit before the onset of winter freezes over the pond for the next few months. After I stowed away the equipment, climbed into my cab, and started the engine I notice that the outdoor temperature had risen eight degrees to thirty-eight.  That made me think about how nice the fishing would be in a few hours, and I felt a little glum about having to leave so early to be home.  Then I remembered Matthew 6:33.  If we are not careful, we always seem to take the gifts the Lord bestows for granted.  We need to live in the present, and all else will be as it should.

"Tight Lines"
One of Jesus's teachings in his Sermon on the Mount has to do with worry (Matthew 6:25-34). One aspect of worry is living in the present and not dwelling on the those things you want but worry you won't get.  Jesus concludes this teaching with the following: 

Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern. So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today.
So, live for today as if there is no tomorrow.

November 17, 2011

Fall Stocking Accomplished at Cold Creek

Resplendent Cold Creek trout and my favorite light rod
My friend Mitch emailed me that Cold Creek pond was stocked on Monday. Then yesterday I had a post from a reader who said he had a great time fishing in the morning before work, which made me feel relieved to learn that I'm not the only fanatic that fits fishing around odd schedules. So by Thursday you can only imagine that I was unable to resist leaving work early to have some fun before the Christmas season and the inevitable ice-over occur.


Healthy little trout
Trout with mangled brown nymph hooked in upper lip
The weather was good. Temperature was about 55 degrees when I arrived at 2:30pm, and dropped to about 40 degrees when I left at 4:30pm. Only a slight breeze now and then, but the bright afternoon sun kept the trout huddled in the deepest parts of the reservoir until twilight. As soon as the bright sun was gone there was lots of surface activity that began to spread out into the shallow areas. 
Bead head nymph hook through the snout
What a handsome trout
When I arrived 
there was a family of five (husband, wife, and three very young children), and soon thereafter their friends, a family of four with similar ages, showed up and parked right next to them. Their children were well behaved, but one of the dads was obviously using his children to pad his limit of fish. He'd hook a fish and then have one of his youngsters reel it in well after he had his limit of three (once you have a limit you cannot fish, even if you intend to release the fish).  Not that big of a deal, but I admit it slightly bothered me.  I sometimes see things only in black and white, truth vs. lies. I can be intolerant like that. I suspect he incorrectly assumed that if his children reeled them in he could keep an additional three each.  I heard him mention the three-fish limit for urban ponds so he was aware of it, but he didn't appear to know that while children under twelve can fish for free, their limits must not exceed 50 percent of the general limit, i.e., one each in this case.  The reason for these limits is to ensure more of the public can enjoy the sport and share in its bounty because hatcheries cannot stock these ponds frequently enough to keep up with the urban demands.

Dad and a couple of moms bait fishing; the one in pink is holding an infant
There was another lone fisherman that arrived later who did quite well.  He was using bait or perhaps a jig, but he seemed to release all that he caught.

Last fisherman standing; this guy did very well and released every trout
As I mentioned, the freshly stocked fish seemed to be congregating in the deepest part of the pond while the sun was still high (an overcast day would have been better). I only caught five in the first hour, usually after the fly had sunk about three feet. As soon as the sun was setting the trout seemed to spread out and start surface feeding. I caught ten in that final hour. A total of fifteen in a couple hours, with about four or five "long-distance-releases" provided some fun, excitement, and peace for my psyche. And the trout were pretty considering they were hatchery raised. They were healthy, in the nine to ten inch range, and most were heavily spotted. Their pectoral fins were intact, indicating that they weren't too overcrowded or aggressive in the hatchery (often hatchery trout bite each other in crowded conditions resulting in damaged or missing pectoral fins).

A combination of a natutal and man-mnade beauty
Typical catch of the afternoon
All in all, a good afternoon away from the office despite the somewhat crowded conditions. Maybe next time up I'll look for an early morning trip. Those of you that have been waiting for the trout stocking will be pleased to read this blog as evidence of the stocking. Tight lines for you all.

Wild mare and her foal

November 11, 2011

Cold Creek Pond, Clark County

Glass smooth Cold Creek pond reflecting
Trout Truck and juniper under a snow dusted mountain
I suppose I should have called the hatchery number to check on the timing of the fall stocking program. But, had I called and been told that it hadn't been stocked yet I might not have gone to Cold Creek. And although it turned out that it wasn't stocked, and I'm glad I went "blind" to discover that on my own.
More Cold Creek Pond reflections
It seemed like a great day to go. The heavy overcast was a good premonition.  The winds were calm, very calm, and the water was low but still draining through the discharge pipes.  It was so still and clear that I could see the detail of the weed beds throughout.  I could also see nary a trout anywhere. 
West end of pond, looking east
But still I cast about with my favorite light fly rod, searching for evidence of at least one summer holdover trout.  Nothing. 
Details of the 4-weight rod and Orvis CFO reel
I practiced casting with my fine, light rod.  Enjoyed the company of two wild horses, and snapped a few pictures of my favorite hand-made fly rod. God is good, always. 
Fly rod in the pond
I will admit that I had another reason for the early morning trip.  Several sisters and brothers from my church small group are going through tough times, some physical, some spiritual.  I needed to pray for them, for the Lord’s strength that they may endure, persevere, and triumph over these worldly tribulations; spiritual warfare battles, that’s what they really are. Driving thirty-five minutes each way, with the radio/CD off, was filled with prayers. 
Nickel silver and cedar spacer reel seat details
My son Brian has come to record cover songs of his favorite Christian artists.  I find it no coincidence at all that he recorded his cover of Matthew West’s “Strong Enough” just a day ago.  West based the lyrics on the troubles of a young mother, but also on Philippians 4:13 – “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.  How often we need reminding that while we are weak and broken, He is strong enough.     
Happy and blessed angler

October 21, 2011

Cold Springs Reservoir, Wayne Kirch WMA

Cold Springs boat dock; Grant Range on the left side of the horizon
I made a quick getaway to Cold Springs Reservoir in the Wayne Kirch Wildlife Management Area. The KWMA is nestled in the high desert of the White River watershed, such as it is.  As barren as it appears from Highway 318 (thirty miles south of Lund, NV), the KWMA does have quite a variety of wildlife (see brochure: http://ndow.org/about/pubs/pdf/wma/wma_kirch.pdf).  On a previous KWMA excursion I wrote about almost running into a golden eagle that was pursuing a desert cottontail rabbit (http://www.fisherdad.com/2008/04/cold-springs-wayne-kirch-wma.html); that was an awesome experience.  On this trip I again flushed another large golden eagle from the left side of the dirt service road.  This time I got a very close look at the large raptor, and it amazed me that such a large bird can actually fly, let alone attack game from the air.  By the time I stopped the truck, lowered the passenger window, and got the camera into zoom mode the eagle had gotten about 100 yards away and was circling back to the south.  Having a close encounter with such a majestic bird is the highlight of any trip.
Golden Eagle, with Gap Mountain in background
I was hoping for cooler weather, or should I say cold weather.  It had been warm for so long that the weed growth in the reservoir was still right up to the water surface.  Rowing the Outlaw Escape was quite easy, skimming over the underwater "obstructionists", but finding openings to fish between the growth proved somewhat difficult, but very doable by paying attention to the surface complexion of the water as I scanned for open spots (Cold Springs is 275 surface acres).  The temperature was forty-five degrees when I arrived at 9:15am, but it rose to a warm seventy degrees by the time I left at 1:00pm.  The water was very calm and there was not a cloud in the sky; I imagined that all the trout were feeding on the bottom in the cool of the shade provided by the tall weed growth.


Weed growth right up to water surface - thankful for NFO Outlaw Escape's oar system
Lone cattail in the bulrushes 

Calm waters... lots of weeds
I only had three hours to fish the reservoir, violating my self-prescribed day trip rule that fishing time is supposed to exceed round-trip travel time.  I got a late start because I dropped Evan off at school around 6:40am, and then I committed to be home by 3:30pm so Denise could tutor her student without interruption from Emily, our foster daughter.  Still, the trip was worthy of the effort.  But I can tell you that I was really tempted to stay on the water until dusk… the fishing started slow and I was just beginning to figure out the weed arrangement in the reservoir when it became time to pack up and go home.  I think I was about two or three weeks too early; by early/mid November the weeds will begin to clear and the trout will become more active. 
NFO Outlaw Escape sporting unique integrated oar system
As I said, the fishing started very slow.  I caught one trout towards the end of the first hour, then managed four more in the next two hours.  All were in the thirteen to fifteen inch range, which likely means holdovers from the spring stocking.  One trout was deformed or injured; it looked as if the cartilage in its lower right jaw had been ripped out or was never fully formed, and part of its gills were dysfunctional and hanging out.  While the herons and pelicans were gone now, an osprey (I think they range this far south) was still searching the reservoir for a meal; it is possible the injury was from an unsuccessful attack.  In any event, the rainbow was a good fourteen inches long.  All, except the first, were caught on Denny Rickard’s callibaetis nymph using my nine-foot rod with a five-weight sinking line.  Later in the day as I was making my way back to the dock I switched to my smaller four-weight rod, which I enjoyed casting with a sink-tip line, but on which I felt no strikes.
15-inch rainbow trout
Another 15 incher
Rainbow pulled from the weeds
Trout with injured or deformed gill
Denise had been sick all of last week, and I was fairly ill from the night before through the morning of this trip. In fact, I almost turned around before I reached Alamo, but I continued on anyway, for which I am glad. It is fascinating how the mind (or your will) can overcome physical discomfort to pursue that which you desire.  I pondered that as I was driving Highway 318.  I wondered if I was pursuing that which was true, pure, and good in my life. Was I trying to be the husband, father, and friend that God planned me to be with the same vigor?  Was my desire for Christ pursued with the same fervor as I had demonstrated to fish Cold Springs today?  David writes in Psalm 84, “My whole being wants to be with the living God.” Sometimes I have to ask myself, am I behaving like a Christian whose whole being wants to be with the living God?  Apostle Paul wrote in Romans that we all fall short.  Thank goodness for God’s loving mercy through Christ.

October 7, 2011

Cold Creek Pond

Cold Creek Town
9,950 foot Willow Peak glistening in the background from a very early fall snowfall
After experiencing the hottest August on record (average high temp was just under 106º), and with September not providing much more relief, the sudden thirty degree plunge last week triggered the autumn fishing twitch within me.  Waking to Las Vegas temperatures in the fifties and highs barely reaching sixty, not to mention the clouds with their needed precipitation… well it was all more than I could withstand last week.  So I planned a quick one-hour visit to Cold Creek in between dropping Evan off at high school and feeding Emily breakfast (thank goodness Emily is a late morning riser).

Trout Truck, disguising itself behind the weathered juniper tree
I’ve been pondering a trip to Wayne Kirch or southern Utah for October.  September is usually tough because it marks the return to school for our boys, and this year was impossible what with back-to-back weeks of extended work travel.  And so my sights were recalibrated to October knowing I’d have to maneuver around Denise’s birthday.  But waiting longer still with such crisp weather at hand was torturous. I wanted to cast upon the water of a cold Friday morning even if it was more about the ritual of fumbling with my equipment than of actually catching fish.  There is something soothing, even ceremonial about the stringing up of my fly rod and inspecting the leader, repairing where necessary, and tying on a small, weighted nymph.  There is the therapeutic casting of the rod, feeling it ebb and flow with each thrust of the back and forward casts, and then shooting line to the target.  After watching the line roll out as planned, then starts the anticipation as you start to strip the line in, awaiting the tug of a strike.  I’m sure I’ve saved thousands of dollars that would have gone to a therapist or shrink, so I guess I shouldn’t be too concerned.

If fishing is my vice, I am only thankful it’s not too destructive because I have a hard time resisting it when it starts sweet talking me.

I knew they had not yet stocked the pond, so action would be slow, if any at all.  I have long believed that trout can’t survive the heat of the summer in that pond, not to mention the low oxygen levels from weed growth in the diminutive, shallow pond carved 5,900 feet into the high desert slope of the Spring Mountains.  I have still yet to catch a trout in the fall preceding the October stocking, and this Friday proved no different, although I did see the occasional surface feeding rings that seemed more like a trout than a trash or exotic fish would have made.  Still, nothing conclusive was learned on Friday, especially since I went without catching any trout or feeling any trout-like strikes.
Feral horses arriving for a morning drink
When I arrived at the pond there was a man sleeping in his SUV right next to the pond.  Just after I started fishing he emerged from the vehicle, inspected the irrigation channel inlet, and then drove away.  I became the sole beneficiary of the pond for the next hour, with a sub-forty degree temperature to go with it.  It was breathtaking, even though I have experienced it for over thirty years now.  The "gift" came with feral horses all around, and the stallions seemed especially frisky and energetic (in which season do wild horses mate?).  I could feel their energy, and it felt invigorating.

Even though it was only an hour, it was a wonderful hour. 

McFarland Peak, rising 10,744 feet in the background

August 9, 2011

Southwest Utah's Color Country


Sandstone columns overlooking Red Canyon
They say these are the dog days of summer, the hot, sultry time of year between early July and early September.  Here in Las Vegas this is our monsoon season.  As funny as that sounds, there are two periods where Las Vegas receives most of its precipitation: December through March and July through September.  Make no mistake; it’s the July through September period when moist air travels up from the Gulf of Mexico that’s the killer when combined with high temperatures well above 100 degrees.  At those temperatures the rain often evaporates before hitting the ground which contributes to humidity… and thus the “dog days of summer.”

Utah Color Country - Red Canyon
I had taken this week off for several reasons.  One was that I had planned to take a week off in August for a vacation anyway, but other family obligations were preventing us from traveling to California.  Two of our sons have recently moved to the Golden State and we were looking forward to visiting them despite their 400 mile separation between Long Beach and San Francisco, but that will have to wait another time.  We’ve also signed up for a four-day conference starting on Thursday, and so it seemed best to take the week off and maybe, with Denise’s permission, squeeze in a couple fishing days.

Sandstone cliffs of Wilson Peak to the east
This trip was more of a “car tour” than a serious fishing trip, as I covered 694 miles in about forty-five hours (some westerners can relate to the challenge of travelling our wide open land).  Sunday evening I left Las Vegas and traveled north on Interstate 15 to Utah State Route 20, just south of Beaver.  Route 20 traverses the mountains separating Parowan Valley and the Sevier River valley, squeezing between Fishlake and Dixie National Forests.  The eastern slope of Route 20 actually links up with the Old Spanish Trail.  It was on this highway that I spotted three cow elk waiting to cross the road.  Upon connecting with U.S. Route 89 which parallels the Sevier River I turned south towards the town of Panguitch where I lodged for the night, after dining at the fine Panguitch restaurant, Subway sandwich shop, just before 10:00 PM (smile).

Southern end of Tropic Reservoir, looking south
Monday morning, after an early breakfast at the Panguitch café, I headed for Tropic Reservoir.  I first heard of Tropic from a fly fisherman I ran into at Cold Creek as we traded stories about places to fish.  Tropic sits off State Route 12, the gateway to Bryce Canyon National Park. Route 12 takes you through the scenic Red Canyon, and the turnoff to Tropic takes you up the East Fork of the Sevier River (hardly a river in these early stages).  Tropic sits in a narrow valley between the Paunsaugunt Plateau and the Pink Cliffs that create Bryce Canyon.  It’s a beautiful area; a fine example of why southern Utah describes itself as Color Country.  I fished Tropic for just about ninety minutes, catching nine stocked rainbows, only two of which approached thirteen inches.  I was hoping to connect with a larger brown trout, but as the owner at the Panguitch café told me the rumors of large brown trout in Tropic were just that, rumors.

Typical 12 inch Tropic rainbow
By about 10:00 AM I left Tropic and headed for Mammoth Creek in Dixie National Forest.  Although there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and noon temperatures were approaching eighty degrees, I gave the Hatch Meadow section a try.  I did witness two brown trout make splashing rises (one looked to be in the fifteen-inch range), and I did get one attempted take that I either miss-timed or was refused at the last minute.  Although this was my second skunking on Mammoth, I keep returning to it for two reasons: sentimental memories from the 1980s and the knowledge (and sightings) of wild brown trout in the creek (see http://www.fisherdad.com/2008/07/mammoth-creek.html, http://www.fisherdad.com/2009/11/mammoth-creek-garfield-co-utah.html, and http://www.fisherdad.com/2010/10/beaver-river-and-mammoth-creek-utah.html). After another ninety minutes of fishing I left Mammoth Creek for Panguitch Lake.

Cowboy and his dog moving cattle in Hatch Meadow
Looking downstream Mammoth Creek, Hatch Meadow (note Trout Truck)
Panguitch sits on the Markagunt Plateau at about 8,200 feet in elevation, but the man-made lake is a very busy place.  The best indicator of the active community surrounding this large lake is the presence of the new Mormon Church right on State Route 143 overlooking the lake.  I arrived around 2:00 PM and parked near the Blue Spring inlet on the southwest corner of the lake.  Even at mid-day on a Monday I counted four fly fishermen staking out the prime pockets of weedless water just a few hundred feet offshore.  I tried not to impose on their “territory” and rowed my Outlaw Escape over the weed beds to the west and north of the "tubes and toons" flotilla (by late summer the weed growth is quite remarkable at the inlets).  In about three hours of fishing I only caught three fish (lost a hefty fourth after about thirty seconds on the hook), but one was a large cutthroat that measured over twenty-one  inches.  I couldn’t control the fish with one hand on my lap so I was forced to take the picture while it was in the landing net (for dimensional perspective, my landing net opening is eighteen inches by twelve inches, and the netting measures at thirty-one inches from lip-to-lip, so when looking at the below picture you’ll see that the trout is taking up two-thirds of the netting length).  Using two hands I was able to lay it out on my stripping apron that measures up to twenty-four inches, and the fish was just over twenty-one, easily the longest trout I’ve landed since Henderson Springs in 2005.
Fourteen inch Panguitch rainbow
Twenty-one inch Panguitch Cutthroat Trout in 31-inch net
I caught the Panguitch beast after circumnavigating around the fly fisherman, who by 4:00 PM had grown to five. In fact, I was disappointingly on my way out of the lake after having “my” space taken over by a boat with a mom, dad, and toddler (now seven anglers on what seemed like a two-acre parcel of water).  The boaters actually came right up on my space after I had carefully avoided imposing upon the other five fly fishermen.  Disenchanted, I decided to get out as it was just too crowded for me.  But, as I made my way to the boat launching area I decided to try the Blue Spring inlet channel one more time, as it produced a fine surprise on my July 2009 visit (http://www.fisherdad.com/2009/07/red-creek-and-panguitch-reservoirs.html).  To my amazement it turned up another large trout again.  Highly satisfied with the fish I decided to call it quits and take Route 143 back into the town of Panguitch for dinner and rest after the whirlwind tour.

Lest you think my experience indicated the Panguitch fishing was slow, let me say the three original fly fishermen did pretty well, especially one in particular.  They were fishing with droppers off a strike indicator.  Unfortunately for me I had left my floating line in the truck, but I did switch over to a sink-tip line and I must say that made a difference, that and Rickard's callibaetis nymph.  No excuses for me, but they obviously were using the better technique and had command of the prime waters. 


Jobs Head driving up Zion Park road
Tuesday morning I decided to head south toward Zion National Park.  I was thinking of Navajo Lake since I had never fished it before, but truthfully I was leaning towards Kolob Reservoir just outside Zion National Park.  I decided on Kolob because the drive is one of the most scenic I’ve ever driven and because it was unlikely to be crowded, something I wanted to avoid after Panguitch Lake.  So I crossed over the Markagunt Plateau once again on State Route 14 at about 6:00 AM to get to Interstate 15 south on down to the Zion turn off at Anderson Junction to State Route 17.  The only good thing about traveling the mountains at that time of the morning is the wildlife sighting.  As I was crossing over Midway Valley at 9,600 feet in elevation I came across three young mule deer bucks in velvet (two fork horns and one spike).  As soon as I stopped the truck to take a picture they high-tailed it for cover in the nearest stand of trees.


Mule deer bucks, Midway Valley
Trout Truck basking in oak tree shade, Kolob Reservoir
The circuitous route around the Hurricane Cliffs and Kolob Terrace was a long drive, but I got on the reservoir by 9:00 AM.  I had decided to return home around noon as I was suffering from a mild case of dysentery that I likely picked up from the Panguitch Subway shop on Sunday night.  I decided I would only fish for about ninety minutes and then head home.  Knowing I was on a short time line I rushed a little and forgot to take my camera on the reservoir; no fish pictures.  In the ninety minutes I did catch five trout, three rainbows and two cutthroats.  All were over twelve inches, with one rainbow measuring a hefty sixteen inches and one cutthroat measuring seventeen inches.


Driving off Kolob Terrace, looking towards Zion Park
So, a whirlwind tour of southern Utah produced seventeen trout in six hours of fishing spanning two days and 700 miles.  It was a somewhat impetuous journey through southern Utah, but the first-time visit of Tropic near Bryce Canyon and the twenty-one inch Panguitch cutthroat easily justified my crazy behavior.  Perhaps this erratic trip was subliminally fuelled by the national debt and deficit crisis and its related impacts on the investment markets.  Maybe crazy begets crazy sometimes.


One more look at the cutthroat...