December 6, 2012

Cold Creek Fall Stocking Completed



Brian fishing Cold Creek at sunset
Brian and I made time Thursday afternoon for a half-day trip to Cold Creek. The last time we fished together was in May 2010. As I recall, on just his second fly-fishing excursion Brian out fished me that day. That was a very good day.
Brian fishing the south side of the pond
Two years is much too long of a time to go without an outdoor adventure with your sons. Brian has been busting his butt in college these past two years and working through each summer, and although my schedule now provides Friday’s off, we just could never seem to connect. Even though Thursday’s trip was just for the afternoon, driving in the truck afforded opportunities for discussion that are different than at home amid the jostling routines and schedules. Yesterday, Brian posted this comment on Facebook to go along with the picture of us at Cold Creek: “I get frustrated and impatient while fishing sometimes (I enjoy hiking or shooting more), but I learned a while back to not take these opportunities for granted.” I suspect he will follow the normal path after he graduates this summer and get a job, move out of the house, and get on with his adult life. I would like to think there will be opportunities to spend more time outdoors with him (even shooting), but I know the reality is there will be less time once he moves out. His comment about not taking these opportunities for granted is profound, for both of us.

No, nothing taken for granted here...
After my Cold Creek reconnaissance trip turned up blank last week, I contacted Doug Anderson, Manager of the Mason Valley Hatchery (MVH) in Yerington, Nevada. The MVH and other Nevada Department of Wildlife hatcheries have been stocking the southern Nevada urban ponds because of the quagga mussel problem in Lake Mead; the concern is about infesting other water when transporting fish from the Lake Mead Hatchery. Anyway, Mr. Anderson reported that the MVH would be stocking Cold Creek on this past Tuesday.

Brian casting from the northern side; spin-caster in the background
I asked Brian about his schedule this week, and his Thursday was clear, but Friday had classes. I thought if we fished on Thursday he would have an opportunity to catch many stocked trout on the fly. I took off Thursday afternoon and we fished for two hours, sharing the pond with a lone spin-cast angler who was also releasing his catch. The newly stocked trout were staying close to the bottom, and their takes were still subtle. Stocked trout must go through a transition from feeding on pellets in a hatchery run to eating natural food. Additionally, being transported 370 miles by truck requires some chemical sedation for the trout, I believe. Not sure how long the effects of that sort of journey last on these little trout, but I suspect it takes more than two days to get back to normal and acclimated to new environs that don’t resemble anything like a hatchery.

The sunset back-lighting the limestone cliffs near Lee Canyon
I lay that foundation to explain why Brian only hooked up with two fish. It took him a while to get back the physics and timing of fly-casting, and these newly stocked nine-inch trout were not taking the flies hard, but rather softly. You really had to feel for the takes through your fingers. He was a little frustrated, indeed. The spin-caster landed numerous trout, and I was able to land sixteen, mostly from the bottom where the “newbies” must have been congregating.  Several were pushing eleven inches, a bonus from the late season stocking.


Yes, Virginia, there are trout in the Cold Creek pond
The weather was just right, a crisp feeling with very little breeze. We had the privileged to observe God’s sunset and the attendant shadows and colors that it brings. Being outdoors, even when things do not happen quite like you planned, is always good in my book. It was an opportunity that neither of us took for granted; I felt blessed to share the time and conversation with my son, Brian. 

October 26, 2012

Cold Creek Pond Stocking Reconnaissance

Town of Cold Creek from the pond
Since it was getting deeper into fall and the weather had turned decidedly cooler I took a quick run up to the pond at Cold Creek to see if it had been stocked this week.  As most of you Cold Creek followers know the Nevada Department of Wildlife stocks rainbow trout in the late fall and early spring.  The short answer was: no.

The temperature at 7:20 AM was 31 degrees according to the Trout Truck, so I was glad I brought my fingerless mittens.  Initial casting deposited ice crystals in my guides, but it easily shook off as the sun continued rising to the east. 


Young Cold Creek stallion
I witnessed a few fish rise to the surface, but they had that telltale yellow-orange hue of aquarium goldfish (a.k.a. carp).  I cast around for about fifty minutes and managed to snag a hefty goldfish of maybe nine inches in length but round like a football. I was dredging a small nymph and somehow managed to foul-hook the creature; I did not return him but quickly dispatched him.


Who says you can't catch goldfish on a fly?
On my  return home I crossed two small wild horse herds, as well as a lone coyote about two-hundred yards in the distance.  The rising sun was still low and the coyote's emerging winter coat was highlighted in the morning rays.  He was the highlight of this morning's trip.

Coyote working on his winter coat
Life should always be this beautiful and simple, shouldn't it...

FisherDad in Trout Truck

October 3, 2012

Northeastern Nevada - Ruby Lakes, Lamoille Creek, & Illipah Reservoir

Ruby Mountain Range, Elko County, Nevada
Robinson, Soldier, and Hidden lakes over ridge right of center
I may have seen more of the state of Nevada than most, but I certainly have not seen all of it. Nevada is such a vast state, over 110 thousand square miles ranking it the seventh largest state. Two New York states could fit into Nevada, or three Indiana states. One part of the state I have not visited is the lonesome northwest. I would love to see the Charles Sheldon Antelope Refuge or fish Knott Creek Reservoir, but they are 600 miles away… one way.

I have been as far north as Jarbidge, just south of the Idaho border. That was over forty years ago. Thirty-three years ago I passed through Elko to backpack the Ruby Mountains, and I fished the Ruby Marshes as recently as June 2000. I absolutely relished the rugged beauty of northeast Nevada, but there was something else attractive about it. Its vastness, combined with sparsely populated towns, gave it the feel of wilderness, a place of great possibilities awaiting exploration for those of strong bodies and spirits.
So, I hope you understand why when I needed to travel to Elko for the annual Nevada League of Cities (NLC) Conference I was compelled to carve out some time to explore and fish waters that captured my imagination so many years ago. My itinerary contemplated fishing Illipah Reservoir near Ely on Wednesday afternoon, and lodging in Ely that night. Thursday morning would find me on a White Pine County road through Long Valley on my way to the Ruby Marshes, perhaps crossing over Harrison Pass into Huntington Valley and then on up to Elko for the night. I was scheduled to participate in the NLC Conference on Friday, so I would be returning to Las Vegas on Saturday. The most direct round-trip was about 870 miles, and my side excursions added another 100 miles on top of that.
Illipah Reservoir 

I arrived at Illipah about 11:00 AM after refueling in Ely. Although I took my time I was on the water by 11:30 AM after inflating the Outlaw Escape, assembling and setting up the equipment, and donning my waders and boots. I was surprised how many anglers were at the reservoir on a Wednesday afternoon in October. I suspected that there was news of good fishing and that these folks had no more will power to remain at work or in school than I would if informed of that reconnaissance.
Outlaw Escape by North Fork Outdoors ready for launch on Illipah
The latest into the year I had ever fished Illipah was mid-September when the weeds were still heavy and the weather warm. I was hoping this early October trip would find those conditions more fall-like, and that the brown trout would be actively aggressive as they readied themselves for the fall spawn up Illipah creek. (A reminder that rainbow and cutthroat trout spawn during the spring, but brown and brook trout spawn in the fall, all requiring streams for successful breeding. One observed exception is Tasmanian rainbows that spawn in the fall due to their latitudinal confusion; see my Cumins Reservoir blog for more on that oddity. The point about spawning is that the trout are always at their deepest, richest coloring when in spawn and often are the most aggressive towards lures.)
A fine looking Illipah rainbow
The fishing at Illipah was indeed excellent, averaging about five trout hooked per hour. More importantly to me they were mostly twelve to sixteen inches, with only three measuring closer to twelve. They fought very hard with the larger fish ripping line off my Galvin reel for short runs.
Plump fourteen-inch rainbow from Illipah
I started my fishing the middle of the large reservoir, mostly because that’s where I put in my Escape. The water was appropriately low for this time of year, but it was still a large body of water. After all, Illipah is a ranching reservoir that serves to water high-desert fields of alfalfa during the heat of the summer. Irrespective of where I started, my destination was the shallow water near the inlet; I was targeting the few, but wild brown trout.

The action around the inlet was fantastic. After thirty-plus hook-ups over six hours my right forearm was tired. Through the warmth of the afternoon I was the only angler down there, but by about 4:00 PM another shore angler, a fly fisherman, joined me down there. Even from shore he experienced the same level of activity that I had from the float tube. Most of the bait anglers were assembled on the two dams fishing the deeper water. Although not always, bait anglers are usually found on or near the dams of reservoirs because the access is easier and the weed growth not so thick right up to the surface. I have always preferred the other end, near the inlet.
Moorman Ridge to the southeast of Illipah
Despite targeting brown trout, I did not land one. I did have one hooked for a while, and I did manage to get him to the surface whereupon his spawning dress of orange/brown was quite evident as it backdropped his large black spots haloed in white. I sized him to be at least as large as my largest rainbows of the day, but I admit I never did get him into the net for a more precise examination because he broke off the hook. Often times, it is the fish you lose, the one that you don't land, that beckons you to return to their waters.
A great heron
Illipah attracts a great variety of wildlife. This trip included herons, ospreys, coyotes, wild horses, and even a large crayfish that latched on to my small black nymph that found its way on the bottom of the inlet shallows. The osprey was working the reservoir throughout the afternoon. I witnessed him make four strikes into the water, two of which produced trout for him. The first trout was slightly too large for him, and he dropped the fish twice, losing it to reservoir depths the second time. I was more prepared for his second successful strike. Unlike bald eagles, ospreys hover fifty feet or more over fish they discover which telegraphs their intent before they dive bomb into the water. Then they sit in the water a few seconds before they take off from the water, hopefully with their catch in their talons. Knowing this allowed time to grab my camera and track the bird of prey as it was taking its supper to shore. What astonished me upon blowing up the picture (he was several hundred yards away and my camera only has a 3x optical telephoto lens) was that a coyote was in the background of the picture, no doubt scrounging for those plump crayfish.
Coyote on left, osprey with trout on right - Illipah entertainment
Ruby Marshes

It has been twelve years since I last fished the marshes on the east slope of the Ruby Mountains. The Ruby Mountain Range really is a magical place for outdoor and wildlife enthusiasts. My first awareness of the Rubies was from state fishing publications that described them as the Alps of Nevada. The range runs north-south for about seventy-five miles, spanning about fifteen miles at its widest point just south of Lamoille Canyon (I’m cheating somewhat here as I included the East Humboldt Range with the Rubies, which is about twenty miles long in its own right). In addition to its bounty of usual Nevada wildlife, it sports Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and mountain goat. The range is peppered with almost thirty alpine lakes in the nine to ten thousand foot elevation. The Ruby Crest Trail is thirty-eight miles long, which should attract the attention of some ultra-runners I know.
Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge
i.e., Ruby Marshes, looking east
The Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge lies in the Ruby Valley east of the mountain range.  I have always referred to these waters as the Ruby Marshes. Thursdsay I left Ely for the Ruby Marshes before sunrise and my truck thermometer registered twenty-eight degrees. It was a brisk fall morning. On the county road through Long Valley, a road I had all to myself in those early morning hours, I was taken aback by two wildlife encounters. The first was a herd of nine pronghorn antelope grazing the foothills about thirty miles southeast of the Goicoechea Ranch. I had seen antelope on two other occasions, but in much smaller herds. The rising sun starkly contrasted their tawny hides against subdued greens of sage and juniper.
Pronghorn antelope herd in southern end of Long Valley
That was followed by a surprisingly close encounter with two mature golden eagles. A bend in the road concealed them feeding on a rabbit carcass that was obviously recently run over. I slowed immediately and stopped to within forty feet or so. One immediately took off but the other stood there, rather defiantly. Having just set up the camera for the pronghorns I was able to snap a couple pictures through the dirty windshield.
Two golden eagles, one claiming its gound on White Pine County Road #3
I have never fished the marshes directly, but had fished the Collection Ditch in 2000. The Collection Ditch seems to function as a manmade spring creek; it collects water from numerous springs on the east slope and delivers it into the marshes down by the Gallagher Fish Hatchery. The Ditch is very straight, but the spring water is very slow moving. I don’t know if there is any reproduction going on in there, but I doubt it. It does hold some very large trout, including the state record for a rainbow trout.

I wanted this trip to focus on the marshes. I thought my NFO Outlaw Escape could scoot over the late season weeds to reach open water, but upon checking out the first three boat launch areas it looked impossible… well, ok, it just looked like too much work. On top of the thick weeds a cold front was blowing into the valley causing some strong gusts and I did not want to fight all that in a float tube, even if it was the best tube on the market. Consequently, I found the lower reach of the Collection Ditch, just south of the Gallagher Hatchery. The weed growth in the Ditch was also thick, but I managed to find a pool on the downstream side of a bridge culvert. I was relieved to see open water about fifty feet by thirty feet, but it was the dark shadows looming in the pool that really caught my attention.
Narciss Boat Launch, south Ruby Marshes,
Cass House and Pearl peaks in background 
There were at least eight trout I could identify, and they were large. Since this was going to be more intimate, close quarters fishing I strung up my seven-and-one-half-foot rod for a four-weight line. I would not need my waders. No one was around for miles, and I took my time setting up while I watched the activity in the pool. I decided to try a nymph on an indicator, but quickly abandoned that. It just felt too elaborate for what was a straightforward situation. For the first thirty to forty-five minutes I tried several nymph patterns and one black gnat dry fly. I may have got a look or two, but nothing detectable. The water moves slowly and there are all sorts of odd currents as water spins out the sides of the culvert. A drag-free drift was difficult. I then switched to a size sixteen black nymph. I was casting upstream of the various targets and concentrating on the thick butt section of my leader beyond my floating line. Although I had to strip line in to keep pace with the current, I was watching for any telltale interruptions of that butt section. The clarity of the water and the angle of the sun glare also afforded me the opportunity to see the trout actions relative to where the fly was supposed to be, in some cases. I may have been five to ten casts into the black nymph when I sensed it. I struck the fish and the calmness of the pool dissolved instantly into cartwheels and tail walks. I had the forethought to bring my eighteen-inch float tube net with me, which I needed to get the sixteen-inch rainbow out of the water while stretching my 6x tippet.
Collection Ditch pool with trout on the line
After taking my pictures, returning the trout in the tail of the pool, and calming down a little I inspected my fly and leader. Everything seemed ok except for the wind knot (i.e., overhand knot) that appeared about eight inches up from the fly. Sloppy casting, especially in windy conditions, can cause tailing loops that catch the fly and tie the leader into a knot. Wind knots then become the weakest point of connection, maybe cutting leader strength in half (i.e., three pound breaking strength reduced to one-and-one-half). I thought about clipping it out and re-tying the black nymph, but I was lazy or more likely impatient. Then I rationalized that all the commotion must have put all the fish down, or at the very least all the larger fish. I began doubting that I would get any more action. I was wrong. I cast the wind-knotted leader into the same current a few more times. On the third cast I had another one on the line. This one was decidedly larger or at least stronger. Just as I was getting all proud of myself the trout ran to the head of the pool and leaped. I saw his full body about thirty feet upstream; he was easily twenty inches, likely more. His re-entry into the water slammed the leader and broke it off right at the wind knot… the trout and fly were gone.
Sixteen-inch rainbow with size 16 nymph in corner of mouth
Ruby Collection Ditch
I tied on another black nymph and continued working the pool, but my heart wasn’t in it. I thought about taking a thirty minute break to let the fish settle down, but my mind wandered over to the west slope and the South Fork Reservoir (named for the South Fork of the Humboldt River). I also considered staying at this Ditch pool most of the day; it was likely to produce more good trout if I could be patient. Sight fishing is exciting, even if slow. Ultimately, exploration of the South Fork won over, but once I arrived I was disappointed. The community of Twin Bridges surrounded the reservoir giving it more of a commercial atmosphere. The water was low, and the Humboldt was practically dry from last year’s too mild winter. All that plus the blustering gusts pushing everything into the southeast shoreline caused me to take a rain check. I then momentarily regretted leaving the Collection Ditch pool.

Lamoille Canyon

My spirits quickly rose as I began to ponder Lamoille Canyon. I had not planned to visit it, but it began to pull me toward it. Next to Tahoe and the Truckee, Lamoille is likely the next most photographed natural wonder in northern Nevada, and I wanted to see it again after thirty-three years. I adjusted my itinerary and headed to Lamoille around 1:00 PM on Thursday.
Looking deep into Lamoille Canyon
I recalled the marvelous U-shaped canyon being deceivingly long, probably because it makes that long, dogleg turn to the south. Still, driving it again seemed even longer than I remembered. Have you ever noticed that massive natural wonders grow smaller in your memory, and when you revisit them their new-again awe can humble your soul? As I said, I was not really considering fishing Lamoille, I was simply sightseeing. But then I saw it, the beaver pond. I knew instantly what I was going to do.
Trout Truck in Lamoille Canyon
10,700 foot Lamoille east wall; Verdi Peak just off photo to left 

Lamoille beaver dam pond with lodge in the center

Same pond; note meandering creek to the right
As I reassembled the light rod with a floating line, I would sneak peeks at the trout rise forms below the beaver dam (rise forms are the rings that occur when a trout is eating bugs on or near the surface of the water). After covering the short trail quickly I stopped to assess the situation again: no rise forms in the pond above the dam, numerous rise forms in the Lamoille Creek below the dam. That was simple. The creek is relatively shallow, so despite the rise forms I decided nymphs were the fly of choice. I was exclusively fishing callibaetis nymphs, and in thirty minutes I caught five trout: four brook trout and one tiger trout (tigers are sterile hybrids of brook trout crossed with browns). Only one brook trout came from the beaver pond. The tiger was a surprising ten inches (likely recently stocked), and the wild brookies were all six or seven inches. But it was the seven inch male brookie, in full spawning regalia, that made the trip worthwhile. I soaked in his vibrant coloring: the sage-green vermiculated marks on his back, the green bleeding into his yellow belly, the bright orange fins with black, then white slashes along their edges, and the red spots with pale blue halos. It may have been one of the smallest fish of the trip, but it was the jewel of the trip.
Tiger trout on the line


Male brook trout in fall spawning colors
Friday was business, and on Saturday I arose at 5:30 AM and hit the road at 6:00 AM. It was dark, but the oncoming sunrise was lightening the southeast horizon a little. I headed east on I-80, finding Route 229 that split the gap between the Ruby Mountain and the East Humboldt ranges. After descending into North Ruby Valley the sun finally lit aflame the Ruby peaks. There must be lots of red flecks in the granite crags of the Rubies, enough so that when the beams of sunset or sunrise hit the mountaintops they radiate reddish-pink. As I continued east on State Route 229 towards U.S. 93, I became a little melancholy. But as the Ruby Mountains diminished behind me I realized how much I missed Denise, Brian, Evan, and Emily. I know that as much as I enjoy these outdoor adventures, I am nothing without the love of my family and friends. During the last meal, Jesus impressed upon his disciples the importance of love, of loving the Father though Him, and loving and serving each other as He did for us. John 13:35 quotes Jesus: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." Nature’s beauty can never take the place of love. I am ever thankful that my wife and family love me enough to support my occasional excursions, but these trips can never take the place of my love for them.
FisherDad, Lamoille Canyon, Ruby Mountains, Elko County, Nevada

August 2, 2012

Red Creek Reservoir, Utah's Dixie National Forest

Early morning shadows on road to Red Creek Reservoir
As a birthday gift to myself, I took a day off from work to make a fishing day trip. Although I have Fridays off, fishing on Friday is becoming much like fishing on Saturday used to look like. The 4/10 workweeks are more common now, and lots of others seeking more solitude start their weekend excursion on Friday. So, by exercising my birthday holiday on Thursday I got a jump on other enterprising anglers. On top of that, Mother Nature was running her summer monsoon routine and Thursday was forecast to be partly cloudy in the mountains of southern Utah, while the days surrounding Thursday were forecast with thunderstorms. It isn’t good to be waiving chrome-tipped fly rods in a lightning storm.

NFO Outlaw Escape propped against Trout Truck
I decided to return to Red Creek Reservoir (i.e., Paragonah Reservoir) for several reasons. First, although the reservoir is over 200 miles northeast of Las Vegas, travel is ninety-five percent on I-15 which generally means a two-and-one-half hour trip. Second, the Utah Division of Wildlife (DOW) reported fishing at the reservoir to be good. Third, it seems to be a reservoir not well known by southern Nevadans who seem to opt for the Panguitch/Duck Creek areas to the south of Paragonah or the Beaver Mountain waters to the north. Lastly, I’ve only fished Red Creek once before on July 7, 2009 for two short hours, and although fishing was slow it seemed to hold promise.

FisherDad about to launch Escape, without fins
(note water level about about 10 feet low, normal for mid-summer)
Red Creek lies in the northern portion of the Cedar City Ranger District, Dixie National Forest. The Dixie National Forest occupies almost two million acres between four Ranger Districts and stretches for about 170 miles across southern Utah. The largest national forest in Utah, it straddles the divide between the Great Basin and the Colorado River drainage; this is what southern Utah calls “Color Country.”  

On water looking east, Trout Truck on distant shoreline 
Nonetheless, I knew the daytime temperatures would get over ninety degrees because the reservoir is only at about 7,800 feet in elevation, and so I planned the trip such that I would get on the water no later than 7:00 AM. Originally, I wanted to lodge in Parowan Wednesday night, but apparently that was not to be. Consequently, my only choice was to awake at 3:15 AM and hit the road by 3:30 AM. If all went well I’d fish all day until about 5:30PM and return home by 9:00 PM or so.

The temperature at the reservoir was a cool 55 degrees upon arrival, which masked the truth about the oncoming mid-day heat. On the way up the Red Creek dirt road I noticed a few campers, which translated into a few shore fishermen at the reservoir (imagine what it might look like on Saturday!). The reservoir was very low, and there was a sort of mild algae bloom going on; currents containing millions of little dollops of algae clouded the water. Weed growth was not a problem, and while algae obscured visibility somewhat there was plenty of open water to fish.

Osprey working the reservoir for lunch
The fishing was slow, but I expected that. I knew the mid-summer water level would be low and the water temperature high causing the trout to hold in the lower depths. I did string up my 4-weight rod with a floating line, but I almost exclusively fished my 5-weight with a full-length fast-sinking line.  

Upon arrival, parts of the northeastern shoreline near the inlet were still in the shade of the mountains, and there were trout working the shallows. I quickly inflated my North Fork Outdoors’ Outlaw Escape, donned my waders, and assembled my gear. It was then I noted that I failed to pack my kick fins. I have tube anchors, but I stopped bringing them because in high winds they don’t work that well, and in moderate winds I can use my fins to maintain position easier than the anchors. Not having the fins meant I’d be at the mercy of the winds while casting; this was very disappointing. But, the good news was that the Escape has its own integrated oar system (unlike other tubes such as the Fish Cat series), and the winds were mild. Nonetheless, you can’t fly cast while your hands are on the oars, and oars make more water noise than kick fins; this was a major blunder but it was not going to ruin the whole trip (I thought about driving into Beaver, UT to purchase another set of fins, but that would have wasted a couple of hours).

Tools of the trade: 4-weight, 7.5 footer on top, 5-weight, 9.0 footer on bottom
(both rods custom built by FisherDad)
Immediately upon deploying the Outlaw Escape, I “oared” into position to cast my 4-weight with a size 16 black gnat over the trout working the bank. After a few casts I switched to a small nymph on the floating line to get it just under the water surface. Nothing, not even a detectable look. After a while I realized the shallow water made the trout very leery and my alternating casting/rowing (I had to maintain position…) was frightening the trout.


Wonderful wild rainbow in August
I swapped over to my 5-weight, full sinking rod and began casting into deeper depths. Within fifteen minutes I was into my first of the day, a nice tiger trout (sterile hybrid cross between brook and brown trout). It was beautiful, measuring over fifteen inches on my lap apron. Unfortunately, while I was fumbling to get the camera operational the trout flipped itself back into the water. Fishing catch & release dictates barbless hooks, or at the very least a squashed-down barb, and the consequences of that is the hooks often fall out when the line goes slack. The tiger trout was unexpected. The Utah DOW reports only indicate the presence of rainbow trout. In 2009 my first Red Creek catch was a small brook trout, and now in 2012 it was a tiger trout.

Another healthy rainbow from Red Creek
The remainder of the day produced slow and warm fishing conditions. In 5.5 hours of fishing I landed just seven trout, most in the twelve to thirteen inch range. I also hooked but lost three others, referred to as long distance releases (LDRs). The rainbows appeared to be wild trout (at least I’d like to think they were) as their coloring and spotting were richer than the typical stocked rainbow this late into the season, and more representative of their “wildness” was that all their fins were large and fully intact. In fact, all the trout I landed fought extremely hard, often creating an image of larger size than what actually came to the surface. As noted in the DOW fishing report, rainbow trout migrate from the reservoir into Red Creek in April and May to spawn, so my romantic assumption is that all the rainbow I caught were wild. As I have previously reported in other blogs, reservoir trout can sometimes seem to congregate in pods. Working the area and depth that produced the first fish often relinquishes others. That was certainly the case on this trip as the rocky bay on the southwest side, about 500 yards from the inlet, produced five rainbows landed in about ninety minutes of fishing (one every 20 minutes or so).  

Dixie NF signage; black arrow on map shows location,
with Panguitch Lake and Duck Creek directly below
(many intricate roads through the area creating endless possibilities)
By 12:30 PM the heat and cloudless sky was getting the best of me. I thought about taking a two-hour nap in the shade of the truck before fishing the late afternoon, but I knew realistically that the fishing wouldn’t pick up until the sun set behind the mountains. That wasn’t going to happen until about 6:30 pm, and that translated into an arrival home closer to 11:00 pm (or an overnight stay in Parowan which wasn’t in the original plan with my wife). A twenty-hour day trip seemed too much for me, especially since I had a scant four hours of sleep the night before.

Paragonah, UT sunflower
Despite the slower fishing, I can say the trout were respectable size and they fought very hard. The drive was scenic (well, at least once you pass Mesquite, NV) and the area around the reservoir was extremely relaxing in its solitude. The trip was a much appreciated birthday present.
Content FisherDad

June 29, 2012

Pine Valley Reservoir, Southern Utah

This photo looks through the little meadow from which the Santa Clara River enters the small Pine Valley
Reservoir. The "river" nomenclature is a misnomer; in reality it is a small creek. Note the two bait anglers
settling in near inlet that I had just vacated.
 

It seemed like it had been a long dry spell since I last had an out-of-town angling adventure. Excluding a 90 minute visit at Cold Creek, my last real fishing trip was with my son Doug over eight weeks ago.  It is as though I missed the best part of the spring fishing. I anticipate next year will be difficult for spring fishing due to Nevada's biennium legislative session, but who knows. Still, the anxiousness I feel about fishing the productive seasons seems directly related to God's timing.  

This spring season was preoccupied with adoption preparations for our foster daughter. She has been with us for over two years, and on July 5 she will permanently join our family. And so it is that all things seem to be swirling around her adoption, which is as it should be. But still, fishing calms, focuses, and re-energizes me. So also, does my relationship with God and his Word.

Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that those led by the Holy Spirit shall bear His fruits which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (
read the preceding three verses to learn of those sinful acts contrary to the fruits of the Spirit). I struggle with a few of those fruits as my desire for "angling getaways" can diminish all of them, especially patience.

The first trout of the day before sun rose over the Pine Valley Mountain, caught on a size 8 green Woolly Bugger
with grizzly hackle.

Last Thursday I packed my truck for a Pine Valley day trip the following Friday. Unfortunately, an alarm clock error prevented me from arising at the designated hour. My intention was to be on the road a few hours before sunrise so I could return mid-afternoon and not significantly disrupt the weekend chores/plans. Since I awoke too late to effectively keep that schedule, I delayed the trip until today and simply kept my stuff in the cab of the Trout Truck during the workweek. 

I chose Pine Valley because it is close for Las Vegas standards (about a five hour round trip) even if the fish are not large. It is usually well stocked with pretty fish, and there's always the chance of hooking an occasional brown trout. Like most western reservoirs, Pine Valley fishes best in early spring because the hold-over trout from the fall stocking are usually thirteen to fifteen inches.

A nice little wild brown trout, one of two for the day. I really enjoyed examining his golden color and red spots.

Other than the size of the stocked trout, the only real down side to Pine Valley is its popularity as both a camping and vacation home destination, causing it to feel more like going to camp than a quality fishing experience. Apparently, you can get cell service at the reservoir as one of the bait anglers that saddled up next to me around 10:00 am was taking a call, and I heard another one from the north shore earlier in the morning. Nothing quite like listening to one side of a mundane cell phone conversation to ruin any illusion of solitude while fishing 180 miles from home. Still, a mid-week trip to Pine Valley can be a wonderful family experience, and even a day-trip solely to wet a line will be enormously more rewarding than spending all day at Cold Creek in the Spring Mountains northwest of Las Vegas. 

Those of you nimble enough (and note I did not say young enough) to stalk the small Santa Clara River (i.e., creek) below the reservoir and into the volcanic canyon will find good sport for naturally reproducing brown trout (see these prior Pine Valley posts: January 22, 2012,  July 1, 2011, and  November 22, 2006), and that venue will get you away from the larger and noisier crowds. Stream angling has always been my favorite, but gout and circulatory issues make rock scrambling and crouching along small creeks problematic as my legs and joints pay a price afterward. 

This rainbow quickly attacked the foam grasshopper imitation. I had great sport swinging these hoppers through
the inlet and into the deeper water beyond the fanning sandbar. 

I arrived at the reservoir around 6:00 am PDT, and fished from 6:30 to 10:00 which provided three and one-half hours of fishing. Since I was the second to get on the reservoir I was able to set-up at the inlet, one of my more desired locations to fish on most any trout reservoir. Using my self-made nine-foot rod that casts a five-weight line I started throwing a green woolly bugger with a grizzly hackle, a somewhat different look. On my third cast I had a strike from a healthy eleven inch rainbow. I tried other buggers, a series of nymphs (mostly bead heads), as well as casting a floating line with foam bodied terrestrials like grasshoppers and black beetles. The foam terrestrials seamed to induce vicious strikes, and I ended up leaving two hoppers and one beetle in the mouths of three trout. The voracity of their strikes too often incited a similar response from me, causing the terminal end of the tippet to snap off leaving the trout with a $1.50 of foam, feathers, and steel stuck in its mouth. In fact, I left about seven flies in the mouths of trout today. I started with a 6x leader, but it got sufficiently shorter as I lost fly after fly. While I was losing the flies it did occur to me that I may have had a stressed or even faulty leader, but I was too impatient or lazy to tie on a new one. In retrospect I should have started with a 5x or even 4x leader as these stocked rainbows were not leader shy.

Nonetheless, in the course of those three and one-half hours I landed eleven trout, but lost or broke off about as many. For whatever reason, I experienced a rather high LDR ratio.


A typical Pine Valley stocked rainbow trout, heavily spotted and running 10 to 12 inches in length.

Pine Valley is small by reservoir standards, so much so that even float tubes are not allowed.  Due to less shoreline and high popularity, by 10:00 am it was beginning to get crowded. Two bait anglers saddled up next to me. I was hoping to get home earlier in the afternoon, so the growing croud was all the inducement I needed to reel in and get going. Leaving Pine Valley by 10:30 am meant I'd be home before 1:00 pm, and that would lessen my guilt for the half-day escape that would likely render me exhausted and useless for the rest of the day. 

As much as I enjoy fly angling and writing about it and its related endeavors, I'd still rather be known for my fruits of the Spirit. I want to continue to grow healthier fruit and learn more patience and self-control, to exhibit love, kindness, and gentleness to those around me, while growing in my faithfulness that the Lord will provide all that is necessary, and provide it in His timing, not mine. 

Although it was a rushed trip, the angler was happy...

April 20, 2012

Cold Springs Reservoir - Wayne Kirch

Doug tubing Cold Springs, Grant Range in distant background
I admit to enjoying fishing alone. When I am by myself I feel as though I am in control of all the decisions. I can decide to fish shorter or longer, stay overnight or not, even to change destinations without consulting a fishing partner. Of course, I only “feel” as though I am in control. When traveling alone and making changes to the “plan” I always check in with my wife, both to keep her informed of my location and travel itinerary as well as to ask permission when such changes affect her expectations of my presence at home.  

To wax philosophical for a moment, I find it interesting to observe our quest for control in our lives. Life seems to hand us a set of circumstances, some of which were self-inflicted, and we waste much energy trying to change them, correct their path, even rise above them on our own power. We anxiously work at regaining control to change the circumstances, to make things conform to our will. Even Christians often ask the Lord what His will is in their lives. They fret over life’s decisions, hoping to make the right choice since God doesn’t usually speak to us in specific terms. What they fail to realize is that God has them where he already wants them to be, and he merely wants them to open their spiritual eyes to see what He is already doing around them and to join in support of His work. We tend to personalize this question of control in our life as if the focus is on us, not God. So, when we Christians realize the proper question is “what is God’s will” and drop the self-centered phrase “in my life” we begin to see the opportunities to align ourselves with God, and not the other way around. Even Jesus himself, as the man-God, the only perfect and sinless flesh and blood human, stated He could only do what his Father was doing (John 5:19-20). This is the real truth regarding control: seek to do God’s will, not yours, and you shall achieve peace.

Typical trout of the day, 11 inches but very beautiful
So why am I waxing philosophical? I have been waiting so patiently for the right opportunity to fish Wayne Kirch this spring. Looking for that “best” combination of family/work/weather has been frustrating, but Friday April 20 seemed to be the day. But something inside, the Holy Spirit perhaps, suggested I reach out to my son Doug and invite him along for a day of fishing. Doug loves being outdoors as much as I do, and he’s a pretty good fisherman despite only sporadic opportunities to do so. However, inviting him along meant I’d be giving up my control, my “will” for the long awaited first spring fishing trip.

Despite the impacts such a decision would have on my pure fishing enjoyment (yes, a very selfish perspective), I reached out to Doug to see if he was available and interested to join me on this day-trip. He said he was, but he apparently suffered his own anxious night and actually sent me a text message that indicated he changed his mind after a restless night of very little sleep. As God would have it, I never saw the text and was already on U.S. 95 southbound to his apartment when he called to ask me if I had received the text or was I already on my way. When I told him that I was already in route the Spirit in him must have prompted him to acquiesce.

And so we both gave up a little of our will to control the circumstances, and we spent a wonderful twelve hours talking in the cab of the truck, floating the serene water of Cold Springs, catching our share of trout, and simply sharing time together doing God's will for the moment.

Doug catching first trout of the day
Regarding the fishing, it was slightly slow for this time of year.  The weather was unseasonably warm (reaching 80 degrees by 3:00pm) and weed growth was already becoming an issue, especially for Doug who was spin casting with sinkers above a swivel about two feet up from a fly.  I caught just one trout over twelve inches, a healthy fifteen inch rainbow, but I lost an inordinate amount of fish including one large trout that took my fly with him. We landed about twenty fish between the two of us, but admittedly most came from near the boat launch area where numerous rainbows in spawning mode were behaving aggressively, including one or two that looked well in excess of fifteen inches.  I got a hit or two on a bead headed emerger that I mistimed, as well as another lost fly, but nothing brought to hand over twelve inches.  (See last year’s Cold Springs post at  for a fine sixteen-plus incher caught in similar circumstances.)

Fifteen inch rainbow
Small rainbow in spawning dress
Doug displaying a handsome catch 
Healthy 12-inch male rainbow in spawning color
Towards the end of the day, Doug asked to try the fly rod.  As is typical of beginners he whipped it about quite a bit, and I did my best to instruct him on the physics of fly casting and that the proper timing and application of the power snap would allow the rod to do its job.  Despite the predictable beginners frustration, at one point Doug actually caught two pretty rainbows on two succesive casts that were essentially twenty-foot puddle casts… he was nonetheless thrilled with the results (as I was, too).

Doug learning to fly cast
Doug's first trout caught fly fishing
On the way home an unusual incident happened. While driving about 25 mph on a hilly dirt road an animal that looked like a dog appeared and began running parallel to but ahead of the truck on the left side of the road. After a few seconds the animal quickly turned in front of the truck darting across the road, now running perpendicular to the truck. As it crossed the road it was identifiable as a coyote, a dirty coyote that appeared to have been foraging in the muddy shallows of Adams-McGill Reservoir. The animal looked back at us after it crossed the road, maybe to see if we were going to pursue it. I had never seen a coyote in a dead run in the middle of the day, much less one that ran alongside the truck and then abruptly darted across the road. I didn't realize it at the time, but thinking back it was almost as if the coyote symbolized a bad circumstance, or an evil demon, messing with our lives. By choosing not to follow or pursue the beast it was no longer an item of concern to us.  Either that or maybe I simply spent too much time in the bright sunlight of Wayne Kirch.  Regardless, it was a strange set of circumstances that led that coyote across our path.

So my piscatorial friends, my advice is to give up your desire to control your circumstances, and look for ways to join with God who is always doing good works all around you. And for those of you feeling just OK under the circumstances, I am reminded of what my brother Dave says, “What are you doing under there?

FisherDad and FisherSon - God is good