October 27, 2005

Comins Reservoir - Ely, NV

On Comins Reservoir, looking west towards Ward Mountains 

I was looking forward to a late season trip to eastern Nevada. I was thinking I would fish Illipah, Cave, and Comins, but inclement weather discouraged the Illipah excursion out of concern the dirt road would turn to mud and become impassable. It turned out that Comins was so good I did not want to go anywhere else, anyway.

The weather was wet, cold, and just a little breezy. Although most would think fishing in warm, sunny weather would be more enjoyable and relaxing, I have generally found that the colder, gloomier weather produces better fishing. That is, as long as there is no strong wind.

Sixteen-plus inch Tasmanian Rainbow, last trout of trip

This trip added yet another tick-mark into my memory of great fishing in slightly foul weather. The fishing was awesome. After eleven hours of fishing (five on Thursday and six on Friday) I had landed fourteen trout and hooked but lost ten others. All were larger than normal, mostly in the fourteen to sixteen inch class, so that made it very worthwhile. The largest I landed was eighteen inches, but my camera battery ran out so I did not get a picture of that fish. While breaking down equipment and preparing for the drive home, I was able to speak to a Game Warden. He said there is something about the biology of the lake that causes the planted fish to grow about one inch per month. So, if you plant ten-inchers in the fall they become sixteen to seventeen inches by the spring. That certainly seems to be the case.

Plump and colorful fifteen-inch rainbow
These rainbows really liked to leap upon hook-up, and no doubt the cooler fall weather energized them. It was common to see several one to two foot leaps into the air. Sometimes large, acrobatic fish psyche fisherman into thinking they need to apply more pressure on the line than is really necessary. I'm afraid I succumbed to that as I tried to bully those large fish too much. On Thursday it was darker and windier, so I was using my seven-weight with a 5X tippet. That seemed to work just fine. On Friday the wind died down and it got a little sunnier. I saw several pods of fish working the surface on little hatches of midges, so I switched to my five-weight. Unfortunately I neglected to change the 6x tippet to 5x. I hooked one really nice fish that was much larger than the eighteen-incher. It leaped over two feet into the air so I got a real good look at it. It then borrowed into the bottom of the weeds. When I tried to muscle it away from the weeds the tippet broke off. I was angry for putting so much pressure on and for not changing to a stronger tippet.

Another strong, fifteen-inch rainbow
As usual, I returned all fish, but there were others on Friday who kept a couple each, and when they were cleaning them one asked me if these trout were in spawn. I confidently replied that rainbows spawn in the spring, and that perhaps he had a brown trout (although I didn't think browns were in Comins). He said, "No, it's a rainbow.” Then I recalled the Game Warden had said these trout came from Tasmania (in the southern hemisphere near Australia, where the weather seasons are reversed). Perhaps that is why they are full of eggs in the fall. I then remembered that the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) sponsors a program called "Trout in the Classroom". In that program they import eggs from Tasmania because those trout spawn during "our" fall such that the children can watch the trout hatch and grow in an aquarium during the school year. Maybe that is where these trout came from and their biological clock is still screwed up. Subsequent to this trip, I have corresponded with NDOW and learned that they do indeed stock many Nevada waters with Tasmanian rainbows. They say that strain grows faster and fights harder than other rainbow species. But here is the punch line; rainbow trout are not indigenous to Tasmania, rather they were imported from America. One wonders if our national fish stocking programs have homogenized stocked rainbows too much, and that perhaps Tasmania’s stocking program, which is much younger than the American programs, either has not yet hit that no-return point or is simply better managed than ours because they learned from our mistakes.

Regardless of why and how these Comins rainbows grow quickly and fight so strong, I had an inspiring two-day fishing trip in Ely. The beauty of the area and the wonder of these fish filled my soul. I find reveling in the wonder and beauty of nature always confirms the existence of God, our creator.

Trout on!!  Note trout truck on the distant shoreline
Ely’s Silver State CafĂ© from the Best Western Motel…
home away from home
Self-portrait of the happy fly fisherman

June 28, 2005

Kolob & Little Reservoirs - Southwesten Utah

I had wanted to go on another fishing trip with my boys for quite a while. Although I doubted they shared my passion, I was not sure that it could not be cultivated. It had been a couple years since I took Brian and his friends to Cave Lake and Great Basin National Park, and about five years since Tom, Doug, and I went on a tour of northeastern Nevada that included the Ruby Marshes, Illipah Reservoir, Cave Lake, Silver Creek, and Great Basin National Park. Now that they were older I thought they might appreciate the experience a little more and be better able to master the technical nuances of fishing. They seemed interested in the trip (or was it just mid-summer boredom), so we planned a mid-week trip around Doug’s days off.

Utah Fish and Wildlife manages Kolob as a Blue Ribbon water; anglers must use artificial lures and all trout must be released except one over twenty-two inches may be kept. The result is larger trout (which is also fueled by large crayfish that also inhabit the reservoir). I had never fished Kolob Reservoir. Preoccupied by the lure of large trout, I mistakenly thought the boys might enjoy fishing for large trout, too. I neglected that the trade-off for catching large trout in this vast reservoir was that there are fewer of them to catch (at least it seemed that way). Nonetheless, off we went on Tuesday morning toward Kolob with fat rainbows on our mind.

Tom was in need of driving time for his learners permit, so he drove us to St. George. From there Doug drove us up to Kolob. There were a series of wildfires along I-15 that kept a haze over the land for over a week, and so our drive up north was blanketed in an ash-colored haze. Upon reaching St. George we could see the hot spots on the Pine Valley Mountains. We could smell the smoke in the air when we stopped for lunch. I recall hoping that the fires left the Pine Valley Reservoir area unharmed.
A few Kolob sandstone formations on the Kolob Reservoir Road.
Taking Utah Highway 9 to Virgin, we proceeded up the Kolob Reservoir Road. I think Doug enjoyed driving up this long, winding road, but since he had to keep his eye on the road he missed much of the beauty. We did not stop for pictures because we had planned to return the next day, and I thought we’d stop to see more sites at that time, maybe even hike a trail. Tom took one picture of the sandstone formations, which is quite good considering it was from the moving truck. Unfortunately, we did not return the next day so the images will have to live on solely in our memories, encouraging us to return another day.

Once at the reservoir, the comedy act of “Tom & Brian” was in full force. While Doug and I got down to the “serious business” of preparing to fish the reservoir, Tom and Brian went into their goofy characters that reminded me of the Martin/Akroyd Saturday Night Live routine, “Two Wild & Crazy Guys”. They began filming the “Dolphin Feesh” documentary, which can only be explained through viewing the nauseatingly erratic film technique employed by Brian as the camera dangled from his neck while running from man-eating damsel flies or while attempting to dump in a stool-style camping toilet. But I digress…
Doug and I launching the tubes on Kolob Reservoir.
There was a stiff breeze blowing towards the eastern shoreline where we launched our first fishing assault. I brought three float tubes, one each for Brian, Doug, and me. Tom said he wasn’t interested in fishing, but I brought an extra rod for him anyway. I knew from my own experience that it would take a while for Doug and Brian to get the hang of the tubes. The stiff breeze would add to the difficulty. But to my surprise, Brian declined to use a tube. I guess he was having too much fun making the “Dolphin Feesh” documentary. Doug wanted to try fly fishing, adding yet another layer of complexity; not only would he have to learn how to maneuver the tube so he wouldn’t be blown where he didn’t want to go, he would have to learn the physics of casting a fly rod.
Brian takes a break from filming the “Dolphin Feesh” documentary.
We first concentrated on the float tube: kick paddling for best propulsion with minimal water disturbance, and controlling direction by strategically employing one foot or the other. After that we tried to work on the casting. I am not the best at describing the physics of fly casting, so I fear I was not much of an instructor. I was able to teach Doug how to let out line while kick paddling; sort of a float tube version of trolling. After what seemed like a couple of hours, I had one strike that I missed and caught one five-inch rainbow… a little disappointing although, technically, not a skunking.
Here's FisherDad with a “trout on” while floating Little Reservoir.
At Brian’s urging, we drove over to the western side of the reservoir, just past the Kolob Creek inlet. As we pulled up to a shallow shoreline, we noted large trout rolling and slurping just seventy feet off the shoreline. Doug and I quickly got into our tubes to advance on the feeding fish. These were definitely the “Dolphin Feesh” Brian said we were hunting for. Once out on the lake, huge trout, like floating pigs, continued to rise all around us. Unfortunately, I neglected to bring the floating line in the tube; so both Doug and I were stuck using sink-tips. It became obvious that these fat trout were only feeding on the hatch, which looked to be CaddisKolob the next day. I can fish all day and catch nothing as long as I know there are large trout to be caught. Conversely, the boys were beginners and needed to catch lots of fish to have fun, which I completely understood. So, on the way off the Kolob Terrace we decided we needed to fish someplace else. I thought that Little Reservoir outside Beaver could be good, and with the July 4th weekend approaching I assumed, correctly, that it would have been recently stocked with lots of catchable trout. So we kept going until we reached Cedar City for a good night’s sleep.

The next day Tom drove us up through Beaver and on to Little Reservoir. Doug decided to forgo the float tube and the fly rod, deciding to fish from the shore. I rigged up the three spinning rods for them to use, and then launched myself in the float tube. I hooked three trout in a row as soon as I got out into the middle of the lake (true, as supported by Brian’s video tape). Shortly thereafter the boys started catching trout, too. Brian and Tom caught three each, and Doug, the more serious fisherman, caught about ten. In fact, poor Doug became the official “trout releaser” as neither Tom nor Brian wanted to extract the flies from the trout mouths.

As for me, I lost count, but Brian estimated I caught about twenty trout. That might have included about five that came off the hook before I brought them to hand. Nothing big, but lots of action.
Doug holding twelve-inch Little Reservoir rainbow.
During those three and one-half hours at Little Reservoir we saw a yearling mule deer come down for a drink, a beautiful yellow-breasted finch with a red head, and several domesticated ground squirrels that readily took peanuts from the boys. All in all, I think everyone had an enjoyable afternoon. Perhaps we’ll go back in August and run up to Anderson or LaBaron Reservoirs. At that warm time of year, 9,500 feet of elevation will feel mighty fine. Regardless, I was happy that Little Reservoir put the Kolob memories behind us.

Here is Doug releasing one of his rainbows; 
note the black fly in his right hand
Brian and Tom, above, in their “wild and crazy
guys” routine that had me smiling all the time.
This is the southwest end of Kolob where the “pigs” were slurping.
Doug floating Kolob in choppy water.
Tom contemplating Little Reservoir...
Doug hand feeding a chipmunk
Brian upset with his bird’s nest on his reel.
Brian “in character” as one of the Wild and
Crazy Guys (at times, it was a long ride in that truck)
Brian holding an infamous Kolob crayfish claw.