|The view of snow-dusted Pine Valley Mountains from the access road to|
the Baker Dam Recreation Area. If you could peek over their crest you
would see the unincorporated town of Pine Valley.
Built for irrigation storage in 1953, Baker Reservoir rests on the western foothills of the Pine Valley Mountains at 4,800 feet elevation. The reservoir is managed as a put-and-take resource, but it yields a surprising number of holdover rainbow trout as well as wild brown trout that make their way into Baker from its source, the Santa Clara River. I admit it’s the opportunity to land a large brown trout that piques my fantasies, but the decent rainbows are a wonderful salve while the browns remain undiscovered.
|This view is from the dam towards the upper north end of the reservoir.|
|Here's a different view of the Pine Valley Mountains from the Savage|
Gear float tube. Note the silver Tacoma on the shoreline partially visible
between the young cottonwoods.
“Fall, winter, and spring are the best times to fish at Baker Reservoir. The reservoir seldom freezes over during the winter and ice doesn't last long when it does.”
The Cold Creek Pond (5,800 feet elevation) freezes over for a month or two, so this revelation warranted another winter Baker trip. The weather forecast for the BDRA was calm, partly cloudy, with a high temperature of almost 50° degrees. Maybe it was my memory of that very cold March 2007 trip that filtered out Baker for a return visit; if so, this weather forecast melted that objection.
I left for Baker late on Friday morning, wanting to be sure any overnight ice would be gone before I arrived around 10:30am. The 135-minute drive to Baker seems to go quick since most of it is on I-15. The drive from St. George, UT is pleasing due to the inspiring scenery as Highway 18 weaves through The Ledges, Snow Canyon, Dammeron Valley, and Veyo on its way to the BDRA. Traffic on the two-lane highway is bothersome, but more because it diminishes the natural experience than because it slows you down.
|The Savage Gear float tube (with integrated oars) was the perfect|
choice on this trip, allowing me to navigate up the Santa Clara inlet
with relative ease.
|The BUFF face scarf was unnecessary, but nice to have at|
the start of the day.
|One of the plumper rainbows of the day at about 14 inches long.|
|This specimen was taken from the inlet pool, just under|
15 inches (38cm) in length.
|The entrance into the inlet is hidden among the willows, but if you|
notice the great heron standing on the white log on the left quarter of
the photo you get the idea.
I made a point to locate the Santa Clara inlet on this trip. On a map it will appear on the north-western end of the reservoir. While the willows betray its approximate location, you nonetheless need to probe them somewhat to locate its exact entrance. I noticed a few great herons in the area, and luckily one such wetland wading bird was strategically standing by the entrance I was searching for.
|A close-up of Bill's leech hooked just under the lip of this young|
male rainbow trout.
|A nice trout from the inlet pool on a size 12 |
long-shank leech pattern.
|I'm holding this trout so my finger indicates the approximate location of|
the pool that held a large pod of decent sized rainbow trout in the
Santa Clara River inlet.
Looking upstream I noticed a narrow pool, and to my surprise a rising trout. Beyond that I could see a wide flat maybe 30 feet across. I tied on a smaller leech pattern and cast up about 40 feet near a log protruding from the water. It wasn’t quite where I noticed the rising trout, but I didn’t want to spoil the lower end of the pool lest it held other trout. My second cast hooked into a strong trout of 14 inches. What fun! I kept working that pool until it stopped giving up trout; it produced seven additional trout to the day’s 23-fish total (not that I’m a fish counter…). All the trout from this channel pool were holdover stocked trout that had put on length and girth. The largest was about 15 inches (38cm). Most experienced anglers have been fortunate over time to come across a piece of water that holds a special bounty, and they know a patient investment of 30 minutes can produce memorable results. I’m sure the thicker willows on the shallower edges of this Santa Clara channel made the trout feel secure in their environs, and but for a small float tube most anglers would not fish this water.
|Here's a view of the willow-choked inlet from the|
vantage of one of the BDRA Day Use sites.
| On the way out of the BDRA I was struck by the tall tan grasses|
contrasting between the charcoal colored lava rocks strewn over
hills on the other side of Highway 18.
On a side note, while I was fishing around the willows before entering the inlet, I noticed a bird of prey perched high on a dead cottonwood. As I stared at the large raptor, I noticed the tell-tale white markings of a mature bald eagle. It is common for bald eagles to winter in the southern waters of the US. In fact, their winter migration gives rise to the annual bald eagle survey on Lake Mead. But this sighting was more intimate. I was able to digitally zoom in on this magnificent bird, even catching it in-flight as it escaped my unwanted intrusion.
|First sighting of the bald eagle.|
|The raptor getting ready to depart...|
|...and we have lift off! What a magnificent sight.|
If you have a float tube and have not tried Baker Reservoir in the winter or early spring, I urge you to give it a good look. Maybe you’ll get into one of those larger brown trout that seem to be eluding me.
As always, being in nature intensifies my belief in The Lord. Scripture tells us nature reveals God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—so that people are without excuse (Romans 1:18-20).