September 10, 2020

Beaver Dam Creek - Revisited

Looking upstream, this location is about a quarter-mile from the day-use parking area. There is a trail
head marker where I parked, but about 20 yards in the trail disappears, a victim of the viscous flash
floods that plow through this narrow canyon. What is ankle deep water routinely swells to three
feet, occasionally much more. I have personally witnessed this twice.   

Beaver Dam Creek

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know Beaver Dam Creek is where I learned to fly fish a trout stream. I started angling Beaver Dam State Park’s namesake creek in 1977, and I continued through the 1980s and 1990s. Schroeder Reservoir created an interesting tailwater fishery (although by virtue of a spillway as opposed to a tunnel outlet at the bottom of the reservoir) that created wild trout habitat that was accessible only by foot or four-wheel drive. Most anglers fished the reservoir, but exploration of the creek below proved fruitful in many ways. And yes, an occasional larger trout found its way over the dam into the spillway pool where it set up shop. My last visit before the dam was breached and removed was in August 2002, and you can read about those early experiences in that blog post.

My next visit was in September 2010, five years after the dam was removed, which I mournfully describe in that blog post. Whether true or not, I like to think of myself as an optimist, so almost ten years to the day I decided to give the creek one more chance before my aging body prevents me.

There is a sense of anticipation every time I arrive at the rim of the canyon that contains Beaver Dam
State Park. I always describe it as a miniature Grand Canyon. The headwaters originate in Utah's
the Pine Valley Ranger District. I believe the tallest peak on the horizon (about a third in from the left
side of this photo) is Water Canyon Peak, about 7,300 feet in elevation. It's about 5 miles east from
the Nevada/Utah border. The mountains in the distant horizon represent the northwest section of
the Pine Valley Ranger District, one of four districts in the Dixie National Forests of Southern Utah.

The most recent Google Earth imagery (October 2013) displays numerous beaver dams on the creek; I counted seven in the creek section I fished today. Although it has been seven years since those satellite images were taken, I was still surprised that I did not run across any dam remnants on this trip. For a change in approach, mostly due to the reservoir dam removal, I fished upstream from the trailhead in the parking and day use area. With a three to four-hour effort I caught 12 trout. Most were under eight inches, but four were at least that length. I never spooked anything large, but one seemed to be nine to ten inches; it slapped at my fly after the leader spooked it.

As you turn off U.S. 93 on the Beaver Dam road (there is an ample sign, but it is possible to miss it),
you cross the Meadow Valley wash which gathers all the water it can from the Great Basin hills
surrounding the valley, a valley that includes the towns of Panaca and Caliente, including the stream
that fills the Eagle Valley and Echo Canyon reservoirs. In that fertile valley ranchers grow livestock
feed like alfalfa, which of course the mule deer love as well.

So, I recant my blog of 2010. Anyone taking an interest in fly fishing would do well to learn the craft on the waters of Beaver Dam Creek. The intimacy of the water can be a quick teacher, with more immediate results. Lessons learned here are readily transferred to larger streams and rivers.

For those interested in detail, I was casting my eight-foot, five-weight rod which I underweighted with a four-weight floating line. The creek is ankle deep for the most part, but there are occasional pools and glides that larger trout occupy (there were many fingerlings present, but usually relegated to the thinner water). One or two were caught on a little scud pattern, but the others were caught on a size 16 elk hair caddis dry fly. I rarely fish reservoirs with dry flies anymore, so it was a special treat to angle that way today.

Although the creek is shallow, there are occasional pockets and pools, some as deep as two feet.
Much of the section below the old reservoir is shrouded in willows, where dapping flies from a prone
position would be productive. This upstream section seems a little less crowded by willows, but large
boulders and the canyon walls provide shade as well. 

Because the water is so thin, and because there were some flies coming off the water, I mostly
fished a size 16 elk hair caddis. It was very effective on the small rainbow trout of Beaver Dam.

Another little rainbow who succumbed to the caddis dry fly.

Nature Leads to God

It is hard for an old man, assuming 64 is old, to avoid longing for the adventures of his youth. I was a virile young man who sought after all kinds of unique ways to immerse myself in the natural world. It was not good enough to simply fish, it had to be fly fishing using rods and flies I built myself. Hiking was great, but backpacking trails in mountain ranges approaching 12,000 feet in elevation was better, and better yet was backpacking into wild areas where there was no trail. Ski slopes had to be conquered not with Alpine skis, but with Nordic cross-country skis. Technical climbing added a thrill element (read risk) as trails became vertical thereby placing a premium on muscle strength, endurance, and fear management. Even in the 1970s (well before cell phones, personal computers, and the Internet) city life provided all sorts of amenities and conveniences but experiencing and understanding nature in its rawest forms made me feel more alive. Dare I say that nature adventure was my “religion” of that time.

Giving up the physically demanding approaches to nature has been disappointing. I admit that. But my last holdout remains fly fishing. I still have my dad’s fly rod and eleven flies tied by him over 60 years ago. Fly fishing connects me to a father I never got to know as heart disease took him from our family at the age of 37. My mother spoke so lovingly of my dad, and my brothers idolized him. What 10 and 13-year-old boys could resist idolizing a dad who epitomized the adventurist outdoorsman? Although I was barely out of my toddler years, my father’s love of the outdoors was deeply planted in my older brothers, and they in turn transferred it to me and my younger sister. While they were the agents of transmission, my longing for all things in the natural outdoors is rooted in my father, Raymond Joseph Vincent.

You can see how flood waters carve out the walls and banks. The Google Earth imagery from October
2013 revealed many beaver dams on the creek. Although I did not bushwhack a lot of the creek, I
did not see one single beaver dam, even from the higher vantage points. Either they were washed
out, or the State Park folks removed them to enhance their limited stocking program. 

This was the last section I fished above the old reservoir. It was very productive, especially the pool
lying in the shadows of the cut bank on the left. There was a similar but smaller pool about 50 yards
up. In this tiny creek, these are the holding and feeding areas you should be targeting. 

As a grown man I have given up that “religion” for my savior Jesus Christ. That does not mean I have lost or denied my appreciation of His creation, just that I have come to know and love the creator of it all. In a way, I have discovered my true Father in heaven.

Scripture tells us, and science has yet to disprove it, that God created the heavens and the earth, and all that exists on the earth (Genesis 1). He created nature for our use, enjoyment, and stewardship (Genesis 1:28). Scripture states that one purpose of His natural creation is to reveal Himself to those who do not know Him. In a crude way, it would be like learning to praise the maker of an artwork rather than praising the artwork itself.

Colossians 1:16-17 says: 

For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

In Romans 1:19-20 Paul writes:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Job was a man God described as blameless and upright, a man who feared God and shunned evil. When Job lost everything but his life at the work of Satan, he countered his accusers by saying (Job 12:7-10):

But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.

This photo was taken from the road on the way to the old wilderness
campsite (now day use only). These cliffs on the Oak Knoll overlook
my favorite portion of the creek from my "early days." From the late
1970s through the mid-1990s I would visit this water often, driving
my 1978 Toyota Hi-Lux 4x4 (precursor to the current Tacoma
truck series) down to the old wilderness campground ("wilderness"
because it required 4 wheel drive to get there). The pools in this
section provided some casting room and frequently gave up trout
of 12 inches, but my largest ever was 14 inches.  

Down in this canyon floor there used to be the four-wheel drive track road to the lower wilderness
campground. Nature seems to have reclaimed the area.

My enjoyment of all things natural now points me to Jesus, not to my prowess over nature as was the case in my youth. I no longer try to conquer nature, but rather revel in its awesome beauty and wonder, of which I have only witnessed an enormously, almost infinitely, small fraction. Not to be morbid, but as I get closer to death on this earth, I find great comfort in knowing that my Lord has saved a place for me in heaven (John 14:2), and that I will live eternally in His presence (John 5:24). I pray that I will see my family and friends on that side of eternity, but I am not in charge of that decision. While I greatly appreciate the wonderous world He created for me to experience, I know there are many things more important than nature itself.

Taking the "new" road through the hills to the old wilderness campground gets you to OHV trail heads
like this one. An off-highway vehicle (OHV) is a motor vehicle capable of off-highway travel during
winter or summer. OHV’s include all-terrain vehicles (ATV’s), four-wheelers, three-wheelers, dirt bikes,
motorcycles, trail bikes, and snowmobiles (but unfortunately not 4x4 trucks as small as the Tacoma).

How many rainbow trout can you spot in this glide pool? Hint: two are obvious, but the other two are
a little difficult.

Lacey’s Story

I was tuned into a talk radio show on my drive home from Beaver Dam. The host was interviewing singer-songwriter Lacey Sturm. Lacey is 39 today, which makes her about 35 when she did this two-part interview in 2016. Two things grabbed my ear at the start: she was a hard rock artist about the age of my oldest son, and her music genre was reminiscent of my son’s bands when he performed in junior high through college. I thought listening to her story might enlighten me a little about the music of his youth (all my adult children would agree I still need enlightenment, and other improvements).

Having six children with my wife of 40-plus years, I have great empathy for husbands and wives who are raising families. I sometimes joke with my own sons who have small children that they will get a new appreciation of what it was like for us to raise a large family. Joking aside, while it can be terribly taxing in the worst of times, there is no joy more profound, no accomplishment more meaningful, than helping your children grow and achieve what has been made available to them. There is a dated family portrait on our foyer table that has Psalm 127:3-5 inscribed on it. There is not likely a greater legacy than a man’s children.

A bee too busy to care about me...

This rabbit brush has distinctive yellow flowers, with a vine invading it while the canyon cliffs
proudly overlook their domain.

Raising a family in today’s world appears much more difficult than our parents’ generation. For one thing, my generation’s youth did not have the technology of today that gives every child access to almost anything in the world… good, bad, ugly, or evil. According to one study 53 percent of children have a smartphone by the age of 11, and 84 percent of teenagers now have their own smartphones. These smartphones are much more powerful than the first personal computer I bought in the mid-1990s. At their best, these devices discourage proper socialization and purposeful endeavors like team sports and outdoor recreation. At their worst is a darker side at play. Most parents I know live in fear that their children will fall prey to pedophiliacs on social media, or at least be exposed to other sources of perversions and evil.

I had heard that wild turkey were transplanted in the Beaver Dam area. I now have the evidence.
They were very ratty looking... I suppose the summer heat in this area gives them a rougher look
(highs can get close to 100 degrees on the hottest days). 

Like my older sons, Lacey was raised before the technology boom from “mobile” phones to “smart” phones, or tiny personal computers as I think of them. Her father abandoned her mother to raise six children. I cannot fathom what raising six kids on your own feels like, but I can empathize with her mom. Thankfully, the Lord gave women such strong mothering instincts. Nonetheless, Lacey grew up distrustful of all men. The murder of her young cousin by the hands of his stepfather enraged her. While her mother did what she could, Lacey eventually felt her despair and worthlessness rage into a belief that suicide would be a noble act. It would be like giving a world so full of pain and isolation the “middle finger.” I will leave you to decide to listen to her story in her own words, but I caution that they will strike a painful chord in every parent’s heart. Here are the links to Part 1 and Part 2 of her interview, or alternatively here is a reporter’s version of Lacey’s story.)

No child deserves to grow up like this, but the Lord gave Lacey a voice and place to fight for those who view suicide an option in what seems like a godless world. I learned the Center for Disease Control reported suicides by children age 10 to 24 increased 56 percent from 2007 to 2017. I imagine it is even higher given the events of these past eight months. Why would young people be taking their own lives at an increasing rate?

Like me, I believe Lacey discovered her true Father in heaven. I am thankful He has given her a heart to give hope and purpose to our suicidal youth. It is a mission far more important than pursuing His natural creation with a fly rod.

On my way home I needed to stop for a late lunch break. For decades that was always the Knotty
Pine Restaurant & Lounge right on U.S. 93 as it weaved through Caliente. This time I noticed a new
place on the other side of U.S. 93, over the Union Pacific railroad tracks. The Side Track Restaurant
includes a nice beer menu, but no gambling machines. If you are traveling through Caliente and need
a bite, I recommend you give the Side Track a try. And while you're at it, check out the Caliente
Railroad Depot. You can't miss the mission style building constructed in 1923 to host the Union
Pacific Railroad depot.