Saturday, January 13, 2018

First fish of the year

I met Rob at Red's Fly Shop in the Yakima canyon for a seminar to prepare for our trip to Ascension Bay in March. Since we have been down there a couple times before, the information is mostly review, but it gives us a chance to pick up a few new flies and other odds and ends we need for the trip. It was also a chance to wet a fly in search of the year's first trout.

Last year, the river was almost frozen solid with feet thick shelf ice right to the moving water. This year has been more mild, and the 45-degree, sunny day was perfect for a quick stop on the way home.
In winter, the fish like slower and deeper water, so I found a pull-out where I could see a bar of broken basalt that extended out into the main current, leaving a wide stretch of deeper, slow water downstream. I started with a stone fly paired with red San Juan worm and drifted the flies below an indicator through the deeper water below the bar, from the first stream of water running over the bar out to the edge of the main current. Nothing. So I switched to a cone-head, olive bunny leech and swung it from the main current into the slower water, then retrieved with a slow strip. My second cast, this beautiful rainbow grabbed the fly on the retrieve through the slow water. I tried to find another without success, so called it a day and made it home before dark, surprising everyone in my family. Just so they don't get used to it...
A great way to start the year -17-inch Yakima rainbow

Monday, October 30, 2017

Search for Big, Fall Brown Trout

The Owyhee River at the far east side of Oregon has been on my radar for some time, but it is just far enough away to require a little more planning than a simple day trip. After Dad's burial in Utah, I would be driving home alone and had bereavement time from work, so I decided to take an extra day for a little time alone in a beautiful place, with my thoughts, my fishing rod, a beautiful desert canyon, and a stream (supposedly) full of fish. We each grieve in our own, personal ways.

I left Sunday morning from Salt Lake after visiting my oldest daughter and son-in-law. Having all day, I took a circuitous route, driving back roads to The City of Rocks in Southeast Idaho, where I spent a few hours exploring in solitude, then continued on my way, arriving at a gravel bar on the banks of the Owyhee River well after dark. I set up my bed in the back of my "RV" (i.e., my RAV4 with a memory foam mattress topper and a sleeping bag) and walked down to the river, where I spooked a good sized brown with the light from my headlamp. It was hard to go to sleep, with the mix of emotions from the weekend's activities in Utah coupled with the excitement that always arises with the sound of a tumbling stream on the other side of a wall of willows.

Morning came late at this far end of the time zone, and first light found me at the head of a stretch of running water that flowed through a couple small bends with deeper stretches before entering a large, deep pool. While the water was fast moving and mostly clear with just a bit of color, the rocks were largely covered with moss/algae. I started with large streamers, thinking that the browns would be aggressive with the approaching spawn. But fishing through the moving water, I didn't have a strike. I reached the pool with the sun finally rising above the walls of the canyon, and saw many large browns, rising, swirling, jumping clean out of the water. Fishing around the edge of the pool, I had two strikes on the streamers (one on a white bunny leach, one on a purple), but no hookup. Reaching the outlet of the pool, there were a couple dozen large trout visible, with others moving up from the running water below, but no interest was shown in any fly I tossed their way, or even an 8-mm peachy-pearl bead. Moving down from the pool, I found another fisherman on the fast water below, so retraced my way upstream to the inlet of the pool. I noticed a number of small flies above the water, and thinking of the Provo River tailwater below Deer Creek dam, tied on a size 20 baetis nymph below a size 12 caddis green psycho prince nymph. I immediately had action all the way up through the run I had fished down through at dawn. Many decent rainbows, all 12" to 13". Some strikes that may have been larger fish, but nothing hooked. 
With more confidence, I moved upstream past a long stretch of slow water to where the water tumbled over and around basalt boulders into the head of the hole. Again I found similar sized rainbows, a small brown, and a big brown that thought my indicator looked better than the flies. Most were on the small fly, but a couple took the psycho.
It was well past mid-day and time to start thinking about starting the 5+ hour drive home, but I couldn't quite leave without trying another place or two for one of the big browns found here. I hopped in the car and headed downstream, carefully scanning the river for likely moving water between the long stretches of flat water found on this river (I have always told my family that if I die in a car accident on a road winding along a river, they will know without a doubt it was because I was distracted watching the river rather than the road). I stopped once and found moving water, but only a few more rainbows and no sign of browns. Not ready to give up yet, I checked the satellite image downloaded onto my phone for more likely spots - longer narrow stretches where the water would be moving faster - and made my last stop at such a spot a couple miles further downstream.

Climbing down to the river, I found a fast, narrow chute spreading into a still narrow stretch of  moving water with overhanging brush on the far side. It ran 18" to 24" deep for 20 yards or so before it began to broaden and slow. I quickly found several rainbows on the flies, but could see a larger brown or two holding in the water in front of me. They had no interest in the flies, so I switched back to a bead, this time a 6-mm bright pink one left over from Alaska. First cast, a brown in the range of 20 inches or so grabbed the bead, exploded out of the water, and spit the hook. This happened three or four more times before I finally got one to stay on and come to hand.
The next hour was amazing, with about ten browns to hand, all 18" to 20", fat and healthy, and many more lost as they spit the barbless hook with the first jump.
I found a few more in the next run upstream, and when I finally broke off on yet another big brown, decided it was time to call it a day and head for home. A magnificent desert canyon, a stream full of trout, and peaceful solitude have wonderful restorative properties. Though I can't call Dad and tell him about this day, he will be there with me as today's memories join in my mind with all those of past trips together. Always, he will be there with me.

Return to Childhood

I always say that every trip is an excuse to fish. This was one trip that we knew we would someday make, but when it came, we wished it had not come so soon.

Our family gathered on October 28, 2017 in Smithfield, Utah, to bury our dad in the town that filled the memories of our childhood during our frequent vacations to visit grandparents. It was on those trips that I have my earliest memories of fishing with Dad. At reservoirs in southeastern Idaho with really old relatives, chumming with cans of corn, sitting in lawn chairs, and waiting for the tip of the rod propped up on the forked stick to start bouncing when the fat rainbow grabbed the worm and marshmallow on the other end of the line. Crawling through brush and hanging tightly to Dad's leg in the rushing torrent of the streams running down from the mountains to the east. Dad dipping worms behind the rocks, then handing the rod to me or Rob (or a sister) to bring in the wiggling trout. As we grew older and the torrential streams became tumbling brooks, we graduated from worms to flies, from tiny creeks to the somewhat larger rivers. Almost always finding fish. Always loving the time together.
Marianne (our sister) and Dad at Smithfield Creek
As the time came to make the plans for the burial service, Rob, Tom, and I talked of visiting these streams that had been such a big part of our childhood memories. Tom had a family commitment, but Rob and I determined to visit a couple creeks in the afternoon following the graveside service. I bought my license online the day before leaving, and found out Utah only offers a minimum of a 3-day license. At first I was bothered by the extra cost, but then realized if I left early enough, I could fish Friday evening too and visit another of our favorite streams. So Mom and I left early, getting to my cousin's in Logan about 4:10 pm. By 4:35, I was rigged up and heading up the Logan River, stopping near Red Banks. Alone on the stream, the sunny, fall evening and the crystal clear water tumbling over the boulders made for a perfect respite from the challenges of the last few months. I found ample numbers of beautiful trout, then cried that night with the realization that for the first time I couldn't call Dad and give him a report from my trip.
Logan River cutthroat
Matching brown
The next day dawned clear and calm, but chilly. Family and friends gathered at the cemetery, a juxtaposition of joy and grief, joy from reunion with family we had not seen in many years, grief at our temporary separation from Dad. After the service and a luncheon at the home of one of Mom's childhood friends, Rob and I changed and slipped out to the nearby Summit Creek (or Smithfield Creek as we always called it growing up). Driving up the canyon, areas we had fished as kids were now lined with homes, backyards abutting the creek. But we soon reached a brushy stretch of creek next to the road, I am sure one where we had fished with Dad as children. Rob and I parked at the side of the road, walked downstream, and entered the stream.

Rob entering the creek
How could this tiny stream have been the fear-inspiring torrent of my childhood? But shin deep on me now would be a fearful thigh-deep on a young child, and I saw in my grasping Dad's leg while wading across the creek as a child, a metaphor for the strength a parent brings to their children as they help them pass through the experiences of life that can at times seem challenging and overwhelming, a strength that I must now find fully on my own.
Me, crossing Smithfield Creek (it is a little smaller late in the fall when we fished it this time)
Taking turns tossing our flies into the likely looking pockets, we wondered if there were still fish here. So much had changed in the fifty years since we had been those young children fishing with our dad. But shortly after entering the stream, a small rainbow darted out and grabbed Rob's renegade. A short time later, a nicer one grabbed my elk hair caddis. All was going to be OK.
There are still fish here!
A beautiful rainbow on the EHC
We continued up the stream, laughing with joy at each fish we brought to hand, like those little brothers years before. We may no longer need Dad's strong leg to grasp onto as we wade through the streams, but we know it will always be there for us as we wade through the challenges of life that remain ahead of us. His memory, his example, his love, will always be there for us to grasp and hold on to, even though he may be gone. Love you Dad! 

At High Creek, the second memory we visited

Friday, September 29, 2017

Free Friday

Taking advantage of a beautiful day and my last Friday off for a while due to a work schedule change, I made a quick morning trip to a local stream. Started at a different stretch of water I haven't fished for quite a while. Fewer fish found than normal, and no love for the psycho, but that could be due to the large number of October caddis shucks covering the streamside rocks - they might have just been full. Put on a stimulator and began to find a few.

Had a couple on nicer than normal, maybe 15", which is big for this stream. Later, found my way to a familiar stretch of water and the normal psycho love. 
I add this photo for my nephew-in-law, Brad, to show him that even the best of us occasionally catch fish by the fin. Of course, we also catch a lot in the mouth, which he will eventually learn to do if he keeps at it!
Ended up with a few dozen for the morning. It is nice having a place like this nearby.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Currant Creek is still sweet

Today was our chance to fish new water (to me) with Brad & Jeff Scherck (Brad's dad).  Jeff caught his first trout on the fly ever two days ago and was game to try for more. This time high in the Uintah National Forest.

My brother Rick and Mike Dover had been here a couple of years ago so it was on my list of potential spots to fish in the future.  Well, the future is now and it was a beautiful sunny day and a great day for fishing, but what day isn't a great day for fishing?

Brad and Jeff, father and son, on the stream.  This is how it should be.
We fished within site of the dam that forms Currant Creek Reservior.  A mixture of beaver dams and running water.  In the first hole fish were actively feeding but ignored the dry dropper I was tossing as well as the hopper dropper Brad was using.  I changed to an Irresistible Caddis and Brad to a smaller hopper and green copper john dropper.  I had a fish to hand shortly thereafter.  A small brown, but somebody has to be the first.

My first Currant Creek brown.  I was pleased.

I found several more in mostly pocket water.  Brad had several fish to the fly but he is so kind and gentle I think he must not want to sink the tip of the hook into the mouth of the fish.  We need to work on hook setting so he doesn't take up "farming" like his father-in-law.  Maybe one of the other Merrill boys can give him a remedial clinic some time to undo what he's learning from me.

Jeff however, was not content to follow my lead and decided to patiently watch as the fish below came up to his elk hair caddis that was floating (drag-free) in the current as it passed close to a grassy undercut on the inside corner of a nice long run.  A sure hookset and the fight was on.  I saw it from upstream where I was fishing and came to get the photo to record the memory.  Jeff says this is the largest trout he has ever caught.  I told him it might be a little while before he caught another one like this.

Jeff's first Currant Creek brown.  He was really pleased!

It was pretty exciting for him and us!  However, as you can see from the photo, he is going to have to work a little on the "long-arm" for photos.  As beautiful a fat brown trout as one can imagine.  It came up and sipped the fly and Jeff got it right in the tip of the nose.  Well presented, patiently waited to pull the trigger, carefully fought, gently landed, and gratefully released.

Check out the teeny elk hair caddis in the nose of this fish!

We had to get to St. George so we couldn't fish until dark.  Play day ended early.  However, we can look forward to more in the future.  Will Jeff ever be the same after these last few days?  Only time can tell for sure, but he was disappointed when we got to St. George and Sportsman's Warehouse had already closed for the day . . .

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Brian's photos

I was lame and forgot to get Brian's photos from our Scherck therapy today.  They are to be found below.

Diamond Fork.  Beautiful day, but no cooperating aquatic friends.
A Nebo brown.  Nice somebody finally caught a fish today!
Ready for college now!

Sherck therapy

Brian starts his freshman year at BYU next week and so it is, of course, a good reason to go fishing.  Today Brian and I were joined by Brad and Jeff Scherck.   Brad is Rob's son in law.

First time fly fishing today for Jeff Scherck, Brad's dad.  Brad is married to Rob's youngest daughter, Natalie, and Jeff thinks this is great.  He's always wanted to try fly fishing and says Brad chose his new family well.  We started the morning at Diamond Fork which fished as if it had been hammered, which judging from the number of anglers and vehicles we saw along the road, it probably had been.  We saw not a fish in an hour with four of us thrashing the water.  

Enough of that--we headed to Thistle Creek!  Very brushy, but at least there were a few fish willing to take a swipe at a fly.  However, it is really difficult to fish with four people in this tiny creek so we continued on to Nebo Creek.  Jeff & Rob starting where we parked and Brian and Brad heading up the road a ways before dropping into the creek.

Rob missed a fish in the first hole and managed to land one in the next hole--accidents will happen.  Jeff then landed his first fish on a fly in the same hole.  A beautiful small brown trout. 

Brad's father, Jeff, with his first fish on a fly.  A nice little brown trout.

More fish were seen and enticed to the fly over the course of the next couple of hours.  We did get rained on pretty well midway through--big drops that kept coming and coming.  Hats, shirts and arms all quite wet.  It did make it cool and comfortable so that was nice.

This guy found the Irresistible simply impossible to resist

Brian and Brad managed to find some fish as well so it was a good move to head here.  We saw no other fisherman and had the quiet solitude all to ourselves.  With a good day of stream therapy behind him, Brian should now be ready for the rigors of a university education and Brad should be ready for grad school.  Both boys start school next week.

This one broke off while trying to take a photo, but Brian managed to catch it by hand downstream and retrieve his fly after a nice "thank you" kiss of the fish!

I love fishing in Utah Valley and surrounding canyons.  Hopefully we can come visit occasionally to check on the welfare of Natalie, Brad & Ben as well as Ben's "Uncle Brian" and perhaps participate in some stream therapy.

Another brown from the pocket water