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    Monday
    Aug262013

    Barb's California Heritage Trout Challenge.

    With our recent trip to Humboldt County, Barb has now finished the California Heritage Trout Challenge.

    Full story and photos coming soon.

    Lahontan Cutthroat Trout.

     

    Coastal Rainbow Trout.

     

    Goose Lake Redband Trout.

     

    Warner Redband Trout.

     

    McCloud River Redband Trout.

     

    Coastal Cutthroat Trout.

     

    Wednesday
    Aug142013

    More Smallmouth.

    Mike, Mace and I had not fished together in a long time. We all managed to get a free day so we figured we would hit the smallmouth lake I fished last week. The bite was much better for numbers and size. We estimated we probably caught a 100 fish between the three of us.

    With all the smoke from the local fires it gave us a beautiful sunrise and cloud cover almost all day.

     

    Mace did really well with an intermediate line and a white clouser fly.

     

    One of the many scrappy smallmouth caught that day.

     Just another typical smallmouth for Mace.

     

    It was an amazing fishing day made even better by the great company. I am really looking forward to fishing with these two guys again.

    Thursday
    Aug082013

    Smallmouth Bass close to home.

    My first scrappy smallmouth of the day.

    Andy and I  heard a rumor of a lake very close to my house that had a healthy population of Smallmouth Bass. We had been planning to fish the lake this summer, but between the trip to Wyoming and then Colorado and then my eye surgery, we just could not find time. This week we found time and it turned out to be a great little fishery.


    I have driven by this lake my whole life and never stopped to fish it. I am sure glad we finally did.

     

    I had not fished for smallmouth in a very long time. I had forgot how great they fight for there size. We usually head up to Jenkinson Lake near Placerville to fish for smallmouth, but this was way closer and a much better fishery. We also had the lake to ourselves.

     

    These shallow flats were just loaded with green sunfish.

     

    Even smallmouth can not resist the purple wiggle tail.

     

    Perfect smallmouth habitat.

     

    After catching a couple of dozen of these little guys Andy and I decided to head out for some beers and pizza.

    Monday
    Jul292013

    Steamboat Springs, Colorado

    With the in-laws moving to a new ski resort every year this opens up excellent opportunities for great vacations. Where there seems to be good skiing, there also seems to be great fly fishing. This year was no exception. They decided on Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I had not seen Patty and Earl since last years trip to Big Sky, Montana and was very excited to see them again. This year would also be special, because family friends Katy and Tom were coming out from Arizona. Tom is a superb stillwater fly fisherman and I knew we would have a blast.

     

    PEARL LAKE

    The first lake Tom and I fished on this trip was Pearl Lake. Pearl lake is only about forty minutes north of Steamboat Springs. It contains: Grayling, Colorado Cutthroat trout and Brook trout. It was a beautiful lake and probably my favorite lake of the trip.

    I love pulling up to a lake and seeing a sign like this.

     

    Tom hooked up with his first fish of the trip.

     

    Tom with a nice grayling.

     

    A cutthroat trout that could not resist the purple wiggle tail.

     

    Not having grayling in California, this was a treat to catch so many.

     

    A nice size brookie from Pearl  Lake.

     

     

    Tom wrestling with a nice cutthroat.

     

    NORTH DELANY BUTTE LAKE

    For day two the local fly shop recommended we try North Delany Butte Lake.

    Another great sign at the entrance to the lake.

    North Delany Butte Lake is considered one of Colorado's gold medal  fisheries. Fish of ten pounds or more are reported quit often. Tom and I both were pretty jazzed for this one.

    The bite started out very tough. We had fished for about an hour or so without a bite. The lake was very baron and had no real structure to speak of. It was extremely shallow and warm with no defined drop offs or channels. Tom decided it would be a good idea for him to paddle back to the truck and grab his fish finder. The plan was to look for a deep hole with some cooler water. At this point I was ready to try anything. The fish finder found some cooler water at about 28 feet deep and Tom found fish. These were powerful fish and we both broke a few off. Tom was in the zone with about eight fish to hand and I landed two.

    Tom hooked up with a nice fish at Delany Butte Lake.

     

    An averaged size trout for Delany Butte.


    Tom hooked up with another nice fish.

     

    LILY LAKE

    On day three we decided to go into the Rocky Mountain National Park and see if we could get a Greenback Cuthroat Trout.  The lake we decided on was a three hour drive from Steamboat Springs so we decided to leave the house at 3:00 A.M. This would put us on the water by 6:00 A.M. , or so I thought. With all of the fish talk going on in Tom's truck we missed the turn and got lost. This put us an hour behind schedule and I was a little bummed. I knew this time of year the park would be crowded and I really wanted an early start. When we finally arrived at the lake the parking lot was starting to fill up with hikers. I quickly got my gear together and put in. The lake was so weedy I could barely fish without snagging a big pile of weeds. Tom caught one right away and then another. I could not get a bite no matter what fly or line I threw. After about two hours I finally landed one, but dropped him as I was reaching for my camera. I drove all this way to catch a Greenback Cutthroat and dropped him before I could get a photo. After two more hours I did eventually land one and get a picture. I was pretty frustrated with the weeds and tough bite. I asked Tom if he minded leaving and hitting another lake on the way home. He was all for it.

    Greenback Cutthroat trout

    On the way home we drove through Rocky Mountain National Park. It was the most beautiful drive I have ever taken and the conversation was equally as interesting. In the evening Tom and I decided to hit Lake Dumont for some planter rainbow trout to finish our Colorado trip. We caught quit a few and had a great time.

    Dumont lake

     

    Thursday
    Jul112013

    Wyoming Cutt Slam

     

    Those who know me or follow my blog understand my passion for rare and native trout. This year I decided to participate in the state of Wyoming’s native trout cutt slam. The contest is to catch the state’s four native cutthroat trout in their native waterways. Who better to join me than my accomplice in crime and fishing partner, Andy. The trip consisted of one week of nonstop fishing, driving, hiking, and eating manly food.

     

    Fine-Spotted Snake River Cutthroat Trout

    The first fish we went after was the fine-spotted Snake River cutthroat trout. This beautiful trout led us to an amazing natural lake, Cottonwood Lake, located outside of the town Smoot. We drove several miles of dirt road before arriving at the lake. Lots and lots of trout were rising. As we were rigging up our rods and pumping up our float tubes, a park ranger approached us. We told him we were doing the Wyoming Cutt Slam, and he knew exactly what that was. From then on, we noticed that wherever we went, whomever we talked to (even a little old lady at a gas station), everyone knew about the Cutt Slam. The people of Wyoming are very proud of their trout and their Cutt Slam.

    Beautiful and natural Cottonwood Lake.

    The ranger ensured us that cutthroat trout are in the lake and we would have no problem catching them. He was right. Andy started catching fish as soon as he started fishing. He was catching cutthroat trout along with brook trout, one after the other. As soon as I settled in, I started to catch them also. I was just about to congratulate myself and take a picture of my fine-spotted cutthroat when I noticed something different about my trout. Its spots were not very fine spotted. Could it be? I told Andy he better not get too excited: we were catching the wrong subspecies in the right drainage.

    Doh!!! Wrong fish.

    I paddled back to the truck to check my notes to determine whether we were in the right drainage and to look at images I had of fine-spotted cutthroat. If my notes were correct, we needed to get out of there. We were clearly in the right drainage, but these were definitely the wrong fish.

    Wrong fish again.

    I got back in the water, trolling and catching fish while I worked my way toward Andy to tell him we needed to go somewhere else. As I was approaching him I felt a good tug on my intermediate fly line. When the fish came to hand I was surprised to see a fine-spotted cutthroat. I was relieved to catch one, but at the same time a little confused as to why there were two separate subspecies in the same water. How could they coexist? We decided that because I caught one, we would stick it out a little longer to see if Andy could catch one.

    My first Snake River Cutthroat trout.

    We stayed a couple of more hours, but all we caught were what we believed to be Yellowstone cutthroat trout. I had a backup plan for another small lake up the road that was listed as part of the restoration of the unique trout. When we arrived, the lake was very small, more like a pond. The lake was so small we decided not to crowd the fisherman that were already there and move on to my next backup plan. By this time it was mid afternoon and we were starting to go into panic mode. I looked at the map and decided to head north toward the Jackson area. Almost every body of water in this area should contain the fine-spotted cutthroat.

    Rigged and ready to go.

    Our first stop was Palisades Reservoir. Unfortunately the water level in Palisades was so low it was no longer in Wyoming and would not count.

    Next we stopped at Lower Slide Lake. I had read that this lake has a large population of the fine-spotted cutthroat. As we approached the lake we were amazed by the size of this lake. The wind was howling and neither of us was interested in even getting out of the car. It was almost dark now and we had driven over 200 miles this day. However, we were on such a tight schedule that we could not really afford to go without a fish on our first day. Andy was looking at the map and noticed I had highlighted a lake called Soda. It was about 10 miles up the road from where we were. I originally put this lake on the back burner because it would require a two-mile hike and it was so far away from all of our other destinations. We knew it would be dark soon, but we decided to go for it. The road turned into a four-wheel drive trail and was slowing us down. Just as I was starting to get really frustrated, a fellow fisherman on an ATV pulled up beside us. I told him we were looking for Soda Lake. He said it was just up the road and we could four-wheel drive right to it. He also told us it was managed as a trophy fishery. A few moments later we found it, and he was right: it was a trophy fishery. As soon as we started fishing, we were catching fine-spotted cutthroat, not one of which was shorter than 20 inches.

     

     

     

    Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout

    With day one over and one cutthroat under our belts, it was time to chase species number two: the Yellowstone cutthroat trout. At this point in the trip we were as north in Wyoming as we wanted to be, and close to the Yellowstone cutthroat drainage. I had one lake in mind, and if that did not work, we were going to have to head into Yellowstone Park. Yellowstone Park is nice, but we couldn’t afford to be slowed down. Dealing with the traffic in the park would kill too much time. We arrived in the town of Dubois around midnight, found a room to rent for the night, and got a really good night’s rest. Our destination was only a little over half an hour away from our hotel, so we planned for an early morning bite. When we arrived at the lake we were amazed by the solitude and beauty it provided. It reminded me of some of the alpine lakes back home in California.

     We both started fishing with intermediate fly lines and olive sheep creeks flies. We fished for about an hour without a bite. Andy decided to forgo the intermediate line and put on a type three. He was into fish instantly. I put on the type three and started catching fish as well. We were amazed by the size of these fish. They were as big as the fish from Soda Lake. At this point Andy and I started believing that Wyoming contained no trout smaller than 20 inches.

    After we caught half a dozen fish each, we noticed the lake was starting to fill with other anglers. All of the float tubes on the lake made it look like a bowl of cheerios (or in Andy’s case, Fruit Loops). It was around noon and time to grab some lunch and head to the next lake. We decided to spend the night in Pinedale and hit the evening bite at Meadow Lake for grayling. An afternoon thunderstorm pushed us off that lake, but I was able to catch a couple of small grayling before we left. It had been a very long day. Andy and I had dinner at the Pinedale brewery (which hit the spot) and then crashed at the local Best Western.

    A small grayling from Meadow Lake.

     

    Colorado Cutthroat Trout

    I was the most concerned about catching the Colorado cutthroat trout. Plenty of streams and creeks hold them, but very few lakes. We enjoy fishing mostly Stillwater, and we really wanted to get all four fish from lakes. A group of guys we met at Pelham Lake the day before told us about a lake called Middle Piney. They said it was stocked last year with Colorado cutthroat trout. It was just outside of Pinedale and was clearly in the drainage. We headed out first thing in the morning. When we arrived at the lake, several boats were getting ready to launch. We decided to talk with the anglers to determine whether it was a good cutthroat trout fishery. When I asked one of the gentlemen at the dock about cutthroat trout, he looked at me as though I were crazy.  He said he had been fishing the lake for many years and never caught, or even heard of anyone catching a cutthroat. We were on such a tight schedule that we really did not have time to waste. Do we take his word or skip to the next spot? We decided time was of the essence and had to roll. The next lake I had lined up for the Colorado cutthroat was hundreds of miles away and the reports of cutthroat in this lake were meager at best. However, we were somewhat close to Labarge Creek, which was part of a restoration project to restore the Colorado cutthroat. According to all that I have read, it should be very easy to get one from here. We decided to go for it.

    After several miles of dirt road we found the creek. A fire recently burned the area and the water was an off-colored gray. We fished for many hours looking for fish but could not find any. Andy fished a midge with an indicator. I fished a dry fly. We fished for hours without getting a bite or spotting a spooked fish. I started to think we must be the worst creek fisherman in the world, but even the worst fisherman spook fish. We saw nothing. We were running out of time and we needed some fish. I was starting to go into panic mode. We started driving downstream toward the town of Labarge hoping we could find some pools with fish in them. We made it all the way down river to the barrier that blocked the nonnative fish from getting upstream.

    This spot was our last shot. If we did not catch one here we would be a day behind. The water was very off colored and I had no confidence in this fishing spot whatsoever. I was devastated. I decided to jut head back up to the car and have a snack, and a bit of a pout. At this point I was pretty sure we were not going to complete the slam. Andy, with his usual positive attitude, decided to keep fishing. With the barrier dam creating a waterfall, Andy had hoped that a few Colorado cutthroat trout went over the barrier and stuck around in the oxygenated water.

    He was right. I heard him scream. He had just caught a nice Colorado cutthroat trout. I ran down to help him get a photo of the fish.

     

    A few casts later I also had fish number three of the slam.

    Andy representing with his California shirt.

     

    Bonneville Cutthroat Trout

    After all my research and conversations with the locals, I had no problem deciding where to fish next: Lake Alice. This is a unique lake created thousands of years ago by a massive landslide, which peeled away from the mountainside and dammed Poker Creek with debris.

    A stunningly blue Lake Alice.

    The lake's outlet now flows underground through the natural dam and emerges from the mountain as a creek one mile away. Lake Alice is the home of the only-known, pure, lake strain of naturally reproducing Bonneville cutthroat trout. At one time the subspecies was thought to be extinct in Wyoming. Legend has it that the lake was named after a girl who drowned in the lake in the early 1900s.

    Where the water emerges from underground to form the creek.

    Access to the lake requires traversing a winding 28-mile unpaved mountain road and fording a creek roughly 18 inches deep. A high-clearance vehicle is recommended. The road ends at Hobble Creek campground, where a 1.5-mile hike up a moderately steep mountain trail provides access to the lake.

    Crossing the creek to get to Lake Alice.

     

    After reaching the Lake we were blown away by the bright blue water. We felt as though we were at an exotic lake in a foreign country. I was a little intimidated by the clear water and found it hard to focus. I kept looking into the water for fish when I should have been more focused on my fishing. Andy was catching fish and I could not buy a bite. After a few hours Andy had caught quite a few fish and I had just a few bites.

    We were fishing the exact same way but he was catching and I was not. Sometime around noon I finally caught one. Unfortunately, the fish was only about three inches long. It would count, but I really did not want to turn in a picture of a three-inch fish for my Cutt Slam. I started to wonder if the ghost of Alice was playing a joke on me and if this would be the only fish I would catch.

    Alice please give me a bigger fish!!!!!!

    Finally I did catch a couple of photo-worthy fish to finish the slam, and we headed back to town for some grub and a good night’s sleep.

    Andy teased me all the way home about my tough fishing day. I would get my revenge tomorrow.

     

    Piedmont Reservoir

    With the Wyoming Cutthroat Slam completed and one day left to fish, we decided it would be fun to hit Piedmont Reservoir and see if we could catch some of the monster trout we had heard about. Piedmont Reservoir is a pay-to-play lake just outside of Evanston Wyoming. The lake consists of rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout, tiger trout, and cutbow trout. We had read stories of the reservoir containing fish over 10 pounds and were very excited. We contacted the owner of the lake. He told us to meet his brother at 6:00 a.m. in the ghost town of Piedmont .He would tell us what to do from there. We parked on the side of the road in the middle of town and patiently waited for his brother to arrive. Waiting for someone we’d never seen before in this old desolate town made us feel like we were in an action movie, waiting to make a drug deal. At around 6:15 our man showed up and slowly pulled up to my jeep. He told us where to find the reservoir and then I slipped him the money.

    These coal stacks were the main income for the once bustling town of Piedmont.

    When we arrived at the lake fish were rising everywhere. We were so excited we could not get ready fast enough. We pumped up the float tubes and almost ran down to the water. We expected to catch fish right away, but they were keyed in on what they were eating and would not change for our flies. After about an hour without a fish I noticed some callibaetis coming off the water. I switched to a stillwater callibaetis nymph and then, on my first cast with that fly, hooked into a four-pound rainbow. The fish was so acrobatic I called Andy over to take a picture of the fish getting air. Andy got a little too close and the fish wrapped around him and broke off. However, now I felt we were into them. Andy switched to the nymph, but then that bite instantly shut off and we could not buy a fish. I was really starting to question my fishing skills. I mean, for crying out loud, we were fishing a pay-to-play lake. After almost two hours without a fish, I decided I was going to just start stripping and trolling a wiggle tail nymph, and that would be what I would do the rest of the day. Shortly thereafter the wind picked up and I started hooking fish. The bite was still pretty tough but at least I was getting action. I ended up catching five trout before Andy even got a bite.

    He finally landed one and it turned out to be some sort of sucker fish. Man was I loving this; after all the razz I took from him yesterday at Lake Alice this felt pretty good.

    Nice fish Andy???

    The bite picked up in the afternoon and we starting landing some nice fish, including the largest rainbow trout Andy had ever caught and the largest tiger trout I had ever caught. Andy never did catch up to the amount of fish I caught, but he finished the day with three trout and I finished with twelve.

    Throughout the 10-hour drive home, Andy and I talked about our great adventure. We have decided that we are going to dedicate a week a year  for adventures like this. Next year we might fish Montana or Oregon, Colorado, Washington, or Arizona. Regardless, I’m sure we will have fun planning for it all year.

     

     

    A few random photos from Wyoming.

    This caused our only bit of traffic.

     

    I loved what they used for a paddle.

     

    Andy with a monster walleye from Wyoming.