Saturday, June 12, 2021

Caden's Cutthroat

There is a list of places that I'd like to fish this year that is much longer than the days (or funds) available. So, despite the great day I had on my last outing, I wasn't too hep on trying to do it again and instead wanted to hit another spot on the list. The area I decided on is a longer drive than most, so I figured it would have to be an overnight trip. Luckily, Caden decided that he wanted to come! I love it when my boys take me fishing! We loaded up and hit the road. The boys always get to choose the music when we go on an outing together so we listened to the "Halo" video game soundtrack all the way there. 

A few years ago I registered myself and the boys for the Utah Cutthroat Slam thinking it would be a great excuse to get out and explore some different waters. Things being what they were, we never really got serious about chasing down the four species of cutthroat trout. Feeling like this would be a good year to change that, I made it a goal for this trip to check one sub-species off the list, the Colorado Cutthroat.

After a long ride on roads that were a lot rougher than I remember, we arrived at our destination. The first stop was a small lake that I know holds some really nice fish. Nothing like swinging for the fences! The water was more off-color than I've ever seen it, but I still had high hopes as we rigged up. Unfortunately, no fish were interested in our offerings other than a couple of small fish that would chase our flies but not eat them. We did see three small snakes as we worked our way around the shoreline which was pretty cool. 

We decided to move to another lake before it got too late in hopes of finding more willing fish. This lake requires a little hike to get to that years ago was almost too much for young Caden (you can read about his first trip to this area HERE). Now it wasn't a big deal at all for the young man he's become. Things started off good, with a few fish spotted and one chubby little tiger to hand. Then the wind started to blow, the temperature dropped, and it started getting dark.

We decided to try for a hail mary to one last pond in hopes of catching a fish that we could eat for dinner. When we arrived, there were a few dead fish floating along the shore. Not sure what happened, but this could be a regular occurrence this year with ridiculously bad drought conditions. We tried it anyway, fully expecting that we wouldn't catch anything but you gotta try, right? Back to the truck for the dinner that Caden was really looking forward to, Ramen Noodles. The temperature continued to drop, so we decided to sleep in the truck where we had a heater if we needed it. 

We slept pretty well for a night crammed into the cab of a truck and woke up to frost on the windshield and a Pepsi breakfast. We decided to start our day at a lake that I haven't fished much, and have never caught one at. Right away we spotted fish and I even caught one, a beautiful little cutthroat. We tried a bunch of different flies trying to figure out what the fish would be interested in as we worked our way around the shoreline. We found a better spot to stand with more backcast space before we started getting regular strikes from fish on a Damsel Nymph. 

Of course, the goal was for Caden to get into some fish, but more specifically a cutthroat for the slam. So he catches a splake to start his day followed by several rainbows. Right when I started calling him the 'Rainbow Kid' he finally catches a couple of nice cutts. 

I'm not sure if I ever figured out what the fish were really keying in on, but they would take a damsel nymph stripped slowly or suspended under a dry fly. I need to tie some damsel nymphs! The last few fish we caught became our lunch. 

After lunch we tried pond #1 again with similar results but fewer snakes. I wanted to catch more fish, but I also wanted to try different lakes so we decided to start making our way back home with plans to stop at some different spots along the way. Stop number one had smaller fish, but they were really interested in what we were serving up. It was fun to watch Caden catching fish (he's getting really good with the spinning rod) and he ended up catching quite a few cutts. He even got a couple with the flyrod! 

We spent more time than I was planning on at that spot, so we elected not to stop again to fish on the way home. One species of our Cutthroat Slam down, three to go! More importantly, a great trip with my boy and some memories made. 

Hope you're as lucky,


Saturday, June 5, 2021


The first week of summer break! As a teacher, having time off is one of the advantages of my career. Nevermind the fact that it's basically leave without pay with our 9 month contract pay is stretched across the full year, it's time off! As a music teacher that runs a summer band program, my summer isn't completely devoid of work but I still have plenty of time to spend on the water. The first week off seems to always be about catching up on all the projects that I've been neglecting, so when Lane texted and asked if I wanted to get out I had to check with the wife to make sure she'd be okay with it. "You can go play with your friend as long as you get your chores done," was her reply. I honestly think she was surprised that I checked with her at all before committing. 

The plan was to check on a stream that we know of in hopes of finding some pre-spawn cutthroat and maybe some rainbows that like to tag along in hopes of an easy meal. I figured we were still a little early, but we had back-up places to hit if the fishing wasn't what we hoped for. Lane was confident that we'd find fish because of the lack of run-off this year. Sure enough, we found low clear water and fish that were extra spooky because of it. A stealthy approach, some patience, and some tricky casting was all it took to get a chance at one of these fish. It was Lane that struck first with a beautiful cutthroat. 

Fishing with Lane is always a good time because, whenever possible, it's spot-and-stalk fishing. It almost makes it feel more like hunting, where you spend the majority of your time just looking for a target and planning an approach. Luckily for us, there were plenty of targets and I soon had my first fish of the day. 

If the day were to end there it would still have been a good one, luckily for us the day had just started and there was still a lot of stream to stalk and a lot of fish to throw to. The sun was intense, which was good for spotting fish but one application of sunscreen was definitely not enough. The cold water definitely helped though, and we kept fishing even though our skin was turning red before our eyes. 

There are a lot of different ways to fish together, and each one has it's advantages. For this type of fishing we tend to trade off fish. Meaning, it was your turn until you hooked and played (or landed) a fish, or missed three takes. It's a good system that allows the person who's turn it is plenty of time to have a chance and it frees up the other guy to act as spotter and hopefully net man. I'm sure some people don't like fishing this way, but I do. When you're fishing partner is relying on you to spot fish and describe their movements it keeps you in the game and an active participant. When a fish is hooked I feel the rush of adrenaline as I move quickly into position to try and net the fish as quickly as possible. There is a lot of pressure not to screw up the net job and accidently cost your friend a fish too. So any fish caught seems like a team win and makes the whole day very enjoyable. 

Never really found the fly that they would take consistently, but if you placed a good fly in front of their face enough times eventually they'd eat. That's where having a spotter was so important, to tell you where the fish were and what they were doing. These fish weren't taking the flies too aggressively, in relatively slow moving water, so detecting the strike was very challenging and there were several times when the spotter had to call the strike so the guy with the rod knew when to set the hook. Like I said above, definitely a team effort. 

This is one of our favorite spots, and a pretty well-kept secret so I was shocked to find someone's fly stuck in a streamside bush. Upon retrieval and further inspection, I'm pretty sure it's mine from last year...

I was fishing a couple of weighted nymphs under an indicator, so I was surprised when a big fish came up and slammed the indicator! Out of habit I set the hook and somehow the fish stayed on the line long enough for me to get it into the net. I was really shocked that I had just caught a fish on a hook-less indicator until we realized that my "hookset" had flossed the fish and my top nymph was stuck in the corner of his mouth. I decided to change out my rig for a dry/dropper, but I never did have another fish come up and take anything off the surface...kinda weird. 

We spotted a couple fish holding tight to the bank, just behind a boulder in a pocket that was covered with willows above. The fish were obviously very protected in their little hideyhole, but still feeding and moving into the current from time to time. Not easy, but definitely worth a try. It was Lane's turn, so I climbed the bank to keep an eye on the fish while he casted. Try as he might, it just didn't seem like his flies ever got in front of the fish. When they were in the current, his flies weren't. When he managed to tuck a cast behind the rock, they didn't get deep enough before being swept out into the current. Standing above, I thought I could see a way to cast upstream of the willows and drift the flies to where the fish were nosing out into the current. When Lane had finally given up on these fish, I asked if I could give it a shot. Realistically, I figured my first cast would get stuck in the willows and we'd have to blow the hole to retrieve them. Surprisingly, my first cast landed right where I had hoped and the flies drifted perfectly to the fish. The largest of them ate right when I figured my flies were in the zone so I set the hook and was tied into my biggest fish of the day. It was a short fight that would've been completely anticlimatic if the fish would've actually fit in my net. As it was, getting the fish into the net and keeping it there was quite the challenge, and we actually decided to switch over to Lane's deeper net for a quick measurement and some pictures. 

When I take pictures of fish the goal is always to keep them in the water as much as possible. That's why I rarely fish without a net. I get everything ready, figure out the best angle, make sure the camera is on and set up, lift the fish and quickly get a picture. I try and get a couple with the fish in the water, or just above it, and maybe a trophy shot. All of this takes just seconds and I make sure the fish is ready to go before I release it. There's nothing wrong with keeping fish, especially if you're going to eat them right away (I will never understand filling a freezer full of fish, just keep what you'll use and then you have an excuse to go get more!) but if you're planning on releasing a fish I believe it's your responsibility to do everything you can to ensure that fish lives. I'm always learning, and don't claim to be an expert, but just do the best I can until I know better then I'll do better. 

A great day with some great company and some amazing fish made for the perfect start to a Summer that I hope will be filled with good times. 

Hope you're as lucky,