Saturday, July 24, 2021

The Koke Kid

I've been told by several people now that "boat" stands for "Break Out Another Thousand" (or "Bring Out Another Thousand") and I never would've thought it could be true until I owned a boat of my own. Now it isn't really funny... I've been trying to get the boat set up to do some trolling. I've upgraded the bow mount electric trolling motor and in preparation for this trip I added two downriggers that I bought from my brother Jeff. He was kind enough to deliver them and help me get them installed.

Since May I've been hearing about how great the fishing has been at Flaming Gorge for Kokanee salmon. Weston and my Dad purchased a really nice boat this past winter (I guess it was the thing to do...) and have been getting out on the water as much as possible. They finally talked me into making the long drive to try my hand at some salmon fishing, and I finally had the boat set up enough that I could. The drive took a while, but Caden and I passed the time by listening to the MeatEater podcast, specifically "The Meat Tree" episodes which are phenomenal.

Met up with Dad and his wife Deb in Evanston and followed him to camp. Camp was a great spot, close to the water where we could launch the boat/play in the water, but it was really hot when we arrived. We opened up the trailer and tried to get things aired out, and worked on getting the boat ready to launch. In the meantime, Weston and his family arrived. We launched the boat and took it out only to find out that the electric motor that I had re-mounted didn't clear the bow. Back to shore to try and fix it. Struggled to get the boat on the trailer. Got the truck stuck. Lost my temper and acted like a jackass (not a proud moment). After I settled down a little bit and got the boat fixed up, Weston and I took it out for the last 30 minutes of light and managed to catch a great kokanee to start the trip.

The next morning we hit the water early! At 5 AM, we all went out in Weston's boat since his family didn't feel like waking up that early. We got set up and it didn't take long for Cado to hook into his first-ever Kokanee! And then his second!

When Weston's family was up and ready to go we headed back to pick them up and Dad, Caden, and I got into my boat for the second effort. Caden hooked into another kokanee pretty quickly and we thought we were in business! Unfortunately, the fishing turned off pretty quickly after that. 

The next morning we split up to start because my Bro-In-Law Zach had arrived at camp. Caden and I were alone in my boat and Caden kept up his streak as the koke kid, quickly landing his personal best (so far) salmon.

I followed that up with my personal best Kokanee.

After that, our batteries on the trolling motor died and we had to head in. It's definitely an issue that I'm going to have to figure out for the future. In the meantime, Weston came and picked us up and we all headed out in one boat. Then we found out that the morning in the other boat hadn't been that great, but Zach did manage to catch the littlest fish of the trip, a little cutthroat.

Once we got back out Zach hooked into a much nicer Koke

The fishing turned off pretty quickly after that, so we headed back to camp for lunch and then we took my boat out to play in the water! The kids all got a chance to do some tubing, and even some of the adults took a ride. Lots of fun. 

The evenings were really tough fishing, but we still tried to make it happen. At very least it gave me a chance to get better at this trolling game, trying different set-ups and practicing putting rigs out. 

Barbequed salmon for dinner was amazing! According to Weston the fishing was pretty slow, but it was good enough to make us stay for an extra night just to give it one more try. Unfortunately, the fishing was incredibly slow for our last morning and our batteries died after only two hours of fishing. We did manage to catch some trout while trolling and Cado caught a nice rainbow on a jig. 

It was a good way to end a great trip out with my boy! It took us awhile to get all loaded up, but we made the drive home in a lot better time. With one big trip under our belt, I realize how much I have to learn about this new-to-me style of fishing. When we were kids we did a lot of trolling, but things have changed from the way we used to do things and I'm excited to dig in and learn new things. Also, I'm hoping that this style of fishing will make it a little easier to talk my family into going with me. We'll see how that goes! 

Hope you're as lucky,


(The morning after we left, Zach caught another great Kokanee)

Monday, July 19, 2021

A Good Float

I've been wanting to go fishing with my cousin Garry for a long time, so I reached out to him and planned a day that we could go and float a river. Met up with him at midnight to make the drive out to the green river below flaming gorge, drinking coffee and swapping stories including how this is Garry's new drift boat his previous one had been sunk by his friend. It sounds like the friend was probably lucky to not have drowned in the process. To his credit, he replaced the boat. 

Arrived early and got the boat launched before light. While I was waiting for Garry to come back down from the parking area I caught two rainbows on a woolly bugger. Once there was enough light to see we set off on our float down the A section. Using an amazing secret method that Garry showed me, we found some willing fish and missed/long line released several more. 

Fishing slowed down considerably once we got into the sunlight and other boats started catching up to us. I know that these fish see a lot of boats and are probably used to it, but I swear that seeing a boat spooked the fish...and there were A LOT of boats. Some were fishing boats, but the majority were pleasure boaters. Lots of people seem to be getting out and enjoying the outdoors which is great, but do they have to do it the same day & time as me?

We found a pod of rising fish and anchored up in order to cast to them repeatedly. Everytime a boat would go by the fish would stop rising for a couple of minutes. We also had two guides come and park next to us while they re-rigged their clients, which seemed to take an extra long time. It's weird that a guide would want to park right next to another boat, and it seemed pretty rude. Garry managed to hook up on one of the picky risers and landed his best fish of the trip. 

This might seem weird to some people, but I was really excited to row. I've been in a drift boat once before, but I've never had the opportunity to try rowing. Garry was kind enough to let me learn on his boat, but he still took over on the rapids or if there were a lot of rocks. It wasn't nearly as physical as I though it would be (maybe because I did the easy part?) but it was a lot of fun to try and help make each drift as long as possible. I'm not sure if I did a good job or not, but I tried and Garry didn't give me too much crap for my rowing. 

When we were getting close to the take out, I managed to catch my biggest rainbow on a Chernobyl Ant and after the long dry run, I was shocked that I didn't screw up the hook set. 

It's always a little sad to realize that a day of fishing is coming to an end, but I felt like we'd made the best of a tough day of fishing. Garry suggested that we come back and fish the green again once I get some more time off, an offer that I'll have to take him up on! 

Hope you're as lucky,


Monday, July 12, 2021

Reality Check

It's a tough idea to follow through with, that if you find success you shouldn't try to recreate it again because it almost never works out. But if you knew where a bunch of big fish were hanging out for a while wouldn't you try and go after them again? It makes it even more tempting when you know that this situation doesn't last all year and any day could be the last. Super low, clear water added another level of challenge to the fishing where dropping down to lighter tippet really isn't an option. While a lighter tippet would definitely result in more hookups, it would decrease the number of fish landed and you'd definitely have to play fish longer which would result in higher mortality rates. 

So, heavy tippets with strong hooks so that every hookup would be followed by a quick fight and a fish in the net with as little stress as possible. We worked together as a team, spotting fish, watching drifts, and calling out when a fish took a fly. Once a fish was hooked, like my first of the day, the other guy quickly grabbed the net and moved into position. 

With a fish landed, it was Lane's turn, so we switched spots and I worked as spotter to try and get him into a fish. It didn't take long before Lane hooked up on his first of the day. 

We took our time, since we had a suspicion that the further we went upstream the fewer fish we would see. A perfect cast was needed to get them interested in eating, only to get them interested but it didn't mean that they would eat it. 

Out of one run, I caught a nice fish, one that would be fish of the day/week/year anywhere else. Lane followed up with a nice fish that was easily his best of the day right after that. 

It was again my turn, so I crawled up into casting position and did my best to get a fish to eat my streamer. Bow and arrow casts and lots of patience finally get me connected to a great fish, but trying to get him out from under the willows to where I could play him effectively was too much and he came off. In the few seconds that Lane and I discussed what had gone wrong another fish (even bigger) moved into range and without thinking about turns I flipped my fly towards the fish. It took a couple of tries before he finally opened his mouth. I set the hook and immediately started backing up downstream to try and get enough line out so that I could actually fight the fish. As I was backing up Lane made a quick move forward with the net and had the fish landed before it really had a chance to show off it's impressive stature.

Instantly, the guilt of not trading off fish set in even though Lane assured me that he wasn't too worried about it. Once I started getting the fish into a good spot for a picture I realized that this was an amazing catch. We marked his length on the net at somewhere between 26 and 27 inches, and in the guessed weight range of 7 pounds. A new personal best cutthroat for me.

We spotted a couple other fish but nothing was really in a spot that we could fish to them. We knew that fishing this stream was over for the year and hoped that next year we could meet some of these fish again, but with the low water there's always the possibility of these fish not making it until next year. I guess we'll just have to wait and see. So, instead of calling it a day we decided to make the drive back to reality and fish a stream with normal-sized fish. Before we knew it we were lengthening our leaders and tapering them down to 5x, using flies that seemed extra tiny, and casting to finicky fish. 

We caught some really nice fish on size 20 flies and it was refreshing to try and match a hatch and have some uncertainty. We still sight-fished as much as possible and still worked together taking turns to catch fish. The change was refreshing.

I know that there's a lot of fishermen that have trouble fishing for smaller fish after being spoiled. I've heard of people that can't fish locally and be happy after going to a place that holds lunkers. But for me, catching these nice-sized, challenging fish was just as fun as catching the mega trout on "Secret Stream". I'm looking forward to hitting the high country, using my new boat, and getting as much out of this summer as I possibly can. 

Hope you're as lucky,