Photo of the Month: Ol' Gator Mouth

Photo of the Month: Ol' Gator Mouth
Showing posts with label West Trip 2007. Show all posts
Showing posts with label West Trip 2007. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Yellowstone Days 4 and 5


I finally found a little time to add another short post about Yellowstone. The first of these two days was spent on the Lamar and upper Soda Butte. The next day was for fishing the Yellowstone River and it was quite memorable.

When I woke up and looked out of my tent on day 4, I saw two fawns and two does grazing quietly through our campsite. It was a treat to have these animals coming so close and I snapped a few quick pictures. One of the fawns gave me the opportunity for this shot as he peered at my with curiosity.


We decided to give the canyon section of the Lamar a shot and accordingly scrambled down to the river from the road above. When we got there, we started out using big dries which seemed like a solid bet. Strangely, the fish just weren't looking up at all. I soon switched over to some nymphs and started catching a few fish but nothing particularly noteworthy. I had on one decent fish that would have been nice to land but it through my flies. Here in the canyon section we were catching mainly cuttbows along with a few cutts.


The afternoon provided another opportunity to check out upper Soda Butte during the afternoon closures on lower elevation streams. Once again, it provided us with some great moments and nice fish.


The next day would prove to be much more memorable. We had decided to hike in at Tower Falls and fish upriver from there on the advice of a couple guys from Bud Lilly's Trout Shop that camped next to us. This turned out to be an excellent bit of advice but things developed slowly. Once again, upon arriving streamside, we started out throwing large dries such as chernobyl style flies and big stimulators. We were rising a few fish but felt that things could be much better. Finally, even though I really wanted to fish dries, I put on a double nymph rig and a couple of indicators about 4-5 feet above. This proved to be the ticket with a beadhead PT and a small black simi seal leech both doing well. Now, hardly a drift went by without getting a strike. All the fish were solid cutthroat in the 10-16 inch range that fought well in the powerful current of the mighty Yellowstone. Finally, we had to quit fishing as the afternoon closure approached but I'll be back to fish this section, hopefully during the salmonfly hatch next time.



On the hike out, we saw many bones, at least some were probably from kills made by the park's large predators. This large elk skull and antlers would have made a great souvenir if it was legal to keep such things...

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Fun Continues!


Just as promised, I have taken time away from toiling over a textbook to bring you more on West Trip 2007. While I still have a post or two about Colorado, it is time to focus on Yellowstone for awhile.


We arrived in the park on August 6, 2007 and made our way to the Northeast corner to find a camp. We decided on Pebble Creek which turned out to be an excellent decision. After setting up camp and being lazy for awhile, it was time to catch that first Yellowstone trout of the trip. Being 100 feet from Pebble Creek made the decision easy (and the fact that the afternoon closures on the larger streams was in effect). It didn't take long to get that first Yellowstone Cutt and several others, most being 5-6 inches.

After being spoiled by all the hogs in Colorado, we wanted something at least a bit larger so we wandered up the road towards the upper portion of Soda Butte above Icebox Canyon where the closure was not in effect. We soon found a few fish that were a bit more respectable before wandering back towards camp to make some supper.


After eating, we just had to go find some pigs so we went to Trout Lake. Everything I had read about this lake indicated the fish were generally of good size. Upon arrival, we found the lake to have a bit of chop on the surface making spotting fish difficult. However, after awhile it calmed down and we were spotting some monsters. Some fairly large speckled cream midges were coming off but I had nothing in my box to match. I knew that the fish were probably taking midges under the surface though so I tied on a zebra midge and was soon sight casting over a nice Cutthroat. Many casts later, the fish ate solidly. Surprisingly, I had already got this fish to eat twice but had not stung it yet. The gorgeous fish soon came to hand and posed for a brief picture before it swam away.


That wrapped up the first day in the park but we had only begun...


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Back To School

That time of year has rolled around again when fishing must be pushed to the back burner and I crack down and focus on school. At least, that's the story I'm telling. Needless to say, one must have some stress relief on occasion and when that time comes, I'll probably be knee deep in a trout stream somewhere in East Tennessee. Unfortunately, school will cut into my time to think up stuff to put on here so my posts will be running shorter, although I do hope to keep them coming often. I still have several posts to make about West Trip 2007 including the PIG rainbow in Yellowstone among other exciting moments. Check back often and soon for those details...

Also, for those that haven't noticed, we have another poll to the right. Let me know what your favorite season for fishing is...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Frying Pan


After the spectacle that was the Taylor River, the rest of the trip somehow seemed anticlimactic. Yet, with each new place we found something to match or even surpass the quality fishing we had found on the Taylor. Between the Pan and the Taylor, there were some small streams visited but those are better left for another time. I'm a small stream addict and telling about them could become a lengthy endeavor which I don't feel up to right now.

The Pan, ah the Frying Pan...where do I begin? This was my first trip to the river and I really didn't have any idea what to expect. A quick stop at Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Basalt, CO fixed that problem and I came away poorer by several dollars but much richer in my knowledge of the river, not to mention being armed with the best local flies.

The drive up the river had me drooling but also frustrated. All the best water, or nearly all was clearly marked as private. This is the biggest complaint I have against Colorado. The state has a ton of incredible water which could easily rival anything else in the country. However, they don't have the angler-friendly stream access laws found in places such as Montana. Fortunately, despite the large amount of closed water, there was still plenty available and we were after some hogs which meant heading to just below the dam.

The Toilet Bowl is THE place to be on the Frying Pan and after finding it crowded several times, we finally managed to get a spot to cast over the monsters that live there. Despite all we had heard about how technical it was, it actually seemed easier than the Taylor and the fish were every bit as large. Once again the way to catch the fish was by sight fishing. The takes were so soft and quick that by the time an indicator moved it was too late.


Within minutes of fishing the Toilet Bowl, I hooked my first Frying Pan brown and it was a nice fish. Not as nice as the monsters that occasionally drifted out of the depths but still a good fish.


Later on we fished further down river where PMDs were pouring off and the fish were looking up. The hatch didn't last too long but it was great while it lasted. That evening it was back to the Toilet Bowl in search of hogs. I soon had my buddy fishing the best spot and was acting as spotter. He was casting over a nice brown which he couldn't see too well since the light was getting dim. It was still light enough for me to see from my better vantage point though and I saw the fish turn and the white mouth show for a brief second. I made a loud whoop and my buddy set the hook to find a 23 inch brown pulling back. I've never seen anyone so focused on landing a fish. At first I didn't know why but then asked about the tippet. The response was some muttering about 7X and I knew that he was in for quite a ride. Amazingly, the tippet held through several scorching runs and he was able to keep the fish from getting in the heaviest current, a minor miracle in itself. Finally, the fish began to tire and I waited expectantly with the net. An opportunity presented itself and I lunged at the fish, just corralling it before it went crazy again. After a quick picture, we watched the fish swim back out into the current to be caught yet again someday.


Not to be outdone, I caught another fish but not as large as the beast my buddy landed. "Another day," I told myself. The next day was dedicated to the Roaring Fork, another great river I had never got to fish. We met up with a local named Tony that had offered to show us around. He turned out to be a great fisherman and put us on some great fish. The theme of our stay in the Basalt area turned out being the One That Got Away and it started on the Fork.


We were fishing up the river through some of the most beautiful pocket water I've ever fished. I was wading slowly upstream watching for fish when I saw a large brown finning behind a boulder. The fish was actively feeding and I figured I could catch him from where I was at. I carefully lobbed my nymphs upstream from his position and watched as he turned on my fly, pulling it away before he actually ate. "That will spook him for sure," I muttered to myself. Strangely, the fish turned around and returned to his feeding lie and I got another shot. After several more drifts, I saw the fishes mouth open when my flies were in the area and soon found that it was one of my nymphs he had taken. The fish absolutely took off. I mean, he motored upstream through a short rapids and was gone with my fly recoiling with the line back in my face as he shook it free. This was just the beginning.

The next morning was our last one before we took off for Rocky Mountain National Park. We were determined to get another shot at the Toilet Bowl and accordingly got there well before sunrise. Thankfully, we didn't get up early in vane and found the spot unoccupied. We began fishing and I hooked a decent brown right off and figured it was going to be crazy. Strangely though, the fishing wasn't that good and we were starting to think about leaving. Then the Monster showed up. It appeared to be the big brown we had been watching the past few days that would silently appear out of the depths and then slide back like a ghost as quickly as he had appeared. Today however, the fish seemed to be in full feeding mode and stayed out where we could see it for awhile before disappearing, only to reappear again shortly after. After probably an hour of this nonsense, the fish came up within about 8 feet of me and and I shakily made a careful cast....behind him. I was almost to pull it out when the fish slowly turned and then darted back towards my flies. I saw his mouth open and then his head turn as my line came tight and it was off to the races.

The day before over on the Fork, Tony had asked if any fish had taken us to the cleaners. I had replied in the negative but found out quickly what he meant. This fish looked to be somewhere in the 25-30 inch range and perhaps larger. I do know it was much larger than the 23 inch fish caught previously. As soon as I set the hook, the fish took me to the cleaners. It roared straight out through the current heading towards the large eddy in the backside of the Toilet Bowl. I was nervously watching my line approach the backing and then the fish tore through the eddy heading for the farthest corner of the pool. My reel was screaming and I was shaking like a leaf. I'm sure you know what happened next... The line suddenly went limp and I was pretty sure the fish was gone. Reeling line in, I was positive I would find my flies gone but to my shock, they were still intact. I didn't know what to think, could I have done something different? Of course, I had probably done everything I could do and on 6X, this fish would have been extremely difficult to land in the first place. Then I realized, I HAD tricked this monster. The only thing I didn't do was land it and I knew that next time, the fish would probably not be quite as lucky.

I left after that. I just didn't want to fish any more. I had reached the pinnacle and was ready to let the rest of the fish be. Of course, I would be back someday. The experience was something I wanted to have again, and next time, that fish will be caught...

Monday, August 20, 2007

First Stop, Taylor River

The morning sun lights up Taylor Canyon

If someone were asked to design the perfect trophy trout river, it probably would be the Taylor we were fortunate enough to fish. When Colorado was added to the trip itinerary, I got quite excited. Having spent my whole summer in the Gunnison/Montrose vicinity last year, I was already very familiar with the wide range of quality fishing options that existed in that area. The Taylor was one of those streams that I left knowing that I would return, probably as often as possible. There just aren't that many rivers where you can walk up and see 40 brown trout laying on the bottom of one small part of one hole, all of which are in the 4-6 pound and larger range. Of course, catching these fish is another story.

We got into the Gunnison area fairly late Friday evening due to the previous troubles with the coyote. Thankfully, at this point the car seemed to be doing fine and gave little indication of the troubles we would encounter much further down the road. Considering that late hour, I was visibly nervous about our prospects of finding a camp site. As we travelled up Taylor Canyon, my fears seemed well warranted. Every campground was either full or the extra sites had "Reserved" cards on them. Finally, we found what had to have been the last available site in the entire canyon and after a very quick setup, we were soon in our tents sleeping soundly.

The next morning, I awoke refreshed and excited to be embarking on the first leg of this grand adventure I now fondly recall as West Trip 2007. The canyon was cool and surprisingly humid with condensation showing up on my rain fly. This did little to dampen my spirits however as I saw my first view in the daylight of the magnificent Taylor Canyon since last summer. The early morning sun was lighting up the canyon walls with an explosion of colors and the bright blue sky providing the perfect backdrop with the white clouds floating through it

After a nice easy breakfast, we eventually headed up the canyon towards the short public stretch known as the Trophy section. Upon arrival we were greeted with a ton of other fisherman. I always know I can expect this on the Taylor but it is always a bit of a surprise each time I go there. Despite the crowds, we were soon rigged up and began our quest for some trophy fish.

After a short while, a good spot opened up and we quickly moved over and began sight casting over some very nice fish. About this time, a few bugs started popping off the water and I was pleased to see what appeared to be PMDs. I quickly reached for the nearest match I had at the moment which was a sulphur sparkle dun left over from some of my South Holston trips. The fly was lighter than the naturals but I didn't care. After a few casts, I noticed a fish rising steadily just upstream and carefully cast my fly in its direction. First cast, just a bit short and off its right shoulder, strip, strip, pick up line, cast again, perfect. The fish rose confidently as I tensed then gently lifted my rod tip and the battle was joined. The fish quickly ran downstream into the big pool just below and started the bulldogging that we became so familiar with. I hadn't seen a fish that could rip line for quite awhile so this moment was one to be savored. Of course, the 6X I had on slowed down the process but eventually, a nice brown came to the net. After a quick pose with my first fish of the trip, he darted back off into the river in search of more trouble.

First fish of the trip

It was somewhat ironic that I caught my first fish on a dry. Don't get me wrong, I love fishing dries and fish them whenever opportunity beckons, its just that between me and my buddy fishing with me, I was the nymph guy and he was the dry fly guy. It got crazier soon after my first fish when he hooked a very nice fish and after another solid fight, I netted it for him. When he began to remove the hook, I asked what he caught it on. "A nymph" was his reply. So both of us got our first fish doing the exact opposite of what we usually do.

The Release

After this revelation, I quickly changed to a nymph rig. My buddy Trevor had brought to my attention the fact that there were some fairly large stonefly shucks hanging around on the banks. This brought out my favorite Tennessee fly (most of you should be able to figure this one out easily) which was soon employed in hauling in large Taylor river fish. I was in heaven. Sight casting to large trout with a double nymph rig was just about as good as watching a fish rise to the dry and I soon was catching enough to let me know that the nymph was no fluke. Shortly after, the Green Drakes started hatching but I stuck with what was working and the fish rewarded me. I caught fish on several different flies that first day on the Taylor and none of them was smaller than a #14. Sometimes, the fish just want to see something different. Almost everyone else there was fishing small stuff except for those that had figured out the hatch that was in progress.


Brilliantly colored Taylor Brown

As time moved on, I was enjoying myself but realized that I hadn't caught any rainbows. This is not that surprising as the browns are dominant in the Taylor but I still wanted my 'bow. After spending a bit of time sight casting over a few smallish rainbows, I found a better one feeding just behind the lip where a nice run fed into a large pool. It was feeding in 4-5 feet of water and was quite active so I knew I had a very good shot at hooking this fish. A quick check of all my knots reassured me that everything was in good shape and I began casting and trying to ascertain the proper drift to get my flies into the strike zone. After a few drifts that were off, I finally found the proper line for my flies and was soon drifting them reasonably close to the fish every cast. I knew that eventually my flies would either interest the fish or chase it off. Fortunately, the former happened and I soon had several pounds of rainbow ripping line off my reel. "This is one fish you don't want to lose," I breathed softly to myself. After several hard runs and what seemed like an eternity, the fish began tiring slightly. However, every time I got it anywhere near shallow water, it made another hard bulldogging run back into the current. Finally the fish seemed ready and I guided it in to Trevor who was waiting with the net. Once again, a quick shot of the fish and it swam strongly away leaving me with a memory of thick shoulders and brilliant sides.

Nice Taylor Rainbow

Finally, we began to get a bit tired and hungry and decided to leave the fish in peace for the rest of the day. We made our way up above Taylor Reservoir to find some smaller fish in the upper Taylor. It just wasn't the same though, we had been spoiled on our first day of the trip. This would ultimately bring us to spend some extra time at the Taylor when we discovered that the Gunnison in the Black Canyon was blown out (read excessively muddy) due to the recent rain.

Collegiate Peaks as viewed from Taylor Park

Our return to the Taylor proved just as much fun although the fish were slightly more picky the second time around. I actually had to use the small stuff I had so carefully avoided our first time through and caught fish on various midges in addition to the dries that imitated the currently hatching PMDs and Green Drakes.

Taylor Brown on a dry

Once again, I left the Taylor with a desire to return. Some rivers just have a gravitational pull, or perhaps its as simple as good fishing. Regardless, the Taylor is one river I will be back to again over the upcoming years.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

I'm Back

Gibbon Falls, Yellowstone NP

The Trip is over. After many long miles and countless hours of fishing, I have returned to Tennessee to prepare for another school year. The long anticipated trip was everything I had hoped it would be. I saw some of the best scenery in the country, my buddy and I caught plenty of fish including some real hogs, and we had no worries for three great weeks. Of course, there were some headaches involved so I guess I shouldn't really say no worries although none of my problems ever caused too much stress. There's something soothing about going fishing that makes everything else seem better.

Over the upcoming days and probably weeks, I'll be sharing various happenings and reports from the trip. Some of the highlights include the large trout caught, generally by sight casting, the multiple radiators required to keep the car going, and some crazy timing issues that happened.

The trip started in a big way with the first of our radiator troubles. The plan was to drive to Colorado from Tennessee, basically driving straight through with perhaps a couple of hours sleep in the car. Everything went well and I caught a few hours sleep in the car at a Rest Area in the Texas Panhandle. Around 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, I woke up refreshed and ready to push on towards our destination. I started up the car and carefully made my way back onto Interstate 40 headed west.

Probably 15 miles later, I had the cruise set around 70 and was doing great when suddenly, I saw a coyote come streaking out of the blackness not more than 10 feet in front of me from the left. Of course, at that distance and at 70 mph, there isn't much you can do. I'm sure the coyote got the bad end of the deal but in the process, a large chunk was ripped out of the side of my front bumper and somehow, the radiator was damaged. The discovery occurred around 20 miles west of there when we stopped for fuel in Amarillo. Just before heading on, it seemed like a good idea to double check my fluids and in the process I noticed an unnatural puddle under the front end of my car. A quick examination showed that my radiator was low on fluid and quickly losing what little it had left. An even closer examination yielded a crazy find on my bumper. The coyote struck so hard, it actually left guard hairs embedded in the bumper which can still be seen today.

Coyote guard hairs embedded in my front bumper

Being probably 4:30 at this point, there was little to do except to park and try to catch another couple hours of sleep.

After grabbing breakfast at the closest fast food joint, we were on our way over to the local Toyota dealership to see if my radiator could be replaced anytime soon. We arrived just as they were opening and they were nice enough to look my car over immediately. The broken radiator diagnosis was verified and miraculously, they found one in town that fit my car and we were back on the road well before noon.

We were soon in Colorado and headed towards the Gunnison vicinity where we planned on fishing the Taylor river. Of course, the big start to the trip continued with hot fishing on the Taylor but that's something for next time.

Well, perhaps a little teaser, my first fish of the trip...

A Taylor River brown, the first of many...