Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Another Hectic Week with Trips to Idaho Falls, The Tetons, and Casper, Wyoming


It has been another hectic week. First, we had to travel to Idaho Falls to fill our prescriptions. Next, we made a trip to Grand Teton National Park in search of bears. Last we made a somber trip to Casper, Wyoming to attend the funeral of my Uncle Jim.

Traveling as much as we do, getting our medications is a lot easier in a nationally available drug store, Similarly, we do our banking at a large nation-wide bank system. It is easier to get cash when needed and to deposit checks when we sell something, (we also use mobile banking).

Last year we traveled to Grand Teton National Park with our friends Fred and Becky. Like that trip we hoped to see bears. The fall is a good time because the bears concentrate on eating berries and so if you can find a berry patch there is often a feeding black or grizzly bear.

This year has presented an unusual difficulty as there are so many full berry patches that the bears are not having any problem finding lots of berries to put on their winter fat. Still we hoped to get lucky and see bear 399 and her four cubs, and any other incidental bear we could find.

We took both of our cars, so we could keep a safe social distance. Having avoided the Covid virus, so far, it would be a shame to falter as the much hoped for vaccine gets near. As we traveled up the Snake River Canyon, we could see that the fall colors had started to change. No aspen change yet but the red maples and yellow are providing some color.

Before arriving at the park, we stopped in Jackson so Renita could turn in her Cutt Slam award application. She found out that the regional office was no longer taking applications and that we could either mail the completed application and pictures or we could send them in online, (we chose online and it worked really well).

Our first stop at the park was at the Oxbow area. While there were cones out, and a waiting ranger, the bears had moved and so we did not get to see grizzly 399. We had seen a video taken a few days before where the fur cubs had wrestled and taken turns chewing on the cones. Spotting bears requires a lot of luck.


Next, we drove to the top of Signal Mountain, not a drive for the acrophobic. From the top one could see a large area of the park, including a bend of the Snake River and the terraces and potholes. A wildlife guide was there with two clients and she did have her spotting scope up, but they had not seen any bears.

There were a large number of cars in the park and we were unable to find a spot to park at String and Jenny Lake. We ended up driving to the Moose Wilson road and ate our lunch in a parking lot. A pair of elf cows grazed in the meadow below and we took a few images before hiking down the trail.

A couple passed us on the trail arguing so loudly that any bears in the area had surely left. We did see bear scat, not a lot, and we all looked for tracks as we walked the trail. The bushes and trees were loaded with berries, the most we have ever seen.

Returning to our cars we drove the Moose Wilson road but other than lots of other hopeful bear watchers we never saw ay more wildlife. A day in the Tetons is always a good day, with or without bears.

Finally, we made a somber drive to Casper to attend the funeral of my Uncle Jim Herold. It was a trip to celebrate his life, and his life was a life well lived. One story about his integrity. He worked for the Federal government as a timber cruiser and his job was to estimate the amount of board feet in a parcel of timber up for bid.

He was offered a bribe by a lumber company, a beautiful house, if he underestimated the board feet in the timber parcel. Turning in the correct amount he was punished by being transferred to Casper, Wyoming. It was a decision that he never regretted, and he grew to love the beauty of Wyoming’s mountains, deserts, and plains.

Funerals are to celebrate a life and it presents an opportunity to reconnect with relatives and friends. It was a trip filled with good memories. Clear skies Uncle Jim!

Monday, September 7, 2020

Fishing North Cottonwood Creek, Renita on a Quest for Her Colorado Cutthroat


Every year we hand out hundreds of our cards. We are lucky to meet so many people at our shows and we often tell them to give us a call if they ever get in our area. Few ever do and so it was a pleasant surprise when Sue and Les sent an email and asked if we would like to meet.

We met them at a Gulf Coast Gem and Mineral in 2016 and we even bought a fossil specimen from them, a beautiful crinoid, (a type of echinoderms, kind of like a starfish). So, we arranged to meet them at our place in Star Valley for a socially distanced barbecue.

They arrived and we had a pleasant afternoon as we talked of rock hounding and fishing trips. They were currently on an extended fishing trip in Wyoming. I showed them my cut slam award and told them that Renita and I were going to North Cottonwood creek, in the Wyoming Range, in the hopes of completing Renita's cut slam.

Now it’s a rough road up there and a long drive on gravel so I was surprised when Sue asked if they could tag along. We arranged to meet at the grocery store in Alpine and the next morning we met and then headed up the Greys River Road.

The road was horrible. It hadn’t been graded in quite a long time and the lower parts were so rocky that we had to slow down to about fifteen miles per hour. I told them to hang back, because of the dust, and I worried that they might not be too happy with the bad road. However, they are rockhounds and when we met at the Sheep Creek Road, thirty-five miles later, they were still smiling!

It’s only eight miles up the road to McDougal Gap, (Pass), and we stopped several times to take pictures. Heading down the road towards Daniel Junction, it was only a few miles of good road before we reached our fishing spot. Pulling over Les stopped and I pointed out a place for them to park and fish. Its important to not work the same water as fish become weary of the flies and become difficult to fish.

Gearing up, I told Renita I was not gong to fish until she had fulfilled her quest, to catch a Colorado Cutthroat trout. Wading down to the first hole she worked her fly, a purple haze size twelve, and quickly set the hook on a nice brook trout. Brook trout here were all introduced and actually are a plague in many Wyoming trout streams. The quickly overpopulate the streams and displace the native cutthroats.

Several more good-looking spots did not produce any fish and she moved making casts and caught another nice brook trout. The wind was blowing hard and it was extremely difficult to cast and to compound the problem the sides of the streams were lined with willows.

Still she patiently worked hole after hole until she reached a beaver dam. She made several casts and then another trout came out and hit her fly. She didn’t set the hook as it was a small fish and after watching her awhile I said she should go with a smaller fly.

Now the problem was that the wind had increased so much that every cast was blow back and she could not get her fly in the spot to catch the fish. I told her she needed to slap the fly hard, a bad technique as it usually spooks the fish. She didn’t understand so I took her fly rod and told her to watch me.

On the first cast I made a roll cast and slapping the fly on the spot was rewarded when a small trout darted out from the dam, took the dry fly, and hooked itself! I felt bad because when I landed the fish it turned out to be a Colorado Cutthroat.

Handing her rod back she emulated me and missed several smaller fish. I suggested we break for lunch, but she refused saying she was determined to catch one herself. Half an hour later she set the hook and almost jumped for joy when I told her it was a Colorado Cut.

Deciding to take a break we walked back to the truck and ate lunch. Sue drove up and joined us. She showed us her fish pictures and she had also caught three Colorado’s. She also mentioned that she had found an old and complete buffalo skull as she walked through the willows. We have never found any buffalo skulls in forty-two years of living in Wyoming. Talk about luck!

After lunch Renita and I headed back to the stream. The fish at the dam were not interested in biting and so we headed upstream to the next hole. Several holes later, Renita missed a nice fish and then caught another brook trout. It was a big hole and she continued to fish, setting the hook on another nice fish. I netted her fish and she beamed when I showed her the beautifully colored Colorado Cutthroat trout. She had a great fish for pictures much better than the small one she had caught earlier.

We caught several more cuts before we returned to the truck. Les walked up and we talked of the fishing, the scenery, and all the deer we had seen. Bow hunting season had started and gun season starts on the fifteenth so camper after camper had driven by.

Saying our goodbyes, we decided to drive down the gravel road to Daniel Junction and even though it was longer back home it was a lot easier on us and the truck. It had been a great day and now Renita needs to turn in her application for the Wyoming Cut Slam Award!  Well done Renita!

Clear skies

Sunday, August 30, 2020


It’s been another crazy week as most of the time has been answering questions about our boat on Facebook's marketplace. We decided to sell it as we are no longer using it enough to justify the storage costs and the time it takes to prepare it for winter.

Still I did find time to go fishing with our friend George, work on some opals and knifes, make a quick trip to Salt Lake City for an annual medical checkup, and work on reorganizing our studio/storage shed. I also received my Cut Slam Award from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department!

The Cut Slam award is earned by catching and releasing the four species of cut throat trout in Wyoming's rivers.After taking pictures of each fish you submit the images on a form along with the date provided and the stream where the fish was caught. Besides the certificate you also get a sticker for you rear window, two congratulation letters and a gold colored medal token from Trout Unlimited. You also start getting trout fishing ads on Facebook. Now we need  Renita to catch her Colorado cut throat and she will get her award.

The boat sold! The worst thing about selling something on the internet is having to answer all the text messages. Still we placed an ad and in the first two weeks had over one thousand looks and numerous shares. We also had offers, the most ridiculous was from one person who offered us his Harley plus four thousand dollars, (we don’t ride and are too old to learn).

Renita was sad to see our boat go but I was relieved. We just were not using it enough and that’s the worst thing you can do for a boat, let it set unused. We did have to spend fifteen hundred dollars for maintenance issues and new batteries. After all the crazy offers, we had three people make serious offers and we took the first one.

Our friends George and Val have spent most of the summer in Colorado and so we had not gone fishing with them. George returned for a few days and we drove to the Greys River. I hooked a nice Snake River cut on my third cast and as I fought it in George also hooked another nice fish! Of course, George ended up out fishing me, seven fish to my two, but that is not unusual.

After swearing I would not make any more knives, (I buy the blades and then make handles of semiprecious stone and mammoth tusk), I found a company that sells Damascas steel blades in a shape that everyone likes, a skinner knife. The knife in the picture has scales, (handles), made from a Wyoming rock named Prairie Tanzanite. Its mined near Riverton, Wyoming.

Everything went well at the doctor visit and now I have one more appointment where I will get chewed out by my cardiologist, (he wants me to lose weight. Its not the first time a doctor will make this suggestion, the problem is this one isn’t overweight like my last doctor.

Oh well, its time to finish this and think about important stuff, like fishing and looking for bears!  Clear skies.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

A Quick Trip to the Grand Teton National Park and Getting our boat ready to sell.


Our last week has been bust as we have been showing our boat, after some minor repair work, and then testing it at Palisades Reservoir. We also went to Grand Teton National Park to check out the boating opportunities at Jackson Lake and to check out the berries along our favorite bear spotting locations.

Jackson lake is a large man-made lake in the park, and It was constructed to provide water for the potato farms, downstream in Idaho. The lake is actually floating on loose debris and according to the engineers will survive a strong earthquake, (right).

There are three marinas on the lake and of the three we liked Leeks Marina and Coulter Bay. If we do not sell the boat, we may take it to the park next week and cruise the far side. On the way home we took a walk at one of our favorite spots and saw quite a few trees loaded with berries. Hopefully, they are ones bears like to eat and so bear watching season should start in the next two weeks.

We did spot a bull moose with small antlers. He has grown up and looks strong, but his rack is not big enough to win any mating battles. Not spotting any bears, bear 399 and her four cubs have been seen crossing the Snake River, we have a little time before the berry season goes into full swing and the bears enter there fall gorging in preparation for hibernation.

We decided to sell our boat, after seventeen years as we are not using it. Finding a repair shop in Idaho Falls we set up an appointment and towed the boat there to be fixed. They were really minor but things we could not fix ourselves. They included installing a new seal in the main motor trim, a new water pump, fixing the hydraulic steering, (it only needed refilling and bleeding, and an oil change and lower gear lube, total 925 bucks).

Of course, parts had to be back ordered, and so a month and a half later we picked up our boat. Everything was fixed and at a reasonable price and so we could not wait to test it on our local Reservoir, at Alpine, Wyoming.

After installing three new batteries, (450 bucks), we drove to Alpine and backed the boat into Palisades Reservoir. The motor started instantly, it always has, and even the temperamental t8 horse kicker started up, so we were good to go!

Heading down the Snake River channel we reached the open water of the lake and opened it up! We reached a speed of 51 mph and we were surprised at the speed as we were at 6200 feet in elevation, (the higher the elevation the slower the boat runs as the oxygen content is lower).

Renita and I did take a couple of poles along and trolled but it was extremely hot, and the fish were staying deep, so we did not have any bites. Returning home, we got on Facebook and listed the boat for sale. We have had over 700 looks and three offers, but no sale yet as the person who gave an offer we accepted later called back and withdrew it. Jackson lake is a large man-made lake in the park, and It was constructed to provide water for the potato farms, downstream in Idaho. The lake is actually floating on loose debris and according to the engineers will survive a strong earthquake, (right).

There are three marinas on the lake and of the three we liked Leeks Marina and Coulter Bay the best. If we do not sell the boat, we may take it to the park next week and cruise the far side. On the way home we took a walk at one of our favorite spots and saw quite a few trees loaded with berries. Hopefully, they ae ones bears like to eat and so bear watching season should start in the next two weeks.

We did spot a bull moose with small antlers. He has grown up and looks strong, but his rack is not big enough to win any mating battles. Not spotting any bears, bear 399 and her four cubs have been seen crossing the Snake River, we have a little time before the berry season goes into full swing and the bears enter there fall gorging in preparation for hibernation.

It is not a great time to sell a boat and so if we do not sell it, we will store it and post it for sale next spring. The boat is running so well that we are both having second thoughts so we will see. During the time on the lake we did have an immature bald eagle fly by us and land on a fallen tree. Anytime on the water is a good day, even if the fish are not biting. Clear skies

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Day Three, The Confluence of Frontier Creek and Wiggins Fork

We have wanted to go see the Wiggins fork for some time. It originates on the east side of the Absarokas and merges with other creeks before adding its water to the East Fork of Wyoming’s Wind River. So, on our last day we passed up on a morning of fishing and headed up the Forest Service Roads to Wiggins Fork.

It had dried out from the last evenings rains storm and so the road was good but narrow. We hoped we would not meet any large campers as the drop to the valley floor was in places severe. At one stretch sheer cliffs appeared and we stopped for several images. The road then descended in a series of switchbacks before climbing up to the next mountains ridge.

It was actually a pretty easy drive and we did not meet any possible muddy conditions until we reached Double Creek Campground and the confluence of Frontier Creek and Wiggins Fork. At the confluence, the steams had emptied out of large canyons and the streams were a series of meandering braided channels.

Frontier Creek was closed because a grizzly bear was sitting on a dead cow and as we watched a cowboy was moving his herd out of harms way. We were surprised at the numbers of outfitters, hikers, and campers at the trail head but it is a trail head and so we should not have been.

Putting on our waders we decided to walk the steam and do some rockhounding and keep an eye out for any rising fish. Two fly fishermen were working upstream from us and we questioned their decision as that is where the grizzly bear was supposed to be.

We did have our bear spray with us and so we waded across several small channels and walked toward the confluence. We did find several small possible agates and a piece of petrified wood, but we never did see any rising fish. It was so beautiful to be surrounded my step mountains and so we took several panoramas of the view.

We decided we would return here another time and headed back to our vehicle. As this was our last day of this trip, we headed back to the Horse Creek Picnic area for a bit of fishing before we drove back to our place in Star Valley Ranch Rv Resort.

We got back just before lunch and we did meet other trucks and side by side four wheelers but there was enough room to pass by. Just as we reached the place we were going to fish; another vehicle had beaten us there and they were starting to fish. We watched as they were catching some fish and they were keeping them, we probable should have kept enough for dinner as we did catch a nice brook and brown trout, (all Yellowstone cut throats must be released).

Renita moved ahead of me and she did quite well, catching five fish to my two. She did catch a nice plump brook trout while I caught a nice brown. We both caught and released more Yellowstone Cuts before returning to the truck.

Renita has worked hard to become a skilled fly fisherwoman and she has definitely achieved her goal. She can lay out line, mend, and strip her fly line as needed, besides setting the hook, landing, and releasing her catch. Well done Renita!  Now she needs to catch a Colorado Cut she will have her Cut Slam. Clear skies

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Day Two, The East Wind River and Upper Bear Creek

The next morning, we still were not sure what to do, or where to go. Last night another fly fisherman told us of all the fish he had caught on the East fork of the Wind River. He also said that it would be difficult to get to the upper reaches of the river with our four-wheel drive truck.

We decided to get more information and better maps by stopping at the Shoshone National Forest Headquarters in Dubois. It was a wise decision as the Forest service representative took one look at our truck and told us that if we tried to drive to the upper reaches of the East Wind River, we would never get our truck back out!

Furthermore, he told us about two other campgrounds that we could reach safely with our vehicle. Both were along a forest service road out of Dubois. We still wanted to look at the East fork and at another stream, Upper Bear Creek, so we headed east of Dubois, about ten miles before turning north on a good gravel road.

The East Wind was muddy, stained, and as we drove north, we saw really strange signs. They read that no Humans were allowed on the land west of the road from December 16th till May15th. Now we were not only looking for bears, wolves, or mountain lions but also for extra-terrestrials. How dare visitors from another world keeping us from going fishing!

After crossing Wiggins fork, we reached a fork in the road and turned west. The road deteriorated but was still a passable road. Reaching the Upper Bear, we found that the water level in the stream was so low that fish could not survive and so we stopped and turned around after reach8ng the campground.

At the fork Renita reminded me that there was another spot on the river further north. There was a primitive parking lot and campground but the river still looked too low to fish, even though a jeep arrived and three fisherman got out and headed to the stream with their flyrods, (probably looking to catch their Yellowstone Cut throat. It is the fourth fish in the Cut Slam Award and the one we both needed).

After further discussion we returned south and headed back to Dubois. Reaching Horse Creek Road, we again turned north and after twenty-five miles we found a beautiful campsite. Our campsite was perfect as it backed up to a beautiful full and fast-moving stream! Setting up our truck camper we got out our fly roads and walking down stream we begin to fish.

We continued fishing and catching more cuts and even a nice brown trout. Brown trout can be kept here but all cuts must be released, (brown trout and brook trout are not native here). As we fished, we saw that dark storm clouds were nearing and so we went back to our campsite. It was not long before it started to rain, I had just told Renita it probably would not, so of course it rained hard and the heavy rain changed to hail!

It hailed so hard that the ground and our chairs were covered by hail and it alternated with rain for the next two hours. Our campsite was at the mouth of a slot canyon and we kept a sharp eye on the water level as the possibility of a flash flood always exists in mountain valleys.

While the stream level did rise, it never did threaten our spot and so we finally were able to cook a quick dinner of hot dogs. We had both brought books to read and it was a good thing as there was no internet, television, or phone service, (We spent three days without such staples, and it was wonderful!

Covid nineteen ceased to exist! The only person we had to avoid was the campground host. He stayed away. That evening we made plans to drive up to Wiggins Fork and the Frontier Creek confluence. It would be the first time we had ever been there, and we would be surrounded by the Absaroka Mountains. Clear skies

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Looking at New Places to Fish, a Trip to the Wind Rivers and Absaroka Mountians

We had originally planned to spend three days camping and fishing with our friends, George, and Val, but life got in the way and instead we headed out by ourselves. The plan was to drive to Dubois, Wyoming, and fish four different streams in search of a Yellowstone cutthroat trout. It is one of the four cutthroat trout that make up the Wyoming Cut Slam award, award we have been after for the past four years.

After stopping in Jackson, Wyoming for groceries. It took us another two hours to cross Towgotee Pass and reach one of our favorite campgrounds. It is called Falls Campground because of the beautiful falls just a short walk away. We were lucky and got there before noon and we were able to get a nice site with electricity for only ten dollars, (senior rate).

After lunch we rested for a bit before walking down to the falls. There were quite a few wildflowers in bloom including lots of Wyoming Fireweed.
Its purple color tells you how much of summer is left as the flowering end at the start of fall. As you can see it will not be long before we say goodbye to the summer. There were also cinquefoils of white and purple.   
A slightly purple aster like flower(?), and others that we had no clue as to names.

Last time we camped at the falls we spotted American dippers nesting behind the falls, but this time nesting season was finished, and we did not see any of the dark birds.
Renita glassed the Brook Mountains, but she did not spot any bighorn sheep which we had also seen earlier in the summer.

Returning to camp I got out my fishing gear and worked a small stretch of the stream but the only thing I saw were fresh boot prints. I never had a fish rise to my flies or chase my gold ribbed hares ear nymph and when I put a nymph on, it is a sign of desperation as I prefer dry flies.

I never even saw any fish and later we talked with a knowledgeable fly fisherman who had worked it earlier without any sign of fish. Its still a nice campsite but we will pass it up next time as we discovered a great campground the next day. It also had a stream where the fish were biting!  Clear skies