Saturday, August 23, 2014

Kokenee Fishing, Three Days on the Water at Flaming Gorge

The weather finally cleared, a little, and so we drove the boat to Holmes Crossing,( the name has changed three times from Squaw Creek, to Holmes Crossing, and now to Bridlingers Ferry) . There we saw a few other trucks and trailers and launched the boat. After parking we drove across the lake and had no sooner  put two poles on the down riggers when Renita asked me if I had heard the thunder?
Of course I hadn't and so we watched the sky and saw a flash of lightening in the distance. Now I have been caught in storms before and even had sparks jump from my pole to my hand so we pulled up the rigs and quickly ran back to the boat ramp. Loading the boat we pulled out just in time as the storm reached us and bolts of cloud to ground lighting struck the hill above us.

The next day we got out earlier and soon had missed a fish. Dropping our squid baits back down, (thank you Randy Beavis who makes them and gave us three to try), Renita soon had a nice salmon in the boat. It was now my turn, we take turns by the way, and it seemed forever before I finally caught a fish. The fish were eaters and so now I could relax as I knew that with only one fish I would have had to beg Renita for some of hers.
Soon after the rod released again and she had her second fish of the day. It was good that it happened quick as thunder again started to rumble. We decided discretion was the better wisdom and again we had just started to drive back to the campground when the storm hit. A combination of small hail, heavy rain, and an awesome lighting and thunder display reminded us of why we pull off early.
Day three arrived and the weather forecast was for a massive and cold storm front from Alaska. Snow was forecast for the higher elevations but we still had blue skies so we headed out at an  earlier hour. As we approached the boat ramp we saw that there were only a few spaces left to park.
 Launching, we dove across the lake only to find that there were twenty two other boats already fishing near our spot. Now I am always amazed at the people that think there is only one place to catch fish, they end up sharing, and so we headed out to find another place.
After a half hour one and then the other down rigger poles released and we ended up losing both fish. Rerigging the poles we turned around, and using the gps track hit the same waypoint. The pole tip released again and this time Renita grabbed the rod, fighting in a really nice kokenee. It had started to turn red and she got even more excited as the fish fought hard before she brought it in to the net.
The hook fell off just then but we had it, now if we could only catch another. Turning again we hit the same spot, these are suspended fish, in one hundred and twenty seven feet of water, and this time it was my turn to fight in a beautiful twenty one inch koke.
After missing two more Renita hooked another salmon and now we had three beautiful fish in the boat. Others had seen us catch fish and we were soon joined by a large cabin cruiser who ran full speed right over the school. He then put his pole out and started fishing. Saying unkind things about idiots, to ourselves, we fished for another hour without a bite.
Moving to another waypoint, again away from the others, the pole eventually tripped and I fought in a smaller fish. Unfortunately the fish went belly up and we couldn't release it and added it to the cooler. One more and we would have our limit but it was simply not to be as we fished for two more hours without a bite.
The front approached and it was time to call it a day. Again we got loaded and just got back to the fifth wheel when the storm blasted us with the usual hail, torrential rain, lighting, and high winds. That night it rained so hard that there was probably flash flooding in the area. Luckily the camp ground is high and away from any gullies so we were safe.
Today we are taking a break as the spark plugs are surprised to be in and so we will make a shopping trip to Rock Springs. the forecast is for cold and windy temperatures so we really aren't missing anything on the water. The fish count is eight salmon in three days during which we fished a total of seven hours. Clear skies

ps Randy Beavis has a facebook page on which he demonstrates the swimming motionm of his kokenee squid baits. We met him and his wife four years ago and he's a really nice man and shares his information. His lures worked great for us.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Satellite Systems, Antelope and Boat Issues

We are at Flaming Gorge, Buckboard Crossing Campground for our yearly kokenee fishing expedition. Kokenee are landlocked sockeye and taste great and right now they are biting! It would be nice to be on the water but we have been resolving issues with the boat, however we have still been entertained as the wildlife viewing has been excellent.
The antelope here are so tame here, and so hungry, that they invade the campground and walk so close to our fifth wheel that they block the satellite signal. The first time it happened I was watching the weather channel and I got the message that the signal had been lost. So looking outside I saw an antelope right in front of the system.  Its a daily issue and the good news is that its as close as we have ever gotten to such wild and wary animals. I do hope they get a little wiser before antelope hunting season starts.
Meanwhile the boat has demanded its usually yearly influx of cash. This time it new tires as the tires were twelve years old and that's really pushing it and asking for multiple blowouts in the middle of nowhere, (which describes this place quite nicely). So we took the tires off the trailer and had them replaced after driving forty miles to Rock Springs.
Next I had to check the bearings on the wheels. Jacking each wheel up I spun the bearing hub and then greased them. They seem to be good so I will make some short pulls and, using my thermal gun, monitor the temperatures.
The last boat issue is our kicker motor. Last year It wouldn't start, on the last day out, after working perfectly for a whole week. We had just filled up with gas, the day before and so now we are trying everything to get it running. That means checking for blockages in the fuel lines, replacing the spark plugs, and if all else fails rebuilding the carborator. Of course the nearest possible spark plugs are forty miles away.
Thank goodness the big motor works, along with the electric trolling motor so we plan on going out today and trying our luck.That is if the thunder storms don't keep us off the water! Clear skies

Monday, August 18, 2014

Fishing the Grey and Little Grey

We knew as soon as we first saw the Grey River, that it was unfishable. It was high and dirty and even one of those conditions would make fishing really tough. Too high and the flies would race past and too muddy and the fish would never see our offerings. So we continued up to its junction with the Little Grey.
The Little Grey appeared clear and low, and we were encouraged to see some other fly fisherman casting to the lower stretch. After driving further upriver we found a spot that was easily accessible and looked like it contained some deeper holes.
It always takes too long to put on ones waders and retie leaders and flies but eventually I headed down stream. Stripping some line I let my nymphs drag below me and as I waded across a fish hit my golden ribbed rabbits ear, ( a type of fly not actually a rabbits eaIt was a small fish but it was a fish. I really couldn't care about the size, I just like catching fish! A little further and I cast to several edges, of the current flow, and was soon rewarded with a larger fish. It made me feel good to have some success after my tough time on the Gros Ventre.
Reaching the first deep pocket I caught and released two nice Snake River cutthroat. They are a pretty fish, a subspecies really called the fin spotted Snake River cutthroat.  All the fish here are wild native stock and so I don't catch and kill only practice catch and release. Game and Fish get some of their brood stock from these waters and so the only fish I eat here are the numerous and seldom kept mountain whitefish.
Returning to the truck Val and George were up stream and so I rested before picking some service berries. I hope to try and make some service berry jam later on this summer.Going back to fishing I heard a strange sound behind me just as I set the hook on another fish. It was loud and of course I thought bear but Renita assured me that there was nothing behind me. Soon I heard the sound again and discovered it was a humming bird trying to feed on my bright red t-shirt sleeve. I might be a little jumpy about bears.
George and Val returned and talked of all the fish they had caught. Val uses dry flies and George told us she had out fished him ten to one, (all though he had caught the biggest fish a beautiful sixteen inch Snake River cutthroat.
Later that week we returned to the Little Grey as Bob and Nancy had never been there. The fish were still plentiful and I was able to add to my serviceberry stockpile. We did try to fish the clearer Grey but the water was still too fast and nothing  attacked our flies.
No matter really as it had been a fun two days up the Grey and Little Grey. They are both fun places to visit and fly fish! Clear skies

I have somehow misplaced some images and so am using old ones of Bob and George. Also we are currently at Flaming Gorge and do not have any internet connection so I am adding this post while we are in town. Ah the joys of living in Wyoming!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Fishing the Gros Ventre

In the summer months we normally avoid the nearby national parks like the plague. There are just too many people and so our preferred months to visit are May and September. However our friends wanted to fish the Gros Ventre, it is one of the classic Wyoming cutthrout trout streams, and so we packed a picnic lunch and headed off to Grand Teton National Park.
My former teaching buddy Bob and his wife were in Dubois, and so we all planned on meeting at Kelly warm springs. From there we would head up the road about ten miles into the national forest where we hoped to find clear water and less wary fish. The road became progressively narrower and by the time we reached Lower Slide Lake the road was high and narrow. It was definitely a road for the acrophobic to avoid!
Continuing the lake became muddy, from all the recent rains, and by the time we arrived at Crystal Springs campground the stream was simply to muddy to fish. We checked out the campground and decided it was a place to come back to and so we headed back down to an access below the slide.
It had been a place we had both fished, a long time ago, and we were disappointed to find the area had become overgrown with brush. Not only that, but the stream itself was full of a bright green algae, which is normally not seen in rivers here. It bespoke of high concentrations of nutrients, what was that all about?
Further down we talked with another fisherman and after his report we headed back into the park and fished at a place I had fished and written about last year.
Renita, Val, and Nancy set up their lawn chairs as we donned our waders and headed down to the fast moving stream. Bob and I went upstream and George the other way as we waded to likely looking current breaks and lines. Casting I soon had a nice fish make a pass but it was at my strike indicator as it ignored my nymphs. I changed to a wolf dry fly and it got no response.
Grasshopper flies also drew nothing and so I went through my fly box but nothing seemed to work Returning downstream I met Bob and we greeted the ladies as they told us they had watched another fisherman pull fish after fish from the first spot we had tried. Hmmmmm.....
George returned to tell us he had had the best day of fishing cutthroats since he had fished the Yellowstone thirty years ago. After lunch we watched him as he showed us the way he was reading the water and he caught another nice fish in a place I wouldn't have thought to try. It was amazing to watch how he read the water and all his fish were caught, and released, using the same nymphs we first had tied on.
Still it was a beautiful day with the Tetons in the background and the added bonus was the sight of two bull moose right across the river. Luckily they had moved back into the willows and presented no danger to us and so our fishing turned into a dues day, (you got to pay your dues before you can catch fish and believe me I have paid a lot of dues). Anyway beautiful sights, a picnic with friends, and Wyoming Wildlife moments, who could ask for more? Clear skies

Monday, August 11, 2014

Kayaking from the Creamery to McCoy Road, The Salt River, Wyoming

Renita, Val and I pushed off into the Salt and the current quickly took our yaks around the first meander. Val's kayak is fourteen feet long and not as maneuverable as ours and so she was swept into a tree and promptly swept into the water. I paddled over and helped her ashore, glad that Renita and I had more stable and agile sit inside kayaks.
Floating again Val gained her rhythm and quickly we passed the first take out point below the Creamery. The river had risen about a foot from all the recent downpours but it was still clear. I had checked the water levels that morning and saw that it was still below the flood stage and so we felt confident that the float would be safe. It was just so much faster and while I tried to fish I didn't have any luck.
In less then three hours were were at the second takeout where George waited. He told us the fishing was great but the catching was terrible and so we continued to the Swimming Pool landing. There Renita took out and Val and I decided to float to the McCoy road bridge.
The first part of the float was fun with some easy rapids that Renita would have enjoyed but they became more intense and we decided that she had made a wise decision. The strong current had caved in large willows and so the outsides of the meanders were to be avoided as being swept into them would be really bad, (Renita had heard that  another resident at our rv resort had almost drown the week before while floating in his pontoon fishing float).
Another meander and rapids and we saw an island ahead. A large tree had fallen across the left channel blocking any safe passage. Instead we took the right channel and the strong current and rocks made us concentrate on avoiding obstacles.
Entering the next strong rapids Val again fell off her kayak but I had attached a rope to a throwing line and she caught it as she floated by clinging to her yak. I was able to tow her to the shore where she rested before climbing back aboard.
We passed two fisherman anchored against willows dead falls and I was glad I hadn't taken my pole on this last stretch. Another island appeared and I was able to take the left passage. Val meanwhile, had become high centered with her yak as she struggled to follow me. I stopped downstream and held onto some grass as I waited for her to appear.
Breathing a sigh of relief I spied the bow of her kayak and checking that everything was okay we rested a bit before heading around the next bend. Suddenly the McCoy Bridge appeared and even though the current tried to speed us past it we were both able to enter the small opening and paddle to the take out.
Renita and George appeared and we now had another story that we could tell. It was a challenging float for us and Renita was glad she had decided to forgo the last section. She would have been okay, as her kayak is quicker to respond, but she would not have enjoyed it.
Personally I would float it again but only with other experienced yakers. If you ever decide to float this section be sure to wear your life jackets! The strong currents, snags and fun and exciting rapids demand that you pay attention, ( the rapids are just easy class two). Clear skies

Thursday, August 7, 2014

It's so frustrating, there are fish everywhere hitting the top of the water and you could say that they are in a feeding frenzy. Yet you cast and cast and they don't take your offering. So you keep changing your fly hoping that your new offering will match the hatch. Finally one takes and then you fight the fish only to have it throw your hook....
George and Val are here visiting, from Colorado, for a week of fishing, (You may remember them from our posts of fishing the Gunnision,). Val also guided us down  the Gunnision on a float trip and we hope to reciprocate their hospitality. Of course the rivers have been clear and perfect for kayaking and of course the monsoon has moved in and lighting and heavy rain has chased us inside every day. Not to mention the Grey River has gone muddy from the heavy rain and possible flash flooding.
So we have been fishing the Salt River and the first day was ok, but frustrating. We have even caught some fish but not many. However on day two George finally figured out the right pattern and I watched as he caught fish after fish. Kindly he handed me a fly and two casts later my strike indicator twitched sideways and I caught a nice cutthroat, ( the fish here are all native and of course we release them).
Soon after lighting flashed and it was time to retreat to the truck. Lighting and eight foot graphite rods just don't match. The storm passed and we decided to head back to the Narrows. There we found two drift boats anchored in one of the best spots.  We watched as they tried but didn't catch and fish before eating lunch and blocking the best spot, (totally clueless).
I have never understood people who have a nice boat and anchor on the heaviest fished stretch of river when they could be fishing virgin water and fish that haven't seen a fly in days. Still George and I managed to catch and release two fish from a spot that most people wouldn't even try, (I had to laugh as George always lets out a whoop of joy and I did notice the drift boat people looking on in envy.
Today we are going to head back up the Grey and maybe it or the Little Grey will be fishable. I am used to days like this but I do so want George and Val to catch some of the bigger Snake River cutties that those rivers hold. If not we will head back to the Salt for day three. Hopefully today the skies will clear and the rivers will stop rising. Clear skies, (I guess I already said that).

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Star Valleys First Pickelball Tournament

Pickleball here has gone crazy, so crazy in fact that the local pickleball association decided to sponsor a sanctioned tournament.  In it three different contests were held, women's doubles, mixed couples, and men's doubles. Players were all ranked into different skill levels and each subgroup played a round robin with the winners decided by total points scored.
As new players Renita and I decided not to enter but instead planned to watch and learn strategies and see what the different skill levels of competition meant. Our new friends Chuck and Bo had entered at the 3.0, the lowest ranking, and so we thought it would also be fun to watch their matches.
The first days competition was women's doubles and we watched them as they served with different styles and strategies. There's a lot we don't yet understand about the game, one of which is to when to come up to the kitchen line, and it was obvious that we had been charging it too soon.
The second day was the mixed doubles competition and besides enjoying lots of great volleys we saw one team use an unusual position start stance. It apparently was meant to confuse their opposition and to allow them to concentrate on hitting  with their strong forehands,(at least that's what we thought was the reasoning).
It seemed to work as they won the gold in their division.
On day three, men's doubles, we saw more of the same strategies. In all three days it was pretty obvious that height and reach are real advantages, and that the saying hit it high you die was only too true. Our friends Bo and Chuck had tough matches but played well and we both admired them for entering the tournament.
It was pretty obvious that we have a lot to learn before we enter any tournament ourselves. Perhaps next year we will be ready to have some fun in the lowest level of competition. Of course the reason for all of it is to have fun and learn, after all you only get better by playing better players. That should be no problem with our skill sets. Clear skies