Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Early Christmas Present

Too much traveling during the Holiday season can get you down if you aren’t careful.

We don’t yet have all our shopping done, the tree is not yet up, and we aren’t even sure whether we are coming or going half the time.

I think it is important to keep some balance in your life so when we were packing for the trip to Salt Lake City, I included the UL & a box of white Roostertails “just in case”.

It was a busy trip, we arrived in time for evening services at the Mid Valley Church of Christ on Sunday. Monday and Tuesday were filled with meetings and employee performance evaluations. We initially had a Wednesday morning flight home scheduled but changed to an early afternoon flight which turned out to be unnecessary.

Rather than trying to change back and getting caught in some kind of mixup, I decided to get up early for a trip up the mountain to visit my favorite spot on Snake Creek and see if there were any hungry trout to be found.

I had been told about a coffee shop near by our hotel that served fresh roasted coffee and tried to grab a cup on my way out but they were not yet open. I settled for a Starbucks and a bagel instead and headed off for Heber in the dark. There seems to be something about my fishing habits lately that involve starting out in the dark or maybe its just that I’m “in the dark” so often that’s where I feel most comfortable.

I arrived at Snake Creek before daylight and installed all the proper equipment: hip boots – “check”, hemostats & nippers, “check”, box of white roostertails, “check”, ultralight loaded with 4lb test, “check”, hat, gloves, jacket, bandana, “check”. I even remembered a rag to wipe my hands on – now that’s optimism.

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I jumped a raft of ducks that were spending the night on the open water across the fence from the dirt track leading to my first stop – the big pool.

I made a stealthy approach in the crusty snow and my breath looked like a steam train in the morning air. Flatlanders like me can’t walk very fast at this elevation especially when dressed for the 28 degree temperature without huffing and puffing a little.

I came up to the edge of the pool in a crouch and decided to wait a few minutes before making my first cast as the light was just beginning to show along the far ridge.

The water flow looked good and though there was still quite a bit of aquatic vegetation visible I felt like this was the right place at the right time and I was in perfect position to hook up.

Just as I was about to make that all-important first cast a muskrat popped up less than three feet in front of me and I don’t know who was more surprised – him or me – but he dove with a splash and was off to the opposite side of the pool. I was thinking that I was glad I didn’t snag him on my first cast or I would have really thought I caught the grandaddy of them all.

I noticed that I had tied on an old and battle scarred roostertail – I was using a 1/16 oz white with a silver blade. The shaft was a little bent and one point of the treble hook was missing but I thought I would give it a go instead of re-tying on a new one. Hey – it worked before why not now?

I began casting short, working the tail of the pool and gradually increasing my distance and varying the retrieve. I was a little disappointed that I did not get a single strike, rise, or follow-up as I dredged the pool for 15 minutes. I didn’t notice a lot of human sign and was a little perplexed about the situation.

I decided to move downstream and try my luck in the grassy channels, riffles and cut banks between the pool and the Heber Creeper trestle and eventually hit the lower end before heading back. Before long, while casting upstream and guiding the RT between the grass and vegetation as best I could, I finally got a hit. It was a small rainbow that jumped twice and promptly spit the hook.

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I was happy to have come in contact with a fish even though I wouldn’t have a picture to prove it. No worries – the best was yet to come.

As the sky continued to lighten up I continued to cast upstream into a nice piece of water that contained several parallel grassy channels. I would aim my cast as far upstream as I could and guide the drift trying to keep the offering as deep as I could. It was frustrating as each cast would result in an eventual snag of grass, seaweed, algae or something that would require me to clean off the hooks. The air temperature was low enough that the tiptop and second guides on my rod were also icing up so I was spending a lot of time messing with my rig after each cast. My hands were getting cold and I was mystified as to why I couldn’t seem to locate any fish. Then the magic began!

I hooked up on a big rainbow about midstream and she rolled and took several strong upstream runs which instantly warmed me up inside and out. I was finally able to coax her to the bank which was pretty tricky as there was a 15 foot swath of weeds between me and the open water.

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Just as I was about to lift her up to the bank my improved cinch knot failed and there she lay in 3 inches of water ready to bolt before I got a picture. Not so fast! I learned a thing or two from Brother Paul about re-catching a lost fish on Snake Creek and I made a slick two-handed grab-n-flip to shore. Eureka! She measured a full 20” and was as fat & sassy as they get.

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My faith was renewed and after returning her to the water I retied on the now treasured war-horse and continued to work the channels. After three or four unsuccessful casts I hooked another big rainbow. This one was a showboat and made an aerial display that Shamu would be proud of. After three full body leaps this acrobat headed for the bottom and dove under the nearest weedbed. I couldn’t break her free and waded out to try and salvage the fight but discovered that after getting me snagged in the weeds the fish had pulled free breaking off a second hook. My treble was now down to one hook point and I decided to change to a fresh lure. Call me crazy but I didn’t want to miss another one like that last one. She was every bit as big as the 20 incher and I was sure there had to be more.

Since I had stirred up the creek I decided to walk down stream and try a few casts before crossing the tracks. I picked up a few small browns and one rainbow all in the 13-14” range.

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I hopped over to the other side of the tracks and swung as far down stream as possible and began working my way back upstream. I ran out of battery on my camera before I ran out of fish. In all I landed about a dozen trout evenly divided between browns and bows.

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It was a great morning and provided the balance I was looking for. As I made my way back up to the spot where I had caught the two big bows I decided to try “one more cast” before heading back. Four casts and two fish later I was trotting to the car with a smile on my face.

I did try out the coffee shop on my return to Salt Lake City. Mill Creek Coffee Roasters is now on my list of mandatory stops.


Wool Winder said...

Great descriptions! Maybe next time I'll go with you...if it's not so cold or so early.

Bawana said...

Hey better get some Bag Balm on those red wrinkley hands. I havent seen anything to beat that since they took the Palmolive soap commmericials off the air.

eatmorefish said...

I know that it takes a trained eye to spot the tressel in the back ground but I know the spot well too! What a blessing this place has been for both of us! Can't wait to get back there with you and get in on some of the action