Friday, March 2, 2012

A Look Back on 2011

2011 was a bit of a strange year.  It was very cold, and very wet.  We had snow in May and frost well into June.  The mountain snow pack was over 1,000% in July, and some ski resorts stayed open until the 4th of July.  Couple that with an extremely rigorous bout in nursing school, and you have a recipe for a letdown after the phenomenal 2010 season.  Thursdays were the day for me.  I only had a short class in the morning and was then free to roam by 10:30 am.  It was a nice respite from the 18 hour days that plagued the rest of my week, but it seemed like every week Thursday would roll around with a snow storm attached to it.  May came around and I was convinced that there had been a fish die off at one of my favorite bass reservoirs as all I had caught in three trips was a hand full of planter rainbows.  Finally around the first of June I finally caught a few small bass there, while fishing in a sleet storm.  Thankfully things picked up there, though with so much extra water to spread the fish out, I only had a few truly spectacular days there all year.

The first really great day of fishing I had last year was on the day before I took the ATI Exam, a truly masochistic ritual of trying to recall all that I had learned in the past ten months over a three hour period.  While my classmates scrambled to cram just a little more nursing trivia into their heads, I took my instructors advice and hit a favorite bass pond.  Things started out on the water in a gray and choppy way.  I fished for two hours with nothing but a growing frustration over the disappointments of the season.  Finally I got blown up into a couple feet of water.  I tossed an unweighted fluke tight to some brush, and this devil eyed little male hit my bait.

 I fished out in my tube a little longer before deciding that there were probably more fish up shallow.  So I ditched my tube and went for a little jungle warfare amongst the trees.  It proved to be a wise decision.  Over the next few hours I hammered fish after fish in a foot or two of water, sometimes less.  I crept through the flooded vegetation, flinging a soft plastic jerkbait into pockets and openings.  There were times that several bass would swarm the bait and fight for it.  Other times I would make casts into only 8-10" of water and walk the dog back, only to see a wake rush up behind my bait and explode like a torpedo.  I ended up with 50 fish for my efforts.  Most were smaller males in the 12-14" range,

but toward evening some larger females appeared.

 All in all, it was a great day, and it worked wonders for my frazzled mind.  I scored in the top 99th percentile nationally on my exam, my score the second highest that my instructor had ever seen.  It's funny what a little good fishing can do for you.

I managed to get away to that lake a few more times that spring, and had similar results.

I had a few good days south of the border, and my best largemouth of the year actually came from a Utah reservoir.

She came on a bluegill colored ribbed paddle worm I made fished weightless.  It was a really slow day overall, punctuated by hordes of white trash, f bomb spewing, animal killing dirtbag kids and later their full grown brethren, culminating in a tempest that threw three foot waves onto the water and onto my back.  I was grateful when I finally got back onto dry land.

Finally, toward the end of June, I felt like I should give my old favorite a try again, just one last time to see if it was really dead.  Much to my surprise, I arrived to find bass slurping dragonflies in the tules.  I proceeded to hammer little 10-12"  bass on Super Fluke Jrs and Finesse Worms, both in a baby bass color.  I switched to my new 7'6" light Fenwick HMX with 6lb test because of all the little guys, but every now and then something with a little more oomph would thump my bait, and I would have a real battle keeping her out of the weeds.

 When I was almost out of time for the day, I paddled across to a rocky, brushy area and caught this fat mamma on a worm I had just poured for the first time the night before.

Very nice.

After that success, I decided to return, but this time I fished the very upper end of the reservoir, a place I had never been.  This stretch of water usually ends up as dry land pretty early on, so this was uncharted water.  The weed beds were significant and varied in this stretch.  When I got out of my car, I was discouraged by the high winds that greeted me, but I went for it anyway.  To make a long story short, I ended up having my best day of the year for this reservoir.  I mostly fished a 3/8oz River2sea Crystal Spin in Chartreuse Shad.  I fished it slowly over the weedy flats letting it tick the tops of the weeds, or killing it purposefully to trigger strikes.  I also did well working it along the edges of the shoreline tules.  I caught a few more fishing a baby bass colored stick bait wacky style around cover.  I managed to catch over 80 fish in those few hours I had before work, and many decent sized ones.

The remaining summer was only so so on this reservoir, but it really turned on later that fall, though not so much for bass.  The year prior, the bass fishing had been ridiculously good with lipless crankbaits and jerkbaits in October.  I was hoping for more of the same, but with twice as much water in the reservoir, the fish just weren't concentrated on those same flats.  I fished the weedy upper end to try duplicating the conditions as best I could.  I did find a few bass, but the Kamloops that also call the reservoir home were much more eager to pummel my cranks.

They were absolutely insane.  They would crush that lure, rip off a ton of line, then leap several feet out of the water multiple times.  A few chased the bait right up to the tube running parallel to the bait, then swinging wide to hit it head first.  Pretty exciting stuff, but I didn't like hooking these tender trout with all those treble hooks, so I gave up on the bass and used leeches on my fly rod.  That worked too.

All that high water must have done the smallmouth good as they were bloated bronze sacks of insanity.  I had several good days catching them on hardbaits.  On the first of July I had a fantastic time fishing a Lucky Craft LV100 in a smallmouth color parallel to shore, bumping it into the rocks.  Even though it was hot, sunny and still, the bass were thumping it.

Later, on a stormy day, I had a ball catching them on a Lucky Craft G Splash on top.

They weren't as large, but they clobbered that bait with gusto.

The boaters became a significant irritation after that, so I avoided that reservoir until the fall.  Once I returned it was jerkbait time. The first time back was extremely windy, but I found a few chunkers up against the shore that were crazy about a Glass Ghost Rapala Clackin Minnow.

On the way out of the canyon, I decided to make a quick stop at a favorite hole on the river.  It was high, off color, and full of vegetation.  I made a few casts with a small, white swimbait, when something hammered it. I saw a longer, more slender body than a smallmouth, and I thought walleye or brown, but much to my surprise, it was this lovely customer.

It put up a good fight and was a new species for me, so I can't complain.  I just couldn't believe it hit a swimbait, and hard.

In October, I had my best day yet at this place fishing Jackall Squirrels in the 76 and 79 sizes.  I caught many obese bass, including my new best at 17 1/2".

I was also able to really spend some quality time on another reservoir that was good to me in September and October of 2010.  With the high water, it was a different beast, but a friendlier one than the other reservoir.  In 2010, the water was not only lower, but murky with an algae bloom.  In 2011, the water was a  beautiful blue-green and crystal clear.  The shakey heads of 2010 were next to useless, though the deep diving crankbaits of 2010 still had some clout.

With the crystalline waters, fishing a drop shot in 18-20' of water was the ticket in August and September.  I used my light Fenwick with Power Pro most of the time with this rig, giving these muscular bass a real chance to show me their stuff.

 I also managed to catch a 14" yellow perch while I was at it, a new personal best.

A four inch fat headed drop shot worm that I started making last year was by far the most productive bait for me, though wacky rigged stick baits, reapers and flick shake worms were good too.  As the water began to cool, jerkbaits became the hot item.

While I never caught any true giants, I was blown away by how obese some of these bass were.  I also made a new friend there.  I had heard him during my evening fishing trips there over the past year or so, but we finally met one fateful day in late September.

Another highlight for me was scoring my largest rainbow yet.

I was unable to take a measurement because I didn't want to over handle the behemoth in the cramped confines of my float tube.  I was looking for some September bass at the place where I caught all the fish before my exam, but only found a few.  That big trout really saved the day when it pummeled a Jackall Muscle 10+ crankbait fished a long the deep edge of a weedline.

One other bass highlight, was a balmy Indian Summer day on a reservoir I never fish due to the plethora of water sports fanatics who cram themselves into the skinny little pond every summer.  The water was low and murky, but I fished it anyway.  I had some fast action for chunky bass that absolutely knocked the snot out of Lucky Craft spinnerbaits and lipless cranks fished along brushy points.

I also caught a lot of smaller bass and trout on a Jackall Cherry, as well as this respectable crappie.

With the ridiculous snow pack, none of the streams in my area were fishable for most of the year.  Other than a couple of quick trips in early March, I had only been able to fish stillwater until I got an invite to stay at a cabin in Samak for a weekend.  Here the waters had receded and were perfect for fishing.  The first evening I fished Beaver Creek for a few hours and managed to catch over 50 fish on a dry/dropper rig.  Most were small cutts,

I even got a double,

with a few browns

and redside shiners thrown into the mix.  The next day, after a quick stop by the creek for another ten cutthroat,  I fished the Upper Provo River off the Mirror Lake Highway.  The water was gorgeous.  For the next two hours I fished attractor dries, the stalwart Royal Wulff being the champion for the day, and caught many pretty little brookies

and cutts

with some tiger trout

and a rainbow thrown into the mix.  I ended up with 38 more fish for a total of 103 fish for the trip.  Though they weren't large, it felt really great to be out on a stream watching trout rise to my dries.

The river fishing would have to wait a bit longer as back at home the rivers were still high.  Finally by the end of September I did some hunting and found a couple of smaller gems I had never fished.  One was even fairly close to home.  The first brought me a mix of cutthroat and brown trout

amongst some rather splendid surroundings.

The second, much to my surprise, brought many colorful wild rainbows and cuttbows with some browns thrown into the mix.

For such a tiny little stream,

the quality of the fish really surprised me.  I only managed to fish this creek a couple of times in late October/early November, but I look forward to exploring it in more depth this summer.

To end the year, I had some late season outings on The Blacksmith where I found some nice looking trout

and their homely but entertaining cousins.

It was pretty crazy catching trout on attractor dry flies the end of November, but I'm certainly not complaining.

I actually lost track of my fish count in 2011.  I knew I had no chance of reaching my goal again and catching over 2011 fish, so I kind of lost interest.  This year is starting out strong with a good head start.  I have my clicker ready to go and my fingers ready to log my catch.

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