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Jimmy's All Seasons Angler / Articles (Page 3)

Idaho’s Salt River Tributaries

 

Idaho’s Salt River Tributaries

Extreme eastern Idaho is relatively unknown for many fly-fishers because bypassing the South Fork and such as Big Elk and Palisades creeks is  almost impossible to accomplish.  If you can “tough out ” passing these great fisheries and head south down US Highway 89 in Star Valley, a selection of great small streams await. All flow east into the Salt River, and each seems to host the same: browns  in numbers varying stream to stream and cutthroat in good numbers. In fact, these can be considered cutthroat refuges.  Are they Snake River fine spotted or Yellowstone strains?  Likely a mixture of both as in other Snake River drainage places.  You could enjoy fishing an entire weekend trying your skill on Jackknife, Tincup, Stump and Crow creeks.  Tincup Creek is mainly a riffle and run stream paralleled by Idaho State Highway 34.  Being close to this main highway it is likely the most heavily fished, but that isn’t saying much compared to pressure on South Fork and Palisades Reservoir tributaries.  The other three have county or forest service roads nearby making for easy access.  Jackknife, Stump and Crow and their main tributaries are mainly brushy meadow streams.    All host beaver ponds of holdover quality that should catch your attention if you seek big trout.   The picture above shows Stump Creek just off the Smoky Canyon Road crossing.   Note the beaver pond near the center.  Not far upstream of this location a fly-fishing friend of mine caught a 27-inch brown  a few years back.  He sent me a picture, so I have to believe, assuming this was the true location.   Stream character in this picture is typical of these three streams. Visiting during the springtime (June into early July) mayfly emergence peak can be very rewarding.  All have the usual mayfly arrays emerging including gray and green drakes and PMDs.  If action is slow one one stream, another is reasonably close by. Visiting before the mayfly peak after run-off subsides and beaver ponds are repaired, trout  foraging for leeches can bring very satisfying action.    During summer presenting terrestrial patterns is the best way to find success.  Do not let the size of these streams disappoint you because trophy fish reside here.  You must be stealthy to the utmost.  Or you could come back in the autumn around the end of September when streams remaining connected to the Salt River host run-up brown trout running to sizes respectable in any river.  The trick to success at this time is stealth to the point of appearing to be a natural piece of the surroundings is key.  Stump and Crow creeks would be your best bets to encounter these run-ups ranging up to near six pounds.   Are you getting into the Tenkara presentation technique that is proven so effective for small waters? You could not ask for a better location for trying it than on these streams.  And almost anywhere you try these streams you will solitude to appreciate .

 

 

 

 

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Harriman Fish Pond

 

 

 

Harriman Fish Pond

Not only is this a pond of legend, it is also among the safest of public still waters to be found in the Island Park area.  It was created by the Harriman family in the early twentieth century as a place to take Railroad Ranch guests fishing.   The family dammed Osborn Creek and a couple of smaller intermittent creeks to form it.   IDF&G has used it on an experimental basis to test trout suitability.  It is not very deep, but rich in nutrients, so over the years it has gained a reputation for producing huge rainbows and trophy-sized brook trout.  It has endured misuse from dewatering and bank erosion, yet properly maintained and kept at full pool year round, it is a superb fishery.  If you are familiar with fishing the Henry’s Fork from Wood Road 16 access, you go by the pond to the south a few hundred yards.   That creek entering the Henry’s Fork just above the access is the outlet from the Fish Pond.  I’m not going to say anything about the fish in that creek below the pond! You can get to the Fish Pond from the Mesa Falls Scenic Route.  Drive down the Route from Highway 20 just above the Osborn Bridge.  A bit more than a mile on the right the access road to river near “Pine Point” goes to the right. Turn off here and take the immediate left, a primitive road that takes one to the north end of the Fish Pond, and on to the west end dam.  You can fish from the dam without needing wading gear. To fish effectively anywhere else here you will need to get out on the pond with a non-motorized craft because the pond bottom is mostly deep silt.  But the pond is ideal for float tubing or pontoon boating, and launching such from the north end is easy.

Fly-fishing season on the pond begins as soon as ice comes off and the primitive access road to its north end is passable. I have fished it as early as the end of April after a winter of scanty snowfall.  During the early season any pattern resembling a leech or dragonfly  nymph works.  When midges begin emerging in number, life cycle patterns for them work until resident fish become filled. When that happens, go elsewhere.   After the fish are over this “midge binge” try speckled dun life cycle patterns.  By then, however, you may need to fish  mostly on or near the surface because weed growth clogs so much of the pond that fishing wet is mainly good for dredging up weeds.  Any time you fish here a floating line is best because for the most part the pond is so shallow.  There is some deeper water in front of the dam on the west end and along the creek channel in its middle.  I usually avoid the pond as July approaches because fishing there slows.   But I come back very late, as late as the first of November when weeds are dispersing, and I present midge life cycle patterns or a small (size 12-14) bead head peacock leech.  This is when I have caught my largest fish, but one can certainly encounter large fish here any time during the season.  These  big ones are a bit tougher to encounter in recent years because hatchery catchables are now present, but one benefit of  those hatchery catchables is that if they hold over, they can become big guys.  So if you are looking for a chance for a fish of the season under safe conditions compared to a wind-blown Henry’s Lake or Island Park Reservoir, or you have youngsters or have physically challenged folks wishing for the same, put this spot near the top of your destination list.

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Birch Creek

It is now timely to give this great little stream some attention.   That attention is appropriate for several reasons.  Access, proximity, reliably aggressive wild trout,  put and take fishing, reasonable solitude, and natural beauty are some.   Also Birch Creek is ready for fishing right now.  From the Snake River Plain this creek is about an hour and a half drive  at the most over good highways. Little traffic can be expected going and returning from it.  Believe it or not, Birch Creek is a spring creek in that it originates mostly from springs in the Kaufman area. From here it becomes  a small but classic desert stream.   Below Lone Pine resort Birch Creek flows mostly through public land, and it is here where weekenders congregate to fish, camp, and ride. Thus IDF&G generously supplements the wild fish population here with hatchery catchables. The result is that the wild fish mostly move out to the diversion below to escape piscatorial crowding and human hub-bub.  For sure one can encounter good fishing here, but usually under less tranquil conditions.  If one travels upstream past Lone Pine, Birch Creek is to the left and on private land.  But this land is under agreement  for public access and as such is designated a “family fishing area” through the generosity of its owner.  Signs at either end and the middle proclaim this. Access here is walk-in with distances from parking varying upwards from a bit less than one hundred yards.  Fencing limits intrusion by cattle, so degradation is minor.  The stream in the upper end of the area runs through broken willow patches with undercuts and surprisingly deep holes and runs.  Throughout the area one can see superb in-stream gravel beds that host aquatic insects as well as offering spawning locations.  Rainbow and brook trout, introduced many years ago, inhabit the creek  in good numbers.   No need to supplement trout populations here!  This is high country, so it takes a while for Birch Creek to regain heat lost through radiation at nighttime and early light.  That means aquatic insects become most active around mid day, and the same goes for the resident ‘bows and brookies.   So if you intend to fish here, enjoy a  hearty breakfast and leisurely drive to arrive  about then.   Hip waders are all that is necessary to walk around the creek in the family area, and during the heat of summer, wet wading is not out of the question.  I have a two-weight rod which is ideal for small streams, Birch Creek included.  I use a floating line and nine-foot leader tapered to 5x, and I have a ball catching brookies and bows ranging upward to a rare sixteen inches.  They are full of fight and eager as can be. This time of year caddis,  midge, isoperla, and BWO life cycle patterns work.    So do traditional attractors in small sizes.  A few golden stoneflies are also present.    As summer comes on any traditional terrestrial pattern works well.

Experience tells me that large rivers tend to intimidate entry level fly-fishers.  Small streams  are almost like a laboratory situation where all things are in a smaller scope and more easily observed.  That means small water is more quickly understood  with respect to realizing where fish hold within, where they move to feed, and where they seek cover.  Essentially all these are more “concentrated” in a small water siting.  It also seems that trout in smaller waters are inherently more aggressive when feeding is considered.  This results in a consistency in feeding that larger waters do not always offer.  It follows from this that the fly-fisher will have more chances per given amount of time to learn how to respond to  feeding fish.  Thus it is to a small stream that I take or recommend to a rank beginner, and Birch Creek is one of the best for this purpose.   Afterwards it is up to that person to  take lessons learned to be sharpened and expanded on through fishing larger waters.

 

 

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Paul Reservoir

 

Paul Reservoir

This one is easily driven to, but is off the beaten path.  Go north on Interstate-15 from the Snake River Plain past Spencer.  Just before you come to the Idaho-Montana border, turn off at the Humphrey exit. Go left under the Interstate, then right onto a gravel road. There isn’t much out here, just a ranch or two as the road makes a big arc just beneath a mountain range that marks the Idaho-Montana border, also the Continental Divide.  For a while you do not see any water, just high desert, and likely begin to wonder if this is another “wild goose chase.”  Then to your left a creek appears and you begin to cross small tributaries.  This is Modoc Creek, and it is loaded with brookies of which a nine-incher is a braggin’ fish.  Further on the road fords a few other tribs, then climbs a rise.  You have come a bit over twelve miles when Lo and Behold, that rise is a dam, and Paul Reservoir is behind it.  It owes its presence to the need for water in the arid valley below.  Stock need it, and without the stored water, not enough hay could be grown to support them. Look around at this gentle little reservoir in a hollow.  One side is sage brush covered slope, and the other is a pine forest hosting a few primitive campsites.  Here is a great place to take a physically challenged person or introduce a youngster to still water fishing.  From the dam launching flotation gear is easy, or one can simply fish from shore and nearby.

So what does this oval shaped reservoir, about a third of a mile long, host with respect to fish?  IDF&G keeps a good population of cutthroat trout within.  Some years the population is better than others.  The normal aquatic insect cycle  takes place here.  Midges can emerge throughout the season. Dragonflies begin theirs early followed by damselflies then callibaetis which go from mid to late summer.   Resident leaches and snails become easy protein for the hosted cutthroat.  What about those hosted cutts, you ask?  They are usually co-operative when one presents imitations of the previously mentioned food forms.   So a lightweight outfit such as a four-weight seems to nicely apply here.  So does a nine-foot leader of four or five X tippet.  A floating line or an intermediate line is sufficient.  However, I’ve never caught a cutt here over fifteen inches!   That’s contrary to what an old cowboy told me one day while I was having rare, but unusual luck fishing callibaetis emerger patterns near the dam.  He watched me for a  while from where he was tossing a bobber and night crawler, then approached. “Looks like you’re  really gittin’  into em, but them’s a bit small ( which was true!).”  “See that, there point up the reservoir?, he gestured. “Got me a nineteen-incher there a week ago.”   All this after no one I talked to had caught anything over fifteen inches!  So I knew what was going on; he wanted my location!  So just to frustrate him, I continued to present and catch fish.  He walked away to a spot a quite bit closer to me than where he began.  In any case not many folks fish here, and you cannot find a safer still water place for a youngster or a person with particular needs to fish.   Just be ready to eat a bit of dust along that gravel road when you leave or return to Interstate-15!

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Grey’s River

Grey’s River

Whether you intend to visit this area or if you reside nearby, put the Grey’s River on your “have to try” list for next August and/or September.  Without a doubt, this western Wyoming river is one of the most beautiful high country rivers on earth.  Mostly of moderate gradient,  it flows mainly through pine forests but has some meadow reaches especially in upstream locations.  Once you get to Alpine Wyoming via either US highway 89-91 or US Highway 26, look for the Grey’s River Road heading east out of  “downtown” Alpine.  If you need a Wyoming license, fly-fishing gear, accommodations, or a good meal, Alpine can serve you well.  Back to the Grey’s River road.  Just the drive along it is worth a trip, and not having a good camera in possession is a tragedy.  For better than forty miles the Grey’s River Road parallels the river which at times is a stone’s throw away, then other times out of sight.   It is one of the better maintained gravel roads anywhere.  Along the road, mostly in its middle reaches, are some of the best US Forest Service campgrounds that can be found.  These make  great locations for anglers wishing to stay within casting range for days to enjoy fishing the river.  With exception of a few large ranches, the river courses through Bridger-Teton National Forest.  Thus access is not  problem.

The Grey’s drains the country between the Wyoming Range and the Salt River Range.  It’s beginnings are above elevation 6000 feet and no where is it below 5000 feet.  All this makes it a run-off stream of major proportions.   That’s why we cannot recommend fishing it until around late July in normal run-off years.  So let’s look at what this river offers with respect to fishing.  Snake River fine spotted cutthroat trout and mountain whitefish are the natives.  In the lower reaches one can encounter a few brown trout.  I use to believe that a sixteen inch cutt would be a braggin’ fish from the Grey’s. Was I ever wrong!   After concentrating a few years back on some undercut banks  with ant patterns, I nailed a couple of eighteen inch guys.  LeRoy, one of my fishing buddies did even better by fooling a twenty-two inch beauty.   Another prime place to concentrate attention would be where willows overhang a deeper run.  Fish residing here have “double cover” from depth and the overhang.  So laying here looking for drifting food items gives them comfort.  If you fish early in the late July time frame, you may see golden stoneflies emerging and cutts sipping them.   About the same time PMDs will begin a summer-long emergence and attract fish with their activity.  Afternoons will be the best time to enjoy the PMDs because,  as with all  “non-tailwater” high country rivers, time is required for water to warm up to their activity levels.  Caddisflies are plentiful all along the river, and some late afternoon swarms  can invade your eyes, ears, nose, and throat.  In the September time frame tricos will make for some morning fishing, but generally afternoon to early evening  are the best times for dry fly fishing.  Presenting nymph patterns can be good throughout the day.

Here’s a couple of thoughts to consider for the Grey’s River.  Below the Little Grey’s River confluence the river flows at a higher gradient through a canyon beloved by local kayakers and rafters down to near the confluence with the Snake River (beneath the topmost part of Palisades Reservoir early in the season).  Further upstream above the Murphy Creek Bridge fishing is permitted with artificial flies and lures only.  Throughout this reach the river can be waded with care.  The bottom consists mostly of rocks and cobbles. You might encounter a few drift boats or rafts on the river above Murphy Creek bridge, but that is only a once in a while happening.   Afternoon thundershowers are always possible here, and heavy ones can discolor the river to a coffee and cream color.  But normally the Grey’s River runs as clear and sparkling as any stream can.   If you decide to give the Grey’s a try, don’t forget that camera!

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Big Lost River

Have you seen Tim’s recent Big Lost River contribution to our fishing report? What he offers is typical for fishing success this time of year on the river downstream of Mackay Dam.  Midge activity and an increasing chance for BWOs appearing as we advance into early spring can make for great winter fishing.  Pick a blue-bird day, string up your four- or five-weight system with a floating line,  and bundle up for a most enjoyable time.  At the time of this writing flows are about 111 cfs out of the dam thus making for easy wading.  That’s typical of flows now as water users begin storing water in the reservoir for the upcoming agricultural season.  Increases to around 200 cfs are possible, but if anything such an action gives fish more overhead cover thus reducing their skittishness.  Right now snow depth is not much along the river below the dam, so access is easy.

In general fishing success  this time of year can be more reliable than during the irrigation season when flows out of Mackay Dam can vary up and down abruptly at times putting fish down for a few days.  The Big Lost River Valley below the town of Mackay relies heavily on agriculture for economic well being, and the demand for water at critical times during the growing season takes priority over any recreational use.  At the end of the agricultural season flow out of Mackay Dam is again reduced as  storage in the reservoir above begins, and fishing success once again becomes more consistent.  So even though great fishing can be had during the summer months, especially when golden stoneflies or flavs are active and terrestrial insects populate banks, it is wise to watch for any abrupt changes in flow.  With reduced flows late in the irrigation season a real feature on the river here is the morning trico emergence.  That brings fly-fishers from all points to enjoy resulting activity.  After tricos wane, it is back to the autumn midge and BWO activity much like the current late winter-early spring activity.  Then as during this time of year it is not a bad idea to have a streamer or wooly bugger pattern along  to try for some of the lunker rainbows that sulk in deep holes and undercuts.

Just below Mackay Dam and around the campground there is good access to the river.  Remembering that you are with in legal actions by staying within the high water level of the stream bed, you can fish anywhere.  Downstream, closer to town, private land prevails and some land owners discourage access. Others, however will grant access to those asking with a diplomatic approach.  I recall an incident decades ago on the river that guaranteed me access over a piece of private land. This happened below town, but likely remains a good strategy.  We had asked for permission to access the river to end a float trip further down the valley.  We were given reluctant permission.  We put in at the Darlington Bridge with most of the trip going through private land.  During the way we picked up all kinds of garbage and offal.  When we ended the trip the land owner came out of the field he worked in. When he saw the load of garbage we had, he asked if we had picked it up along the river in his property.  To our affirmative answer he offered; ” If you did that for me, you can come here any time you want to fish!”  Another incident got me trespass permission just outside of Mackay. We were within the high water level of the river, but the observing land owner  reminded us to stay within or we would be trespassing.  Luckily I tied into and landed a rainbow a bit under twenty inches as that land owner observed.  On reviving the gorgeous rainbow and releasing it, the landowner offered “That’s great!  Now I can enjoy that fish. C’mon back any time you want to fish here.”

Most folks in the valley want you to enjoy the exceptional fishing the Big Lost River offers for miles below Mackay Dam.  Your visit has economic value.  There is our usual stop for breakfast or dinner at one of the fine restaurants in the valley, and we do the same at C-stores for a lunch and liquid refreshment.  If you are coming from afar and wish to fish a number of days on the river, motels or B&Bs here will welcome you, especially this time of year when tourists are few.   So consider a visit to this unusually productive river before irrigation flows make it tougher to fish.

 

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Beula Lake

Beula Lake

See that lake in the foreground of the “lookin’ south” areal  picture above?  That’s Beula Lake in the southwest area of Yellowstone National Park.   It is also one of the Park’s largest lake (a bit over 100 acres)  hosting Yellowstone cutthroat trout as the sole salmonid.  You cannot say that about larger Park lakes such as Yellowstone and Heart because they also host lake trout.  Trout Lake also hosts cutthroat-rainbow hybrids.  If I were to take a fly-fisher asking to catch cutthroat trout somewhere, especially in a back country setting, Beula Lake would be a top candidate for catching one.

Again, let’s look at the  picture above.  The trail head to Beula Lake is on the Ashton-Flagg Road at the east end of Grassy Lake Reservoir. You can see the trail’s trace towards the right through the skinny jackpine forest in the above picture. It ends at the southwest corner of the lake, a distance of 2.75 miles.  The first half mile from the trail head is uphill, but the rest is flat until you drop about 100 yards to the lake. There is a way to avoid this uphill pitch, but it is best described here in the shop.  That’s Fall River coming  into the southeast side of the lake. Fall River exits the lake at the northwest corner cascading down to flow through the first of stair-step meadows on exiting the Park and on into Idaho.  The elevation here is almost 7500 feet, so being in reasonable shape for the walk is advised.  There are three primitive campsites along the west shore of the lake.  Any one  of these can be used for an overnighter through the Park’s back country reservation system, but a day trip is totally practical.   Now let’s talk fishing.

The season here begins as soon as the USFS opens the Ashton-Flagg Road to traffic. That means after the road is dried. This is big snow country, so opening usually happens late in  June.  Much of Beula can be fished from the shoreline.  Just follow the fisherman trail around the lake to one of the several locations with shallow wading and allowing  back cast room.  Waders help, but are not necessary.  Beula cutts are not particular; any of your favorite small or medium sized  bead head nymph or leech patterns will attract cutts averaging 10-16 inches, but ranging to a bit over 20 inches.   A floating line and nine foot leader with  3-4X tippet  is all that is needed for presentation.  Damselfly action can be expected by the end of June, and speckled duns begin emerging in July.  So life cycle patterns for these two insect types work well any time, and the gulper fishing when they emerge can be terrific.  I’d mentioned wading as being effective for Beula, but if you are in good enough shape to pack a float tube in, you will have even better fishing.   Insulated waders may be best  for the water temps in the high fifties in degrees Fahrenheit.  Get  in front of the lily pad beds and pitch flies back towards the lilys or go to the inlet for non-stop action.  Thirty to forty fish days are common this way.  Again, going to the picture above, you can see Hering Lake  just to the south of Beula. You will need a float tube to fish Hering effectively, but your reward can be cutthroats ranging  to over four pounds.  But that is not every year.  Hering is not as hospitable as Beula, and trout get trapped in it when water connecting the two lakes recedes in springtime.  Some years only a few fish get trapped in Hering,  but competition is lower here , so they grow to larger sizes.  By September another food form is important on these two lakes.  That would be from the ant swarms that frequent the area.  When they fall in good numbers onto the lake surfaces, trout key on them with enthusiasm.  Around the end of September to the first of October the season begins ending here.  That is mainly because of weather.  Rain or snow storms can make the Ashton-Flagg Road tough for other than four-wheel drive vehicles, but when blue bird days extend into October, Beula (and Hering) can be spectacular fishing.  Just keep an eye on the sky for a change in the weather.  Any time you venture here bring potable water, ultra violet protection, and a reliable raincoat.  You will be for a unique and great back country fly-fishing experience.

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Damage Potential to the Henry’s Fork at the Grandview Access

Anglers treasure the reach beginning just below Lower Mesa Falls Campground and ending at the Stone Bridge below the Warm River confluence. Waters of the reach host bountiful rainbow and a few brown trout with individuals ranging to several pounds. During springtime large stonefly emergences one of the most popular float and fly-fish trips on the Henry’s Fork is through here. From here also begins a water trip to experience one of the most remote reaches of the Henry’s Fork. This reach of the Henry’s Fork is also much valued by wildlife photographers, rafting enthusiasts, and sightseeing tourists. For several decades, beginning in the mid twentieth century, its use has been a significant part of Fremont County economy. Users rent lodging and vehicles, hire guides, and patronize eateries and other retail outlets within the County. Access to float the river here begins just below Lower Mesa Falls Campground and requires portaging boats, rafts and such for a few hundred yards down a steep and erosion prone slope. Through decades of use over multiple descending routes the slope has suffered erosion to the degree that sediments from it threaten to enter the river to foul water quality and fish habitat. Finally observing damage to the slope through portaging all types of boats downward over these routes, but realizing the public popularity of its use, the United States National Forest Service (USFS) studied potential here for environmental impact. Results of the study indicated that a trail down the slope, not to quicken descent, but to establish a single pathway for portaging soft-sided boats only will minimize chances for sediment eroding into the river. Hard sided boats, usually weighing much more and being more rigid than soft sided boats, dig deeper into the slope and move down it more quickly thus increasing potential for erosion. The USFS therefore established the lowest impact pathway with maintainable water bars down the slope to the river. The USFS also provided soil for plant material to re-vegetate the slope that would provide a natural barrier for impeding sediment from entering the river. The USFS will monitor the effects of use on this pathway on the slope. Although this is a hazardous route to the river and not advocated by the USFS, plans are to keep it open after discussions with fishing guides and other users. Despite establishment of the restrictive trail down the slope, it now appears that some users are pioneering trails to portage hard sided boats down to the river. Such actions make increased potential for sediments to enter the river. In an effort to prevent misuse down the slope, the Snake River Cutthroats and the Upper Snake River Fly-Fishers of Idaho Falls and Rexburg respectively are combining to establish signing at the top of the established pathway to indicate that restrictions are in place and the reasons for them being established. Members of these clubs and Trout Unlimited encourage other anglers and users to honor the restrictions here and to assist the USFS in policing the established trail. Any observed violation of this trail to the river should be reported to the USFS Ashton District Ranger Station: 208-652-7442.

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Aldous Lake

 

Aldous Lake

 One August day about twenty years ago I traveled with wife Carol and Jessie our Lab to the Aldous Lake trail head north of the Clark County ranching community of Kilgore.  Our plans were to spend the night away from civilization, relax, and do some hiking and fishing.   We packed overnight camping gear, float tube, waders, fly fishing equipment, and enough for a few good meals during the stay.  On arriving at the trail head around late morning, I curiously noticed a  parked sedan.  It sported Utah registration plates and rental car identity.  We geared up, hiked the mile and a quarter up to the lake and saw a lone float tuber on it.  We set up camp and noticed cutthroat trout rising as expected to emerging speckled duns on the lake.   I donned waders, strung up with a speckled dun emerger pattern, hopped into the float tube, and paddled out on the lake.  Catching was easy, and I began comparing the experience with the lone float tuber.  To my surprise he responded in a thick New York accent.  How in heck did he find this place!  So I had to ask how because this remote little lake rich in cutthroat trout is off the beaten path.

” I came to Idaho to fish the Henry’s Fork, but crowds around the Last Chance-Harriman offered little solitude.  So I stopped at Mike Lawson’s Henry’s Fork Anglers asking for fishing with solitude.  They suggested this place, so I rented a float tube and fins, picked up some speckled dun patterns, and here I am.   I got here a few hours before you and have had some of the best trout fishing of my life.  Problem is I gotta leave soon to take this gear back to Mike’s, drive to Salt Lake, turn in the car, and catch an early morning flight back to LaGuardia.  Sad to be leaving such a great time.”

Having a great time catching cutts ranging to around twenty inches was no problem that day, and doing so without any other anglers around was a real treat.  Aldous Lake, no more that a pond, offers that experience if you are willing to pack a float tube and waders for a mile and a quarter up a well-maintained, non-motorized trail. You get there after traveling Interstate-15 to Dubois, Idaho. There you exit and go east on county highway A2 to Kilgore.  From there you hang a left ( go west) to the nearby East Camas-Ching Creek Road, take a right and follow the road to its end at the trail head.  From the Island Park area, take the Yale-Kilgore Road west to Kilgore.  After a short but exhilarating hike, you come to the lake on the south side of the Centennial Range, and just below the Continental Divide.  Yellowstone cutthroat trout inhabit the lake.   Some limited spawning occurs in the outlet, so from time to time IDF&G enhances their population.  All you need to enjoy these cutts is a floating line, long leader, and reasonable physical condition.  If you choose to wade, bring your roll casting skills because most of the shoreline is forested.  But a packable float tube gets you onto the lake to enjoy cruising cutts picking off emerging damselflies in late June or speckled duns emerging from late July into September.  The same cutts will take small leech or scud patterns just about any time.   The mostly uphill walk to the lake pretty much guarantees only a few anglers being present, and even fewer will pack a float tube.  Bring potable water, a shielding hat, and sun screen.  You will be in for a near wilderness experience.

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Shoshone Lake

Shoshone Lake

 

It’s the largest roadless lake in the lower forty-eight states. That is thanks to being in Yellowstone National Park.  At a bit over twelve square miles it is a distant second in size of Park lakes to Yellowstone Lake.  Historically barren of salmonids until the late nineteenth century, it was stocked with lake trout from the Great Lakes and with brown and brook trout.  So well did these adapt that for a while a commercial fishery operated on the lake to supply Park hotels with table fare.  This activity was stopped when fish stocks in the lake diminished early in the twentieth century.  Later, power boats were eliminated from the lake  in an effort to maintain its pristine character. That restriction, thankfully, remains to this day.

Because Shoshone is roadless, trails and a river trip up its outlet Lewis River are the only means of approach. The water trip requires crossing Lewis Lake and traveling up the river in a non-motorized manner.  Several trails go to the lake,  the longest being from Bechler Ranger Station or even Old Faithful,  trips of over twenty-five  miles to Shoshone’s west end.  To the east end and outlet, a trail begins just north of  Lewis Lake, follows along a ridge above the river and ends near the Shoshone Lake Ranger Station, a distance of about five miles.  The shortest trail to the lake begins off the Old Faithful-West Thumb Junction road and follows Delacey Creek to the lake, a distance of three miles.  This is the easily traversed Delacey Creek Trail which leads close to one of the best fishing spots ( see the above picture) on the lake. Only problem is the angler needs to pack a float tube  or similar floatation device to get out in the lake to realize the superb fishing  at this location. Shoreline fishing is also possible at this location, but a good day doing so might result in on one or two fish. Out in the lake here, especially about one hundred yards, along the eastern shoreline,  are weed beds which host food forms such as leeches, scuds, aquatic insect life cycle forms, and forage minnows. These weed beds therefore attract numerous foraging  juvenile lake trout, brown trout and relatively rare brook trout.  All the visiting fly-fisher must do is paddle out to these and use a full-sinking line and moderately strong (2X) nine foot leader to get down to these beds, usually around fifteen feet below, with patterns that imitate these food forms, and action will come.  Action comes from juvenile lake trout, usually measuring between seventeen and twenty-two inches, and some of the most beautiful brown trout alive.  These range up to twenty-five inches and fight as well as their lower elevation brothers and sisters.  When usual wind is not roughening the lake surface, fish can be seen around the weed beds in the ultra-clear water.

There is also another “must” for fishing the lake in this manner: insulated waders or enough layers of clothing underneath waders to keep body parts in the forty-five degree water warm enough to function.  A good shielding hat for sunlight protection and a raincoat in case of afternoon thundershowers should be packed.  While on the lake mosquitoes are not pesty,  but they can be on the trail.  So a repellent high in DEET content is recommended.  If one packs food, this must be hung in trees to keep away from bears.  Better yet, take  food items out onto the lake.  Bringing potable water is not required, but is recommended.  A current Park fishing license is required, and so is a non-motorized  ($10 in 2012) boat permit for using a float tube or similar device.  Both permits can be obtained at Park ranger stations and at the West Yellowstone Visitor’s Center.  Fishing Shoshone Lake in this manner makes for a full day, and plenty of excellent restaurants  in the Park at such as Old Faithful and Grant Village, outside the Park in West Yellowstone, along the highway to Jackson, or in Jackson itself will beckon.  There is also the option of reserving one of a few primitive  campsite near this part of the lake for an overnight stay. Either way; day trip or overnight,  Shoshone Lake offers a true wilderness experience with the only motorized sound coming from an occasional overhead airplane.

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