Monday, July 20, 2009

Grand Mesa, Silver Jack, Colorado

Silver Jack>

My kid brother had a beautiful wedding in Colorado. My father and I arranged to have the prior week off of work together so we could hang out and fish. Also, my nephew John Foster IV came along. Its HOT in late July in South Western Colorado -- mid-nineties every day, so we fished the high country in my 12' jon boat.

a View of Eggleston Lake>

I took my dad up to the Grand Mesa which is the biggest, highest mesa in the world, and it just so happens to be littered with beautiful high meadow lakes and kah-jillions of trout. Dad and I had a FANTASTIC time fishing Eggleston Lake.

We found ourselves at the end of the long, skinny lake; all the fish were crowded down there and so were a bunch of heifers. Dad made lo'ing sounds at them and they not only responded they crowded around the shore as if he were some kind of Cow Messiah, calling them to the water.


Seems like Dad caught a fish every five minutes, fishing Berkeley Power Nuggets under a bobber. He and I agree that bobber fishing is just downright fun. The trout were very cooperative and we eventually left Eggleston with a nice stringer. We moved up the road to Vela Reservoir, where we were stymied -- it seemed as if there were no fish there at all. We kept on fishing since it was too late in the day to move to another place. As the sun went down the lake came alive; soon it was literally boiling with fish. We had to laugh at our earlier assumption that there were no fish at all.

grand mesa,vela reservoir

Fishing like that with my Dad is something I haven't done in probably 30 years. It was so fun. We should have been doing that this whole time, but you know how it is. We agreed that we should fish together every chance we get now, and I hope we get a lot more chances!

silver jack,john foster

My Nephew John and I fished the Silver Jack Reservoir, which I think is closer to Telluride rather than Montrose. Also a beautiful coliseum of fishing. The whole reservoir was deserted when we arrived -- we had it all to ourselves. I think this might have been one of the first times that John and I had hung out alone together. It was nice getting to know each other better. And we brought home a nice stringer for my mom.

silver jack

After leaving the Silver Jack Res, John and I decided to drive down a rough side rode looking for "Rowdy Lake". As we approached the lake a herd of cows started running straight toward us. Not knowing anything about cows I decided to get us out of there so I turned us around and we started flying back up the road, trying to stay ahead of the herd. The cows were FAST and the road was hella bumpy. In a near-hallucinatory scene that I hope I never forget: the truck stereo was blasting 50-cent, a herd of cows was running right next to the us, seemingly in time with the rhythm, the sun blazed on the yellow grass and the sky was so blue at 10,000 feet, things were flying all around the cab, and I looked in the rear view mirror just in time to see the cooler, which was in the boat, bounce open and ejaculate dead fish and bloody but shiny blue ice up into the air. I stopped the truck as the herd curved away ahead of us. I was able to scoop up 5 of the 6 fish and put them back in the cooler -- the 6th fish is still on that dirt road somewhere.

vela reservoir,grand mesa

Several times we got a line caught in the motor and I'd have to take it off to untangle it. Of course this is also the time when my rod would catch a fish! This is the only fishing picture of me on the trip.

Fishing the Grand Mesa. With my father. Fishing the Silver Jack. With my nephew. Precious times.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Secret Lake with Rex Takasugi

secret lake
Me, wet, at the Secret Lake, photo by Rex Takasugi

Took Thursday off to guide my friend, Rex Takasugi, to the Secret Lake that I had such a good time at last summer. We met up at the North Bend Bar and Grill for a yummy, heavy breakfast before driving up near a mountain pass to hike to the lake. Rex hiked in his waders with his 15lb Fish Cat 4 strapped to his back, looking for all the world like a giant, 8' tall beetle. To his credit, we made great time on the hike; from the cars to the lake in only 75 minutes. My new GPS says the elevation gain is 1000 feet, which is more than I thought it was.

secret lake,rex takasugi
Photo by Rex Takasugi

As for the fishing; Rex's amazingly detailed fishing report describes it better than I will, but let me summarize for you. We fished for six hours, but really only caught fish in a 30 minute window when suddenly all the fish in the lake went wild. Rex netted three fish, though he had hooked many more. All his rainbows in the 13-16" range. Above is a beautiful picture of one of them.

I caught two fish, about 17" each, on a mayfly imitation that I tie with just peacock herl and grizzly hackle (when I got home I tied 6 more of them!). Each fish was dark with spawning colors. This was my second trip with my Sevylor Trail Boat and I accidentally "popped it" by beaching it on some sharp rocks. My friend Vlad will show me how to repair it I hope!

secret lake,rex takasugi
Rex Takasugi

To me, the Secret Lake was nice, but the day was really about Fishing with Rex. The day is coming when his name will jump to your mind when you think "modern PNW fly-fishing masters." I am lucky to have fished with him a few times. He is a graceful, delightful gentleman.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Thorp Lake

I have been dreaming of going to Thorp Lake for years since I first saw it on a map. Once I even drove around trying to find the trailhead. Many times over two winters I have searched the internet for trip reports and tried to imagine what it was like to be there. On Sunday, the 5th of July, I finally made it. But before we get to my report, remember how I skipped church on Father's Day to go fishing with my buddy Vlad?

thorp lake trail
Thorp Lake

I did go the following Sunday because I was an usher. At the end of the service our lay leader, Denise, had an announcement, she said "Normally we do this on Father's day, but this person wasn't here on Father's day." THAT got my attention. Then she said some very kind words about volunteering, joy, energy, passion and youth. I was sweating and my heart pounding. She announced that this year's Father of the Year was David Holmes. Ernie Jenner, our old lay leader, was at my side in an instant and he literally dragged me to the front of the congregation, who were all on their feet, beaming. I was overcome and could barely speak. I croaked about how much I loved them all and accepted the following certificate.

Father of the Year

I don’t think I can adequately express how meaningful this is to me. It’s not the certificate or the award, but the love and appreciation of the people that I care so deeply about. Its true that I've put in a few hours volunteering this year but I am happy to help. I feel the grace of God giving me peace when I do good works. And that's all I'm going to say about that!

thorp lake trail

Back to the report: to get to Thorp Mountain you have to go past it, through Roslyn and then approach from the East -- this makes for about a 90 minute drive. Maybe longer if you stop for a burger like I did. I accidently, but conveniently, dripped ketchup all over myself so that if I were eaten by a bear or cougar on the trail I would be pre-condimented.

thorp lake trail

The trailhead is not marked so you kind of have to know where to go. A new Garmin Colorado 300 GPS helped get me started. The trail follows the creek along the valley floor. Then it goes straight up, gaining 1000' in less than a mile. I took it very slowly and arrived at the lake at 4:00pm. Two hours to hike 2.5 miles. I'm SO SLOW.

First view of Thorp Lake

As you can see from the pictures, the trail is just plain GREEN. Green everywhere! And when you get to the lake, well its green, too! A deep forest green. It was beautiful. I don't think my pictures do it justice. I skirted around the lake to a rocky point and started assembling my new Sevylor trail boat. Fish were rising and splashing, including a big splash by the rockfall. A happy young couple were walking around the lake -- I could see their tent pitched right at the perfect spot on a wedge of land sticking into the middle of the U-shaped lake.

thorp lake

The water was surprisingly warm! Swimmable for sure, which is surprising given that Thorp Lake resides at 4600 feet. I think I hooked all four fish in the lake but they all got off due to my inexperience with the new trail boat and the requirement of fishing while not holding the rod. I'm sure I hooked the fish who made the large splash -- he had some good heft and I'm guessing he was 14 or 15". But in the end, after three exciting hours of alpine lake fishing, I was technically skunked! I beached my craft at 7:45pm and started the long hike back to the truck.

thorp lake trail

Just as with the hike up, I didn't see another soul on the hike down. The steep trail down makes for shaky knees. Arrived at the truck at 9:00 and then finally, home at 11:00pm. Thorp Lake was more beautiful than I had figured. I intend to return next year! Maybe with some friends.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

July 4th Middlefork Adventures

middle fork snoqualmie slough

As a fisherman in the Snoqualmie Valley, I am fortunate enough to go to church with local entreprenuer and outdoorsman Bryan Finney, who has been scouting out the three river forks for twenty years or more. Last weekend he called me up and invited me to visit an absolutely incredible slough in the Middlefork valley. I said "sure!" and before too long we were stomping down a fisherman's trail to the slough.

middle fork snoqualmie
Bryan Finney with a slough cutthroat

The Slough doesn't show up on maps which is crazy because its absolutely gigantic; it just goes on and on and on. We fished the long S-shape for three hours and still didn't cover it all. We caught a mix of largemouth bass and trout. Here's a picture of me after I lost the largest cutt of the day, which was perhaps 13".

middle fork snoqualmie
The One the Got Away

At some point, Bryan mentioned that the river has a neat little run behind the slough.

So the next day, Casey and went back there. We walked past the slough and tried to find the river. We wandered around the hot, bug-infested jungle for 45 minutes. We even bumped into another dad and his girls who were looking for the same river access! Finally, Casey and I followed an old creekbed and found the run that Bryan was talking about.

middle fork snoqualmie

As I was setting up to fish, Casey yelled "Ewwww! Dad, there's a snake here with a dead fish!" I came around the rock, took the following video. Note, the sculpin isn't dead: if you look closely you can see it gulping air.

Normally snakes swallow things head first -- that way fins and limbs can fold back and be swallowed whole. This juvenile snake hasn't learned that lesson yet I guess. He eventually had to spit out the fish (now dead).

middle fork snoqualmie
Photo by Casey

In the end, the snake was a better fisherman than I; I caught nothing. Good looking water though.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Middlefork Campground

Our Campground

I haven't been camping in over ten years. As part of my master plan to become an alpine lake ninja I have to get back into it. So Thursday night Casey and I started the long holiday weekend by driving 45 minutes to beautiful the new Middlefork campground on the Middle fork of the Snoqualmie River.

Taylor River Bridge

To Casey's delight, the camp host, Pete, let us drive the camp's golf cart around the camp. Then Casey and I went to explore parts of the nearby Taylor River, which had, this winter, washed out the bridge. In case you were wondering if it was still possible to get around the washout, well, look at the picture.

Pump some water

Then we walked around the camp to find the old-timey water pump. We filled a bucket for camp use. There's something very quaint about pumping your own water.

Makin Dinner

Weinies and Cup'Noodles make for good Bachelor food for camping. I'm not a cook by any stretch but I thoroughly enjoyed getting us fed that night. Especially using the new $50 camp pot set that Vlad recommended (GSI Dualist).

Breakfast is iPod!

We slept very well, even though our neighbors had told us that last year everyone had been chased out there by a hungry, aggressive bear. Casey slept in his underwear. In the morning I got up and made myself coffee. Casey wouldn't eat the oatmeal I bought so he had the last weinie for breakfast. In the picture you can see the AMAZINGLY TINY camp stove, which is in the process of boiling the water when this picture was taken.

Taylor River Bridge

The campground was exactly what we needed for our maiden camping voyage. We had a great time and I, for one, can't wait to go camping again! Next time will probably be Mirror Lake or some other hike-to-camp option.