<![CDATA[Crimson Jaw - Blog]]>Thu, 31 Dec 2015 12:01:15 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Legwork]]>Wed, 23 Dec 2015 23:14:13 GMThttp://www.crimsonjaw.com/blog/legworkGenerally, any time we set off into unfamiliar terrain in pursuit of a new fishing adventure, we recognize that there is some level of risk.  Being completely unfamiliar with an area or a target species means that there is a lot that can go wrong, which could cause you to come up empty handed.  A lot of times, the more risk involved, the more satisfying the reward when things pan out.  There is something you can do to minimize risk, and maximize your chance of success.  Something simple.  It's called research.  There are so many resources in our modern world that can be utilized to study up on whatever your pursuit is.  In fact, there's no excuse to show up completely unprepared.  However, sometimes, even after you've read and studied what seems to be all that exists on the subject, things still turn out different on the ground than you had anticipated.  That is when the difference between success and failure comes down to good old fashioned LEG WORK.  And a lot of times, the more you put in, the more you get out!
Two summers ago we made the acquaintance of one of the baddest species out there: Bull Trout.  After the first taste, we knew we'd need more, so this past Summer we decided to make a quick Bully trip to a new area where neither of us had ever been before.  This new area is a vast, remote region, and a lot of it is roadless.  Bull Trout are a migratory fish and can be pretty elusive, so we knew that to find where they were in this huge expanse at the time we were going to be there would take some significant research.  A couple of months before the trip we went to work, studying and reading at every chance.  Scientific papers turned out to be an invaluable resource to us.  (Anyone who is a college student has access to a massive library of incredible knowledge in scientific papers that most people would normally have to pay for. Take advantage!)  By the time we were leaving, we figured we had a pretty good idea of where to be and when to find some Bull Trout.  But it turned out to be more complicated than that.

Day 1
After a quick stop for a delicious sandwich at a small town brewery, we found our intended base camp pretty quickly and uneventfully.  It was already evening, but we were full of anticipation and excitement.  After setting up camp we did some recon/scouting on the surrounding water.  We started to get a little worried.  Not only did we not spot any bullies, we didn't see any signs of any fish!  Remaining optimistic, we got a fire going and talked about our game plan for the following day.

Day 2
After a quick breakfast, we dropped down onto the stream below where we were camped.  The stream was a tributary on the upper end of the system.  It was July, and from what we had read, the migratory fish should have been nearing spawning areas in the higher portions of the drainage.  For July, the morning was still super cool and hopping into a cold mountain stream in Chacos was painful.  We began wading upstream, onward and onward.  It was pretty small water, and fish would be pretty easy to spot.  Again we saw nothing.  A ways upstream was an even smaller tributary that was supposedly the final destination for a good population of spawning adults, so we decided to forge on thinking that maybe they had already made it to the area.  We made it to the trib, and began bushwhacking our way up, looking for any signs of fish.  After more than enough miserable scrambling through thick vegetation and freezing cold water it became clear, the fish were not there.
We turned around, making the long trek back through the stream to our starting point.  We discussed what to do next and decided to try lower down in the system on the higher end of the mainstem river.  Maybe the fish just hadn't started working their way into these upper end tribs yet....  Some more cold wading, and a quick car ride later, we were at spot number two for the day.  Instead of a small stream it was a small river, but still didn't seem to have much of the deep holes that Bull Trout prefer to hang out in.  Still curious, we rigged up again and began wading this reach of the river.  And we waded, and waded, and didn't see anything.  Spirits were suffering, but were bolstered with a quick dose of excitement.  We came around a bend in the river and spotted  fish.  They weren't bull trout, but it was still exciting.  It was a pair of massive Chinook digging up a redd at the tailout of a shallow hole.  Slightly reinvigorated we pressed on upstream just to be sure we wouldn't see anything else.  And we didn't.  Again, we had to walk, in river, back downstream the distance we had just come.  
On to spot number three we went.  We decided to keep going downriver, covering the next logical stretch of water.  This stretch was in one of the roadless areas, so we pulled up to the trailhead and began hiking into a deep, narrow canyon.  The water looked more promising.  In this more confined terrain there were a lot of large, deep holes, with lots of huge boulders for cover.  We figured we would hike down as far as we wanted and then fish our way back upstream.  Eventually, after passing a lot of suitable looking water, we dropped down to the river and began working our way back up.  It was fairly easy to spot fish in the crystal clear water, but there was a lot of hiding places so we fished hard making sure to cover as much water as possible.  We were finally seeing fish; lots of whitefish and an occasional trout, but no confirmed Bull Trout still.  We even spotted a few more big Chinook resting in some of the deeper pools.  We caught a handful of small fish. But still no Bullies.  
Our last option was the lower end of the river.  It didn't seem logical that Bull Trout would still be that low in the system, but it was our only option left on this river, so we opted to move camp and try the lower end.  Because of the large roadless area, even though it was just 12 or 15 miles downstream from where we had been previously fishing, it took a long, convoluted drive through steep and gnarly terrain to get to our next camping spot on the lower river.
Day 3
We immediately began fishing our way up the lower reach of the river.  It was bigger water now, with trickier wading.  A few times we got excited watching fish quickly appear, attempting to ambush our streamer, but again, it appeared that none of these fish were Bull Trout.  We hiked up the river, but we were all silently doubting our chances of finding Bull Trout by this point.  Finally, we stopped and agreed that it was probably pointless to keep going, and our best bet would be to take a drive and try a new river.
As we worked our way up our new river, things began to look promising again.  It was bigger water, with nice, deep holes.  We fished our way up it, but never stayed in one place too long.  Our time was running short, and if we wanted to find these fish we knew we'd have to keep moving until we did.  They were there somewhere, we just had to find them!  
Finally, after we had driven and hiked several more miles of stream, I heard Josh yell to me from upstream.  I jogged up and asked him what was up.  Unmistakably, a Bull Trout had swung on his streamer two casts in a row!   We had found them!  Now we just had to catch a few.  I excitedly hopped into the river again and started chucking my streamer.  I was pulling through the whitewater in a plunge pool and just as I was pulling out to cast again, my line went tight.  A fish erupted out of the pool and began racing downstream.  I caught up and corralled it into a side pool where we snapped a few shots of it.
The fish we found were still fairly spread out, and it took a lot more walking to keep catching them, but we spent the next few hours wading our way up stream and consistently getting into fish.  It was gratifying.  Bull Trout are such amazing fish, and it felt so good to finally achieve what we had come to do.  You learn a lot chasing migratory fish.  
That trip and those fish taught me a lot about simply working to find fish.  By the time we finally found and started catching them, my feet were destroyed.  The miles of hiking and wading in Chacos had taken its toll.  I had blisters all around each foot, and my toes were bleeding where the straps rubbed them.  But the discomfort was easy to ignore when we were catching, big, powerful, aggressive fish deep in a beautiful mountain range.  
Day 4
Unfortunately we didn't have any more time to fish where we had the previous day.  It had been quite a journey just to get there, and we had to be back to Utah by that night.  We instead took our time as we left, stopping and exploring various other spots.  We didn't find any other Bull Trout, but we did see a lot of cool things.  Several eagles, A sow bear with two cubs, and a pool with 30 to 40 huge Chinook chilling in it.  One thing we didn't see a lot of on that trip was people.

Before leaving, we had done everything we could to prepare ourselves.  I read a LOT.  I was confident I would be able to find fish.  But in the end, success came down to our willingness to put in legwork; to walk, and walk, and walk.  When we got home, after tracing our trip on Google Earth I was astonished at how little ground we actually covered relative to the size of the area.  We barely scratched the surface.  I was immediately excited to go back and do it all again next summer.  
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<![CDATA[Backyard Natives]]>Thu, 10 Sep 2015 15:09:37 GMThttp://www.crimsonjaw.com/blog/backyard-nativesCheck out our latest edit, "Backyard Natives."  Over the summer we were able to assist with some R & D for the Colter Fly Fishing Midge rod.  We had a 4'6" 4 weight model that we took to our local creeks after work all summer to chase down cutties, and we were able to capture a lot of it on film.  Enjoy.
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<![CDATA[24 Hours: Pike Mecca Part I]]>Wed, 19 Aug 2015 21:52:15 GMThttp://www.crimsonjaw.com/blog/24-hours-pike-mecca-part-iI'm not quite sure how, when the discussions previous to the trip were going on, no one mentioned any opposition to the idea of driving to Northern Saskatchewan straight through in a day.  We were probably all just too euphoric about the idea of sight fishing to monster pike, and innocently oblivious to what 24 hours in a car really means.  Having survived the experience (twice, since we came back in a day too) I can now safely say that it is not something I would recommend.  I would, however recommend getting up to Reindeer Lake as fast as possible.  And I will say the week of fishing that we experienced was worth the hell of getting there and back.  No question.
  
The sites been pretty quiet lately, mostly because we've been busy fishing and not busy writing, but we're excited to share some of the summers good times over the next little while.  Writing about this trip to Canada seems like a daunting task.  How do you effectively share a week of some of the best fishing of your life?!  To try and do the best we can, we'll be breaking it up and sharing bits at a time.  Also, in the coming months we should have an edit in the works from all of the footage that we were able to take while we were there.
Driving to Reindeer Lake wasn't the most pleasant experience.  It was pretty smooth sailing through Utah, Idaho, and Montana, but as soon as we crossed the border into Canada (without much hassle, fortunately) things slowed down.  The speed limits were lower, the roads less maintained, and the scenery....not quite what you get while driving through Montana.  The entire Southern part of the province consists of endless, sprawling, flat prairie.  As we got further and further North the scenery began to change, and the excitement began to build.  We passed through Prince Albert, which was the last major town along the route, and before we knew it we were surrounded by pines, heading for the heart of the Boreal Forest.  I was struck by the amount of water we saw.  Every single depression was filled, forming ponds and lakes, which were connected by short flowing sections.  The forest was so thick that we would pass by entire lakes, only noticing them for the brief moment when there was small clearing along the side of the road.  
We were told to contact the guys at Trout Camp as soon as we were leaving the small town of La Ronge, as that would be the last leg of our drive.  La Ronge would also be the last chance for gas and food.  We pulled in and were served at a prehistoric gas pump. The town was small, mostly inhabited by Cree Indians, and had a disconnected, stuck-in-the-past vibe.  We ate dinner at probably the worst, and sketchiest KFC we've ever experienced, and headed out, ready for the drive to finally be over.
And that was when we discovered that those last 3 or so hours from La Ronge to Southend on Reindeer Lake are on dirt roads.  It was like a dagger to the heart, the straw that broke the camels back.  Luckily, Targhee got that manic, determined look in his eye and took over the wheel.  For the first leg of the drive he bombed those dirt roads like a trained rally racer before succumbing to fatigue and passing the baton to Colter to finish it out.  
We finally made it to Southend around midnight, 24 hours after we'd left home, but our troubles weren't over.  We weren't sure which of the many small docks/marinas/ports was our pickup point.  First we tried asking a group of local Indian girls:  "Hey, do you guys know where the Marina is?"  "No, we don't know her...." "No, like the boat ramp!" "Huh?" "You know, the place where you put your boat in the water...." "OHHHH, its just right down this road."  Except it wasn't the right one.  A few minutes later a friendly local named John Job Junior gave us some more directions before telling us about the lake trout derby that'd happened that day and asking us to "toss him a beer" (Southend is on a dry reservation).  Long story short, we ended up using some cached Google Earth Imagery to locate every possible dock, and of course it was at the last one we checked.  But all was well, our new friend Jonathan was waiting for us, and we finally made it safely to Trout Camp.
When we got to our cabin, the excitement had returned.  Too psyched to fall right to sleep, we set up tying kits and busted out a few flies to use the next day.  We ended up getting a few hours of rest before waking up to fresh breakfast and our first day of fishing.
To keep this brief, our first day was probably the stormiest and coolest, but the fishing was consistent, and I happened to land my personal biggest of the trip on the very first afternoon.  We quickly got into the swing of things, and our guides seemed to easily adjust to guiding us as fly fisherman from the aluminum boats.  The lake has such a complicated shoreline, and is so vast, that there are endless bays to explore, many of them offering perfect pike habitat.  We explored a couple of them and started getting into some fish.  Before lunch, we kept a few of the small fish (under 28") to cook up for lunch.  At lunch time our guides expertly filleted and fried the pike right on shore over a fire.  They also fried up some onions and potatoes, which we enjoyed along with baked beans and peaches!  I had no problem enjoying this heavenly meal for lunch every day of our trip!
After lunch was when I got my big one.  We were exploring a super clear bay fishing between bursts of rain.  We had already caught several fish casting toward shore at the back of the bay.  As we drifted down the shoreline I made a cast and began to strip.  With about half my line in I saw a large shadow move on my fly.  In the crystal clear water every detail of the fish became visible as it closely followed my fly.  As it came closer to the boat I gave the fly some erratic movement and he charged.  I stripped several more times and he finally committed to the eat with only a couple feet of leader left outside of the guides, right against the bow of the boat.  I set hard and watched as my loose line tore away until it reached the reel.  After putting up a solid fight we got him to the boat and snapped a few pics.  After this first day we'd be much more dedicated to filming and photographing, but boy was it a good way to start the trip out.  The rest of the time, as we'll share, was filled with these exhilarating pike eats, which makes fly fishing for them different than just about any other species.      
A HUGE thanks to the guys at Trout Camp for the unforgettable experience.  Check them out at www.troutcamp.com to make your dreams come true.
Enjoy some photos, and stay tuned for part 2 as well as some other posts in the works!
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<![CDATA[Alpine Summer]]>Thu, 18 Jun 2015 21:55:37 GMThttp://www.crimsonjaw.com/blog/alpine-summer
Generally when you think of fishing in alpine country, you imagine feisty little trout aggressively rising to whatever dry is reasonably presented, whether it be in crystal clear lakes, or meandering meadow streams.  Escaping to the high mountains has always been one of our favorite things to do in the summer, and this type of fishing is always a blast.  Here in Northern Utah we're blessed with easy access to the Uintas, which house over 1000 lakes, more than 500 of which have sport fish populations., along with over 400 miles of streams.  You could easily spend a lifetime exploring and fishing these mountains, and along the way I'm sure you'd stumble upon a few good secrets.  Another cool thing about fishing the Uintas is the access to species that you generally don't find lower down:  plentiful native Cutthroat, Arctic Grayling, and of course, Brook Trout!  After some close calls with some ridiculous Brookies this fall, we were pretty keen to get back up to the mountains and continue our pursuit of behemoth Brooks.  So far this spring/summer our persistence has been rewarded and we've stumbled upon some other pretty cool secrets along the way.
Early Spring research led to late Spring/ early Summer trips to the mountains.  The first destination was a lake known primarily for its Grayling, but that reportedly also has some solid Brook Trout if you can find them.  We arrived and eagerly began fishing to Grayling, whose rises were dimpling the otherwise glass smooth water surface.  The fish ranged in size from about 6 to 14 inches, and each time we brought one in I was amazed at the iridescent colors on their fins and flanks.  After I'd had my fill, I decided it was time to try and target any Brookies that might be around.  Stripping buggers had brought a few to reveal themselves, but none had committed to the take yet, so I put on a longish leader, a pair of nymphs, and a split shot.  I cast out to some deeper pockets and began slowly retrieving.  After surprisingly few casts, my line went tight and I set.  A strong fish immediately bull-dogged toward the middle of the lake.  After a couple of runs, a set of red fins broke the surface as the fish splashed toward shore, and I brought to hand a nice, plump and colorful Brook Trout.  We continued fishing the lake for some time and picked up a few more Brookies, but the first was the fish of the day.  We ended up continuing on to explore a nearby stream connected to the lake, and found it stacked with Grayling, likely staging to spawn.  Luckily they weren't too preoccupied to rise readily to a dry, and we had fun catching a few more quality Grayling.  It was definitely exciting and a sight to see.       
The next destination was a lake with a wild Cutthroat population along with a few Brookies.  I was pretty excited to check this spot out since I figured that our timing would align with the Cutty spawn.  The lake has two inlets, both of which provide good spawning habitat.  First, I checked out the smaller of the two, and as I suspected found it filled with Cutts getting ready to do their thing.  They weren't however in full spawn mode yet and were SUPER spooky.  A single movement from the bank sent them booking for cover under the numerous cut banks in the meadow grass.  After initially spooking the majority of the fish, I patiently settled in and waited for them to return.  When they did I was able catch a few small fish, who would race to take a fly before the larger fish I was actually casting at could.  After catching a few of these little guys I finally got a perfect drift right in front of the larger fish and watched him casually eat.  I love sight fishing, and it was so fun to watch each fish eat my fly in the crystal clear water.  The next day we went over and checked out the other inlet.  It happened to be one of the most incredible things I have ever seen.  From 100 yards above the stream on the hillside I could already see constant splashing as fish thrashed around in shallow water.  As we approached it became apparent that these fish were in the zone, and weren't nearly as spooky as the fish in the other stream.  There were more Cutthroat packed into a smaller reach of stream than I had ever seen in my life.  They were relentlessly chasing each other around, and were pretty entertaining to watch.  After walking up and down the stream and admiring the scene I couldn't resist casting to some of the larger fish, and they were more than happy to hammer my fly, often turning and chasing it down in their aggression.  It was also pretty easy to spot the white fin edges of a hand full of Brook Trout hanging out in the middle of the Cutts preparing themselves for an egg feast.  After catching a few nice Cutts, I began casting to these brookies, and was able to stick a pair of them, both of which were thick and healthy.  We were quickly satisfied, and already starting to feel a bit gluttonous, so we put our gear away, and watched as the fish returned to their positions and began to chase each other around again.      
Our final destination was a high risk, high reward type of lake.  The hike was steep and strenuous, and from what we'd heard, fish numbers aren't super high, but quality is.  After we arrived and set up camp we began walking the shore and fishing...for hours...without success.  We frustratedly watched as massive swirls broke the surface out near the middle of the lake beyond our casting range.  It seemed that with the warming weather, the fish had retreated to the deeper parts of the lakes.  In our first day, fishing all day, Josh managed one fish.  But the second day we awoke refreshed and ready to seek redemption.  Finally, after exploring the parts of the lake that we hadn't, we found a part of the shore where it was possible to wade out to a shelf that dropped quickly off to deeper water.  As soon as we found this spot, drifting and slowly twitching a streamer in the deeper water quickly began to produce fish.  And I mean FISH!!  Having never caught a Brookie of this magnitude, I had no idea how strong a fish of this size could be.  Rather than describe the details, I'll let a few pictures do the talking.
Though these fish undoubtedly left me satisfied.  But anyone who spends time in the high country, and discovers its secrets knows that the second you're home, you're already thinking about going back.  Good thing we have all summer!
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<![CDATA[Avoiding the Madness]]>Wed, 08 Apr 2015 06:10:42 GMThttp://www.crimsonjaw.com/blog/avoiding-the-madness
In fly fishing, one of the things that we (or at least I) often seek out is solitude.  Steelheading, depending on when and where you go may or may not offer this.  In Idaho, it can pretty hard to come by....  A year ago, I experienced for the first time what shoulder to shoulder really means, and for a moment it left me a little bit disenchanted with the whole steelheading experience.  It was a bit disheartening (to say the least) to be crammed in between a bunch of gear guys chucking 8 inch bobber rigs, fire blazing on the bank next to them, and hatchery fish flopping around on bank because the fisherman couldn't be bothered to stop fishing for two minutes to give them the decency of a quick death.  Such is the state of roadside stealheading I suppose.  However, after a day of dealing with this, we redeemed ourselves, finding relative solitude on our side of the river by committing to a rough, hour long bush whack.  After a day of basically having a run to ourselves and catching some amazing fish, I again felt the magic of steelheading as we connected with these revered fish that have swum hundreds of miles, overcoming eight dams in the process.  The key to enjoying it for me was to find enough solitude to have a personal experience with the river and the fish.

This year, we again managed to find some relative solitude and enjoy some time with these matchless fish.  We also got to give two friends their first taste of steel!

In our quest for some quiet reaches of river, we did stumble upon the masses, and again had a slightly less than stellar experience.  We had heard prior to our trip this year that due to the unseasonably warm weather, the run had started early this year, and that fish were distributed throughout the system much more so than in other years.  Steelhead seem to move in pulses, and as we started to explore some familiar, favorite water, we stumbled upon a later group of fish moving upstream through a long section of rapids with some significant hurdles to pass.  The reason we found this group of fish was because every gear guy within a 50 mile radius already had.  

Unfortunately for the fish, in the middle of this huge rapid is a small waterfall where the river bottlenecks along with the fish.  Lining both sides of the hole below the fall were dozens of anglers.  I perched myself on a rock above the river and observed for quite a while.  Every once in a while a fish would rocket out of the white water in an attempt to pass the falls, most of the time unsuccessfully.  The fact that any fish were even making it to the base of the falls was almost mind blowing considering how many lures they had to pass to get there.  Far more frequently than I would see a fish jump, I would see one of the fisherman drag a fish to shore and either toss it behind them or shake it free back into the water.  Worse, in the short time I sat observing I saw several people yanking hooks out of the bellies of fish that they had foul hooked.  Still worse, there were big spotlights set up so that they could continue ripping fish out of the hole through the night.  I had never seen something that seemed less sporting in all my days of fishing.    

After I had seen all that I could take, I continued to move upstream and found.....nothing... no one.... The pressure was so focused on that one hole, that no one had bothered to venture above it!  Above the hole the fish were definitely more spread out, and harder to find, but persistence paid off and each of us was eventually rewarded with a fish.  

I was fortunate enough to catch a solid, wild fish on each of the first two days, the first day a big colorful buck, and the second day a thick hen.  My father in law had similar luck, and caught his first two steelhead in two days.  Our friend Colter of Colter Compound Rods, on the other hand was feeling the pressure.  It was his first time steelheading as well, and by the end of the second day, though he had been teased by a few fish, he had yet to connect.  Finally as I sat watching from the other side of the river I saw him quickly set and watched the line go tight.  It didn't take long for the fish to work its way into the strong current toward the middle of the river and  head downstream for some rapids.  I yelled for Josh to help net, and watched one of the best fish chases/battles I've ever seen as Colter scrambled over boulders downstream, chasing the fish through the rapids.  Somehow, he successfully navigated the fish to the next run down where he landed his first steelhead.

Up until the final morning, Josh had only brought to hand one smaller, wild buck, but had had some devastatingly close encounters, losing solid fish right at the net.  The last night it drizzled a light rain all through the night.  When we got up in the morning the river had risen significantly, and turned from translucent green to chocolate.  We fished for a while along several different stretches, but our mental game was affected by the conditions.  At our last stop, minutes before we knew we had to leave, Josh, ever determined was thoroughly fishing some pockets he knew had to be holding fish, especially with the higher water.  I was watching directly above him and saw him lift his rod.  I realized it was a fish before he did, and by the time he had it on the reel to bring in, I had jumped down with the net.  After a brief but nerve racking fight, a solid hen was in the net.  A great note to end the trip on.  We had found solitude on a beautiful river, and all managed to catch some fish.  Colter and Van both got to feel addictive, powerful tug of their first steelhead, which inevitably leaves you wanting more.  Which is why we'll probably be back, trying to find fish while avoiding people.
Thanks to Colter for bringing his camera and capturing the memories.
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