Thursday, December 9, 2010

Blue river blues

Wow, it’s been a while since I posted here.  Shame on me.  And shame on the weather for ruining my fishing in the past weeks!

But I do have a couple trips from a few week to report on, which I never managed to get around to.  While I was back in Colorado for the Thanksgiving holiday I managed to get out a couple times.  One of my trips was a day trip up to the mountains to fish the Blue river.  I’ve only been to this river two other times.  One was the day after a 3x jump in water flows, so it was obviously a tough day.  If I remember right the three of us all had a fish on and I did manage to pull a single fish in.  1 total fish.  The second trip was last winter on a day where the outside temp when we arrived at the river was 10deg F.  It was cold, there was snow all over the banks, ice on all the rocks, and again only a couple fish on or caught.

So of course I was excited to go back to this river that teems with fish, and the experience was not unlike the previous trips.  In fact it was quite similar to the last time I was there.  Cold, snow everywhere, line and eyelets freezing up constantly, numb fingers and numb toes.  Here’s how warm it was:

Nonetheless, Brady and I went up to brave the cold and fight the fish.  Yes, we were the only ones man enough to fish in the cold.  The river is right below a big reservoir, which is why it fishes all winter long, and there was a pretty cool haze hanging over the reservoir.  I don’t know much about weather, but I guess the cold air mixing with the slightly less cold water creates a lot of fog.  It was pretty eerie and made me even less excited about the cold air.

But we arrived at the river put all our gear on and together anyway.  By the way, it’s pretty hard to tie on small winter flies in cold weather with cold hands and a 10mph breeze doesn’t help things any either.

That’s pretty much all I can say about the fishing.  I picked moss off my hooks and ice out of my eyelets all day with little to no action.  We each hooked and lost one nice fish and Brady’s actually bent his hook, which is pretty cool.  That’s pretty crappy for a solid 5 hours of fishing.

Brady had a nice trip though.  He managed to fall in the river when we were on our way back to the car.  Then he was unable to walk up the steep, snow-covered slope to the cars.  I got the very tail end of it on tape, but the funniest part was when he slipped back down the same ten foot section about fifteen times.  He probably didn’t find it funny since he was wet and cold but I couldn’t help laughing at him.

And the best part of all of this trip….the drive home.  You have to love ski traffic on a holiday weekend on I70.  Stop and go traffic for an hour or so was a lot of fun.  That and I got sick off a big dip that I don’t usually do but was bored so I tried it.  It didn’t work out well for me.

Oh, and I also managed to eat some tasty home-cooked and home-assembled Turducken over the weekend.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The old stomping grounds

Last weekend I was back in Boulder, Colorado for a brief fishing trip.  On a side note, I also defended my Ph.D. thesis, but that wasn't the important part of the trip.  The important part was, of course, the morning of fishing I weaseled out.  I wanted to head back to my personal area favorite the South Boulder Creek up on top of Flagstaff and below Gross Reservoir.  There is a secret portion of that river that few people hit, and thus it is full of hungry and aggressive fish.  I think you can pretty much throw anything in the river and catch on it.  I've even had fish try to eat my hot orange indicators while nymphing on multiple occasions.

I managed to convince Kevin to go with me by promising him good luck; he's new to the fly fishing sport.  I checked the flows that morning and saw that it is apparently winter now.  Good fishing up on SBC starts when the flows drop below 150cfs, give or take.  On this morning the flow was a whopping 14cfs.  Welcome to winter.  But we headed up the mountain on what was a beautiful bluebird winter morning, with a dusting of snow on the ground up higher.  After a 20 minute hike from the parking lot we put our gear together and started tossing fake bugs into the trickling water.

I managed to spook a few fish from some slow flowing water while hiking a few yards downstream, but pulled a few small ones from other places.

 I worked my way upstream, hitting all my best holes and some other places that looked good in the low water.  It didn't take too long for me to realize that all the action was going to be subsurface...way subsurface.  Most of the bigger fish were at the bottom of the deeper pools.  With that in mind I added a second dropper to get enough length to get down there.  I also decided to us my go-to winter pattern, the zebra midge.  It always produces, at least on the SBC in wintertime.

On the next cast after adding the zebra midge, I caught a nice fish.

On the next cast after catching a fish after adding the midge, I caught another bigger fish.

It was on at that point.  I caught quite a few nice fish in the deeper sections, and managed to lose a few really nice ones too.  Of course I also managed to sacrifice a few flies to the gods of the river bottom, despite the low flow.

In all, I have to admit winter fishing can be even more entertaining that in the late fall when everything is optimal.  Sure, I can catch 30-40 fish up here when things are good, but it's really as simple as throwing your flies where things look promising.  If there are fish there, they will eat no matter what you tie on.  In the winter things are more difficult, but at the same time sort of easier.  In such low flows about 70% of the river is not even fishable because it is 2 inches deep.  Thus I only have to fish the obvious sections.  On the downside the water surface is much flatter and the flow is slow, which allows the fish to see my approach much clearer and the takes are more subtle.  But being sneaky adds a bit of fun in my opinion.  Yes, I spooked quite a few nice fish, but the additional requisite for stealthiness made it an even more enjoyable experience.

Hopefully I'll get out there again soon!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Yampa Day 2

After a night of piss-poor and damp sleep (no I didn't wet myself), I finally dragged myself out of the tent and into the cold.  I was the first one up and about besides Eric who had a nice, warm and dry sleep in the back of his car like a true wuss.  Shortly after I got up and banged on the other tent people started straggling out.

Someone had the smarts to put a pot of coffee over a stove to warm us up.  It tasted like burning, but was warm so I drank some.  We started a quick fire to help warm up but had some trouble really getting it going and before long just gave up and headed off to the river.  We arrived in the parking lot and were a little surprised to see a couple other cars there too.  It was too cold and wet to be out fishing!  There was even snow on the ground, although it was quite a bit warmer than last time I was fishing with snow on the ground.

Jonathan was first to get his stuff together and head down the dusty-white trail to the river.  Some time later I was next, and I walked on down to where he was to see how it was going.  He had caught a few on small RS2's and was good enough to give me one and a shot from his flask to warm my belly.  Thanks Jonathan!

Armed with a guaranteed-to-work fly I moved a little upstream, tied on a stimulator and dropped the RS2 off the back of that.  I began tossing that combo to a few fish I could see sitting in or beside some seams and runs.  I got a few bites on the big top fly by a few fish who were too small to take it, and that was about it.  Eventually, however, I managed to catch a nice chunkster in a deeper seam.  He came in pretty easy but was a very nice fish with very good color.

I gave him a nice quick release after getting the above pic, and then moved upstream some.  I had been fishing from the trail-side bank but quickly realized that the water was pretty shallow and my best attack was going to be from the center of the river, upstream.  That way I could stay downstream of the fish so they wouldn't see me, while also getting quite close to them with no trees or banks to get in the way of my casts.  And I had luck that seemed to increases with the rising sun.  One notable catch was the fourth species of the trip so far:  a brookie.

The other species were brown, rainbow, and cutthroat (and/or cut-bow, I still can't tell the difference).

I continued my way upstream catching quite a few smallish fish that I didn't bother to photograph.  They were pretty excited to take both the BWO dry and the small emerger pattern I had on at this point.  The one annoying thing I have recognized and experienced then was when a fish bites on your dry, he covers it in water and his fish-slime.  You then have to wipe it off and/or dry it off and reapply gink or oil or whatever to keep it floating.  Everytime, no matter how small the fish which got me a little annoyed every time I would catch a small fish.  But I can't get too upset if I'm catching!

For quite some time nothing really noteworthy happened.  I kept catching tons of smaller fish and an occasional bigger fish.  Eventually, Eric and Jonathan came back down claiming that Eric had hooked into a 30-incher.  I'm sure they actually meant a nice fish and were being hyperbolic.  They had to leave, so Brady and I decided to move upstream to check out the spot where they had caught.  That proved to be a stupendous decision because we spent the rest of the day hooking and sometimes catching 20+" rainbows.  And it didn't take long.

We found a spot that looked like where Eric had explained he hooked this mystery fish, so Brady started fishing it and I said I'd move up to the next hole.  Brady quickly messed something up, I don't remember what, and just as I finished tying something on, so I started tossing into the spot he had been fishing.  Since I'm a much better fly angler, I didn't screw anything up.....which was unfortunate, because when he had his gear ready to go again he moved up to where I had planned to fish and within three casts had hooked a lunker!

He fought it for a short while and I tossed my stuff on the bank, pulled out my net, and moved to the bottom edge of the pocket water he had hooked a fish in.  Not too long after Brady got the fish to come to the surface near me where I could net it and get a picture of him with the first of many similar-sized fish.

Brady is about as good as I am, as you can see from the left picture, at handling biggish fish.

We pulled at least one more fish each out of this one hole taking turns catching and netting.  In retrospect, we are idiots for not stopping to get some awesome video.  Idiot!  Oh well, next time.....I will forget again I'm sure.  And all the pics of me with fish are on his camera.  Hopefully I can get those and add them here later.  Here is one more of one of his.

BTW, nice chaw! (and nice hat)

As promised, here is a photo of one of mine.

We continued fishing the stretch of water we were at, moving up and downstream as we fished holes dry.  We hooked more than we caught because it is very very difficult to land large fish in very small pocket water.  They can quickly dart downstream, over and under rocks and logs, and down rapids, all of which help the fish pop the hook out or break the line.

The coolest part of the day for me was one of these fish that I lost.  I moved to the center of the stream to cast out to another spot where I could see a couple nice fish.  After just a couple casts one of the fish got spooked and moved downstream past a small falls.  I figured he was gone for good so I just kept fishing.  About five minutes later, he shot up and over the falls back into the water I was fishing.  Just like in the movies and video of salmon moving upstream over large falls.  Only I was actually there and it was a little smaller falls, but he did come up out of the water to cross it.  And not three casts later I had him hooked!!  He shot downstream and downstream he went!  I did what I could but not long thereafter he popped off of the 6x I was fishing and stole my dropper.  Regardless, it was really cool!

I eventually moved back downstream and caught another dozen or more smaller fish which put my day total well over 30, maybe over 40, with quite a few of those fish being 18" or better.  And this combination of quantity with quality, coupled with being surrounded by other feeding fish, and also being able to catch pretty much non-stop all day made today the best day of fishing I have ever experienced!  It also helped that after 11am the sun was out to warm me up and made the day quite comfortable.

You should go check out the Yampa!  (but I hear it is CROWDED in nice conditions)

Yampa Nighttime

After a decent day of fishing we headed back to the campsite just in time for the rain to start.  Fortunately for all of us, I was on this trip and had had the foresight and genius idea to bring along a tarp with which to build a shelter.  We parked our two cars on either side of a picnic table and rigged up the tarp as a roof to keep dry while cooking/eating.  It worked great.

As always Brady took it upon himself to fillet the one fish we kept.  The tailwater right below the damn was catch and release only and we didn't do so great in the afternoon hours when we tried fishing where we could keep.  So we only had one, albeit nice, brown to feast upon.  That and a bunch of potatoes.

It was oddly enough for all of us.

After many beers, some good food, and a brief period around a toasty campfire, we all headed off to bed.  The next eight hours or so for all of us was eight hours in a chinese water torture machine called a GoLite tent.  We had two similar tents that each did a great job of collecting the rainwater inside the tent.  The best feature was a nice crease right above where our heads were that did a great job of dripping water and keeping us awake.  It was a great experience!  Lesson learned...GoLite is awesome gear for backpacking because it is very light, but doesn't quite cut the mustard when fighting the elements.

Although we called him a weenie (and he was), Eric had it right by choosing to sleep in his car.

Yampa Day 1

On my way out to Rochester NY for work this week, I stopped over in Denver for an extended weekend fishing trip with a few friends.  We didn't have a destination in mind originally, but eventually settled on the Yampa river near Steamboat Springs.  It was the closest of the rivers we discussed and some outside advice said it was a great spot, although maybe a little busy.  A quick check of the weather forecast suggested that the weather would be bad enough to keep the fair weather anglers away, but not so bad that it would be a totally miserable experience.  Hopefully, at least.

I flew into Denver late Thursday night, got a few hours of sleep, and then we were off to the river at 5:30 in the morning.  It was a surprisingly short drive of just over 3 hours, and it was right around 9:00 with we got there.  The sun was up but not out.  The clouds were covering the sky and threatening rain but so far it had been pretty dry on the drive, although it was a chilly 40deg or so.  There were five of us, and we all geared up and peeled of one by one as we were ready and headed to the river.

I started out with Kevin who has never done any fly fishing before and hasn't caught a fish since moving to Colorado.  It didn't take him too long to figure it out...

After Kevin proved his worth he was on his own and I moved upstream to some flat, slow-moving water that Jonathan was fishing from the other bank.  It looked like a great spot because there were fish all over feeding on the surface, and there were at least a dozen nice fish in sight that didn't seem to care about me being there. I asked Jonathan what he was having luck with and tied on my closest dry: some sort of small BWO dry.  I didn't have a lot of luck, which was a little frustrating.  I floated my dry-dropper right over quite a few fish, at least two dozen times with no luck.  I tried out a few different variations and eventually sort of figured it out and was rewarded with a decent brown.  Sorry for the rotated picture.  Blogger doesn't give me the ability to rotate and always loads this picture at this angle.

The reason I say I sort of figured it out is because I caught a few fish in this hole, but the majority of them avoided my flies.  Some of the bigger and apparently smarter ones would even move away when my flies were about to drift over.  They must have been able to see my leader or the hook because the fly line didn't bother them and the fly was getting a good dead drift.  Smart fish!

After a while I grew tired of being outsmarted so I moved on.  The rest of the day was fairly uneventful.  I caught a few more fish here and there including one very nice rainbow.

I got to do a little nice hiking up and over a ridge after catching a few fish in the pocket waters pictured below.

All in all it was a reasonable day.  I saw way more fish than I caught and my overall total was around 7 fish, a few of which were pretty nice.  I snapped one more picture near the end of the day of the river, surroundings, and the cloudy/rainy sky we had to deal with all day.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Eat that, Spirit Lake

A week ago Spirit Lake managed to elude my keen sense of direction.  This week I vowed vengeance on the lake, and did the little extra preparation I should have done last time.  I already knew how to get to the right forest dirt road and to the general area, but my previous trip proved the hiking trail to the lake too difficult to locate.

Thank God for Google maps!  I looked up the area and figured out where the trail should be and it turned out it was just around the bend from the one and only sharp switchback in the road.  How could I possibly miss it after this super-sleuthing investigative prowess?  It's unpossible.

All the research was done Friday evening before I went to bed.  I printed out the above map and packed my bag so I would be ready to go in the morning.  When I woke up Saturday morning I was greeted by a lovely cold and rainy morning.  I had checked the weather so I knew it was coming.  I just grabbed my rain jacket and told myself it wouldn't be that bad.  It doesn't really rain out here in Oregon like it rains in other places.  It's generally more of a mist or drizzle that comes and goes, and it was the same this morning.

I hopped in the car and took off.  The rain sucked but on the plus side the trees are beginning to turn colors.  This is a nice sight that I was been missing the past six years living in Colorado.  I'm not sure it's worth the perpetual winter rain, though.

The trip up to this lake is a little on the long side.  It's an hour from my place to the forest road, then about 10 miles on the paved portion of the road before it turns into dirt/gravel, and it's another nine miles on the gravel.  I reset the odometer when I hit gravel just to keep myself in check.  Better safe than sorry. Another twenty minutes later, and no additional dings to the undercarriage of my car this time, the odometer turned past eight miles and I began to slow down and look harder check things out.  One part of the drive that I remembered from the previous trip and using the satellite imagery in Google maps confirmed for me, was the longish sweeping left turn that passes over the outflow from the lake in the map above (I enter the screen from the top driving south).

This wide turn is actually around the rim of a fairly shallow portion of the hillside.  Most of the rest of the drive is over some extremely steep, even bone-chilling drop-offs.  Once I was around the long left turn there is the signature sharp switchback up the hillside.  I made the turn and started looking to the right for a hiking side.  And not too far up the trail I saw it.

I don't know how I missed it last week; there are actually trail signs on both sides of the road.  And to top it off this is the second of the two trails I had tried out last week, only going in the wrong direction.  Feeling like a total idiot for missing this last week I hit the trail to the lake.  It's a short trail so here's a brief picture story.

When I got to the lake it was drizzling very lightly.  I tossed my bag against a tree and began to pull my waders, boots, and other gear out and get ready to hit the water.  When I was all ready I took a look around and noticed the lake near me was shallow and stayed shallow for quite a ways out into the water.  I figured this was not the best place to start.  The bank on the far side of the river was pretty steep, and my brief stint as a competitive bass fisherman (team Colorado, 6th place at the Big 12 Championships 2008) taught me that the river/lake bottom generally follows the steepness of the bank so I headed over there.

I had no idea what to start with so I just tied on a Para Adams and a little midge dropper and began tossing my fly out there.  There wasn't much happening outside the occasional fish making a splashy rise too far out for me to get to.  Eventually, however, I got lucky.  I hooked a decent fish and excitedly brought him in.  I was excited to catch my first brook trout ever!  When I got him close I reached for my camera in my jacket pocket.  Apparently reaching for the camera scared the fish because he spit the hook and was gone.  I did get a decent look at him, though, and I didn't think at the time it was a brookie.

I kept fishing and couldn't get anything else in that area to bite so I moved on.  In the next spot, I got nothing and eventually decided the dry-dropper maybe wasn't going to do the trick so I opened up a box that I haven't looked at for over a year.  The dreaded streamer box!  NO!  I don't really have anything against streamers, it's just that if I'm going to cast something out and then pull it back in slowly I think I should be using a spinner rod.  It just makes more sense to me.  But I tied on a small green bugger and I should give props to my friend Mark for tying it for me.  Thanks Mark.

One of the next few casts made me feel a little better about myself for stooping to the streamer too when I hooked another fish.  And unfortunately I lost him again when he got close, but this time I saw for sure it was not a brook trout.  That made me a little upset that I had been fooled that this was a brookie lake and I just lost fish 2 of 2.  But that's ok because I managed to pull in a couple nice cutthroats shortly thereafter.

Overall, the fishing was fairly slow and I was working my way along the far bank step by step.  The steep and brushy bank behind me necessitated my learning to roll cast in a trial by fire.  Sure, I've done a roll cast here or there, but I've never really been in a situation where a roll cast was really really necessary to fish anywhere.  Usually I just avoid fishing the hole that can only be reached with a roll cast.  It took an hour or so, but eventually I figured out why my roll casts were dying out after twenty feet.  After correcting the error I was pleasantly surprised with the distance I could reach and I therefore kept trying to cast as far as possible even though it wasn't necessary.

As soon as I decided to cast along the shore (not roll casting) I managed to hook another fish.  Maybe my roll cast isn't what I think.  I pulled the fish in and had a little celebration on the log I was standing on doing my best not to go crazy and fall in the water.  The fish was a beautiful small brook trout, my first ever.  I really do think these are the most beautiful of the trouts, even though it's not actually a trout, but a char.  Sorry I'm covering up mot of the color of the fish.

I pulled a few more brookies out of the lake too.  They were all around 8 inches and all the cutthroats were an inch or two larger.  It makes me wonder if the cutts were stocked, and if so when?  Since they were all larger than the brookies I wonder if they will eventually take over the lake?  Let's hope not.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Winter Commeth

It seems winter is on it's way.  And I am not happy about it.  I've been trying to get out here in town once a week during the week to do some fishing with some success.  Two weeks ago I made it out and only had a little over an hour to fish and didn't have much luck in my limited time.  I chalked it up at the time to biking around to try and find a new spot to fish here in town.

I got out again this week and even left earlier than usual, just after 5 to get more daylight.  It didn't work.  I arrived out on the river and got my waders and boots on with the sun very low on the horizon and the light beginning to leave the river.  How many I caught (not many) or how much fun it was doesn't matter.  I left the river a little heavy hearted with the coming winter on my mind.

On the plus side I made my 30th day out on the river a water this year!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Give that hole a rest

So this is part 3 of my trilogy post about my Saturday trip this past weekend.  To recap, part one was about my failure to find Spirit lake, and part two was about my mediocre success on Salmon Creek.  At the end of part two and the beginning of this part three, I was in my waders and boots and driving my car down the road.  I didn't feel like driving all the way home like that so I had to come up with another place to fish somewhat nearby.  The road that had been following Salmon creek took me back toward Oakridge, and I followed the sign that told me to turn left onto some obscure road to get back to highway 58 (which takes me back to I5 which takes me back to Eugene).

At the intersection of whatever road I was on and highway 58 I saw a sign reading Hills Creek Reservoir 1/2 mile.  I knew where that was because when I first moved out here one of the places where I first tried fishing was very nearby.  And there's a bit of a story behind this place.  I first tried it out when the waters were pretty high.  I didn't expect to catch much and I didn't, but I vowed to try it again when the waters came back down.  And try I did, but I never had any better luck than catching a few small fish or one decent one. 

The last time I came here at the end of the day I vowed to give it up and go in search of better water from here on out.  Since then I've managed to have some pretty good luck in a number of different places, so I was willing to forgo my ban for the moment being; plus I only had an hour of daylight left.  I waded out to my favorite island and could immediately tell the water is down even more from when I was here last.  Now there were a couple large boulders protruding through the water surface where before there was just a bump in the water and a back eddy behind.

I had previously fished all of these rocks in slightly higher water, and in three trips I managed to catch just a couple fish.  Before rushing out into the water to toss my flies around, I took a look around.  There were some large baetis flying off the water very sporadically, not really enough to call a hatch, and there were also some midges flying around as you pretty much see in any mountain stream at any time of the year.  No fish in sight though.  But come to think of it I can't remember seeing pods of fishing rising anywhere since moving out here, which is sad.  I hope I just haven't found them.

Being a bit addicted to dry fly fishing, I stuck with my dry-dropper that I already had set up although I'm not sure if it was dry-fly purism or just laziness.  I started tossing my flies on one side of the closest boulder and watched them float downstream.  After a short time I got a hit on the dry up top on the drift a ways downstream of the rock.  The take was subtle but solid which told me the fish probably wasn't one of the fingerlings that I seem to be quite capable of catching.  And when he didn't come straight to me when I pulled my suspicion was confirmed.  After a brief but fun fight I pulled him to shore for a quick pic before a soft release.

With that bit of fun over I kept fishing.  I had a few more strikes that I missed and one that I hooked but lost.  Things were looking up relative to my previous outings here.  I moved out a little farther so I could drop flies behind the boulder in the slack water and at the same time keep my line out of the swift current so I could get a good dead drift. 

That strategy was a winning one because I very quickly hooked up with a nice fish.  He got down deep into the swift water and used the current against me.  I got a good fight out of this fish because he really knew how to use the water, or maybe I just don't know how to fight.  Either way it was a good catch and again I pulled him onto shore for a quick pick before another release.

After the release I waded my way back out to the same place and started drifting my flies behind the rock.  The slack water was a good 20 feet long, so I was able to work it for a while.  I got a couple more hits that I missed and I managed to catch two more fish, one nicer than the next.  The first was about the same as the last one.

And the second was the best of the day.  Probably around 16".

So what is the moral to this story?  I've asked myself that and can't come to a conclusion.  It might be:  if at first you don't succeed, and second and third, and fourth you don't succeed, try try try try try again.  Or maybe it's:  if at first you don't succeed, give that hole a rest and come back a while later.  That actually rings true to me as a fisherman.

Give that hole a rest and come back later.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Where are all the Salmon?

This is actually part 2 of a trilogy.  Part 1 was the spirit lake catastrophe.  Part 2 is the fishing I actually managed to do on my way back into town.  Salmon creek followed forest road 24 for ten miles or so and there were plenty of pull-offs to park in and fish.  There were actually quite a few people camping in the area so I avoided those pull-offs but still managed to stop in four different places.

This isn't going to be all that interesting as a post because not much interesting happened.  I caught a number of small cutts on the old faithful dry-dropper.  Para-adams up top and a pheasant tail down below to drag through the bottoms.

I hooked one nice fish that was probably 12 inches give or take, but he managed to wiggle off once I got him close.  He took the the dropper about fifteen feet up stream, and I worked him back to me.  When he got close I pulled him up from the bottom where he was trying to seek refuge.  And upon coming up to see me he somehow managed to spit the hook out and dart back down to the riverbed.

Shortly thereafter I picked up my stuff and went back to the car to go farther downstream.  But unfortunately I had just left the last pullout on the river, and I was driving along in my boots and waders with sunset still two hours away.  Thus concludes unimpressive part 2.  Tune in for a more interesting part 3... later.

Chasing Spirits

So I've been meaning to hit up some mountain lakes for quite some time now, and I figured that I had better go do that sooner than later.  With that in mind on Friday after work I sat down with my computer and some Oregon fishing books and did a little homework.  I started with Z and worked my way upward in my book of one million and one fishing rivers in lakes in the Willamette Valley.  Quite a few of the spots that caught my fancy ended up being up near Portland and would have been a three hour drive or more.  I wasn't willing to go that far so I kept reading and mapquesting.

Finally upon reaching the S's I found something that looked promising and was nearby enough.  Spirit Lake was the destination.  My book said it is a big brookie lake about an hour and a half from the Eugene area.  I have actually never caught any brook trout so I figured this would be the perfect place to go.  There was also the added bonus that the drive there was largely along another river I haven't fished.  I could hit up the lake, then on my way back to town I could try a couple spots on the river.  So I headed to bed and readied myself for dreams of catching beautiful brookies in a secluded mountain lake.  If you don't know what a brook trout looks like, it looks like this (I didn't catch this one):

I got up around 8:00 Saturday morning and started packing up my stuff.  Somehow it managed to take an hour and a half before I was ready.  I had to get up, get some food, make some coffee, round up food for lunch and I didn't have much in the fridge. I had to pack my gear, write up directions, remember and gather up inclement weather preps, and I pulled my campstove stuff out of a storage bin because I thought it would be cool to have a trout lunch if I caught one worth keeping.  But finally after gathering all my stuff I headed out the door, made a quick stop for gas, and was on the road.

My directions took me to Oakridge, OR, which is a small mountain town that is renowned in the area for out of this world mountain biking.  Biking was not my purpose on this day so I kept driving.  I turned onto a forest road that followed along Salmon Creek for quite a ways.  It was a small two lane road that was encompassed by trees on both sides and a green canopy overhead.  The creek was visible through the trees to my left and I couldn't help keeping my eye on it trying to spot good places to fish.

Fifteen miles up the forest road I turned off onto another unpaved forest road which took me away from the creek and uphill.  My car is far from ideal for off-road driving, but it seemed to manage acceptably well.  The roads were in fairly decent shape:  no deep ruts and only a few large boulders I was able to drive around.  I think I did pick up a few more decorations on the underbody of my car, though.  But after seven more miles of grueling wear and tear on my car I figured I was getting close to the trail because the directions said it was seven miles up the road.  After eight miles, I had still not seen it but I kept going. When I got to ten miles I saw a sign for a hiking trail and figured that must be it. 

The final goal was hiking trail 3584, but this trail had a name.  The name eludes me now, but it was named after some meadow.  It didn't seem like it was the right trail, but I decided to give it a try and to walk a little ways.  The trail to the lake, according to my research, was only a quarter mile.  And after two hundred yards I could tell this wasn't right because the trail was winding down a steep ridge, and there was no terrain that would hold a large lake anywhere near.  Then I saw what I assumed was my goal.  A couple miles off in the distance.

You can barely see the lake near the center of the picture and the meadow through the tree just right of center.  I figured that I must have passed the right hiking trail, so I walked back to the car, made a 9-point turn on a 1-lane dirt road, and drove back the other way

This time I drove slower and looked harder.  If my odometer and directions were both right I should have to drive three miles back down the road to the right trail.  A little over two miles back down the road I saw another hiking trail sign that was hidden by a tree when driving the other direction.  It was no surprise that I had missed it!

It wasn't as far back down the road as I expected, and it didn't have a trail number, but I hoped for the best, grabbed all my gear and started hiking.  I made it close to a mile before I decided it was not the right trail yet again and headed back to the car yet again.  Ugh.  But I kept driving down the road constantly looking to the left and right to make sure I didn't miss anything.  I drove another mile to where the trail should be, but no trail.  At least no signs for trails.  I kept driving and never ended up seeing anything.

The one thing I did see was that I manged to get a flat tire at some point, which was a perfect cap on a crappy day.

On the plus side I had a spare that was fully inflated, and I got to use my stock jack for the first time.  I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly it worked.  I've never had a jack that came with a car that was as easy to use as this one.  Go VW!  I think once I got my stuff out of the trunk it took less than two minutes to change the wheel.

Onward!  I tried one other road thinking that maybe I had taken the wrong side of the Y.  And in checking this road out, I realized what very well may have happened.  The brush was grown up almost completely over the sign and I didn't even see it until I stopped.  Maybe the trail sign was inside a tree or covered by brush.  Or maybe it even fell down.  Who knows?!?

I went a mile or two up the road and didn't see much.  There was one interesting tiny little pond that appeared to have a few fish swimming around in it.  I stopped to fish it but quickly realized that they weren't fish.  There were a ton of newts sitting on the bottom and occasionally coming up to the surface for air.  I had never seen anything like this before so got a chuckle out of it.

So my plan to catch some brookies was totally foiled.  In retrospect, the only thing I can think of is that there was one hunters camp around the right stretch of road where the trail should have been, so maybe that was it.  Maybe the trail sign was behind their car or tents.  I guess I will never know.  Actually, I will probably try again next weekend, because I have since looked it up on Google Earth and if I do that again I can get a much better idea of where to stop.  I'll let you know.  ;o)