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The Boulders

Utah…

I’ve fished a few places in Utah, but there’s no place like the Boulders.  You can spend an entire season…. well I could spend an entire season fishing and hiking this place and not get tired of it all.   This is stillwater country.  …and backpacking still waters at that.  After spending all spring down in the desert heat, an alpine hike at over 10,000 ft. is just what I needed.  I should have packed more air though.

After making the long drive and meeting up with friends in Kanab, we made it into camp at dark.  The next morning we packed up and started humping the boats down the trail.  Just over the first rise a couple hundred yards from camp we were greeted by a rather large black bear that jumped out of the brush and onto the trail.  Neat.  Its was early in the morning and I wasn’t really ready for that kind of excitement just yet.  …not at 15 feet anyway.  But a couple of shouts and a whiff or two of the putrid odor coming from my shorts and it ran off the way it came.  We heard it crash through the brush several yards away.  No problem.

We got a lot of these…

Two and a half miles later we came to the target lake.  Some insider info gave us some good direction and approach to where the fish would be.  This was invaluable as the was new water to all of us.  It took another half hour to haul the boats around to the deep side of the lake on a roughed out trail and we quickly geared up and launched the tubes.  We flipped out across the shallow weed bed and out to the deepest part of the lake.  Within fifteen minutes we were into fish, a lot of fish.  10 to 14 inch brookies were the norm with an occasional line breaker and it was great.  The largest on tape was a thick 15” char that took a leech pattern off the weedline.  The difference between a 13” and 15” brookie is alot. At some point they stop growing long and start growing out.

This place was really living up to its reputation and the work getting here was easily worth it.  We continued catching all day, switching between the main lake and wading one of the areas where the inlet tributaries entered in.  I never thought I would get “tired “ of catching fish, but I came close.  …not quite though.

Headwaters….small water, small flies, small fish.

For a change of pace, I stashed the tube and made the trek up and over a short hill to another nearby lake we call the secret lake, even though there is no secret about it.  Its on every map and the name is known.  But we decided if you didn’t know it was there you would never think to wander off in that direction to find it.  This particular lake apparently has a reputation of being tough to figure out.  I hadn’t fished it before but know some who have and some have come back fishless. Super clear water that allowed you to see some huge cutthroats down to 15 feet didn’t help things.  However, I was armed with one small and subtle bit of advice from a guide who wouldn’t tell me straight out but just winked and said “just match the hatch”.  Go figure.  When I first got to the lake a took a short break and studied the water.  No hatch whatsoever.  …go figure again.  So the first half of the day I tried everything that made sense, and everything that had been working on all the other nearby lakes.

So after a couple hours with just one half assed bump on dropper, I started to turn over rocks at random.  The more rocks I turned over the more obvious things became and I wondered why I just didn’t listen to that advice and do this in the first place.  As most fish stories go, the day was saved, of course, and I was amazed at the reaction of fish that previously were frozen to the bottom swim aggressively to take the new pattern.  Apparently, these fish eat one thing and only one thing…and when you find it, its game on.  The presentation was tough but in the next hour and a half I caught several fish including my biggest cutthroat ever that didn’t live in an Idaho zip code.   After a quick break, I packed up the gear and made my way back over the hill to the main lake to check on the storm clouds that had been brewing every afternoon in the west.

The next day found us in the boats again.  The main technique had been leeches so far but later in the day the damselfly hatches had begun.  We fished the drop off where the shallow weed beds met the main lake and had action on just about everything we tried.  The surface action increased to the point where I watched a 15” brook trout leap out of the water to grab damselflies as they hovered near the surface.  Awesome.  The trick was to wait until a fish jumps, then guess which way it was traveling when it hit the water and fire your cast about 6 feet from where you think it might be going.  About half the time it worked every time.  As usual, storm clouds were brewing and headed my way so I made my way to the shore, crawled out of the boat and packed up the gear once again.  I had been fishing by myself for the last hour or two as everyone else had headed back to camp.  Halfway down the trail, I met up with a group of, lets say, new agey looking types..like, I wouldn’t be surprised if they had hemp flylines, kind of new age…who were headed in instead of out.  We met and chatted for a minute, asked what lake they were headed to.   They asked if there was any action, and I said “oh yeah.  In fact, its on right now, if you hustle you’ll catch it.”  I showed them a fly or two on my vest that had been working, gave a few tips and they hustled on down the trail.    An hour or two later, I was in camp under the canopy doing my share to empty a bottle of something or other and watching the downpour that had been in progress for a while.  I spotted the same group coming back out, completely soaked and moving fast as it had started raining just after I had hit camp.

I met them down at the trail head to ask them if they did any good.  “oh man, you weren’t kidding! If it hadn’t been for the rain we would’ve stayed a lot longer.”

“yep. me too” I replied. “Its not the rain that gets ya, it’s the lightning..”

As they headed down the road to their vehicle I wondered how much wet dreadlocks weighed.

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