October 18, 2012

Brookies While Waiting for the Climbers

Autumn mornings in the Tetons are cold but beautiful. This morning was nothing different as we drove up Teton Canyon towards the Alaska Basin trail head. I know this place well. I have been here year after year, and I worked in the canyon for a summer at the local Boy Scout camp in the early 80's. I hiked and climbed all over this side of the Tetons back then; I even carried a 17 year old girl off Table Mountain after she was rendered comatose from high altitude cerebral edema. A friend of mine and I found her in a dangerous level of unconsciousness, unresponsive, contracted pupils, nystagmus, shallow breaths with a rapid weak pulse one day when we were hiking the mountain. She was with friends and they didn't know what to do. It was a typical summer afternoon with thunderstorms building up in the west and heading our way. I didn't know much wilderness medicine back then, but I knew enough that we needed to get her to lower elevations and quick! Being far above timberline, Hopper, as my friend was called, and I took all their hiking sticks and jackets, made a stretcher, and sent them down the mountain to get help. We loaded the girl onto the rickety stretcher and started walking down the mountain.  To make a long story short, after surviving heavy winds, rain, sleet, and lighting we got her down. She turned out to be OK after dropping a couple thousand feet. Ya, I know these mountains.

Teton Canyon

Close up of the Grand and Middle Teton (right). Table Mountain, covered in snow,  is seen here in front of the Grand.

Well, today I was taking my daughter and new son-in-law up to some of the granite outcroppings so that they could do some climbing. The morning was cold and cloudy. We parked at the trail head and walked the short distance to the granite face, where I had, so many years ago, learned to rappel. They set up and started climbing. I watched for a while then decided to drive back down the canyon a ways and fish Teton Creek.

On belay!

The granite face

Teton Creek, like many of the creeks on the western slope of the Tetons is not a great fishery. Most of the streams get dewatered lower down every summer due to aggressive water rights practices by the ranchers in the valley. This practice limits the creek's ability to grow a robust, diverse population of trout. Still, it does have fish in it and if you are stealthy you can have some fun.

I parked off the road and geared up. The water was so low that I didn't even put on my Hippies. At first I went with a #12 JuJuKebari, working the deeper spots of the creek. Nothing. I walked up stream. Not a fish did I see or scare. I thought: "bummer".

Then I came to a bend in the river where the flow caused a deeper pool. There had to be fish in there. I couldn't cast normally due to the firs right against my back so I roll cast. I watched the line as it drifted from the current tongue into the pool. It moved "funny" and I lifted the rod tip. Fish on! I worked him quickly and brought a 12" brookie up on the bank. He was big enough that his mouth had already turned black. What's up with that?!

The pool with the boulder

 iPhone photo, sorry. He was just big enough to be getting that "black mouth" brook trout thing.

I worked the pool a little more and took two other, smaller brookies out of it.  Next I turned upstream and saw a large, flat section of the creek. The crystal clear water allowed me to watch 7-8 fish work the pool. One appeared to be a cutthroat, but the others were definitely brook trout. It was hard to judge their size but likely 10-12 inches.

I cast the kebari just upstream from them. Nothing. I didn't even see any of the fish look at the fly. I cast again, and again. Nothing.  I pulsated the fly like a good tenkara fisher should. Still nothing. Since they were clearly ignoring my fly, I decided to abandon the tenkara "one fly" philosophy and changed over to a #14 parachute Royal Wulff. I lengthened the 5X tippet and cast again, around a riverside dogwood and just upstream of the pod. Because the water was so smooth and clear I could see everything perfectly.  Within  seconds of the fly softly hitting the water one of the fish rose and took it! I actually didn't set the hook prematurely but fair hooked the fish. The Daiwa LT36S-F that I was using had plenty of backbone to keep the fish out of the fallen tree snags that were on the edge of the pool.  He was a funny looking 10-11" brook trout. He had the look of a teenager; you know that, sort of lanky looking, "like a 17 y/o boy that hasn't yet grown into his skeleton", look.

"Teenager" brook trout. 
I dried off the fly, applied a minuscule amount of Dry Magic (the best floatant in my opinion -- only a tiny amount is needed, even works on CDC) and cast again. The fly landed just to the right of my previous cast. This time the fly floated about 10 seconds then Bam! Another brookie. He was also 10-11 inches but more normal in proportions.

More "normal" looking brook trout
Finally, I cast a third time. The fly rode low in the surface film, but its post was still visible. A third trout took the fly and once again I was able to steer him away from the snags. He too was about 10 inches. He looked more like me -- he was getting a belly!

Number three
There's the pool; dogwood, snags and all. Look how clear the water is! I cast around the dogwood upstream and to the left.

It was time for me to head back up canyon to pickup the climbers. It was good that I did; they were freezing after climbing on that big chunk of frozen granite! I was pretty pleased that my little fishing excursion turned out so well. I was surprised that I didn't catch more little brookies. It has been my experience that where there are brookies there are a bunch of 4-6 inch guys that hog your fly. Not so today. 10-12 inch brook trout aren't records by any means but they are pretty decent. They made fishing Teton Creek fun!!

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful photos...thanks for posting


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