Time: 10:00AM – 1:30PM
Location: Beginning .25 mile up the trail just after crossing a small tributary stream and then going over a hill and continuing for a mile upstream.
Fish Landed: 24
On Sunday on Rainey Creek after I determined that a stimulator was more effective than a Chernobyl ant and beadhead hares ear combination for cutthroat trout on a small stream in Idaho in late July, I enjoyed a fun hour and a half of fishing, but I was also feeling somewhat unfulfilled. I needed a second chance to apply my new found knowledge, and Monday would provide that opportunity.
Another small stream that Gary Duncan at the Rendezvous Fly Shop recommended was Bear Creek which apparently entered Palisades Lake from the southwest side. Both Gary and Tom, the owner of Hansen Guest Ranch, seemed to suggest that Bear Creek was a strong small stream option that received far less pressure than Rainey Creek and Palisades Creek. In fact Gary made this comment, “After you fish up Bear Creek from the mouth for a mile or two (pause)…er, you’ll have enough fish by then to be satisfied.” This certainly aroused my curiosity regarding the fish density on Bear Creek.
After the 8AM breakfast at the Hansen Ranch, I departed and headed to Bear Creek. I had some difficulty finding the bridge below Palisades Dam, and then I was concerned as the dirt road led away from the dam rather than toward it. However, there was no alternative on the south side of the river so I stayed the course and after three or four miles made a left turn and drove in the direction that I expected. I covered a 10 mile twisty gravel road that eventually led me to the Bear Creek Trailhead parking lot. There were a few campers along the road before the parking lot, but no other vehicles occupied the large lot at the trailhead. This was a beautiful sight to this fisherman from Colorado who was starved for some cutthroat action in wide open spaces.
Once I gathered my necessary fishing equipment for a day on the stream, I decided to hike away from the parking lot for a short distance. Fishermen are generally lazy, and the most pressured water is that which is easily accessible. I hiked .25 miles to a point where I went over a small hill and upon my descent discovered that the stream was running parallel to the path for a distance of twenty yards. I carefully scrambled down a short steep bank, and I was now positioned in Bear Creek to begin my fishing adventure.
The weather was once again gorgeous with a clear blue sky overhead and temperatures in the upper 60’s to low 70’s as I began. The stream was a bit larger than Rainey Creek, but the main difference was the lack of tight bushes and shrubs. There was ample room for long backcasts, and in fact this would remain the case for the remainder of my time fishing. I tied a size 12 gray stimulator to the leader on my Orvis Access four weight and began to prospect the water. Initially the stream was fairly wide and shallow, and as proof that I learned my lesson on Sunday, I skipped over this water until I encountered a section with slow velocity and more depth.
It didn’t take long before a fine wild cutthroat slammed the stimulator, and I landed a chunky twelve inch fish. This pattern would repeat itself over the course of the 3.5 hours of fishing as I skipped shallow and fast moving water and focused on the deeper pools and slow moving water along the bank with structure. I stayed with a stimulator the entire time, and it produced as I expected it would. In short the fishing was just as I imagined it would be on a small remote cutthroat stream in Idaho. The sky remained bright blue. The sun provided warmth. The water was cold and clear; and the wild cutthroats were ready and willing to take a well placed large visible high floating dry fly. It was pretty much nirvana.
By the end of my time on the water I had landed 24 cutthroat trout. Quite a few were in the 6-9 inch range, but even these fish were pretty jewels and fun to catch. Also included in the fish count was a 16 inch beast, two fish around 14 inches, and a couple 12-13 inch gems. I covered over a mile of water, and then I easily cut across a meadow and intersected the trail and hiked 25 minutes until I was back at the car in the trailhead parking lot.
The highlight of the day occurred at 12:30PM as I approached a beautiful clear deep pool that bordered a beaver house. As is my practice, I searched the tail of the pool with some long casts while staying back a good distance, and this yielded two smaller fish. I then moved closer to the deepest segment of the pool and began flicking shorter casts to the upper section where a narrow current seam flowed within a foot of the tangled mass of sticks that was apparently a beaver house. I placed a cast a foot off the seam and slightly above the shelter, and the fly paused in a tantalizing position for a moment when a huge mouth engulfed it. Clearly this fish was more substantial than the others, and it quickly proved this observation to be accurate by covering the entire pool several times in its effort to escape. Fortunately I held my ground and maintained tension and eventually slid my net beneath a shimmering 16 inch cutthroat. This was the beast that I referred to earlier.
It was a fantastic day on Bear Creek, Idaho, and one I will remember for quite awhile. I’ve caught more fish in a day, and I’ve caught larger fish, but the setting and the presence of wild native fish are what set this day apart. Superb!