Time: 4:00PM – 6:00PM; 7:30PM – 9:00PM
Location: Willow Creek Inlet, and Meadow Point
Jane determined that we only had one window of time in June when we could camp together, and that was June 6 through June 8, so we made the drive to Steamboat Lake State Park on Wednesday afternoon, after I returned from a doctor’s appointment, and she came home from a tennis match. We gambled that campsites would be available during weekdays in early June, and our assumption proved to be correct, when we snagged site number 178 on Bridge Island.
On Thursday morning we completed one of our favorite mountain bike rides, Willow Creek Trail. The wide single track skirts the eastern edge of Steamboat Lake and passes the visitor center. We elected to turn left off the Willow Creek Trail onto another spur, that led us beyond the Poverty Bar; the remains of an early placer mining operation. After the ride we returned to our campsite and munched our lunches and then traveled a few miles up the highway to Hahns Lake, where we completed an out and back trek on the Hahns Lake Trail. Cycling and hiking were apparently not enough exercise, so we once again drove a short distance to Pearl Lake State Park, and here we hiked the Pearl Lake Trail for a half hour and then returned via the same route. The trail skirted the southern shore of Pearl Lake for .6 mile, before it veered through a wooded valley and then ascended a ridge requiring a continuous climb.
Once again we returned to our campsite, and I departed on my first fly fishing venture of the trip. I read that fishing in Steamboat Lake is best after ice off, and the hot spots are located at creek inlets, so I targeted the point where Willow Creek flowed into Steamboat Lake in Placer Cove on the northeast side of the lake. Thursday was an eighty degree day, so I elected to wade wet and drove to a small parking lot in Sunrise Vista Campground. From the parking area I connected with the Willow Creek Trail, and then I descended a short sagebrush covered bank, until I was along the edge of the lake. I circled along the marshy shoreline, until I reached the inlet of Willow Creek.
The lake mouth of the stream was quite wide; however, it quickly narrowed into a smooth slow moving trough. I waded along the western edge through some soft muck, until the channel was twenty-five feet wide, and here I began my stillwater fishing adventure. I tied a slumpbuster to my line and then added a beadhead hares ear nymph as a trailer, and I began fanning casts toward the opposite bank followed by a series of intermittent strips. After I executed three across and upstream casts, I made three or four strides toward the lake and repeated. After three or four of these cycles I felt a bump and made another strip, before I felt the throb of a live weight on my line. At first I suspected a large vibrating branch, but then the recipient of my strip set streaked back toward the inlet. I held tight and endured several additional escape attempts, before I slid my net beneath a bright rainbow trout. The thirteen inch net occupant was quite chunky, and it displayed a very white-silver body with only a faint pink stripe.
This small success heightened my optimism, and I continued the spray and strip sequence, until I was actually within the body of the lake and beyond the mouth of the creek inlet. I wish I could report additional success, but my only action occurred when I connected with some sort of immovable object twice, and these incidents resulted in the loss of two slumpbusters and an ultra zug bug and a hares ear nymph.
By 5:45 the wind escalated to an outrageous gale, and this blew two float tubers and myself off the lake. The wave action kicked up sediments, and casting became a challenging and dangerous endeavor with the conehead slumpbuster whizzing by my ear. I called it quits and returned to the campsite for dinner.
After dinner and clean up Jane agreed to accompany me to Meadow Point. I fished at Meadow Point in 2017, and I recalled an abundant quantity of rising fish in the last hour before dark. 2018 was no different, and by 8PM the residents of the cove in front of me began to slash the surface in pursuit of some abundant food source. During our entire stay at Steamboat Lake, I observed swarms of large size 16 midges with a dark peacock body, and I assumed these insects were the target of the cove dwellers.
I knotted a size 16 olive brown caddis to my line and exercised my arm shooting out sixty foot casts, but the active feeders ignored my offerings. I tried twitching and stripping and added a midge emerger in the form of a salad spinner, but I failed to match the favorite meal of the trout in front of me. It also seemed that the trout were wise to my efforts, as they invariably rose five or ten feet beyond my best distance casts. In addition it seemed as if the trout were cruising in a wide arc, as I directed casts to the scene of a recent riseform, only to discover the next surface ring appeared twenty feet farther to the left.
I continued my futile efforts until 9PM when the lighting dimmed, the rising fish diminished, and the air chilled beyond my comfort level. The surface exploded with fish in the last fifteen minutes of light, but I was simply a spectator to the natural buffet at Meadow Point.
Fish Landed: 1