Strawberry Reservoir trout fishing, Wasatch, Utah

September 26, 2013 at 9:57 pm

Storm clouds were gathering as I reversed the boat trailer down the Soldier Creek boat ramp at Utah’s premier trout fishery, Strawberry Reservoir in early September. Friend Ray soon had his boat unhitched and we were heading out to his favourite bay a short distance from the ramp, where he was confident we would catch.

With over twenty days at over 100 degrees this summer, the upper layers of this 17,000 acre water were were still considered too warm to fish, although being at 7,600 feet it stays cold in it’s 150 foot depths, where land locked red kokanee salmon shoal.

Depths between 25 and 30 feet had been giving good results and Ray’s bay was showing these figures on the depth finder, as we made our first casts, simple running leger rigs, baited with Powerbait on treble hooks dropping into the clear water yards from the boat. Ray was fishing his standard two foot tail, while I opted for longer at five feet, the buoyant Powerbait floating above the weed, well away from the greedy claws of the local crawdad population.

Minutes after our baits hit the water, my rod rattled from a positive bite, a strike and I was into my first fish. Immediately I was in trouble with the unfamiliar borrowed tackle, as the rod bent into a good fish. With the reel having no back wind and the drag set to maximum, I was unable to counter the runs and dives of this battling cutthroat trout, just managing to release the drag in time, as it approached the boat and made another deep dive. Ray was accurate with the net, scooping the 17 inch trout up, when it made another pass.

Strawberry fishery rules state that all cutthroat of breeding size between 15 and 22 inches, be returned immediately to the water, just one of the trebles holding in it’s jaw, being snipped off with pliers to avoid unnecessary damage. I cast again and before I could put the rod down, the line began moving across the surface. Another fish had taken the bait on the drop and a deep bend in the rod signaled a fast running trout, which turned towards the boat, gaining slack line and coming off the now double hook. Ray had his eye on the gathering clouds and a bolt of lightning, followed by a clap of thunder eased the decision to leave this obvious fish holding spot and head north towards brighter skies ten miles away down the reservoir, through the Narrows and out into the Basin.

As we neared the shore, we had to manoeuvre between a group of float fly fishermen, who had found a shoal of small rainbows feeding near the surface, the fish rising freely around the us. I’d brought my fly rod onto the boat and this was my chance to demonstrate to bait fisherman Ray, the excitement of taking trout on the floating line from a boat. At this point my enthusiasm collapsed, when I realized that the rod had been accidentally trodden on and crushed at the ferrule. With fish near the surface, Ray killed the main engine and ran his small trolling motor at tick-over, while I cast a small Mepps spoon out from the side of the boat, paying out line to allow the spoon to sink and swing back behind the boat in an arc. Several casts later, the rod bucked as a trout hit the lure and I found myself playing another hard fighting cuttroat, once again Ray was spot on with the net, scooping the fish from the surface.

This was another cutthroat that needed to be returned, but not before a quick photo for the album.

The spoon was firmly in the scissors of the jaw, the cutthroat biting down hard on two of the three hooks and the pliers were needed again before release.

Ray decided to head back towards Soldier Creek, but not before a stop at the Meadows and few drifts along the gently sloping shoreline with Powerbaited hooks. We had already passed through a heavy rain shower and a strong wind was beginning to sweep more clouds towards us.

I was still holding the camera for this shot of a dramatic sky, when the rod rattled and I struck into what I thought was the biggest fish of the day, as it ran rings round the boat, diving beneath it at will, until it gave up thrashing on the surface. This was in fact the smallest and last fish of the day, a plump 14 inch rainbow, which resided in the holding tank, until released at the end of our trip.

A few more missed bites later, the clouds closed in, the temperature dropped and torrential rain swept in across the Uinta National Forest lashing the surface. Under the canopy, we huddled round the cockpit in an effort to avoid a soaking, the boat making steady headway against the storm, emerging from the Narrows to Soldier Creek and sunshine.

We barely had time to get the boat back on the trailer, before another storm hit for a wet 80 mile drive back to Ray’s home in Bountiful north of Salt Lake City.