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Fall Stillwater fishing for me is never a disappointment and this year was special.  Having just returned from my fall trip, fishing was maybe the best I’ve experienced in the past 15 years.  Most of the lakes I fished were down in depth from the drought we suffered this past year, but that only concentrates the trout which makes it easier for us to locate those little darlings. 

First stop was at Henry’s Lake in Idaho, no disappointment there.  The lake was consistently good for brooks, cutts and rainbow/cutthroat hybrids averaging 18-22 inches.  Fished a couple of days, the catch rate was 25 and 28 fish respectively with the most productive flies being the Peacock Callibaetis, size 12.  I fished from first light and found the brook trout aggressively feeding until the sun hit the water.   You have to get on those fish early as they go off the bite or move into deeper water and more difficult to find.   Couldn’t ask for better weather although the wind put a pretty good ripple on the water most of the day.  

Next stop was Island Park Reservoir with Garth Williams.  We took his boat to a small bay; he knows the late, parked it and fished from out Super Cat pontoon boats.  Found the rainbows feeding in 4-6 feet of water and willing to eat my Seal Bugger, size 8, my Stillwater Bug in size 10 and my Black A.P. Emerger in size 10.  Those fish can pull hard and were very aggressive when working the fly up as an emerger at the end of the retrieve.  Most fish averaged 18-23 inches with a couple of 25 inches and about 6 to 7 pounds.  On both Henry’s and Island Park I used my 7 foot Camo intermediate sink tip which was perfect for fishing the top 2 or 3 feet of water.   The full sinking Camo also worked fine but the 7 foot tip was easier to keep the fly high. 

24.5lbs, 36in. caught at Prong Horn Res. on Black Callibaetis Nymph

On to the Cody with Garth the next day and found Monster Lake down about 6 feet or so but fished very well.  Lots of this year’s plants that averaged 14-15 inches with fat little bellies.  That’s the result of solid food base as these fish were planted in May 4-5 inches.  Pretty solid growth in just 5 months.  Between the two of us, we hooked several of the big fish that were 21 to 26 inches and ran 6-9 pounds, both rainbow and browns.

We concentrated our efforts at the upper end of the lake in 5 to 7 feet of water, used the Camo full sinking lines and caught most of the fish on my Stillwater Bug in size 8 and 10 and my Black A.P. Emerger in size8.  I can’t tell you how hard these fish pull, but if we didn’t use 1X fluorocarbon tippet, we would lose every other fish to break-offs either on the take or they would weed us off and break off,  I can’t wait until spring when I return to fish over these rainbows that will run 20-22 inches and 5-7 pounds. Add in the browns, cutts and brook trout that are already big, robust fish along with the holdover bows that will run up to 12 to 13 pounds and you have one of the best trophy fisheries in the entire west.  For added bonus, Steve Bassett, the head guide and ranch manager, keeps telling me about the late June, early July dry fly fishing where caddis and mayflies bring even the largest trout to the surface.   Where else can you land 5-8 pound trout on a dry fly and do it all day.   Then in early fall, the hopper hatch brings the biggest of browns up to feed.  Dave Freel, my fishing partner each fall landed a 13 to 14 pound brown two years ago and missed three others that were bigger.  Can’t wait.

23.5lbs, 34in. caught at Prong Horn Res. on Black Callibaetis Nymph

Next stop took me back to Henry’s Lake for three days and it was just as good if not better.  I fished early from first light, took a few hours off mid-day and got back after them around 2pm till about 6.  By then they had worn me out.  Didn’t change anything from my earlier stop and the bite was a bit better with perfect conditions.

Final stop was at Piedmont Reservoir on the Guild Ranch near Fort Bridger.  The lake was down about 8 feet, but fished as well as I can remember.  Now most of you are not going to believe me when I tell you as good as Monster Lake was for big fish, Piedmont was better.  Fishing my Shiner Minnow in close to the shoreline weed beds where the little minnows teased those big trout in to chasing them.  I was averaging around 5 to 7 fish 25-26 inches, that’s about 7-9 pounds from first light till about 8am.  All I had to do was put the fly close to the shore about every 5 feet or so if I didn’t see fish working or cast to them when I did see them working.  You talk about a pissed off trout when I stuck them, they would bolt for open water and you can’t believe the power of the trophy fish.  Yes, I was using the 1X fluorocarbon tippet with my 7 foot Camo sink tip as the depths ranged from a foot down to about four feet along the edges of the weed beds.   On one day, I landed browns, rainbows, brooks, tigers and rainbow/cutthroat hybrids.  They also planted Donaldson hybrids this past spring that have grown to 15 inches and pull as hard, or so it seems as some of the bigger trout.   I can tell you this, these same fish next year and in the years to come because they will live longer, some 10 to 12 years are going to grow to well over 10 pounds and are going to break a lot of angler hearts.  I can just hear the fish stories about the one that got away.

17.5lbs, 31in. caught at Prong Horn Res. on Peacock Callibaetis

Mid-day fishing was OK but as the sun dipped and about 4pm, I got back after them. Believe, I wasn’t disappointed as I fish close to pitch black and took one big trout after another with my minnow pattern or my Stillwater Bug in size 8 and 10 respectively.  Mid-day angling was with my Grey Callibaetis or my Black Midge Larva in Size 10 or the bug.  Trout would leave the shoreline edges as the sun got higher and you would have to fish away from the edges in water 5-8 feet deep.  My best fish on the third day at 4 in the afternoon was my best fish at this reservoir in 15 years.  It was a brown that went 32 inches, 14.9 pounds.  I was shaking after a 10 minute battle surviving him hanging me in the weeds, streaking for deep water and just pulling so hard my wrists were aching by the time I landed him.  You guys know what I’m talking about after you land that trophy that has eluded you over the years.

Well still a couple of months of the season left and you can bet I’m going to take advantage of it as this is coming into minnow time and big fish time of year.

I’m going to try and update this column on or about the first of the month throughout the year.  Even if I haven’t been fishing, I’ll try and bring you something I feel will help you with your pursuit of big trout.  One final thing, the saddles have arrived and those of you who have waited can get them in burnt orange, burgundy, olive and black or undyed grizzly.  Call me if I can help.

Best Regards,

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