All content © Robert Williamson

All content © Robert Williamson

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fall Day on the Ogden River

I've fished the Ogden River my whole life. Over the years, I have had many fishing partners tell me that they hate wading the Ogden because it is too much work, the boulders are in the way, and the rocks are slippery. I use to just hide a wry grin. I have loved the workouts this river gives. I admit it is one slippery river and one must be careful when stepping on the rocks--submerged and exposed.

I know I'm getting older. I can feel the stress in my back after a few hours of fishing--something I don't remember at all in my youth. I have to use readers to tie on a tippet and thread the tippet through the eye of the fly. But other than that, I feel like I get around good and I do try to be a little more careful. Today, after about two casts, I slipped on a mossy rock and went down hard. I laid there for a few minutes and then sat up. I bruised the front of my left leg and tweaked my back pretty good. The desire to make it a good day had me back on my feet and casting. I could nurse my pain when I was back home. All those wry smiles I used to hide from my partners came back to haunt me. Age has a way of teaching wisdom.

I didn't get a chance to fish the Ogden River during my favorite times this year. I love the early spring Blue-winged Olive hatches and my favorite, the stonefly hatch, but this year with all the snow melt runoff the river was just too high and fast. Even late summer when conditions were better, I was off chasing fish in other canyons and states. Twenty years ago, I would spend two or three evenings in Ogden Canyon and most Saturdays. It's close to home and I can usually be rigged and fishing within 30 minutes from home. I haven't been spending that kind of time with the Ogden River lately. I sometimes wonder why.

Fall brown taken on a cicada pattern.
 With my regular season fishing coming to an end (I'm getting where I don't fish much in the winter months). I decided to take advantage of one last good fall day. I decided to stay close to home and give my old friend a try. It was a little overcast when I left home. Overcast days can be perfect for Blue-winged Olive hatches. When I got to the river I noticed a few fluttering around. Most of the fish I spotted feeding were taking emergers just below the surface. Every once in a while I would see a head pop out and a dun disappear. The BWO duns were very small (maybe a size 22 or 24). I had a few size 18 tied up and they looked like giants compared to the ones on the water.
Ogden River brown trout.

I've always had good luck on the Ogden with large attractor dry flies in the fall. One year I nailed a bunch of fish on a fall afternoon using a looped foam cicada. I tie this pattern with a black foam body and then vary the color of the head. My favorite colors for the head are orange, red, and lime green. All three colors have been successful but I like the orange head the best. That was my choice today. Even though I saw a few risers to the Blue-winged mayflies, I decided to throw something I could see in the pocket water. I caught a couple and missed a couple.

When I hit a good stretch of smooth water, I decided to tie on the BWO pattern. It was bigger than the naturals, but I was able to catch several fish. All of the sudden I was getting regular hits on almost every cast, and fish were rising pretty consistently. I had at least 15 hits in this stretch but could not hook them. I finally brought in my fly and noticed there was no hook on the fly. I've had points break off before but this Chain-stitched mayfly didn't have a hook period. I don't know how this happened, and I've never had it happen before, but the hook was completely gone. I tied on another BWO and one the first catch caught a fish, then another, and another. I turned to my wife and said, "see, it works a lot better when you actually have a hook."

Rainbow trout.

I was having decent action but soon put the fish down in the smooth stretch. I tied the cicada back on and proceeded to work up river through some swifter currents. I took a couple of small browns and then nailed a fat rainbow about fourteen inches long. It was the first rainbow I've caught on the Ogden in a long time. I caught three of these fat bows during the few hours I fished. I wondered if these were planters that had migrated up into the canyon a ways. I know the DWR plants rainbows down near the river parkway. They were actually a nice diversion from the steady catch of browns.
Switching pattern.

Brown trout caught on a Chain-stitched Blue-winged Olive mayfly.

Decent brown caught on a BWO.
 In all it was a nice afternoon. It was nice of my wife to tag along and take the photographs. I caught some nice fish and the action was fast enough to keep me moving. Some of the fish looked like they were getting ready for the spawn. The last section I fished before I got out looked like the trout were building a redd. I spooked a couple of really nice trout near the end of the cleared gravel. They were big and they were fast. They tore out of the shallows with some real speed. I'm almost positive they were preparing to spawn. 
Brown like this are abundant on the Ogden River.

I noticed that the Blue-winged Olives stopped hatching and the skies had cleared to blue. I decided to call it an afternoon. I hiked up the steep bank and then walked back to the car with my wife. We were home in about 25 minutes. We talked about how we sometimes drive for a few hours to fish and how the fishing in the Ogden was just as good as the other places we try. Maybe I need to spend some more time there. I'll think about it. It is a workout. The boulders are big and slippery. I'll have to think about it. Right now, I'm going to take another pain pill for my tweaked back and go to bed. Goodnight!

Sunday, October 23, 2011


It's late Fall, or what is often referred to as Indian Summer. The temperature is ten degrees warmer than normal. The aspen leaves are that dark, golden color before they turn brown and tumble to the ground. Pine squirrels run across the forest floor checking fallen cones for nuts to cache before deep snow buries the mountain.

With each wind, a rustling sound like someone searching the bottom of a paper sack for the last morsel of lunch drifts through the quiet. It's a perfect day for a hike.

From the trail head we gradually climb up a rocky side hill toward a small ridge sparsely covered with sage, quakies, and pine. As we climb out of the Tony Grove parking lot a wooden sign marks a split in the trail. The trail to the left takes you to Naomi Peak. The trail to the right takes you to White Pine Lake. White Pine Lake is our destination. We've already hiked a few tenths of a mile and the sign tells us we have 3.8 miles to go.

Best friends.

We are lured to this area with autumn colors and as a fly fisherman with rumor of a small lake filled with palette-splashed brook trout. At the sign we glance back to take in the view of Tony Grove Lake. The scene is nice. I try to block out the cars and trucks, and asphalt in the parking lot and look upward at the gray rocky cliffs dressed in a shallow coating of early season snow.

Small colorful brook trout.

Autumn brookie

The trail takes us through a couple of clearings, then through areas of pine and aspen. The afternoon sun has melted the frozen trail and we slip and slide through muddy stretches. We end up on a ridge overlooking another canyon. A climb down through a few frozen switchbacks puts us in the bottom of the canyon. We stop to rest and I can hear the gurgle of a small creek. If my map is right, this is Bunchcreek. Somewhere near this creek is another trail that runs approximately seven miles down to Highway 89, the main road in Logan Canyon. Toward the headwaters of this creek is the lake we are seeking. I investigate the creek water and search for any sign of small trout. I see places where trout could survive but never spot any. My attention is then turned to finding the lake. The lake is well hidden and at no point on the trail have we been able to get a glimpse of it. This adds to the excitement. Finally, as we cross a couple of footbridges, and crest a small hill, we look toward the base of two mountain peaks named Gog and Magog and see White Pine Lake.The shadow side of the peaks is covered with a foot of snow while the opposite side has a warm inviting look. The water is fresh and clean; it takes on the color of the green moss bottom. From different angles mirrored images of tall pines shoot across the surface. With each little breeze the images are erased and then reappear with stillness. This is a popular summer and fall destination. Boy Scouts like to hike in for overnight camps. As we were going in we passed a troop of Boy Scouts going out and a couple of people on horseback. When we arrived at the lake we lucked out and had it to ourselves for an hour. I noticed a few fish rise and rigged my rod, line, leader and fly as quick as I could. I made several casts into the area of the rising fish and hooked up with a nice 11-inch brookie. The colors on the fish matched the colors of the fall foliage. I was impressed with the beauty. The dark worm-like mottled back, the bright orange-red belly, the blue and crimson dots, and the brilliant white on the leading edge of the fins made for a very handsome trout.

Notice the snow in the background.

Most of the brookies were about 10 inches.

I can't claim that the fishing was fast but it was fun. I found that my best tactic was to spot a cruising fish and then cast to it. Most of the cruisers would turn and come for the fly. I was using a dry fly and twitching it slightly to get the brookie's attention. It was like fishing in slow motion for me. I'm so used to the quicker rises of fish on moving waters. Watching and waiting for the trout to get to my fly was fun.

Casting to cruising trout.

A beautiful setting.
With the shortness of the fall day, we decided to start our hike out to beat the setting sun. A little stiffer breeze was blowing and fast moving, small cumulus clouds were starting to appear above the mountain peaks. On our way out we passed a few groups of backpackers just going in. This is definitely a great place for an overnighter. As we hiked out I dreamed of hiking back in and staying overnight. The idea of a fresh trout dinner, a warm campfire, and a star-filled night danced through my mind.

Can't wait to do this again.

The muddy section of the trail had mostly dried out with the afternoon sun. I smiled as I hiked and talked with my daughter and wife. Our hike was topped off when three deer jumped out of the brush and across the trail in front of my daughter. She waved for us to stop and then slowly approach her. The three deer stood off the trail about 30 yards and stared at us as we stared at them.

Eventually, we made it back to Tony Grove and the parking lot. A stiff wind was now blowing over the ridge. Our timing was perfect. A few days later I mentioned to my wife and daughter that I loved being outdoors and that I always have a feeling similar to a home sickness after a day outside in areas I love. My heart flipped when my daughter said she often feels the same thing when we leave grandpa's summer home in Bear Lake. I believe there are places in nature that provide a measure of serenity and peace--maybe even an unexplainable healing both to the body and the spirit. As I write this my eyes are moist as I think back on spending a wonderful day with two of the people I love so much. Nature is bringing us closer together.

My daughter, her dog Ottus, and the penguin.

First vew of the lake.

White Pine Lake

Sunday, October 2, 2011


First fish of the day.
Fun size for a 3-weight rod.
Small and fiesty.

Blending colors.