Mousing Around The Berry

June 3, 2010

Strawberry Reservoir

by Bryan Eldredge
Co-owner and Guide
Utah Fly Guides

Jake Ricks called me around 7:00. He was on his way home from a guide trip at Falcon’s Ledge, the fly fishing lodge near Altamont, Utah where we both guide. I was heading toward Provo Canyon on my way out for one the starting the next day. In Jake’s wisdom, he calculated that this would have us crossing paths somewhere near Strawberry Reservoir a bit before sunset. My plan to get to the lodge early enough to take care of my preparations for the next day’s guide trip (i.e. tying bugs, organizing equipment, etc.) and still make it to bed early (11:00ish?) was already in question, but Jake simple question, “Do you want to throw a line?” sealed the deal.

An hour later I pulled off the road behind Jake’s truck. I could see him at water’s edge over 500 yards away and even from that distance his easily recognizable, seemingly effortless casts had me scrambling to catch up. I rigged my rod while dodging critter holes among the sagebrush.

We had come for large cutthroats. There were plenty of fish rising in the bay. “Small rainbows,” Jake said. He’d already taken several while he waited where I would be able to see him. “But there was one really big one right by the bank as I came down,” he added.

In all the years I’ve known Jake, I’ve discovered that he pronounces the word big in a variety of ways, each having its own nuanced form and accompanying meaning. The particular version of big he used here begins with a distinctive /b/ sound. It’s a breathy, heavily aspirated sound, and I’ve come to translate it roughly as “We might not have a big enough net.”

The idea was to throw something big. Ideally, a mouse. Unfortunately we had only one mouse pattern among the thousands of flies on us. Stuff like this happens when you’re racing the sun. After my half-hearted offer to Jake to take the mouse and his sincere but pained decline, we waded out into the thick, cold water and began casting. And watching.

Soon, Jake said, “Oooo. Big fish. Coming your way. Big wake.” Jake became my guide, helping me time the retrieve to get the hair rodent to swim an inviting course. But no take.

Slowly we saw more swirls and worked to get into position of the biggest ones. Then, as I rambled on about some recent guide trip, a huge head burst up from under my mouse and tried to kill it. The fish grabbed it and hooked himself, while I mustered all my courage not to pee myself. The unexpectedness of the strike filled me with adrenaline even though I was pretty sure it wasn’t a big fish. I told Jake it wasn’t and he pointed out, as he waded up beside me, that for a smaller fish, it sure was putting the bend on my heavy rod. As he rolled beneath me, I saw a deep silver belly. As I lifted him from the water with one hand, the girth of this fish, ‘just’ 19-20” in length I couldn’t help but grin. It’s not my best look for photos, but there was no stopping it.

We sent the little toad back for another day and then exchanged a high five and agreed to get back soon. And as we made our way back to the trucks in the dark, my arms wet to the elbows, it didn’t seem to matter that I’d get to bed well after midnight.

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3 Responses to “Mousing Around The Berry”

  1. Counselor Says:

    Nice lookin’ fish! Nice to hear Falcon’s Ledge is still in operation. My dad took me there when I was a young boy learning to fly fish. Unfortunately, I broke his rod on that trip.

    Reply

  2. Name (required)Bryan Says:

    Falcon’s Ledge is still running. And you certainly aren’t the only one to break a rod tip there. I hope your dad took it as well as could be expected and that you’ve since spent a lot of quality days on the water together.

    Bryan

    Reply

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