Saturday, August 25, 2012


Learning to Fish the Hard way
  Eugene Halverson
Fishing the Uinta’s

By Eugene
Norman Steel and Keith Webb on Donkey Lake, Boulder Mountain
Lightning and thunder was just showing us what it could do.  It was beautiful and scary.  We were well above “Timber-Line” sleeping under the only tree around.  We had our camp in the rocks just above the lake but our sleeping quarters was under a lonely tree. When it was time for bed we walked about 80 yards up the mountain, it was a wonderful spot, fairly level with some pine needles and cones to sleep on.  We had been sleeping here for at least a week and loved it.  A storm was coming tonight so we went to bed early; we had already eaten supper and were tired.  We watched the rain-clouds move in.  We had already made sure our plastic tarp was tied to the tree on one side and rocked down on the other.  Our bags were now warm and cozy.  Normally, we watched the stars, but tonight we would have the most beautiful lightning display.  We had seen the dark clouds coming we knew we were going to have rain and may be a little lightning but.  Never before or since had we ever witnessed a storm like it.  The lightning was striking cloud to cloud, big flashes of light and thunder just a second away.  Well cloud to cloud is normally safe, but we were camping on Rainbow Lake at 11,400 feet and we were in those clouds.   We did not have to look above the tarp but out the side and below it. 
Keith Webb   Norman Steel 
We had both experienced lightning storms in the High County before and knew it was not good to be under a lone tree but neither one of us was about to move.  Where would we go anyway?   Well the storm passed and the sun was out in the morning.
Keith and I worked for Kennecott Copper Corp. and we were on strike.  If you can’t work you just had the time to go fishing.  Keith and I could never even think about getting vacation time to go and these strikes were a great time.  We always were the best of friends and fished all over the State and many places in Idaho.  We were only 18 years old when Keith, Norman Steele and I were fishing every body of water in the Lost River Range and the Lemhi Range.  There were the Big and Little Lost Creeks and later the Pahsimerot River that emptied into the Salmon River.  Here is where I got blamed for breaking Norms bottle of wine.  He tells me he still has not forgiven me but it did follow me out the door in town.  Wine was hard to come by if you are under age. We caught some trout but mostly Dolly Varden trout.  I did hook on to either a salmon or something else that took my whole outfit.  We did fish the Salmon River at Challis with little success.  Up to Stanley where we found the remains of lots of dead Salmon that had died after depositing their eggs.  We hit here and there on the way home, a long wonderful trip.
Keith Webb---David Thorne rafting and fishing
We were talking about this and the old times.  When he told me he sure would like to go to Rainbow Lake, the one at the head of the Uinta River.  I had never heard of it.  Someone somewhere had told him about five and six pound Book Trout, what the heck, our wives were tired of us being under foot, so off we went.  We arrived at the trail head on the Uinta River about ten o-clock that morning.  Our pack-racks were loaded at home with just the barest essentials, a sack of pancake flour, sugar, salt, bacon and Maple extract for syrup and sleeping bags.  Neither one weighed 35 pounds.  It was a long way, 20 miles to the first lake and that wasn’t Rainbow.  The trail wasn’t really that steep.  After about 16 miles up Keith lost me and called for me to hurry up.  When I showed up I had a hat full of Wild Strawberries, they were all over and all along the trail but I was afraid they would not be there to pick at the first lake.  Well soon after this there was stream just full of small cut-throats.  I told him it was supper-time, catch us some fish and I’ll get the fire going.  We must have eaten twenty of them, with biscuits topped with strawberries.  What a life.  The next morning we arrived at the Kidney Lakes (I think that was its name) where we caught some more fish for breakfast.  We fished a while because they were really biting.
Donkey Lake
There was a cabin here.  I think it was built either by the Forest Service or the Ranchers when they packed the camper in here.  It was too far to bring fishermen here and return in one day.  I don’t think it was locked but we were not interested in it.  In a couple of miles we came to another small good fishing lake but from the way the mountains formed we knew that we were about there.
Rainbow Lake was a beautiful Lake sitting in big rock basin.  The water was clear and deep, no vegetation, nothing.  There was nothing on the banks there to produce feed, so there had to be shrimp and hellgrammites or something like that in the lake.   The only thing growing was a small weather beaten tree and some brush in the fold of a canyon.  This was where we made our camp to sleep in.  We made our cooking camp just above the lake.  The fire-pit was already made and rocks to site and eat from, all the comforts of home but the fire wood was far away and at times windy, but it was our home for the next ten days. 
It took a while to learn how to fish the stupid lake.  It was deep; it was rocky to walk around.  During the day the brooks seems to go to the bottom where only metal lures work, I hate lures.  Big wooly worms on ten foot of two pound test leader worked mornings and evenings.  But even then the woolies only worked if you jiggled them or trolled them slow.  It was fun but a pain.  We explored and fished here and there and I liked that.  There was no grass and no Picas or Martins or for that matter, very little wild life.
Fishing with Norman Steel and Keith Webb--Dad's 36 Ford
Rainbow really was slow fishing; I believe the big ones had eaten the smaller one long before we got there.  They were at the end of the cycle; they were eating themselves out of house and home.  Then there were some really cold winters and being 11,400 feet, who knows how cold the temperature dipped to.  If the lake wasn’t so deep the ice cover and the cold would have killed them long ago.  Some of the Brookies we caught had two years of eggs, and one had three sets of eggs still in them; they would probably die next spring if they didn’t get rid of them.  That was why they were so fat.  The big heads told us that they were really old.     And I liked the smaller ones on the lakes below us.  The biggest we caught were about four pounds and I know there were bigger ones that that in there.  The biggest cut-throats were maybe three pounds and they were more fun to catch, they were in better shape and really wild. 
Keith and Norm
Ten days later here comes a troop of scouts without leaders, I never did know even if they had a leader.  As soon as they spotted us up they came.  We are lost and we haven’t eaten anything in two days, they cried.  Okay, but I need wood and off they went.  They ate us out of house and home.  All the pancake four was eaten up.  What syrup was left they drank it.  The big fish we were going to take home for show soon disappeared but we were glad to pawn them off on them, we were wondering what to do with them.  Neither Keith or I wanted  to eat them or take them home, but the kids surely loved them. 
We had lots of wood leftover so Keith burned his sleeping bag and pack-rack and everything he had.  And down the trail we went.  It was dark or almost dark when we got to the car.  We got to the famous “Frontier” restaurant  in Roosevelt and tanked up.  Then we had a long old drive home.  We came from home in the dark and left here in the dark.  It wasn’t easy but I still remember it as a wonderful trip.  

Norm and Gene 
Provo River; I fished the Lower Provo where it was swift and dangerous.  It seemed to boil as it tumbled over and around hundreds of huge boulders.  I liked to put my fly just ahead or behind one of the large boulder above me.  You fished up-stream and watched the line for any deviation.  You never felt the fish even when he had it in his mouth.  It was a watching and sensing game.  I almost always used a Captain Fly, black with white wings, supposedly imitating a hellgrammite.  This was Nymph fishing, a weighted fly on a short leader and line.  No fancy whipping the fly back and forth in the air, every forward cast returning to another part of the river.  The river and my line had my full attention I was in Heaven with not a care in the world.  Above me the Bridal Veil Falls cascaded down from the top of the mountain, a creek that splashed and splashed again to the next set of cliffs.  The Veil was the small drops or spray that floated on down the mountain.
I was not the only fisherman who thought he was the best, I had lots of competition.  “Nymph” fishing is still my favorite.  But old Nick Dokus from Bingham was the best with “Streamers”.  I knew his style and always caught fish but it was just too much work.  Streamers were supposed to imitate minnows and you had to work downstream and jerk the streamer upstream toward you.   Then there were the “Dry Fly” people who came at sundown to fish the slower water.  I did  it but it  was also too much work.
Lee and Gene at Hobble Creek
Provo City maintained a couple of parks, complete with picnic areas and playgrounds, but our favorite was “Wild Wood” at the junction where the road and Aspin Groove Creek emptied into the Provo, just below Vivian Park.  It was a stopping place of some of my Bingham friends who also had cabins there.  The fun thing about Wild Wood was the treasures that a little old man built and maintained.  There were separate cages for chipmunks and squirrels with running wheels, we loved to watch them exercise.  Water mysteriously spouted from all kinds of contraptions.  We all had ideas where and how the water ever got there and he would never tell.  And of course he sold all the food, ice cream and goodies that my kids loved.     
Just below the “Falls” and across the river was a “Gondola” for a price you would be lifted to a dining place sitting on a cliff near the top of the “Falls”.  Of course they sold us many trinkets and goodies.  A metal bridge spanned the river to the Heber Creeper Railroad tracks and train.  Somehow or other great snow slides began to fall, right over the Falls and down on to the Gondola Lift and even blocking the river.  The bridge and the Lift disappeared with the snow slides are just memories now.  The scenic ride up the canyon is also a thing of memories. A two lane road from the mouth of the canyon to the Dam was right next to the river.  Now you seldom see the river,  UDOT has screwed up the canyon with concrete barriers, flenses and tunnels trying to build a freeway where none should be built. What a shame.

My mother, Signe (Beth) Halverson cooking fish at Provo River
I caught more and bigger fish on the Provo River than any river in Colorado, Wyoming, or Montana.  I came here most days off as well as a quick drive after work.  We always put the big ones back to catch another day.  Once there was an 18 pounder near Vivian Park.  A beautiful fish, he was caught several times that I knew of,  then one day he was gone, some greedy bugger took him and we missed him.   

We had many close encounters with rattle snakes, big ones. I killed a few but in time I let them go unless they came into the playgrounds.  One day I had to stretch over a big log.  When I landed I was right in the coils of a very big rattler and my foot was dragging it along, I didn’t know that he was dead, lucky me I thought.  The next day at work I told Nester Swens about it.  He fell off his chair laughing.  He said he put him there to scare me, it did.
It was 1936-37, I can remember sitting on the bank up Hobble Creek looking and dreaming.  “Shall we catch him”, she said?  I jumped; I thought I was all alone.  I looked up to see who it was.  She was as old as Grandma and I instantly liked her, she was nice.  I am your Aunt Mary (Aunt Mary Halvorsen Peterson—Double Cousins).  She sent me off for a grasshopper or a worm would do while she looked for a hook and string.  The hook was a safety pin and the pole was a long willow and off we went.  We were pals and I’ll always remember her.  The fish were too smart for us but it opened a whole new life for me.  I felt loved and happy.  I will always remember her.  There were other Halversons and Petersons there but I had no idea who they were.  She was the only one who came to talk to me to the others I was invisible.  I was sent away from home to live with Grandma Halverson and I was alone and lonely and lost.    
When I came home I told mother about Aunt Mary and fishing, one day Dad gave a telescope steel fishing pole with a reel.  I learned how to tie hooks on leader with sinkers to keep the bait down and I was actually catching fish.  We camped on Diamond Creek that emptied into the Strawberry River.  The more I fished the better I got. 
When Dad went to Grandmas he would drop Lee aged 10 and I age 12 on the banks of Utah Lake in the morning and pick us up before dark.  There we fished with a long Cane pole with a six foot string and worm.  We usually caught 10 to 20 catfish and we had put in a gunny sack.  They were still alive when we dumped them in a wash tub.  Next morning we pulled their skins off and mother cooked them for supper. 
One day Leon Miller showed me what his dad had caught on the Provo River with spinners, so I 
bought some and fished with them.  One day while fish with bait on Schofield Reservoir with dad in a boat, I watched a man Dry fly fishing in the evening and he really put a show on for us.  So, I spent a lot of money and tried that.  I watched people in boats catching fish, so I bought a boat and Lee bought the motor.  We fished Deer Creek and Strawberry with it, trolled all day with pop-gear or flatfish, with a 20 fish limit we were bring powder-boxes full of fish home for mother to bottle.  We did catch some big ones and we caught many but it seemed like I was still looking.  Soon we were down to Fish Lake and had no idea how to catch the big mackinaws.  

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So, up to the Lodge we went, of course we bought everything the man said we needed except for the leader, he laid a 30 pound leader on the table and I bought the 15 pound one.  I already had the paddle-boards with copper-line on it.  The next morning we was out a daylight waiting for two old men from Richfield who were experts.  We watched them with binoculars for hours and they did not like it one bit.  The trouble was we were camped near each other in the same campgrounds.  The next couple of days I lost two big ones and they laughed at us.  I had to go back and ask the man in the lodge for the 30 lb. leader; of course he said I told you so.  The next morning I hooked a big one, Lee had the net, he looked at the fish and then the net, the fish was much too big and the net was way too small.  Shall I net him head first or tail first, he asked.  That’s your problem, don’t lose him.  Well he was almost three feet long and we never weighed him. 
The last time I used the boards was in Shoshone Lake with my daughter, Diane. We took the canoe across Lewis Lake up the river to Shoshone Lake and were blown across to the far side of the lake to a primitive beach.  There were lots of bears then and when everything got quite we knew we had company.  Our food was pulled high in the trees and we were never bothered.  The fishing was too good, it didn’t matter what I put on or how fast I dropped the line a small Mackinaw would have It.  So, I fished for the Brown Trout with fly and bubble.  I had some big ones hooked but I lost all the monsters and turned the others loose.  On the way down the channel we stopped and fished where the fast water hit the slower water at a sharp bend near a big rock, there were some monsters there too. 

Before we learned to fly fish, we fished with minnows off the Charleston Bridge every spring.  The big Browns were running up the River on a feeding frenzy.  Both Keith and I had caught a few nice ones.  If the minnow didn’t sink fast enough a stupid sea-gull would have it.  As I reeled him in from the sky, I grabbed him and he bit me.  Lee wasn’t happy so he walked down to the river and started slapping the water to get rid of his minnow.  On about the third slap a big seven pound Rainbow took it and about drowned Lee before he got him in.   

Keith Webb's salmon
I put the boat and the canoe away about this time and did nothing but “Nymph” fishing.  Most of the best fishermen were from Bingham and they shared what they knew about the different skills but never about a favorite hole.  We had carpools going to the Provo after work.  I took my family to all the rivers and lakes in Colorado for a while.  Wyoming had some great lakes but they did not like the fish hogs from Utah and I could not blame them.  Montana had the best rivers and they guarded them but the faster rivers were on Forest land so I had no problem. 
Boyd Forman, Keith Web and I always fished the Blackfoot River near Soda Springs when it opened in June.  The fishing was slow but each one of us were catching a few some big some small.  I began watching a young boy about 13 or 14 years old, every fish he pulled out was a big one and in every hole, so I asked him what he was using.  It was a large hook with a skinny yellow and brown body with brown hackle.  “Will you sell me one”?  “I only have a couple, “NO”.  “How about $5.00 for one”?   Then I went looking for Boyd and Keith.  I was catching one big one after another.  I told them I was just a better fisherman than them and ignored them.  Then they cornered me and had to fess up.  Idaho had some real good rivers and did quite well on the Snake, Grey and Salt Rivers. 
But by now the Madison River was calling me back to Montana and into West Yellowstone and only a mile or two to where the Madison River exited the Park.  I always caught and released lots of big Browns but the six and seven pounders always got away.  Some broke my line going down stream and others went up stream too fast for me to keep up. 
David's Blue Gill and Large Mouth Bass from stream entering Utah Lake
I think my family like Flaming Gorge in Utah.  Brownie Lake was my son, David’s favorite place.  He didn’t care much for the lake; Carter Creek above or below Brownie was where he fished.   It seems like we always had a coffee pot and a frying pan hot and cooking.  He left the Rainbows in the water but always brought back the Brook and Cutthroat Trout.  We ate what he caught, six inch long or sixteen.  I ate the small ones David ate big ones.  I would rather watch him fish than fish myself; he got to be an excellent fisherman.  Now I watch my grand-kids and love that too  

I went to Mirror Lake with my grandson, Jake.  I took a frying pan to cook our fish, and got skunked.  It was like a circus, too many people.  So, went over to Butter Fly Lake.  It was crowded and hard to find a place to fish.  Some were catching them on “Power Bait”.  Those poor hatchery fish never knew what a fly was and I definitely was not going throw garbage at them.  I took Jake up to “Moose Horn Lake” and there were very few people up there and it was quite pleasant.  Jake was off like a flash.  I decided that I wanted to stay as long as Jake was happy.  So I gathered up a lunch and walked to the far side.  Jake took a walk up the side of “Mount Baldy”.  When he came back we ate and fished a little.  The lake had some kind of large high-bred trout of some kind.  They were hitting spinners but neither one of us wanted to walk back to the car to get them. But we left the area happy and hope to come again.    
Cut Throat Trout from Carter Creek 
The trucks finally stopped the “Fed’s” had built the dykes, filled it with water and stocked Willard Bay with fish.  It was a show piece the newspapers and the radio let everyone know it was there.  Bud Patrick and I got there just before noon; we tossed Dare Devils, Flat Fish, spinners and even bait.  We figured it was to late in the day, trout didn’t bite to good at noon time either so we began gathering up our stuff and was just leaving when I notice a fishermen pulling in a bass.  Before he had landed it his partner was bringing in another one.  Well, we started fishing by them, first one side and then the other, with no luck at all.  They would look at us and grin.  Soon they had their limit, 10 or 20, I can’t remember.  Cornered them as they went to leave, “What are you losing”, I asked?  “A purple Plastic Night Crawler’” and off they went laughing.  I asked the clerk in a Sporting Goods Store in Brigham City and he looked at me like I was some kind of a nut.  He couldn’t help me, so he hollered to the manager, “We got any Purple Night Crawlers”?  Of course everybody in the store laughed at us.  We had to settle for some brown ones and we were soon back at Willard again.  Nothing again, so we started to leave.  Guess who was fishing in our old spot, the two Alabama Boys; they were catching a second limit. Pat sat on a rock but I sat next to them.  Every time they would cast, I would cast, they would let it drop, and they would set the hook and have a Bass.  Setting to hook at the same time netted me nothing.  He began laughing at me, “What are you using now”.  “A Brown Plastic Night Crawler”.  The Bass had shredded their purple ones, yet they would not sell me one.  “You had better take those browns things home, they will last you the rest of your life”. 
David   Diane canoeing on Brownie Lake
Well, our Fish and Game put Wiper Bass in Willard and ruined the croppy fishing and the Large Mouths are gone too. I could sit in a chair and fill a 5 gallon bucket with croppy the banks were lined with fishermen and their families.  The Park Service loves the boaters and does their best to send the fishermen away.  As soon as it gets cold and the boaters leave, the place looks deserted.  The Manager can now sit on his duff in State furnished house for the winter.  I know why the park service is loosing money but they don’t have a clue.
I caught Bass in Utah Lake through to Ice with Dare Devils.  I caught some with Flat Fish when the lake frozen in the “hot Pools” at Saratoga, even David had caught one in a stream feeding in to the lake.  But it was more like an accident with lures; I wanted to get the feel, to know when I had a Bass messing with my lure. 
Lake Powell had opened up, so I bit the bullet and spent a few thousand dollars and off I went.  Ben McAllister went with me.  He always came with his “water dogs” salamanders.  It was nothing to catching three pound Large Mouths (Black Bass) but I was beginning to get the hang of fishing with the plastic worms and grubs.  I was getting the hits, I lost more than I boated.  So, I bought a few more hundred dollars for heavier poles, reels and line.  Most of the big boys were using spinner baits, deep diving lures but I had finally got the knack with the plastic worms, tubes, jigs etc. I had boxes of these, lots of hard earned money, and then there was hundreds of dollars for the gas.  But it was worth every cent.  We always came home with coolers full of Bass and Croppy.   
Diane    David  sailing on Great Salt Lake
Then one day the “Stupid Utah Fish and Game against the wishes of all the Bass Clubs, Arizona F&G and the Feds. Put strippers in Lake Powell and ruined it for the bass and croppy fisherman.  They grew and soon averaged 28 to 32 inches long and they were good eating for a while but soon died off.  When the shad came back we had cycles off good and bad years until they were all eaten again.    The fish were now skinny and not worth eating.  The only fish that thrived was the carp.  It looked like you could walk them across the lake.  I hung on to my boat for a while then gave it away.