Trophy Trout Guide


Rick and Jan's Most Excellent Vacation

When I got home and had time to think about it, I soon realized that this was the best vacation I have had in years. I had been waiting to see Yellowstone Park for as long as I could remember and finally I made it. Having one of my Grandsons along was a neat deal also.

The gorgeOne of my dear friends, Randy Wiyninger and his wife Connie had moved to Soda Springs, Id. last year to manage an apartment complex and we had been planning this trip together since last winter. It is a good days drive from Bend to Soda Springs and not much to see after Ontario, Or. The area they live in is a small valley below Pocatello, Id. nestled between a couple of small mountain ranges at a little over 6,000 feet in elevation.

Beautiful kokaneeI was so pumped up when we got there. It was so good to see them and the opportunity to get up into some of that country just north of them had me chomping at the bit to get on the road. We had decided that we would head up through Star Valley, Wyoming on route to Jackson. You know when I was growing up; I could have sworn it was called Jackson Hole. My guess is that political correctness wins again. We were heading up to explore this famous tourist trap and then would venture up the shores of Palisades Lake to fish the Snake River beneath the dam. Randy has reunited his love affair for fly-fishing and has been paying his dues on the river since the spring. Colin and I flung some lures from shore to no avail and spent a little of that evening watching Randy haul that fly back and forth as artfully as anyone who is just getting back into it. One thing is for sure, he is way ahead of me with a fly rod.

The next morning found us in route to Yellowstone via the northern route up through St. Anthony. We welcomed the change of scenery from the high desert and soon were deep in pines on our way to Island Park Lake. After lunch along the shore, we got back on the road with Henry’s Lake as our next stop. It was news to Jan that we were taking a more scenic route to Yellowstone and at her urging; we drove by Henry’s and moved on toward Hebgen Lake and the West entrance of Yellowstone.

Crystal clear One of the most interesting parts of the whole trip unfolded as we started up the canyon to Hebgen. You could see the after affects of a giant slide that fell due to the earthquake that occurred in 1959. I had not heard the story of Earthquake Lake or the infamous quake that had formed it. We turned into the visitor’s center and sat down in a small theater to watch the film of that horrendous event. Twenty-eight people perished in a campground below the granite cliffs that August night a little after midnight. The earthquake was measured at 7.4 on the rector scale, and was the fourth largest in modern history in the United States. The enormity of it all struck me as I stood up against the railing and looked out over the slide area. They said that the wind preceding the slide neared 100 M.P.H. as the wall of rock screamed down the mountain to dam the river and bury the unsuspecting campers below.

Yellowstone riverAfter this interesting diversion, we were finally driving by Hebgen Lake and soon approached the town of West Yellowstone and the entrance of the
famous park. Our plan was to break the park down into do-able bites over the next day and a half. We stayed in Canyon Village in the center of the park and worked from that base camp. First day out was up to Mammoth Hot Springs, explore anything of interest along the way, and then back down toward Old Faithful and the geysers in that area of the park. The beauty of the whole place had me spellbound and I understood why so many people rave about there trips. I was only disappointed in the over-commercialization of the most famous geyser of them all. As I stood there at Old Faithful and looked around at all the buildings, concrete and wooden walkways and all of the other manmade distractions, I wondered about the awe felt by the early settlers when it was first discovered. It is still an impressive sight!

The next morning we would head south toward Yellowstone Lake and then on out to the Tetons. Before we left the area that morning, we went to the upper and lower falls to view one of the most photographed scenes in America. The falls truly are spectacular! On the road south of there, we came upon a large clearing with hundreds of Bison spread across both sides of the road. We got some great shots of some of the bulls doing what appeared to be a rutting routine.

Beautiful riverThe Yellowstone River is gorgeous as it winds along toward the lake. We stopped a few times along the way for photos and to watch rising cutthroats as they took stoneflies in this surreal setting. When we were within view of the lake, the fishing bridge beckoned us to watch 5-9 LB. Cutts taking various bugs that dotted the surface. They used to let the public fish in that area of the river but the practice was stopped years ago due to over harvesting of the cutthroats.

After lunch at Yellowstone Lake and the walk around the West Thumb Geyser basin, we pushed on to the Tetons. Unfortunately, we arrived in the afternoon and with the sun behind the mountains, we did not get the photo opportunities we would have had in the morning. They were still awe inspiring as the rose above Jackson Lake. By the end of the day, we found ourselves back in Jackson to give the local merchants a little more of our money for some irresistible trinkets to take home. We made it home to Soda Springs before dark and were very exhausted from our marathon during the last two days. I vowed I would return someday soon.

The gorge beckonsOne of the biggest highlights of the trip was the trek to the Holy of Fishing Holies, Flaming Gorge. For many years, I had fantasized about the trip to the Gorge. Having missed the glory days of the best trophy brown trout fishing in the United States during the 70’s and 80’s, I still wanted to visit this shrine. Located on the border of Wyoming and Utah, this 92 mile long Reservoir is one of the most famous fishing destinations in North America. It holds lake trout up to 50 Lb. and held the world record for brown trout with a 33Lb. 10 oz. monster in the late 70’s. The current attraction is monster kokanee with both state records exceeding 6 Lb.

Check out the size of those kokesA couple of my fishing buddies live in the area and we had planned to get together for some hardcore, trophy kokanee fishing. Ron Carey and John Krmpotich have become close friends over the last five years. Ron and I met through our association of being brownbaggers. Krmp, as he likes to be called, is one of Ron’s best friends. We all fished together years back when they came to Central Oregon to sample some of our brown trout waters. I took them to Paulina, Crescent and Wickiup. They were repaying the favor via a day out on the Gorge. The only disappointment was that Ron could not join us due to some medical problems with his wife.

Grandson with some nice fishWe met Krmp at the motel around 4:00 a.m. with high hopes of getting into some big kokes. Turns out that we would have a day I will never forget as long as I live. Arriving at the ramp of Anvil Draw we discovered that Krmp’s boat trailer had a flat. Deciding to deal with it after the fishing, we launched the boat and headed to an area called Wildhorse Creek and set up to fish. John had done well the previous week and stuck 22 kokes with his father-in-law in the same area. By what we saw on the graph, it was looking good for us as well. These kokes looked like small (4-5 LB. lakers) on the screen of his Lowrance. We were licking our chops!

We set up to run a rod on each rigger and I was amazed at the rods Krmp was setting up. I had brought a couple of Miralle’s light noodle rods we use for Kokanee back in Oregon. John suggested that we would be better off using his medium size downrigger rods because of the size of the fish we would catch. I told him that was fine with me.

51 pound mack!The first fish was 3 Lb. and I was amazed that it was considered on the small side for the current status of Flaming Gorge kokanee. After several kokes around 3.5 to 3.75 Lb., I was getting a clear picture of why serious kokanee anglers from around the west were flocking here these past few summers. These were incredible fish that fought hard and took drag, something that was foreign to us on our local kokes.

I lucked out and turned on the video camera when my Grandson Colin hooked up on the biggest kokanee of the day. The koke weighing around 4.25 to 4.35 lb. and will probably net him the world record for his age class in the IFGA. I have the fish in the freezer and will take it to the Post Office soon for a certified weight prior to submitting it. The fish got within 30 feet of the boat and then turned and did a blitz run of about 40 yards in a sweeping run across the top of the water like salmon running up a river in 10 inches of water. I will eventually have the video up on the website.

A beautiful beachOverall, we finished the morning with 24 kokanee and 2 small lakers. The kokanee AVERAGED an incredible 3.25 LB., conservatively. The two biggest (both over 4 LB.) are in my freezer and will be mounted soon. John gave me permission to share that we caught all the fish on rigs consisting of double Shasta Tackle Slingblades with hootchies and a Goldstar flasher pulling the same. The fish were around 50 feet and the bite that morning was dying around 11:00 a.m.

What a treat for me to fish this lake with family and friends and be as successful as we were in the short window of time we had. As I said earlier, I will never forget this trip to Flaming Gorge and one of the most memorable vacations of my life.


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