Saturday, August 06, 2016

Great hiking and fun fishing in the Uintas

On Friday I got up at 4:00 to try and get to the Ruth Lake trailhead in the Uinta Mountains early. I actually ended up leaving the Salt Lake Valley at about 5:15 after forgetting my worms and having to drive back a few blocks to retrieve them. Almost like when someone gets distracted when talking on the phone (hands free), and misses their exit ramp on the freeway.
The drive up was uneventful. I say that, but really as I approached Bald Mountain Pass, off to the side of the road was an entire herd of mountain goats. I stopped and took a few pics of them, then continued on my way.
Right off the road, a herd of mountain goats.
The trailhead parking was already quite full when  I got there. I found out later that there were quite a few Scout troops and families camped by all the lakes that fed off the Ruth Lake trail. Most of the cars there were from folks who had spent at least one night camping. I was envious!
Up to Ruth Lake, the trail is pretty well distinct. Along the way, I saw a bull moose sneaking his way along the edge of a large meadow. At that moment I wished that I had decided to pack the extra weight of my zoom lens, but I was still able to at least document that he was there.
If you look closely, that dark brown spot in the center of the pic is a bull moose sneaking through the trees.
I found the first of several Scout troops at Ruth Lake. They had camped right on the trail and I skirted around them. My goal was to make it to Teal Lake and get some quality fishing time. After skirting the Scout camp I was unable to locate any trail heading toward Teal. I decided to pull out my trusty GPS and just head for it cross country.
Ruth Lake
It was a bit rugged in parts, and I found out that if you're climbing down rocks, you should avoid stepping on Englemann Spruce needles. They roll like tiny logs beneath your feet and I nearly slid down the cliff face I was trying to climb down.
Wild flowers are still flourishing up high. Not for much longer though.
One of the other lakes I had been interested in fishing was Jewel Lake. I got withing spitting distance of Jewel and decided to move on to Teal, thinking that I could always stop at Jewel on the way back if  I was so inclined.
I think Jewel Lake was the prettiest one.
Teal Lake
I made it to Teal after passing one more large group of tents. And then found still another group camped on the edge of Teal. I went around to the other side of the lake to try my had at fishing it. I had noticed the day before that my reel was feeling a bit sluggish--hard and jerky to turn the handle--and I had tried spraying some WD-40 inside part of the mechanism. It had seemed to loosen things a bit, so  I thought I'd be okay to take that particular set up on this trip. Unfortunately, it still had problems, This reduced my options to basically putting a hook on and a bubble and tossing it out there hoping a fish would go for the worm on the hook. I was sure glad at that point that I had remembered to go back and get them! Using spinners was out, and bubble with fly  was too, since reeling in slowly and steadily wasn't an option. I tossed the worm out  there and waited. The wind kept changing directions and my line and bubble would sometimes cooperate, and sometimes not. I ended up catching one fish from that lake in about an hour. That's not really what I call good fishing, so I decided to hike out and find another lake along the way in which to fish. I ended up at Cutthroat Lake.
Cutthroat Lake
At Cutthroat Lake the wind was doing the same thing, although I caught two fish in about an hour there, and both of them would have been keepers if I was keeping fish, which I wasn't.
Brook Trout, pan-sized, and I had not brought my backpack stove.

Tiger trout
After I caught those two though, it slowed way down and I decided that I had probably missed the window of opportunity for good fishing on these particular lakes. I often find that early morning fishing and just before dark are the best times to fish, and my hike into the first lake had taken me until about 9:15. Still, I hadn't been skunked. I left Cutthroat, and headed toward Ruth Lake. As I was leaving Cutthroat, I stopped and talked to some Scouts, probably 15-16 year olds and asked them if they had followed a trail up to that lake or had come cross country, telling  them I had been just traveling cross country. One of them spoke up and said that apparently there was a trail, but it added two to three miles to the hike so they did the cross country thing too. He also said that they had had a lot of fishing success at Ruth.
I never found the trail, but just followed my GPS, negotiating the easiest way around boulder strewn ravines and dead trees. When I got back to Ruth Lake, there were tons of people on the western side, so I made my way around to the eastern side to try fishing for a while longer. I probably stayed for another half hour and had no bites. It was clouding up and I decided that since the fishing wasn't all that good, it wasn't worth getting caught in a rainstorm--especially with no dry clothes in the 4runner--I would head out.
Some observations: even at over 10,000 feet, sitting in the direct sunlight was hot. I expected it to be cooler up there. It was cooler than in the valley, but hotter than I expected. Another thing was, I expected a lot more mosquitoes and was pleasantly surprised in that regard. I had sprayed myself with Off before heading up the trail and never had to reapply it. Thirdly, my new Columbia hiking pants are winners. Much cooler than my camo pants, and better than my REI hiking pants. My most important observation though was that even though the fishing wasn't as hot as I would've liked it to be, I still had a great time. It's just nice to be outside doing things in the Uinta Mountains. And the cross country thing always is an adventure, adding unexpected challenges. I'm ready to go again any time.
Ah, the Uintas! I'll see you there!

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