Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Anvil and the Pipeline, Flaming Gorge Reservoir

While we could take the boat to Anvil and the pipeline, I prefer to drive to the boat ramp at Anvil. Not only does it cost less to tow the boat than to take it there, but more importantly it a lot safer! Every day the cumulous clouds form and lightening and wind gusts chase us off the lake and by launching at a boat ramp close to where we are fishing, we can avoid long high speed runs.
So it’s a no brainer to tow the boat, but one should remember to take the boat keys. Yep, we forgot the boat keys!
We knew where they were, right on the dining table. So our first day at Anvil, we changed plans and went fossil hunting instead of fishing, and its actually pretty good there for brown turetella. Now turetella, (actually it is Elimia tenera,(family Pleurocerida), fossils are used for jewelry making. We gave some to a new friend in Grand Isle and so we wanted to get some more of it. The black turetella is actually more highly prized but the black jasper at Anvil doesn’t contain any of the fossils and we had to settle for the brown variety.
Yesterday we finally got back to Anvil, this time with the boat keys! As we drove in we noticed a group of boats trolling for salmon, directly across from the boat ramp. It was a very short run to get there and we quickly arrived and set the downriggers. We could see a lot of fish on the fish finder and so we joined the boats anticipating a good day of fishing.
Two hours later we hadn’t had a single release. We could see fish coming up to the rigs, and then going back down with hitting. Talk about frustration! In that same time we saw the other boats catch two small fish. This was not good. Suddenly we went through some fish and the left downrigger twitched but didn’t release.
I grabbed the pole and jerked it hard, releasing the line and then proceeded to wind in a small rainbow trout. Darn, so much for my turn,(We take turns catching the fish and employ the three strike rule, which is that you get three bites and then lose your turn if you don’t land them)!
Pulling up the other rigs we headed down to the pipeline, only to be greeted by the sight of a large number of boats trolling the area. One of the boats was a guide boat. It’s a proud boat and I had talked with the guide last year. He specializes in Kokenee fishing, so it’s usually a good sign to see him working an area.
It wasn’t this time. We got into the trolling pattern, ( when there are a lot of boats they usually from a traffic pattern and it’s wise to join in instead of messing then up. While we saw fish and talked with several other fishermen we didn’t see any nets flash, or even see anybody running to their poles.
Storm clouds were forming so we trolled back towards the boat ramp. As I watched the clouds build, Renita calmly read her book. Suddenly she put her book down and went for the rods, as a pole had released! Grabbing the rod she yelled to me that she had a big one and fought it in while I turned the boat and wound in lines and the downrigger.
Of course she got it and I slid the net under the fish, a nice three pound Kokenee! Dinner was served! We fished a little more before Renita noticed lightening in the distance. Now lightening has been known to strike over five miles ahead of the storm, so we pulled our rigs and headed back to the ramp.
I backed the trailer into the water and Renita expertly drove the boat onto the trailer. She has gotten really good at this and another lady in a boat watched her with obvious envy. Not only does she catch the big fish she is quite a first mate and runs the boat better than most men!
We grilled the salmon, lightly spicing it with spinach and herbs, garlic salt and fresh ground pepper, and a few pats of butter. As it cooked I put some mesquite on the grill for a smoked flavor. Now we don’t eat out a lot for a couple of reasons. One it costs a lot, but more importantly it usually isn’t as good as what we can make at home! The salmon was exceptional! Clear skies

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Wyoming Senior Olympics, Rock Springs 2009

Renita is always looking for pamphlets, handouts, and flyer's that list things to do in the area we are in and so it was no surprise that she found out that the Wyoming Senior Olympics were being held in Rock Springs. Looking over the list of events I decided to enter the golf and mountain biking. Luckily the entry deadline hadn't passed and so I was able to register for them online.
Eagerly I waited for the first day to arrive and spent the time preparing, by going fishing and rock collecting. I did get my golf clubs in order and even spent some mad money on new golf balls, but that and a few bike rides were pretty much it.
Arriving at the golf course I met the other golfers in my foursome, Ben was from the Hoback and Luella and Marty were both from Colorado. Now my goal was to have fun and try to shoot in the upper forties so when I made a good first drive I relaxed. Ben meanwhile hit the ball about as straight and as far as I have seen one hit and I quickly realized that he was really good!
I topped my second shot, must remember to focus, but put the third about six feet from the hole. Lining up my put, I missed and had to settle for a Bogey. That's ok as bogey golf for me is good. Ben had a par and the ladies were keeping their own scores.
We had to wait at the second hole and finally teed off. I was on in two and then four putted, yep four putted. Play was incredible slow and you could see that the group ahead was waiting for every shot. Ben had two more pars and then a birdie, as my putter left me and I added a string of doubles.
Three hours later we still hadn't finished the front nine, but I did manage to get some pars and so I was ok with my 49. Ben had a 35, oh my, but it didn't matter as he was in younger age group.
Nine holes of golf should be played in about two hours or less, and so when we finished the front nine, in three hours and fifteen minutes I was already tired and hot. The sun beat on us and the temperature rose. There was not a bit of wind and so I drank fluids to keep hydrated and I thought about quitting but decided that I would finish and so the day dragged on. I lost any focus and shot an eight, yup a snow man.
Another three plus hours and we finally finished, it had really been a marathon but still fun. I had shot my worst score on the back nine in years but Ben had shot a 40 and finished with a 75!
Renita met me in the parking lot and I was glad I han't entered any other events for the day. The mountain bike race wasn't until Saturday and so the next day I rested and hydrated and treated my scars, inflicted by the incredibly tough desert sagebrush,(Did I mention I spent some quality time in the rough?)!
Saturday morning arrived and Renita accompanied me as my pit crew and photographer. Arriving at the race course I was able to talk with some locals who explained the course. The first leg ran up to the base of White Mountain and then turned, following a four wheel drive road. with the next segment being a long downhill. It was a pretty easy course, with no areas of sand, a good course for me as it was my first mountain bike race.
My goal was to survive and finish and so when the race started I pedaled in the back of the pack. Adrenaline surged through me and I pedaled to fast. Turning up the long hill I downshifted and discovered that I couldn't get the bike into low range, not good.
I struggled up the hill in second range as I watched the front group reach the crest and head down the long stretch of desert road. Other passed me, but that was ok as my new goal was to reach the top of the hill! I watched as a bird passed me, hopping from rock to rock.
Finally cresting the hill, I turned and started a long downhill coast. There were bumps and rocks and even a place where I went airborne, or so it seemed to me! Braking, I slowed down, (did I say that finishing was my goal?), and others passed me by. I realized that I was having fun and all thoughts of the race left my head. I was transported back in time to being a kid again!
A mad eighty four year old biker cheered me across the finish line with a "Go Teacher!". Someone had to be the anchor, but I finished the race and life was good!
the awards ceremony took place and I was surprised when the director called my name and I had won a bronze medal in my age group. I lowered my head as a young women put the ribbon around my head and laughed as a gold medal winner in the seventy to seventy four year old group hugged the young woman and kissed her after she placed the medal around his neck.
Did I have fun? You bet! Would I enter next year, again I would answer yes. Hopefully, I can talk Renita in joining into the spirit by entering some events with me. Now if I play more golf and bike harder trails and lose some weight and buy fancy biker clothes and.........Clear skies.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Kokenee Fishing At Flaming Gorge, 2009

After two years of fantastic Kokenee fishing we didn’t realize we had been spoiled. This year the lake is exacting its revenge. We have been out three times and have only caught three salmon. It isn’t just us, it’s most other boats, notice I said most?
We launched our boat and for some reason I looked into the battery compartment only to see water streaming into the boat! I turned on both bilge pumps and actually drained out the hull but I could see two water fountains streaming from the aft live well control valve.
Renita had driven and parked the truck and so it seemed a long wait before she and Molly reached the dock. I had her watch the boat as I hurried to the truck and then loaded the boat. Pulling the boat into the parking lot we stuffed a plug into the livewell drain hole and put plastic bags into the livewell intakes,(there are two). Launching the boat, the leak had slowed to a very slow seepage so we headed out to try our luck.
It wasn’t long and we put a Kokenee into the boat, nothing big, but a nice eater. Dinner was assured and thoughts of grilled salmon filled my head,(did I say I have been gaining weight?). We continued our troll and continued and continued and no more bites, hmmmmm.
About an hour later a pole wiggled and then released and Renita yelled, “My turn”! It was obvious the fish was quite a bit larger but she skillful fought the fish and we soon had it in the net and then on ice. It was 21.5 inches which is about a four pound fish and a couple of inches larger than mine.
Being used to being out fished by her, I was just happy that we had another salmon. We saw a large group of boats by Upper Marsh Creek and so we slowly trolled in that direction. By the time we got there most of the boats had left.
Strangely we didn’t see any nets flash, not a good sign. I did manage to get crossed up with another boat and was rewarded with a fouled line and a lost lure as he cut my line with the steel cable of his downrigger. Maybe hand signals for which way we were going would have been in order?
We fished for a few more hours and had two bites. As it was my turn I grabbed the pole and managed to lose both fish. Going back to where we caught the first fish a lake trout decided to tempt its fate and it ended up in the ice cooler. Renita looked at me and simply said, “Finally, I thought you would never catch another one”.
Now it was her turn and another pole released. Renita skillfully fought the fish in and I slipped the net under another nice salmon. She looked at me and just smiled, but I knew that smirk behind her dark brown eyes. How well I know that smirk!
We fished a bit more and decided to call it a day. We loaded the boat and filleted the fish before returning home and working on the leaks. The next day we launched the boat only to find that my repairs had been fruitless and the same two streams of water flowed into the boat.
We did the usual plastic bags in the live well intakes and the flow stopped. We might as well have gone in but we fished the morning and only caught one rainbow trout. It was a good fight and a nice fish but rainbow trout taste pretty bad, compared to salmon and so we released it.
The next day I decided to fix the leak and so I opened the battery compartment and saw that there were four hoses that had to be removed to access the live well control valve. The first three came off ok, but the fourth broke off and now I had a huge open hole in the high speed water intake,(Used to keep fresh water on the fish as you cruise across the lake. Live wells typically drain and the fish die without it).
After a trip to Rock Springs, and another day of repair I finally had the boat fixed. We launched it the next day and spent five hours without a release from the downriggers. Returning home, frustrated we saw our neighbors eating dinner and found that their luck had been much better.
Not only had they caught ten salmon, but they had caught a possible new world International Game Fish Association record. It was for catching a 4 pound fifteen ounce Kokenee on six pound test line. We watched as Wes measured and weighed the fish and then we signed his forms as witnesses,(Wes and his Dad, Fred, are pictured above).
Wes kindly told us how they had been fishing and he tied and gave us five of the rigs they were using.
He did say that the fishing, or should I say catching, was all over by ten o’clock in the morning, thus giving us another excuse for our poor showing. As if I didn’t have enough excuses! Clear skies.

Red Desert Solitude, an Evening Walk

We walked along the cool asphalt road, The sun had set and it is always amazing to me how fast the desert radiates it daytime heat, shedding it like you shed an extra layer of clothes. A storm cloud passed to the north and cloud to cloud and cloud to ground lightening set the sky on fire. Huge brilliant bolts of forked lightening and we could see it all.
Beneath the storm sheets of rain and the white of falling hail stones fell, both so rare here. You often see virga, rain that dries before it hits the ground, but this was wetting the desert. To the west another cumulonimbus anvil hinted at another storm soon to arrive. Like most it will probably pass us with only a few large drops of rain, like a promise never realized, but still hoped and believed.
The last rays of light were coloring the mesa to the west. Purples and grays and red layers of shale and sandstone, all eroded into the typical dendritic pattern of horizontal layers, painted the mesa’s sides. There is nothing between us and them, only the Red Desert in its stark barrenness. A landscape dominated by struggling sage and rock and sand. A few prickly pear cactus dared to survive but really only small patches, so unlike the deserts of the Chihuahua and Sonora and Mojave, and even the Painted.
I thought of the book Desert Solitude, a book loaned to me by Jim, a new friend, a book that spoke to me in its descriptions of the wild southwest landscapes. I didn’t agree with parts of the book but I understood the beauty it described. Most people here would see the Red Desert as a wasteland but I actually prefer its solitude to the works of man. It brings me peace and touches my soul.
We walked back to our campsite and I got out our camera to try to take some images but the storm had moved on. The moment was over anyway. It has been a long day and I am tired but well. This is why we travel fulltime, to find such moments. Clear skies.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Zen and the Art of Fishing at Boysen

I don't know if its possible to describe the feel of a walleye hitting a jig. Sometimes you feel a slight tick, if your holding the line. Sometimes you simply see the line move slightly. The hardest bite is when nothing happens at all, but you know there is a fish on the lure. See they don't nibble, they just move in and flare their gills swallowing the entire bait/lure. When the fish are biting like that you have to be totally concentrated on the moment, you must be so in tune with everything that is happening and set the hook immediately or you lose the fish. Like Zen and the Art of Fishing! That's how they were biting at Boysen.
Leaving Keyhole we drove to Casper, never intending to go to Boysen State park. While it had been in our original plans the weather service had issued a flood warning for Wyoming Highway 789 and so we had no way to get from there to Flaming Gorge, or no short way. So when my cell phone rang and John Wheeler was on the line, I explained to him the situation. He calmly said, "Those dumb son of a #&!@*#, the roads not closed", (John is a campground host at Boysen and he was told by a long term host that he should use this phrase). Luckily it was an easy change in route and we headed to Boysen.
Arriving there we set up camp, near John and Flo's fifth wheel and rested from the drive. They were making a food and casino run into Riverton and wouldn't be back till they had gotten their supplies and Flo's pockets were bulging with money.
That night we sat around the campfire and talked of friends and family. John told me that Tony Wiley passed. He was a great fisherman and a fair and honest tournament fisherman that always had a word of encouragement when our bite was off. Rest in peace Tony.
The next day John took me out in his boat and we jig fished for walleye. He took me to some secret spots that I didn't know and I caught a nice walleye almost immediately;
We tried several other places catching a few more. At one place two boats were catching small walleye and before they left they gunned their engines to scare any fish so we wouldn't think it was a good place,(A typical tactic used by some jerk anglers who think they have a secret spot). It didn't work as I caught one as soon as they left.
We went into the back of Cottonwood bay and pulled reef runner flame colored rip shads. Soon the pole doubled over and the pole holder jerked sideways. Grabbing the pole before John had a chance I caught a nice fish and watched as quite a few boats worked the back bays. The day wore on and the heat got to be too much so we called it a day and went in for shade. We had caught five walleye and that night we had John and Flo over for a walleye dinner, fried southern style with a little bit of heat. Oh my, life is good! Clear skies

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Fourth of July at Keyhole State Park

The fourth of July finally arrived and we had a full day of activities planned. Renita actually asked me to wake her up early so we could go canoeing. Later, Bob and Nancy, a couple of old and dear friends were coming out for a barbecue and an evening of watching the fireworks display over the lake.
So without feeling any guilt I roused Renita up at 6 am. She didn't say much but actually staggered up and got dressed. I was impressed with her resolve! While she ate I put the stabilizers on the canoe and we were soon gliding down the bay towards the main lake.
Now I have fished this lake hundreds of times before, we use to have a place here, so I though I would try and troll for a northern pike while we were rowing. Renita was designated as the official photographer for the expedition!
The fishing turned out to be great, the catching was the problem. Nothing unusual about that as I have been skunked many times. It is a usual feast or famine here. Renita had much better luck with the camera!
After our pleasant paddle our friends arrived with huge steaks. I had already cut and chopped firewood,(Renita let me buy a new axe), and we soon had a glowing bed of coals. Putting the steaks directly on the grill in the firepit worked great and the steaks cooked to perfection.
After dinner, we waited and talked and waited and waited for it to get dark. Our viewing spot was only about 100 feet away, on a ridge overlooking the main part of the lake. There the Moorcroft fire department had set up the fireworks on a point on Coulter Bay.
I had never experienced time moving so slow,(maybe a couple of times in teacher workshops), but it finally got dark and the fireworks rocketed into the sky.
While we couldn't see the launch we could follow the streams of fire as they reached their zenith and exploded into waterfalls of reds and blues and greens.
I had never really thought about the similarity to a waterfall until Renita pointed it out. It must of been our recent journey to Niagara Falls, but regardless it was a great description!
Too soon the fireworks ended and we carried our chairs back to our spot. It had been a great day filled with all the requirements/ingredients of a traditional fourth of July celebration, friends, fishing, food, and fireworks! Clear skies

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Wyoming Tornado at Keyhole State Park

One of the shows that I like to watch is called Storm Chasers. Its about meteorologists chasing tornado's and collecting scientific data. Its attracted so many followers that you can take your vacation and go storm chasing, for big bucks of course, in the hopes if seeing a tornado. A cheaper option is just to live or visit Wyoming as I have seen nine tornado's, the latest one yesterday afternoon!
Now its not that Wyoming has so many more tornado's, its just that we don't have a lot of trees and so its not uncommon to be able to see for miles, and that's why we saw the tornado yesterday.
A big cumulonimbus formed and I decided to walk the dog before it started to get nasty. As we walked I noticed our neighbors coming in with their pontoon boat and I also noticed another boat of people going out,(obviously clueless). The neighbors walked past their camper and continued up the hill, where they looked at the sky, and sure enough a funnel cloud was hanging down,(the wall cloud was really pretty small)!
Renita and I walked up to the ridge near our fifth wheel and joined them where we could see that the funnel cloud was actually a tornado. Now the difference between the two is that a tornado actually touches down and a funnel cloud stays in the air. If you look close you can see that the tornado is picking up surface dust that clearly outlines the funnel.
The tornado's in Wyoming are usually rated small ones, f1 and sometimes f2, so we watched for a while as it lingered before finally pulling back up and disappearing into the clouds. Going back inside I turned on the computer and got on the Internet to find that the weather service hadn't yet issued a severe storm warning. In typical weather service fashion they were a bit late, (They often issue them to late in Wyoming as there aren't a lot of people here so the Doppler radar coverage is sparse and blocked by the mountains).
Regardless, we continued to watch the sky as the storm moved over our camper. Shelter was nearby as the small cement restroom beckoned, but there were so many people in the campground and such a small restroom that we didn't rush and play the game, "How many people can stuff into a cement outhouse"!
The storm was actually pretty benign as it passed. Renita spotted cumulus mammaltus clouds,(named because they look like breasts hanging down), but I didn't take a picture as it was raining pretty hard. The lightening wasn't near us and we didn't get any hail, which is our biggest worry as big hail here is frequent and costly,(Two different storms took out our roof on our old stick and brick house, and caused extensive damage to our cars and camper).
I had an idea and as we waited out the storm I e-mailed the pictures to the KOTA tv station in Rapid City as the weatherman there is actually one of the best I have seen. Mike Modrick used our image of the tornado on the ten o'clock news as he explained the difference between a funnel and a tornado! Of course we couldn't see it as it was after ten pm and no generators are allowed in the campground,( and I haven't yet set up a tv like Joe and Marcia of Chasing the Seventies fame showed us), but Renita got to see it as she was at a local restaurant visiting her dance group.
Anyway its a new day and the weather service is predicting more thunderstorms. Hopefully they will hold off a bit until my round of golf is over and we are planning a fish cookout with company from Gillette. Better make sure the camera is nearby with newy charged batteries! I really do wish you all and us, "Clear Skies"!

ps no damage was ever reported a smuch of Wyoming has so much open range.