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LAKE POWELL, UTAH FISHING REPORT FOR THE WEEK ENDING 09/18/16

by

Capt. Butch Rickey

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I recently returned from a trip to Lake Powell, Utah, with an old friend and customer of mine from Golden, Colorado, Mike Schwartz. Mike had invited me to join him many times during the years we fished together, but my schedule never allowed me to break free. I was absolutely thrilled when I heard from Mike in December 2015, and he asked me if I'd be interested in making the trip with him since I was now retired, and within driving distance. I was so excited about this trip I thought it would never get here.

Mike and I both departed around the same time, and according to Bing Maps had about the same drive time of 7.5 hours. From Las Vegas it was a good drive for the first half of the trip until I got to Cedar City and left I-15. The speed limit on the interstate is 75 in Nevada, and 80 in Utah. Nice. Once I got off I-15, though, things were quite different. It was all secondary roads that wound and twisted and switched back and forth through the mountains like a drunken snake. Because of the mountains there is no direct route to the town of Ticaboo, Utah, on the northeast side of the lake, and I swear I drove 200 miles to cover 100 miles of lateral distance! But, as pretty as Nevada is in the mountains, Utah is just incredibly beautiful. There is a picture begging to be taken around ever curve. I was wishing I had a lifetime supply of GoPro batteries and 64 GB chips so I could video the whole drive. But, I didn't, of course, and I was saving what I had for the fishing trip.


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The scenery just takes your breath away!!

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It's So Diverse, But So Beautiful!!

We would meet at Ticaboo Resort and spend the night there recouping from the drive and getting things ready to load on the boat in the morning. Ironically, I arrived first, and while I was at the check-in desk, Mike pulled up not more than 4 minutes later. We would leave early Sunday morning, and fish and camp until Wednesday, and then return home. We grabbed some chicken wings and a salad from the only available eatery just down the road. The wings were a bit expensive, but were quite good, and the salad was priced by weight. I'd never seen that before. After dinner Mike helped me weed out the essentials I needed as I had obviously over packed. I just didn't want to find out I'd forgotten something important at the last minute.

I brought 3 rods and reels per Mike's recommendation. One Shimano Stella 2500, and two Stradic CI-4s, including the new + model. They are just awesome reels, and made out of a rare and hard to fin composite called "unobtainium". Thank God, Mike knowing I use high end Shimano stuff, recommended I come up with some way of protecting the reels from the elements. More on that, later. I had a new Okeechobee tackle bag full to the brim, and Mike had given me info on all the lures he typically uses out there, and I'd stocked up, and changed the treble hooks out with 4X 2/0 and 1/0 single hooks with the barbs mashed down. Mike recommended I take two changes of clothes plus what I had on my back. I had a new rainsuit at his recommendation, and a Pelican Box packed with a DC/AC inverter, a 14" HP Android laptop, chargers, etc., so that I would have a way to download the GoPro videos so that I could use the chips again the next day. I had another smaller Pelican full of my GoPro cameras and accessories. Ironically, my Cannon did all the work and I took 200 pics and around 20 videos and never filled the 64GB chip! I could have left all that stuff at home!

I also brought along two air rifles (break-barrel); one a Walther Talon .177, and the other a new .22 assault style rifle, and plenty of pellets so we could do some plinking. I had not fired the .22, as it's brand new, and hadn't fired the .177 but a couple times. We did have a lot of fun with them, usually during the mid-day break when we'd come in off the water during the heat of the day when the bite falls off. More on that, later.

Once we had gotten into our room and settled, Mike got the itch to get the bottom of his Hewes 18 Redfisher nice and wet. It's a beautiful boat, and made me think about my Talon days because of it's seafoam hull. I'm very partial to that color on a boat. Mike wanted to go out for a hour or two and do some scouting in some of the bays near the ramp. And, speaking of ramps, this has to be one of the longest and highest ramps in the country! I'm guessing it's very close to a quarter mile long. I don't know the elevation at the top, but when you're driving up to it, it looks like you're about to go off a cliff! When you walking up to get your truck at the end of the day, it's a long, steep walk to the parking area. Not unlike Lake Mead, Powell has also lost a lot of water over the years. I'm not sure how much, but the white bleached rock tell the story. I'm guessing some 50 ft. Of course, the ramp was a zoo, as it WAS Saturday afternoon. But, it's wide enough to handle a dozen boats launching at once, I'd guess, so things went pretty smoothly. Once away from the ramp I was just overwhelmed at the beauty of this magnificent place nestled into the mountains of Utah. Wow!

We hit the hay pretty early, at least for me. But, we were going to rise with the chickens Sunday morning and do some scouting along the way to the south end of the lake some 70 miles away. Mike hit the sheets and was out like he had a built-in on/off switch! I was up for another hour or so before turning in. O light thirty came early. It became obvious that Mike had gotten his packing/loading of the boat down to a fine science. It was loaded to the gills, literally, and every square inch of useable space, was used. Everything we needed for a three day camping/fishing trip was in that boat, including two large 15 gallon upright gasoline storage tanks, and she was sitting low in the water. We couldn't have gotten any more weight in her if we'd been smuggling illegals!


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Notice the spare fuel tanks. You'll never guess what the spare tire is for!

We hit the little eatery down the street for a quick and quite large and delicious burrito. In ten minutes we were at the ramp, and ahead of the crowd. It wasn't long before we were under way. Our destination lay two hours away. But, it took longer than that because we did a lot of scouting along the way, and made one stop at one of the novel floating outhouses. There were two of them on our route. Finally, we arrived at Mike's chosen campsite, and made camp. It was a beautiful spot, carefully chosen for function and safety. Safety? Yes. When it rains there on those mountains, it does the same thing it does here in Vegas. The ground is unable to absorb all but a little of the water, and it runs off to the path of least resistance downhill. If you should make camp at an inviting site that happens to be at the end of one of those waterways, and it rains, perhaps miles away from you, you may well wind up being swept away by the rushing waters. Crazy, but true.


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Returning To Camp From Fishing

After spending mid-day unloading the boat and setting up camp, we were ready to go out for an afternoon/evening of scouting and fishing. We mostly scouted for the coming morning, I think. It became quickly apparent that there was no bait around, and consequently, no stripers, save for an odd one here and there. But, it didn't matter to me. I was just overwhelmed at the vastness and beauty of Lake Powell. Any fish would be a bonus. I told Mike at one point that if I died and didn't go to Heaven, it didn't matter, because I've already been there. I was sitting smack dab in the middle of it!


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A scrappy smallmouth. What fighters!

We mostly poked around Sunday afternoon sizing up the situation for Monday and Tuesday, as I recall we did find a fish or three, though. But, Monday morning we were up and gone and ready for action. Mike had mentally mapped out what areas we were going to look at in hopes we could find some stripers crashing bait on top. Even though most of the fish appeared to be gone, his hunting skills paid off when he found some fish on top in a beautiful canyon. We caught a handful before they disappeared not to be seen again. Once Mike was fairly certain stripers were no longer an option, we changed our tactics. We were looking for coves where there were "stickups" in the water and vegetation along the shore. If there were rock involved, all the better. We started catching smallies and largemouth bass, and were both pretty consistent in our results, and by the day's end, we had both caught around 14 fish each, best I can remember. We did break up our days into morning and afternoon fishing, and in camp during the heat of the day.

And, that's when we did our plinking. Mike set up a beer can or two downhill from the camp toward the water. If anything got past the targets, the water would quickly swallow it up. The two rifles were as different as night and day. The assault .22 was light and easy to cock, and relatively quiet. The muzzle velocity was much lower than the Talon's. In fact, the .177 Talon has the same muzzle velocity as a .22 LR, and about the same range. It's one bad air rifle, and it takes some serious effort to break the barrel. And, when you fire it, the loud crack of a firearm echoes back and forth through the canyons. Most of the time, because the round was moving so fast, and had less mass than the .22, it wouldn't even move the can. We'd have to go check to see.


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The range and the view from camp!!

Mike fell in love with the .22 CAL, and on the second day I decided to give it to him since he liked it so much. I had another one at home for Pam. He liked the lightness of it, and when the .22 round hit the beer can it darned sure moved it. It made holes that were much bigger than the ammo. We had fun plinking both days. Before it was over Mike got the idea to thread a beer can down over an upright branch about head high. That was quite a challenge, as the wind was up, and all the vegetation looked like it was break-dancing. But, Mike is a very skilled marksman, and grew up shooting skeet with his Dad. Because the .22 had about half the velocity of the .177 we could hear the round hit the can about a millisecond after discharge. I had to check each time I fired the .177 because the crack from the barrel masked any other noise. We both actually did quite well with the break-dancing cans, but I'm sure I missed a couple more times than Mike.

Even though we might as well have been a million miles from nowhere, Mike, Denver's Gourmet To Go had prepared meals ahead of time that were fit for a king. His years of doing these trips really showed in how he organized things, and had everything including sauces, etc. pre-prepared and ready for the stove. That first night he grilled steaks and prepared a wonderful rice dish that was to die for. He loaded my plate with far more than I normally eat, but I ate every bite. Same with the second night. He had rib of lamb to grill. I'd never been a fan of lamb, but those ribs were just awesome, and I'd have to call myself a convert. As good as everything was, the coup de gras was sashimi. Yes. Mike had kept two of the stripers he caught, and meticulously filleted and carved them so that only the very best of the flesh wound up as sashimi. I absolutely love sashimi, and I was just blown away at how good that striper was. Even better was the sauce Mike prepared for the dipping. Instead of the typical sashimi sauce, he prepared a Poke Marinade which is made with soy or tamari, chili garlic sauce, and a large dose of toasted sesame oil. OMG. That sauce was to die for, and it's what I'll be making for my own sashimi from now on. I never dreamed we'd be eating gourmet food out in the middle of nowhere.


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Mother Nature's Kitchen!!

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After An Awesome Meal, It's Cocktail Time!!

The fishing on Tuesday was similar to Monday. No stripers to toss baits at, and the wind had gone from tolerable to strong. It made trying to maneuver the boat around our target area very hard. But, we caught fish. I think our final count was nearly 20 fish each that day, and in spite of the wind, it was a hoot. This trip was my first experience with smallmouth bass, and I'd always heard about how hard they fought, but I was just amazed at how hard those guys pull. Even a 1.5 smallie will fight much bigger than he is!

After dinner and cocktails, Mike and I hit the hay. We would be rising early to break camp and make the two hour long trip back up the Lake. The wind was still up, but we were in for a surprise. I don't know what time it was, but the wind kicked big-time. I'd guess into the 40's, for sure. There were times when I really thought I might take sail in the tent I was in and wind up in the river. The noise from all of the flaps and straps of the tent in the wind was deafening! And, that fine dust that filled the air went right through the screens on the tent like it wasn't even there. I finally did manage to fall back to sleep, and when we rose that Wednesday morning everything was a mess. Mike had done his sleeping out under the stars, while I was in his tent. Every crack, nook, cranny and orifice on my body was full of the fine red sand. Everything was covered with it, even under where I was laying. One of my first thoughts was, "Thank God Mike had told me to arrange some kind of protection for my reels!" They'd probably be toast had I not. Even the boat was an inch deep in the red dust at the lower spots.

It took us about an hour to break camp and be on our way. I was getting some idea of Mike's system, and tried to be more helpful than when we made camp. Once we had the Hewes loaded and took off into the wind, it was obvious how much weight we had consumed during our trip. She was like a different boat, and even though we often had some nasty chop, she ate it up and we stayed dry. We were back at the motel and had everything loaded back into our vehicles and ready to hit the road before noon. Mike was driving straight through. I was going to get back to I-15 and grab a motel and finish my drive on Thursday. To my surprise and delight, it rained almost the whole way back to Cedar City. It was the perfect end to a perfect trip, and watching the rain and storms and lightning dance their way through the mountains was beautiful.


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Mother Nature's Hiding Place is Like A Floating Ampitheatre!

I'm not often lost for words, but sometimes it seems the usual words like "thanks you", etc., just aren't enough. That's where I'm at right now. My trip with my friend Mike Schwartz, Gourmet To Go, is the most memorable fishing trip of my 71 years. Thank you, Mike, for sharing Lake Powell with me. I'll never forget it.


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Thanks For The Memories, Mike.

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Be sure to check out www.BestFishingBooks.com, Books and gifts for fishermen from my friend Jim Dicken!

Also, be sure to check out longislandkayakangler.blogspot.com, from my friend Pat Gallagher!

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