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Monday, January 19, 2009

Remembering Caples

Remembering Caples

It’s mid summer and the air is still a bit chilled in the morning. I grab my 4wt fly rod and small assortment of home tied flies from the back of my truck and head down my favorite trail through the aspen grove. The smells of the Mules Ears, Indian Paintbrush flowers, Douglas firs and Juniper trees bring back memories from my first adventures into this part of the high country with my father during my childhood. As I reach the lakes shore a Golden Eagle leaves it’s perch in an old pine snag and floats out over the placid water of the Lake. The wind hasn’t started to blow yet and the waters surface expels steamy wisps of vapor into the cold morning air. The sound of a Chucks Nut cracker catches my attention for a moment then the air is silent again. I start off down the trail and toward the cove as the first rays of sun hit the water. I climb onto a large granite boulder to scan the water for cursing fish. The light on the water is still dappled by the large trees. There in a patch of sun I see a brown trout cruising. He’s in 4 feet of water and over a silt bottom. I strip out my line and pitch a cast 10 feet in front of him on his line. As he approaches, he sees the size 14 Mayfly imitation and slowly rises to inspect it. With out hesitation, he opens his mouth and inhales the fly with a loud gulp. I set the hook and try to control my line as the fish races off for the deep water. It’s a perfect lake fishing scenario that I can sometimes repeat multiple times throughout a mid summers day.

Now it’s early fall. Each day your beautiful cold water disappears by several inches. Silently it retreats. Commanded by the hand of businessmen far away, it does what it’s told. Abandoning the Brown, Rainbow, Brook and Lake Trout, Redside Minnows, Crawdads, mayflies and midges that require its presence to live. Boats come and probe the lake with electric shock poles. Thousands of fish are grabbed, handled and moved to unfamiliar water. The minnows, crawdads and insects aren’t as fortunate. The ones that can’t retreat fast enough are caught in the mud and dry to death in the warm previously nurturing sun. Within 30 days time, the lake has returned to its historic footprint of two lakes that were called Twin Lakes by the settlers. The footprint of Doc Caples cabin that stood in the 1800’s is once again revealed near the remains of a bridge that once crossed a small creek on the Mormon Immigrant Trail. The otters, rabbits, marmot, squirrels, coyotes and bears are too afraid to cross the now open landscape to get a drink of water. The Eagle has flown away.

It’s Late October now and still life abounds in this puddle of a once great lake. After paying a visit to John at Caples Lake resort to see how he’s been fairing, Chris La Scola and I drop my canoe to probe for survivors. The water is dark with silt and very shallow. The crawdads are so concentrated that we could see hundreds of them crawling along the shallow mud. They were so thick they occasionally got caught on our streamers as we dragged them along. Turned out more fish than we though had survived the relocation and were hungry as ever. I opted for the top water and threw my hopper at the stumps. In a couple hours time it was picked up by several nice browns, brookies and rainbows. Chris had similar numbers of fish on his famous chicken head streamer including some nice Mack’s.

Chris with a nice Mack on the Chicken Head streamer. 
Another brookie falls for the hopper.  
Brown that's stressed but still fat.  
Haven't seen this in my life time.  
Here's some of the random junk we found in the mud.  
Don't know what i would do without a fish-lo-k-tor?
One of thousands that didn't make it.  

Now Caples is totally frozen over. If it doesn’t freeze solid, some of the fish and crawdads might even last the winter and become the true survivors of a long ordeal.


Bernard Yin said...

Crazy scenarios. If we think it's tough being humans, it can't be any tougher or weirder being an aquatic creature.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mikey, heard about this but am taken aback by the pix! Hope you took a lot more of them (pix) for a structure map when they finally let the water back in... Bummer, I really had some great times fishing there and caught one of my best fish ever there. Guess, we'll just have to see what comes next in the wacky ways of DFG. I keep hoping they'll adopt the Montana method but I'm not holding my breath on that.