Reservoir provides magic to help unlucky angler break dry streak

23 Jul

The following originally appeared in the July 16, 2009 edition of the Tooele Transcript Bulletin.

Rod and (standard size) fly-casting bubble against the sunset over Settlement Canyon Reservoir (photo by Clint Thomsen)

Rod and (standard size) fly-casting bubble against the sunset over Settlement Canyon Reservoir (photo by Clint Thomsen)

by Clint Thomsen

I owe the sales rep at the sporting goods store an apology.  I know it’s not his fault the store was out of standard fly-casting bubbles last Friday, or that it was my last of half dozen stops on a fruitless, hour-long quest for the uncharacteristically elusive fishing staple.

I probably didn’t need to explain to him that these bubbles are essential for bait fishing in the region, and that he may want to have his bosses order more of the standard size in the future, instead of the huge Easter egg-sized version that every store still had plenty of.

He was probably glad when I begrudgingly grabbed an egg bubble anyway and checked out.

It didn’t help that I was already fretting about the afternoon’s fishing venture.  I’ve seen a fair amount of past success in the sport, but my track record since I started writing this column has been dismal.  For me, regardless of skill or gear, angling in local waters these days feels like playing a slot machine.  Sure, there’s technically a chance I’ll win, but the odds are unmistakably in the house’s favor.

But this time would be different.  It had to be.

First, I vowed to maintain a positive attitude.  It may not have been
apparent to the sporting goods guy, but I was pretty upbeat about this
trip.  We were only short one bubble, after all.  My wife, Meadow, was
excited and the boys were itching to break in their brand new Star Wars spinning rods.  We had a box full of Power Bait, a bag full of gummy SpongeBob Krabby Patties, and a cooler full of pop.

More importantly, my aunt Tammy would be along.  I’ve fished with Tammy since I was a toddler, and I can’t remember the last time she was skunked. She pulls trout out of the water faster than I can clip them on the stringer.  By inviting her, I was virtually guaranteeing that at least one person in our party would reel in more than algae clumps.

We arrived at Settlement Canyon Reservoir late in the afternoon and set up on the eastern shore near the creek inlet.  The lake’s navy blue surface extended westward, almost blending with the distant sky but for the narrow strip of rocky earth that formed the dam’s crest.

This spot is my favorite on the lake both because of the view and the
ambience.  Settlement Creek is piped off further up the canyon, emerging again just yards from where it enters the lake.  It’s the first place you can hear the gurgling of a formidable mountain stream every spring.  It also offers the only shade along the reservoir’s rather drab 4,140 foot shoreline.

The reservoir lies at the foot of Settlement Canyon just south of Tooele.  It was created in 1966 by the Settlement Canyon Irrigation Company by impounding the creek with an earth-fill dam.    It supports populations of brook, rainbow, and brown trout.  The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources stocks it with 15,000 rainbow trout annually.  Howard Clegg, erstwhile president of the irrigation company once commented that “any kid in town could go up there and fish if he had a little ambition.”

And you’ll certainly need some ambition to reach the lake’s southern shores, since the steep trails leading from the parking area to the shore are more suitable for mountain goats than people.  We started conveying the kids and gear via these trails but ultimately decided to pay the canyon fee and drive to the Dark Trail parking area, where a lengthy but level trail leads out to the shore.

Tammy caught our first trout not 20 seconds after her first cast, using dry, leftover salmon eggs.  If my luck were as bad as hers was good, it was going to be a long afternoon.  I fed the egg bubble onto 3 year old Coulter’s line because I knew he’d be the least disappointed if he didn’t catch a fish.

Weston caught our second fish, a decent sized rainbow that he couldn’t wait to cook.  Bridger followed up with another rainbow, which he released “back into the wild.”  The bites came in steady waves all afternoon and into the evening.  We passed the time between hit waves by corralling the babies and studying our lines.

Ironically, it was Coulter’s odd rig that caught the largest and most fish. After reeling in two sizeable rainbow with it, I started to wonder if the cursed Easter egg might actually be giving him an advantage.  The lake is over 60 feet deep in some areas with an average depth of 25 feet.  The filled bubble sank his bait further than the others, possibly exposing it to larger trout at lower depths.  Meadow and I took turns fishing with Coulter’s Star Wars/Easter egg combo.

Another irony I must mention is the beauty of the lake’s setting and clean water in contrast with its heavily littered shores.  Beer cans, glass, and other trash marred almost every stretch of the southern shoreline.  I was embarrassed, as this was Tammy’s first visit to the reservoir and I was playing the role of host.  When we packed up, I gathered as much extra trash as I could carry in attempt to leave it cleaner than we found it.

Fortunately, the good fishing overshadowed the litter and made the day a memorable one.  My bad luck streak, it seems, had finally ended.  Whether it was the attitude shift, Tammy’s karma, or the giant bubble, we’ll never know.  That’s okay, because it should be easy to recreate all three conditions in the future.

Especially that bubble.

To get to Settlement Canyon Reservoir, drive south from Tooele on SR-36 and turn left at the Masonic Lodge.  Continue for about ½ mile to the large parking area just outside the canyon gate.  The entire shoreline is accessible– but mostly via steep, primitive trails.  The reservoir and its shores are privately owned.  Public use is allowed but is restricted to shore fishing.


One response to “Reservoir provides magic to help unlucky angler break dry streak

  1. Curt Hall

    July 24, 2009 at 12:09 am

    I’m glad you tried to clean up a bit, I really wish more people would do the same.


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