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Salt Lake City, Utah
USA

Bass-ackwards at Blue Lake

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Bass-ackwards at Blue Lake

An Dinh

I'm sweating bullets because I know now that I won't be able to pick up my daughter from daycare in time for dinner with the missus.  I'm pretty sure my suspension is shot.  The Honda Pilot has been a sturdy fishing car for more than 270.000 miles but she's drifting to the right on the highway and even the slightest bump in the road sends the driver's side bobbing up and down like a nervous strike indicator.  My fear is that if I stop to check things out, the engine won't start.  The ignition is dead in the water unless I pop the hood and jiggle the battery cables on the terminal.

It's funny how quickly things can change for a fisherman.  Moments before these car troubles, I was having a great day on the water all to myself at a remote lake in the middle of a barren salt flat.

THE GOOD

When the clouds part and the skies clear, it's obvious how this lake got its name.  Warm water bubbles up from a spring year round that fills the smaller ponds that surround Blue Lake with a constant 60-70 degree water with a slightly blue swimming pool water cast.

The warm water felt very nice in contrast to typical Winter conditions.  In the spots where I could wade into the water it was like being in a spa.  This year we've had an unseasonably warm and dry Winter so the ground was already starting to get muddy and there wasn't any snow to be found.

I was surprised to find this beautiful place so far out in the West Desert, about 34 miles south of the famous Bonneville Salt Flats.  It's mostly just rock and scrub until you get to the lake.  Much of the lake is camouflaged by the tall grasses that line the perimeter.

Blue Lake on the Utah/Nevada border is full of surprises.  Like this red devil. 

The regulars to this area like to use float tubes in the dead of winter on the 9 acre main lake so that the warm waters keeps their toes nice and toasty all day long.

This is a really cool place to fish, but being in the middle of nowhere, it's not for the faint of heart.

THE BAD

The road to Blue Lake is the worst washboard that I've ever encountered - teeth chattering, brain rattling, suspension eaters.  At first glance it looks fine, but then the harmonic vibration sets in and the truck starts to shutter like every bolt is about shoot off and the glass is just shy of shattering.  At this point faced with the ugly desert landscape, I start to second guess this plan.  I note that I offered several hard core fishing friends the opportunity to join me and yet all of them found ways to be too busy to fish.  This time.  It took me 2 hours driving through the middle of nowhere just to get to this crappy dirt road in the middle of nowhere.  If I gave up and went home it would be a long 2 hour fishless drive, since there is no fishable water on the way home along i-80.  The Great Salt Lake borders much of the highway but it only has brine shrimp and Seagulls living on it.    

Most people to venture to Blue lake aren't fishing, they're looking to get open water scuba certified during the early Spring and Late Fall when the warm water is welcome and the bugs are absent.  A few earnest divers have cut a side route paralleling the main road that is a little less rough but requires driving for 20 miles on a 30-45 degree bank, zig-zagging back onto the washboard to avoid runoff ditches, boulders and shrubs.  Or you could just take the main road, bumps and all, at a snails pace in the 5-10 mile per hour range, but the call of fishing makes the crawl very hard to maintain.

THE UGLY

Relieved at the sight of a huge variety of fish willing to take dries, nymphs, kebaris, poppers and streamers in an eerily beautiful oasis, I fished pretty hard until winds swept in and rain began to fall.  I rushed back to the Honda to roll up the windows before the truck was soaked. 

Turned the ignition...

NOTHING

No clicks, no lights, no nothing.

My heart sank as a few drops of rain pelted me in the driver's seat.  I couldn't find any lights that were left on or a door ajar.  Panicked, I unplugged everything and tried again.

NOTHING

Now I really felt dumb.  A LAKE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE F__ING DESERT!  With a car that won't start, the windows rolled down, and a storm has blown in.

I checked my iPhone there was one bar and about half a charge.  I could always call for help.  I would only be MOSTLY stranded.

I popped the hood.

The red terminal of the battery had been knocked loose from all that shaking on the washboard, it won't tighten down but after wiggling it - the full extent of my car mechanic know how, the car takes pity on me and roars to life.

I high tail it out of there, but need to keep the car running otherwise I have to jiggle the terminal to restart her.

On the long ride home I try to figure out what I'd need to hit it again and make the best of it.

A float tube or small raft.

A few buddies.

A box of small dries and poppers.

Some heavy jig flies and shot to go deep.

A clear weekend with mild weather, low wind, and no snow or ice on I-80.

Take the drive in real slow, dude, unless the road gets graded and resurfaced (probably not in my lifetime).

If you catch a tilapia like the one above you're supposed to keep them because they were illegally introduced.  

It's hard to keep the little guys off of your flies.  Many of the smaller fish are gorgeously colored.

A jewel cichlid

A jewel cichlid

Small and medium fish would hit dries on top, but I needed to use a size 16 or smaller to hook them.  There are fish in the 16-18 inch range sulking on the bottom of the deeper areas, but I found it very hard to know when they ate.  These guys would turn inhale and spit out the fly in a split second.  It was mostly dumb luck when I hooked into them.  

There were nests in the shallows and a few bigger bass, mostly albinos were guarding them.  A few times an aggressive fish hooked himself deep and I had to cut my fly off to release them.  These guys were super wary and would spook at first but if I waited in the grass for about 5-10 minutes they would creep back and chase a twitched nymph or sunken kebari.  I would say 75% were just chases and nipping around the fly.

I drop the car off at the shop today and I'm not looking forward to the bill.  This is going to be the most expensive fishing trip of the year and maybe I would have been better off catching bone fish in the Bahamas with this money.  Fingers crossed.  I need the car fixed before Monday so I can go fishing.

update ~ $1900 so far