Late this week I got a hold of Jason to pitch an idea to him that was only partially baked. My idea was to find a way to strap/pack all our tubing gear, finders, poles, waders, fins, tackle, etc into framed packs and go float up in the Uintah's. I had a specific destination in mind, Shadow Lake. This has been a family favorite destination since my childhood. It is next to Washington Lake (and the often over looked Tail Lake) past Trial Lake. Up till now all of my time up there has been from the shore. We have over the years found key spots along the shore of that lake that we consider the best places to fish from. I've always wondered what the max depth in that lake is as well as just a better understanding of what the depths of the various places around the lake are.
Well Jason was willing to go, even without knowing the full details of what the conditions of the ground were like, waters temps or much else. We knew that waders were going to be a must to be out in the water for any period of time. We also knew this was the weekend of the 24th so it might be a zoo up there. I didn't expect Shadow to have heavy pressure but I figured Trial and Washington would be overflowing.
We met up in the wee hours of morning so that we could be up at the Crystal Lake Trail Head parking lot close to sun up. Figured it would be better to have good light if we were going to be packing in all our gear and that it might also help to take some chill off things if the sun were up enough to start to do it's thing.
Well after parking we got the packs on our backs and started the trek around Washington Lake, past Tail Lake and up the stream to Shadow Lake.
First bonus of the trip turned out that the ground conditions were a lot better then we worried that things could be. Oh in the shade of the trees there were nice snow drifts still as well as muddy swamps. The mosquitoes were out in killer force as well. Though they didn't really become a huge issue until we got to the lake to setup the tubes. Anyway, along the way we had a few views of Washington/Tail Lakes that a few pictures had to be taken of.... The first one below sure put a "!" behind the idea of a mirror like reflection!
Well we arrived at our destination a bit worn, but eager for stretch some lines. The mosquitoes were also eager too... Too eager in fact. Bug spray saved us while we got setup. Jason was out first on the water, as usual, and I followed shortly.
If you peek careful in that last pic you can see my new blue cooler that is behind my seat. This is my first trip to try out this cooler. I've been using a semi-flexible tub back there until now. My issues with the tub was that it baked in the sun and my bait containers I kept there, even though they were insulated and had bits of ice in them, still had issues with long days on the water. Plus I had wanted to be able to keep a drink cold or a sandwich or snack for a mid trip quick meal... Anyway I stumbled into this particular size and it was right in line with what would fit in my tube. Lid is hinged so it can't fall off and has a great edge to it that makes it super easy for me to reach and open. The results from today give the cooler top scores all around. Did great keeping everything cool and was easy and great to access.
Well back to the fishing trip... Jason and I worked around nearly all of Shadow Lake and did pretty well. Pink and pearl seemed to be good colors, though we also had success with most any other color we through up too. We really only caught Brooke Trout in Shadow Lake, which is mostly to be expected. They were not very plump though, maybe because the longer then usual winter. Also turns out Shadow doesn't get deeper then about 20' and there are two main areas of the lake that hit this depth. One was the main area my family had found to be very productive over the years. The other was in an area we had not given much attention to as the shore line there is miserable. I had kind of gone into the trip expecting the water to maybe get as deep as 45' but not even close. We also found a few rises in the bottom that got very shallow in a few spots of the lake that were unexpected. Some of these transition points were where we had some of our better action too.
Near noon I had kept a limit of Brooke Trout that were all about 12" long, though they could have used some more girth, and fine enough to take home for a meal with the wife and kids. The rest had been released unharmed. Jason had 3 keepers at this point and had released a number as well. We figured it was time to head back. I had the crazy idea of not breaking things down and repacking the packs. I figured we could just carry the tubes down to Tail Lake and then take our near empty packs and tie them off on the tubes behind the seats and fish our way across Washington and Tail lakes back toward the vehicle.
This proved to be a bit harder then we first though. The packs while not nearly as full as before were still full of a few things and having our poles strapped to them so we could carry the tubes was more then we could manage. Holding the tube out in front of you kept you from easily seeing where you were going. So you had to focus so much on where you were going it was hard to keep your pack/poles from getting into trouble with the trees. So we cried uncle and put the tubes down and toke the packs down on one trip and then went back up to take the tubes down as a second trip. Much better plan...
We got things set back up to float and fish at the head of Tail Lake. As we set things up Jason saw a few fish in the shallows near us. Albino, rainbow, brooke and tiger trout were present. Was kind of cool to see each type close to where we were at. It got the 'hopeful expectations' flowing as well as getting Jason distracted playing with them vs getting out in the tube and looking for fish of better size. These had been maybe 8 or so inches long. Well we got moving and pretty soon started to get into some fish.
I didn't do as well for taking pics as we fished Tail and Washington... But we managed a fair number each. All of mine went back for someone else to play with and Jason was able to select one from those he caught to finish up his limit. In the mix I did manage to get one ~14" tiger trout to the tube, but it had other obligations and had to step out before I got the camera out and ready.
The wind, or really breezes, had been our friend pretty much the whole day. It would come up once in a while and make you worry that it might start to really blow but then die down. We learned to appreciate the anti-mosquito benefits of these breezes. On Washington and Tail the breezes gave us nearly a free ride across the whole lake. All we had to do was kick a bit to keep direction and to avoid rocks, trees, or the little island. We got a good look at some of the depths of Washington and Tail lakes too, though not nearly as complete as we did in Shadow. We found a few areas I had fished as a kid near the island were 20-24' deep (not as deep as I thought but still clearly deep points for that area of the lake. We also found one area that hit 45' deep and that the area near the dam was ~30' deep plus or minus a few feet. One odd find was about a hundred yards off the dam near the middle we had the bottom register up into a fast "mound" that came up to 8' depth and then went right back down. Not sure what it was or really how wide it was but the fish were all around it. Between the 45' and this area near the dam we had found that anytime we started to mark fish we could pretty reliably get something to bite on our lines. Jason even had one fish come flying from now where, smack him around a bit and then danced for him in the water before swimming off... ;)
We finally realized the time and how late we were, we had told the wives we would be home in the afternoon and it was much to late to make that deadline. So we hurried to the shore and got things loaded up to head home. All in all it was a great day out, both got a limit of fish to share with our families and the time spent tubing on these lakes was refreshing.