Exploring the Greasy Trails: A Summer Bull Trout Adventure

Each year it seems the stories get a little more far fetched, and of course, way greasier. This year was no different, as my best friend and I set off down the greasy trails. Our plan was to have two camping spots we would use as staging areas and fan out to different locations to fish. With the moustache mobile loaded up and our faces looking like dirty enough to be homeless, we set off toward the Rocky Mountains. The first camping location was in the South East corner of Alberta, located close to several rivers and creeks we planned to explore. As the plains gave way to the Foothills, ominous dark skies began to fill the west. The mountains became black as the fishing gods opened the floodgates and rain began to pour down. The rain gave way to some of the heaviest hail I’d ever seen, almost like a snowstorm was a upon us. For a solid 15 minutes quarter sized hail fell and pounded the earth. Just as quickly as it arrived, the rain and hail passed leaving flows of mud and hail remnants as far as the eye could see. We parked the trailer and did what any sane mustachios would do, filled up the cooler with some extra hail ice and cracked a cold one. The greasy summer trip had begun.

This trip was was going to focused heavily on exploration, rather than fishing the usual spots we relied on in the past. Our first destination was high up a feeder creek in search of elusive bull trout. We followed the winding dirt roads and eventually stopped along a bridge on the upper reaches of this beautiful tributary. The creek was littered with beautiful red and purple rocks, yet the fish were nowhere to be seen. After a kilometer of walking, and no sign of fish holding water, we turned back and headed down stream closer to where it enters the main stem of the river. Here we found deep holes that we suspected were filled with fish. However, we were soon greeted by families enjoying the cold swimming water of these holes leaving us high and dry. Eventually we found a few empty spots to wet a line and were greeted by some feisty rainbows. However, the holes soon dried up and the water became very skinny. It was time to hit the greasy trail and head back to camp.

Day two on the grease path led us south to the confluence of two rivers. After a quick game of paper, rock, scissors we went left at the fork and headed upstream. The very first pool we arrived at had those riffles you know fish are lurking in. The ones that ride along the edge of a steep cliff bank. Looking down into the depths, a slight shadow lurked between the rocks. Cast after cast led to refusal after refusal. What were these fish eating!? In desperation I put on black ant and watched a fish rise toward the surface. I waited patiently, knowing another refusal could be the fly’s fate. Yet, this beautifully colored cutthroat could not help himself and gobbled down the size 18 fly. Out of the water she flew, lost in a dance only a fly fisherman is familiar with. After she was released I was happy to put another “x” on the map and continue down the trail. However, we happened upon fisherman just a little ways up the trail and turned back. Eventually heading down to the confluence for a few casts. Standing high above the river, perched upon a cliff face, I stared down into the dark waters below. Fish twirls and rocked back in forth, almost in a feeding trance. Cutthroat after cutthroat came and took our flies. With our arms sore, we headed back to camp for a few adult pops and to put our feet up by the fire.

Day three had us headed downstream of where we normally have stopped on a very familiar stretch of river. We jettisoned past many of the usual holes to put many kilometers behind us. Passing the last marker, we began to walk along unfamiliar trails. This day, however, has exceptionally hot. The heat was pounding upon our skin, leaving what I felt must be some cartoonish heat lines coming up from our sweating bodies. We walked, we fished, we walked, and we fished. However, the fish seemed to have outsmarted us this day and chosen to move much higher up in elevation. As we peered into the ever skinning pools we saw less and less fish, until there were none. The water became skinny, the heat became unbearable, and we called this day a lost cause. We wanted to make our way towards the confluence, where the river we were fishing and the main stem met, but looking at the map there was no chance of that in this heat. With minimal fish caught, we called it a day and made the long and arduous journey back to camp. I’ll tell you, the beer never felt colder than the ones we had waiting back in the grease trailer.

With our maps becoming marked with more unfamiliar spots, and our hearts sinking due to the lack of fish, with brightened our spirits by heading into a new province. We had planned to fish this particular river for almost a year. The anticipation grew strong within us, but we also were quite aware that these waters were very hit and miss. The previous year we arrived too soon and missed our opportunity to fish for giant bulls. We left that year full of disappointment and a promise to arrive alongside the migration of the bulls.

We awoke early that morning and made the long journey down the back logging roads. The summer heat came early, as the temperatures rose past 20 degrees before 8 am. We arrived just before 9 am, relieved to not see a single soul about. Hudson ran from the truck down the hidden trail towards the mouth were a small tributary met the main stem of the river. Knowing better, we quickly made our way past prime looking water towards the slow shallow shelf the fish rest upon. Our excitement grew as we approached the pool, but the wind caused our view of the water to become obscured and could only hope that this year the fish would be there.

I watching with bated breath and my indicator drifted slowly over the pool. With a quick dip and a tug, I instantly knew we were back in business. The reel began to scream and these giant fish scattered throughout the pool. The bull on the end of my line pulled with all its strength, leaving my arm throbbing and exhausted. Soon the bull became weary and made its way towards the shore. With a clean scoop of the net, I felt reinvigorated, that the hardships that came before this trout were all worth it. Measuring close to 30 inches, I released this beautiful yellow beast back into the darkness of the pool. We came upon many other fish that day, and for several days to come, but that bull was so very special to me. Sometimes we lose focus on why we are passionate about certain things, but in an instant a switch if flipped and we think, “how could I have ever forgotten this feeling?” Each year fish come and go, but there will always be those certain few that are etched within our memories, never to fade. I can only hope that throughout my life my mind with be filled with etchings of fish, and greasy tales of summer adventures.