Its been some years since my first trip up Twelve Mile canyon to a lake called Duck Fork. Probably going on fifteen plus years. It is, and always has been, one of my favorite places to fish. My uncle showed this lake to me. This small, out of the way lake, sits at the headwaters of the Ferron drainage. It is used by the Utah DWR as a brood stock lake for the native Colorado Cutthroat. For this purpose, it is a fly and artificial lure lake. Well, at the time of my first trip I was new to fly fishing, and it was safe to say I was ill prepared. But for some reason this lake seemed to call to me. Not only does the lake host several sizable Cutthroat, but it is also home to some very aggressive Tiger trout. The maddening part is that with crystal clear water, fish are visible by the hundreds along the shorelines. It was after one of my early trips to Duck Fork that I really began to appreciate this lake.
It was perhaps my second, or third, trip when my uncle and I decided to fish Duck Fork one early July. There was a blue Damselfly hatch and the lake was swarming. They were hatching and mating by the thousands, and the fish were fully aware of this fact. The Damselfly nymphs were working their way to the shore where cruising fish were gorging themselves. The freshly hatched ones were hovering above the water mating and distributing their eggs. Everywhere we looked fish could be seen exploding out of the water, snatching flies out of the air. So, long story short, the fish were biting. That is to say, they were biting everything but the flies we were offering them. It was on that particular day where this story begins. After being ignored all day by fish, I got home I decided I needed to figure out a way to correct that. I picked up some blue craft foam and tied it on a hook for a body, then a little grizzly hackle to give a semblance of a wing. It was a far cry from what a real Damselfly looked like, but I was hoping the color and silhouette would be enough.
My biggest mistake was I only tied two of them. One for me, and the other for my uncle. Then we headed up to the lake for round two. Did it fool the fish? Of yeah! Did we catch them? by the dozen! I didn’t tie any extra because It was already a sad attempt of a fly…who knew it would actually work? But work, they did. We fished them catching fish after fish until I broke off, and my uncles fly was nothing more than tatters. Without that little wonder fly, our fishing was done. Not to say we didn’t keep trying like any fisherman would, but as before, we couldn’t get them to bite any other flies we had with us.
It’s funny the way life works. Two days ago, I was back at the lake. Only this time I was the one showing someone else the lake. I had my brother-in-law with me and I planned to give him a good day of fishing. Wouldn’t you know it, this was about the same time of year that my uncle had taken me there. And as luck would have it, the Damselfly’s were all over the place. It was here that this story comes full circle. A flood of good memories long past were brought to the forefront of my mind. It was my uncle that showed me these mountains and the waters nestled in the trees. We had spent countless hours, his family and mine, making a lifetime of memories camping and fishing.
There was a point that day where I sat on the bank watching the cruising fish and remembering the good ol’ days. And just like my first trip, I had not one Damselfly in my fly box. My uncle has since passed from my life, but his memory remains close to my heart. Below the shade of a great pine tree I realized that maybe somewhere, Don would be laughing at my stupidity, but smiling at the memory. I decided now, just as I did then, that I needed to go home and tie up some Damselfly’s.
So, here’s to you Don.
May you laugh in peace.