Enos Bradner's Cutthroat Meadows

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Dave Westburg, May 25, 2013.

  1. Dave Westburg Member

    Posts: 351
    Kirkland, WA, USA.
    Ratings: +21 / 0
    Had a few hours to kill today and decided to sleuth out the location of Enos Bradner's "Cutthroat Meadows". He wrote fondly in Northwest Angling and in his newspaper columns of catching large cutthroat and occasionally silver salmon and steelhead in a 30 acre walk in pond in the western cascades. Bradner was cagey about the pond's location but late in life he revealed that it was the Johnson-Dean Millpond outside of Granite Falls.

    You can reach what's left of the pond by a 30 minute walk on a timber road. Good things don't always last. The dam has washed out and the pond no longer exists. Am sure there are cutts in the creek. I saw rising fish in Mud Lake about another half hour's walk upstream.

    Thought a few pics of the hallowed ground would interest the angling history buffs among you. The first picture is a view of a tiny pool at the foot of the old dam. The second picture is a view of what used to be the pond and is now a meadow.

    Attached Files:

  2. Greg Armstrong Active Member

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    I went to see Enos give a talk at the old Renton Sporting Goods store a year or so after that book was published (1969).
    That memorable event, and reading his book at the time had a big influence on me and on my switching over from spin to flyfishing.

    RIP Enos
  3. Salmo_g Active Member

    Posts: 7,470
    Your City ,State
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    Thanks for sharing Dave. That's kinda' cool, visiting the "used to be" places pioneered by local fly fishermen. I've been to Ralph Wahl's steelhead Shangri-La on the Skagit a couple times, but it's changed so much from the water as it was when he wrote about it, you have to imagine how the mainstem water fed into it through the ancient log jam.

  4. constructeur Active Member

    Posts: 1,514
    Seattle, Wa
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    I was going to ask if anyone has been able to find its location. Sometimes it's fun to walk around and imagine what once was.
  5. Kent Lufkin Remember when you could remember everything?

    Posts: 7,136
    Not sure
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    Thanks for the thoughtful post Dave. And good for you for taking the time to hike in and scout the location. The undeniable reality of life here on earth is that things never stay the same with the corollary being change is a given.

    Fifteen years ago after a two and a half decade hiatus from flyfishing, I picked up the long rod again and started rubbing elbows with folks who took me under their wing and helped to point me in the direction I wanted to go.

    One of the stories I heard over and again was of a certain 'pond' at the top of a prominent hill by the same name an hour or so north northeast of Seattle. Several old-timer fishermen told riveting tales about the hike up a rarely-used DNR access road and a tricky put-in among old stumps and logging debris. But their accounts of being towed around in their float tubes by 22"+ cutthroat who rarely saw a fly made the prospect of the trip seem to be well worth the effort.

    Fast forward a couple of decades and the access to that hilltop pond has long been cut off by a possessive landowner who has posted the gate (even thought it's not on his land) and runs several aggressive dogs who share his dislike of visitors. Several years ago though, a couple of acquaintances managed to find their way up there using a different route.

    The pond they found was nearly dried out after the beaver dam that had impounded the spring that fed it had ruptured. The level of the pond was way lower than it had been a decade before, the peat bog was rapidly reclaiming what used to be open water, and despite several hours of trying, there were no signs of fish to be seen.


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  6. Dave Westburg Member

    Posts: 351
    Kirkland, WA, USA.
    Ratings: +21 / 0
    Sad story Kent. I fished the lake you refer to in 1994 and 1995. Caught 5-10 cutthroat up to 12 inches on each visit. I used a floating line when fishing among the stumps around the edge of the lake and a sink-tip line in the middle of the lake. Too bad it's not what it was.

    Some of the good things Bradner wrote about are still good. Cottonwood Lake in Kittitas County still has wild trout. The Stilly is fishing better than it ever has for searun cutthroat. Been a few years since I have been to Prices Lake on the Olympic peninsula but it is as remote and full of wild fish as ever.
  7. Smalma Active Member

    Posts: 2,795
    Marysville, Washington
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    Find and enjoying those little gems like "cutthroat meadows" is one of the rewards for an angler willing to get away from chasing inter-net reports and poking around. While such locations are not common and rarely last for extended periods the angling experiences they can provide are priceless.

    I too spend a number of very peaceful, enjoyable evenings on the "hilltop" that Kent mentioned. A decade earlier I had the chance to fish the water in Steve Raymond mentions in his book "The Year of the Angler" in the Plastic Flags are Flying chapter. As teenager my cousins and I had access to isolated oxbow slough that had a small creek that flowed into it. The creek produce some brookies and cutthroat every year that somehow was in balance with the productivity of the slough producing some exceptional fish. The land owner had a soft spot for us kids and until his death allowed us to keep a small pram on the slough most of the summer - what a treasure that now some 50 years later I still look back on fondly.

    Such waters are often come and go; especially if associated with a river and its flood plain. Some thirty years ago one of the more productive winter steelhead pools/runs I have every fished was on a major river channel. There were two pools that fished well though the lower one was the steelhead pool it was the upper smaller pool the eventually lead me to an ultimate gem. At low flows if I was careful the far eddy of that pool just below where a small stream (during the summer it would barely be wet) dumped into the river would always produce a small handful of sea-run cutthroat. The great steelheading last for 3 or 4 years until a major flood changed the course of the river. However through some random act the upper end of the old river channel was blocked by a log jam that allowed a decent little flow down the old channel. For some reason I didn't explore that old channel for a year or two maybe because it required crossing the river at low flows and then another 10 or 15 minute hike to get to it. But the first year my old friend still held the odd steelhead but the cutthroat and the "Dollies" that followed the salmon up the channel were easily to access and produced many wonderful days of fishing. That lasted another 5 or 6 years until another large flood event took the log jam away and the river flow dried up. However that little creek as well as some river seepage kept the channel full of water and the old pools held their depth for a few years becoming home for a number of resident cutthroat and like clock work every fall the sea-runs would show up and the fishing may have gotten even better on what was very much like a spring creek. About the time the old pools had filled significantly the beavers showed up keeping some depth in part of the channel and even though the overall length of the channel has shorten the fish remained quite good. I also thought I would loss that fishery to another flood as that is the usual fate of such waters but in this case WDFW's steelhead stream strategy that closed all Puget Sound tributary streams to fishing unless listed under waters with special regs a few years ago ended my fishing. I have returned to that old channel a couple times since and the cutthroat are still there and I usually spend 15 or 20 minutes watch the fish (often in pods of 15 or 20 fish) in the gin clear water and often can find a cutt or two down in the river below where that old channel enters it.

    The promise of such "finds" is one of the reasons that over the decades I have worn out so many pairs of waters but given the number of such gems I have found those waders and time spend exploring seem to be a very small price for such rewards. I can think of at least 8 or 10 such gems that I have stumbled across and though many only have lasted a season or two I have enjoyed each and every one of them and as long as this old body allows will I continue wearing out waders and investing in hope of find another of those out of way "gems".

  8. Old Man Just an Old Man

    Posts: 21,594
    Dillon, Mt
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    There was a time when you could drive to these places. But logging practices closed down those roads. That little lake/pond on the hill you could drive to also. I remember fishing Canyon Creek up where the forks came together and the creek was loaded with Steelhead. I don't think it's that way anymore. A lot if the back roads that were once open are now closed for all time.

    I have got to quit thinking of how it was 40 years ago. Those days are long gone. It would be nice if you all could of experienced it.
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  9. Smalma Active Member

    Posts: 2,795
    Marysville, Washington
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    Whether Wahl's Steelhead Shangri-La or Bradner's Cutthroat Meadows it is always great fun to visit those places just to imagine and get a feel for the fishing the pioneers of our sport experienced but I do disagree with OMJ that those days are long gone. Yes those "gems" may be lost but there are others to be found!

    I have found such places/gems in every decade of my fishing career. I rarely talk about those places and other than this thread post about them; on those rare occasions that I do discuss them I try to be as cryptic as Mr. Wahl was in talking about his "Shangri-La" as to the particulars of a given spot. In my previous post on this thread I mentioned a couple of those gems not to brag about my fishing skills (as limited as they may be) but to celebrate our wild salmonids and the waters they live in. Hopefully by doing so others will be encouraged to spend a bit of time prospecting for such gems and if they stumble across one appreciate them for what they are. With a mind set that in this kinds of situation it is about the fish and their water and not us an isolated pond with 8 to 10 native cutthroat is just as much of a treasure as a solitary piece of water with willing steelhead!

    For those that decide to become "gem" miners remember that by their very nature such "gems" are almost always transitory in nature. That said most "gems" are shattered prematurely due to some angler's need to stoke their ego.

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  10. Old Man Just an Old Man

    Posts: 21,594
    Dillon, Mt
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    I have found many places in Washington that you can't get into anymore. It's a shame as the fishing was always good in there. I'm not going to name them here because I could get shot or horse whipped if I ever came back there.
  11. Upton O Blind hog fisherman

    Posts: 2,158
    out of state now
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    Very nice report, thanks for posting a good read.
  12. Sean Beauchamp Hot and Heavy at yer 6

    Posts: 2,106
    Shoreline, WA, U.S.
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    Great reads gentlemen!
  13. zen leecher aka bill w born to work, forced to fish

    Posts: 3,136
    Moses Lake, WA
    Ratings: +959 / 1

    I first fished Kent's "pond" in 1975 and had to hike a bit as someone used dynamite on the beaver dam. That washed out the culvert and led to what seemed a 2 mile hike. Later after the culvert was replaced I fished the lake on and off up to the mid-90's or so when I encountered the gate.

    I've been towed around in circles there by cutts. First fished it back when it was a 5 trout limit. Chopaka at the same time was a 5 trout limit lake.

    A thought I just had and one I wish I'd had 20 years ago. I wonder if superglue would make that lock as hard for him to open as all the fishermen without keys?
  14. Stonefish Triploid and Humpy Hater

    Posts: 3,862
    Pipers Creek
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    Great stuff.
    I can remember talking to Clarence Fuhs at Olympic Sporting Goods back in the mid to late 70's. I can't remember, but I believe he owned the shop.
    He showed my buddy and I a picture of some cutts he had caught out of a beaver pond. One of them was 24" long.
    Being young and naive, I asked him where said beaver pond was located. He just chuckled and wished me luck trying to find it.
    I've forgotten a lot of things, but that picture is still as vivid in my memory as it was when he showed it to me over 30+ years ago.
  15. Smalma Active Member

    Posts: 2,795
    Marysville, Washington
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    Stonefish -
    Some of those OP beaver ponds were plain crazy. They were more small lakes than ponds with many of them capable of producing some amazing cutthroat. Some of the regulars often measured their cutthroat in pounds instead of inches; the largest I recall was in the 8# range. I fished several of the ponds in the 1970s and while never took any of the really large fish did manage to consistently find nice cutts and most days the largest fish of the day in that 18 to 22 inch range.

    Sadly many of those ponds have had bass illegally introduced in them though I suspect that some exceptional fishing is still available for those the poke around.

    Zen -
    Several times over the decades one would hear about the beaver dam being blown but I think it was mostly a matter of the beaver dam giving away (as the beavers exhausted their food supply they move on). I have seen beaver dams "blown" and there usually dam debris blown out and away from the stream channel; I never saw signs of such activity.

  16. Stonefish Triploid and Humpy Hater

    Posts: 3,862
    Pipers Creek
    Ratings: +1,260 / 1
    Good info on the OP beaver ponds. I would image there are still some places out there that yield large cutts.
    Speaking of beaver dam blowouts, did you happen to catch any of the news coverage of the one that happened recently near Duvall?
    I drove by it shortly after it happened. I feel sorry for the family that owns the home that was hit by the debris. Quite a impressive sight.
  17. bakerite Active Member

    Posts: 273
    Baker City Oregon
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    Great post Dave. I always had a hankering to find that spot and have enjoyed finding the out of the way gems I have. I knew about a beaver pond off the road to Carnation. You would park at this certain turnout and take a very faint trail back to it. The fish were few and far between but were never small. Living in a county with only about 15,000 people a long ways from famous waters and major metropolitan areas means there are lots of 'cutthroat meadows' still around...I just with we had more cutts and less brookies, they tend to overpopulate.
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