There’s a special creek not far from home that beckons to me. An unwary angler could get lost forever as each curve and bend of the creek looks better than the last and tempts you onward. I call it “Siren Creek,” though that is not its real name.
The second time I fished it, I was with my father—my hero and outdoor mentor—on one of our last fishing outings. Earlier that week, Dad called me and asked what I wanted for my upcoming birthday and I quickly responded, “For you to go fishing with me!” Dad agreed and we planned to fish the next Saturday.
Unfortunately, it rained hard that day. Dad and I fished numerous creeks and the fish did not cooperate. By the time we finally made it to Siren Creek (our last stop of the day), Dad wasn’t feeling well and stayed near the truck. Right off the bat, he caught one cutthroat. I was glad to see that he didn’t get skunked.
Under the circumstances, I fished only a small section of the creek. The further upstream I hiked, however, the better it looked. I caught a nice brown in a run not far from where we parked and later a beautiful, dark cutthroat that rose to a Stimulator in a deep hole overshadowed by exposed roots at a nice bend in the creek.
The creek was so enticing that I repeatedly longed to see what was around the next bend. Despite its almost irresistible call, I decided to go back and check up on Dad. I found him sitting in the car ashen, feverish, and cranking the heat in July. We decided to call it a day.
As we drove home, I had the strong premonition that Dad would not live much longer and the thought brought tears to my eyes. To my dismay, Dad passed away the following March. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t miss him.
Some may think that this sad experience might steer me away from Siren Creek. To the contrary, I have been back numerous times and have become enraptured with this little creek, its seductive twists and turns, and its small Yellowstone Cutthroats. The creek has become one of those sacred places where I go to remember Dad and the good times we spent together.
I’m starting to understand what Norman Maclean meant when he wrote about reaching out to those he loved who had passed on to the other side and hearing some of their words in a river’s whisperings. It’s like a siren that keeps calling me back.
Every year, my family heads south to Utah’s famed red rock country for Spring Break. This trip is always such a welcome relief to the doldrums of Idaho’s long, cold winters. As much as I love hiking and petroglyph viewing, I always hope to sneak in some fishing, but—in years past—we never could fit it in.
This year, we headed to Vernal to spend some time in and around Dinosaur National Monument. This was actually our third time vacationing in the area for spring break and we honestly feel we are just beginning to understand all of the fun things this area offers: Dinosaur fossils, sightseeing, hiking, and petroglyph viewing. I mentioned to my wife that, if at all possible, I hoped to get some fishing in on this trip.
Everyone knows of the world-class Green River and its fishing. While that was a possibility, I needed a place where I could keep my family occupied while I wet a line for a few minutes. The Green just didn’t seem to fit the bill. About six years ago during a sharptail hunt, my friend Ryan Dearing told me about his favorite place to fish in Utah, a remote canyon creek that you had to hike into loaded with big rainbows and browns somewhere in eastern Utah. The place always sounded tantalizing, but seemed out of reach for me, especially on a family vacation. But I still hoped that there would be somewhere that fit the bill.
After spending our first day in Dinosaur National Monument, I read the brochures and asked around for fishing suggestions for the next day and one particular creek came up numerous times. I won’t mention the creek’s name, but will let you discover it for yourself (as I did). My wife suggested that we go to this creek as a family on Friday. When I asked our RV camp host where to fish, he mentioned a few creeks, but when I told him that my wife wanted us to go to this particular creek, he acted as if I had just discovered his secret and he reluctantly told me that this creek had big browns and rainbows and that this is where he would go if he had the choice. His response certainly piqued my interest.
Friday morning, my family and in-laws headed out of Vernal towards our destination. We drove up from the desert floor, through the cedars, up on top of a sage-covered mountain, and then dropped into this red rock gorge that looks like Zion’s National Park. Even with the thick gray clouds overhead, the colors radiated. I liked this place instantly for the scenery alone.
Upon arrival, I spent a minute with the family seeing the main attraction (which, if I told you, would give away the location) and then begged leave to try fishing the creek. My wife graciously agreed. I quickly strung up my Tenkara USA Rhodo rod with a flashy green nymph with red wire and a black bead head. I hiked down the trail until I came to the creek. At the creek’s edge, I promptly saw two fifteen inch rainbows right off the bank and I’m sure they could see me too. I cast the nymph and drifted it in front of their faces numerous times with no takes. I immediately fell in love with the creek: Perfect sized, clear, spring fed but looks like a freestone river, sporting big, picky fish. What’s not to love?
I had earlier observed about five or six anglers gear up and head down the trail before me so I was a little worried that the creek would be crowded, but the other anglers had passed on by leaving beautiful, trout-filled water seemingly all to me. With the limited amount of time, I decided then to focus on the quarter mile stretch just below the trailhead.
I hiked down about fifty yards and saw this beautiful run below an exposed boulder mid-creek which just screamed of fish. The rocks aligning the creek were covered up with adult blue wing olives. I stepped out into the current in my Simms wading sandals and Patagonia fishing pants. The water was cold, but bearable. I cast the green nymph into the calm below the boulder and the little foam indicator quickly jerked underwater. An angry 17 inch rainbow ripped up out of the water and ran to the far side of the creek. I tried to turn its head, but the supercharged fish was quickly off. I honestly felt undergunned with the Tenkara rod, but that is all that I had so it would have to do. By dumb luck, the little green nymph was perfect for this particular hatch. I soon hooked and landed a fourteen-inch rainbow, but it was a small consolation to the big one that got away.
I headed down the creek and spied a deep pool beside a big boulder. At the head of the run the creek narrows through a shoot, but opens up into a dark pool loaded with fish. I stood on the boulder and hooked numerous fish just as my wife, mother-in-law, and two oldest daughters came hiking down the trail. I caught and released a few beautiful rainbows and one nice brown as they watched, all the while raving about the creek. Of course, I asked my wife to snap a few photos of the action.
After another forty-five minutes of fishing and exploring, I had to leave. I felt like I had only scratched the surface of this amazing creek. I truly felt as if I had just hit the jackpot and I made plans to someday spend more time exploring this amazing place.
That night, I posted a few photos of my fishing excursion on Facebook. Interestingly, my friend Ryan recognized the place and commented: “What??? That’s one of my favorite spots.” I then realized that I had discovered and fished the very creek that Ryan told me about all those years ago and it was everything he had described and more. I guess some days you can have your proverbial cake and eat it too. I will definitely go back some day.