LIGHTNING STRIKES TWICE

(Day One: Part One).

There’s an old idiom lightning never strikes twice, which means that most people believe that the same rare thing never happens to a person twice.  From my first day of fishing in Colorado with Brother Shawn, I can testify that lightning sometimes does strike twice in the same place–and in more ways than one.

To our chagrin, the Arkansas River was once again blown out for my fourth annual Colorado fishing trip in June of 2016.  Like last year, Shawn and I would have to find other rivers to fish.  As we discussed where to go, we talked about the epic fishing we experienced the previous year on a big creek named after the Indian word for a mountain pass where buffalo would cross over to the other valley (that’s the only hint I’m giving you) and a smaller tributary I’ll call, “Pine Creek.”  Last year the fishing on Pine Creek was epic due to hatching Green Drakes, smaller stone flies, Yellow Sallies, and PMD’s.

“Do you think we’ll see any Green Drakes on Pine Creek?”  Shawn asked hopefully.

“I think it’s possible,” I replied, “but my experience with Green Drakes is that they are hard to time correctly.  It’s usually the classic: You should have been here yesterday! I say we give it a try anyway and hope for the best.”  We both concurred that this was the game plan for our first morning.

When we pulled up to our parking spot early that morning, we both nervously walked up to the creek hoping to see some of the big green mayflies.  The tea-colored creek appeared about the same exact flow as last year.  It was as if we had never left.  It didn’t take long before we saw a spinner drake dancing above a riffle.

IMG_1141
It was like deja vu. The little creek looked perfect!

 

 

“Brother, that’s a Green Drake!  Can you believe that we timed this right?”  Shawn exclaimed.

We both hustled back to the truck and rigged up our rods; Shawn, a Southern Appalachian Glass fly rod, and me a Tenkara USA Rhodo.  I tied on a Green Drake Cripple and was on the creek fishing well before Shawn even had his rod rigged up.  In fact, I had a nice brown hooked, landed and photoed before Shawn even stepped foot in the creek.

IMG_1142
First fish of the trip: A nice brown on a green drake cripple. 

 

Shawn and I decided to fish upstream together and take turns at each likely looking pool, run, or bend.  We were stoked to observe copious amounts of stoneflies, Yellow Sallies, Caddis, PMD’s and a few Green Drakes all along the creek.  Despite the abundant tablefare, Shawn struggled at first to get the finicky browns to take his fly.

IMG_1149
Little Stonefly.

 

“Brother, it’s all about the drag free drift and keeping as much line off the water as possible.  These fish won’t take your fly if they see your line. Tenkara is perfect for this little creek, because the fish are only seeing my fly,” I explained to Shawn.  Shawn followed my advice and soon started catching fish in every likely looking spot with his glass rod.

After catching numerous nice brownies, I lost the Green Drake Cripple that had served me so well.  Shawn struggled to catch fish on the various Stimulator patterns he had tied.  We both naturally gravitated toward the classic Renegade in a size 12, which we tie with a red, purple or blue butt.  In my opinion, the Renegade is one of the most versatile and effective attractor patterns ever created.  We quickly found that Renegade worked just fine as we both caught numerous nice browns and brook trout.

The fishing on Pine Creek was technical in that we had to sneak into casting range to not spook the wary fish and then cast the fly precisely with a drag free drift.  On one bend of the creek, Shawn watched a nice brown rise to the surface and eat a natural fly.  He then cast the Renegade above the brown’s lie at the bend of the creek and we both watched as it drifted perfectly into position.  Of course, the brown rose up, slurped it in and Shawn soon landed him.  Multiple times that day Shawn said out loud: “My favorite fish of the day was that brown that I watched take a natural and then I got him to take my fly.”

“Yes, that was pretty darn cool, brother.”  I had to agree.

As we had the previous year, we fished all the way up to where beaver dams blocked our progress.  In the pond above the beaver dam, we watched trout sipping naturals on the glassy surface.  I then cast the Renegade lightly to where we saw the last rise and the eager fish quickly gulped it in.  When I set the hook, the acrobatic fish blasted out of the water unlike the browns and brook trout before.  I quickly brought the rainbow to hand and we snapped a picture.

With our progress stymied, Shawn and I hiked out of the creek bottom though marshlands interspersed with wild irises–a favorite wildflower of mine–back to the road.  We stopped at the truck for a break and cracked open two Boylan Root Beers.

“Here’s to hitting this creek perfectly two years in a row,” Shawn said as we clinked our bottles together.

“Amen to that brother.”  The gourmet root beer was the perfect compliment to our morning.

Not wanting to call it quits on Pine Creek, we decided to hike downstream a ways and fish back up to the truck.  As we hiked, three cow elk blasted out of the creek bottom and up a pine-covered hillside.  We took it as a good omen.  The creek downstream looked excellent and we were excited to give it a try.

We didn’t fish long, however, before a dark storm cloud rolled over the little valley.  As we approached another little beaver pond, the heavens let loose with thunder and lightning.  I don’t mind fishing in the rain, but standing in a creek with a lightning rod during an electric storm is just plain dumb.

“We better get the heck out of here!” said Shawn as we witnessed lightning flash overhead.

“Yeah, buddy.  Let’s get out of Dodge!”

As we were both trying to get out of the creek, I stepped into thick mud and pea-sized gravel suddenly filled my Simms wading sandals making the going extremely tough and painful.  Moreover, my fly snagged on a willow near the beaver dam and I struggled to get it loose.  All the while, thunder boomed and lightning cracked all around me.

Not long after I pulled the fly free, marble sized hail starting to pummel us.  Shawn decided that it was each for his own and he bolted down the trail to the truck as fast as he could.  I, on the other hand, hobbled along as the gravel in my sandals tortured my poor feet.  Yet, I didn’t dare stop to take off my shoes because of the overhead onslaught of hail that stung my neck, ears and arms.  My only recourse was to pull my fishing vest up over my head and keep moving.  To my relief, I soon saw the truck and jogged over to it despite the rocks in my sandals.

By the time I reached the truck, there was an inch of hail on the ground.  As I took shelter in the truck, Shawn laughingly reported that he had filmed my misfortune with his phone.

“Dude, that really sucked!” I hollered, “But it was kind of awesome too! I’m just glad we didn’t get struck by lightning. I couldn’t go any faster because I had rocks in my sandals!”

“That was dang scary!  I had rocks in mine too, but I ran anyway.”   Shawn replied.

Despite the crazy weather, we both agreed that the morning was a stellar success.  Lightning had struck twice both figuratively and literally.  Any way you slice it, this was an adventure to remember.

IMG_1295
A bend in my rod at the bend of the creek.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

RUDE, CRUDE AND UNCOUTH

This summer is flying by on wings of lightning.  I have had an absolute blast fishing the past few months, mostly with Tenkara.  I seriously have a year’s worth of blogging to catch up on.

I should first mention that I had an article entitled, “Zenkara” published in the Summer issue of Tenkara Angler.  For any of you interested in reading, here is the LINK. I’m way impressed with the quality of this online magazine and will definitely support it in the future.

Also, last month I flew out to Colorado for three days of fishing with my brother and best friend Shawn.  To sum it up, we had more fun than two adults ever should.  We were like two kids eating good food, fishing to our heart’s content, and drinking every gourmet root beer we could find.  You can read Shawn’s lies about our adventure on Upland Ways.  If any are interested, here is the link to Shawn’s article, Renegades, Root Beers & the Avett Brothers.

IMG_1150
Root Beers, Renegades, and Tenkara

Over the next few months, I will definitely add my two cents worth about this epic trip, but today, I wanted to share a quick anecdote about still water fishing in Colorado with tenkara.

On Thursday, after an epic morning of dry fly fishing on a small creek I’ll call Pine Creek and getting pounded by a hail storm, I said to Shawn, “That sure is a pretty waterfall over there.”

“That’s not a waterfall.  It’s a spillway for an old reservoir.” Shawn replied.

“Seriously? I never would have guessed that.”

“You want to go check it out?  The fishing is pretty good.” Shawn asked.

After being literally pummeled by hail on the creek, we decided that a change of scenery might be nice. And we also hoped to keep a few trout for Shawn’s smoker.  Shawn and I usually practice catch and release, but I asked him to teach me how to smoke some trout while we were together in Colorado.  We figured that reservoir trout were more worthy of death than their wily brethren in the creek below.

Shawn then drove us down a two track that led to the trailhead to the reservoir.

As we hiked toward the waterfall along a path strewn with wild raspberry canes, I soon saw the old manmade dam and the spillway causing the beautiful waterfall.

Once on top of the dam, Shawn commenced fishing with his traditional rod.  All I had was my Tenkara USA Rhodo rod.  I realized that tenkara was probably not the most effective rod for this type of fishing because of the shorter casting range and that I needed something that would attract the fishes’ attention.  While this may be total sacrilege to the purists, I am a big fan of the Pistol Pete, a wet fly with a little metal propeller near the eye of the hook.  Many claim that this is not a fly at all, but rather a lure.  Regardless, Pistol Petes catch fish!  I cannot tell you how many times this fly has saved my day and worked when nothing else would.  So naturally, I opted for a little silver flash Pistol Pete.

I flung the fly out as far as I could with the tenkara rod and then towed the fly back to me using my arm and the long rod.  On the first or second cast, I hooked into a nice rainbow, but it quickly got off.  It wasn’t long before another one slammed the Pistol Pete and I brought this one to hand,  dispatched it, and created a little pool with boulders to put him in.

When the thundering clouds overhead threatened lightning, I headed over to the far left side of the dam to–if it became necessary–quickly take shelter against the cliff from lightning or more hail.  As I stood in this spot, I caught numerous other rainbows and brookies, many of which suffered the same fate as the first unlucky trout.  Shawn also caught a few fish, but not as many as Me Ol’ Friend Pete.

IMG_1314
Andy catching fishing fish on I Dunno Reservoir.

Seeing fish rise just outside of my casting range, I got creative and skirted the cliff’s rocky shelf to get into better casting range.  This technique worked pretty well and I soon brought a few more fish to their doom.

IMG_1316
Scaling the cliff’s ledge to get to rising trout.

Since I started tenkara fishing, I have received a lot of guff from naysayers.  I have been amazed at the hostility this style of fishing ignites.  Many say it’s nothing more than cane pole fishing.  At one point while fishing this reservoir, I smiled as the thought struck me that my actions at that moment probably ticked off everyone in the sport of flying fishing.  Here I was fishing tenkara, with a Pistol Pete, and bonking a limit of fish on the head.  Undoubtedly, many would consider this triple combination as rude, crude and uncouth.

IMG_1123
Fish murderer.

The truth is, I don’t really care!  The technique worked.  I had fun and I later learned that smoked trout are a tasty treat, especially the pink-meated brookies.

IMG_1210
Our haul on the Little Chief Smoker.

 In hindsight, I can honestly say that tenkara was no handicap for me whatsoever on this trip. In fact, tenkara can sometimes be more effective than traditional fly fishing.  Now when somebody criticizes me about tenkara (or Pistol Pete for that matter), I simply respond, “I let the fish be the judge.”

KEITH’S CREEK

“Sometimes the veil between this life and the life beyond becomes very thin.  Our loved ones who have passed on are not far from us.”

-Ezra Taft Benson

It had been three years since I fished this creek.  The last time I fished it was in July of 2013 with my Dad, Keith Wayment.  Dad asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I responded: “To go fishing with you!”  Dad agreed and showed up early Saturday morning with a box of his hand tied flies and a twenty dollar bill for my birthday.  While the gifts were appreciated, I was just glad to spend the day fishing with him.

Dad at Birch Creek
Dad fishes with my Brittanys on Birch Creek in 2012.

Our first stop for the day was a large creek on the Idaho-Wyoming border.  Anywhere else, this creek would have been considered a river.  However, like all the creeks in the area, it was overshadowed by the goliath Snake River downstream.  This creek has a proper name, but I like to give small creeks nicknames just like my grouse coverts to protect them and to endear them more to me.  At one time, I kicked around the name of “June Creek” because in the month of June bigger fish run up this creek and you can catch them just as the runoff drops and the creek clears.

IMG_1062[1]
Keith’s Creek

In mid-June of 2013, a friend and I caught numerous nice trout on this creek.  However, Dad and I went there mid-July and, by then, the bigger fish had moved back downstream.  I caught a few skippies, but Dad got skunked.  Before he could figure things out, we had to abandon the area because of a black storm cloud and rain.  We stopped at a few other creeks on the way home and Dad finally caught a cutty on a creek I call “Siren Creek.”  This was one of the last fishing trips I had with Dad before he passed away the following spring.

Life got hectic over the next three years and I never could seem to find my way back to this special creek, until yesterday.  My law partner, Aaron, asked me to take him and his son David fishing and this seemed like the perfect place.  Since it was June, I hoped that we would still find some of bigger fish.  Also, with it being Father’s Day weekend, I thought this would be a good place to go and remember Dad.

Upon arrival, we found that the creek was a little off-color which—I thought—was perfect conditions.  However, the big fish were not as abundant as in 2013.  I’m not sure what made the difference, but we had a harsher winter this past year.  Unlike the last time, however, there was not a cloud in the sky.

I strung up the 2 Weight St. Croix Ultra Legend fly rod that my Dad built and tied on one of his Red-butted Double Renegades.  This seemed like a good combo to begin with.  When I fish, I like to keep moving upstream.  I call this “running and gunning.”  I’ll stop and fish the better holes for a while, but if I don’t get a strike after numerous casts, then I keep moving and searching for the primer spots.

As I headed upstream I caught numerous small cutthroat, but no big ones.  I worked up to the head of a long, aqua-green run and skittered a Renegade across the seam between two currents. A beautiful yellow cutthroat rose, but missed the fly.  That is a bigger fish!  I thought to myself.

I tried dead drifting the fly, but the fish ignored it every time.  After skittering the fly cross-current four or five more times, the aggressive fish finally got ahold of it and he was on.  This cutty gave me a good fight on the two weight and I ended up landing him about 20 yards down river.  I was excited about the nicer fish and thought how cool it was to catch him on a rod built by Dad and a fly that he tied.

IMG_1065[1]
Snake River Fine Spot Cutthroat on Dad’s fly rod and Red-butted Double Renegade. 

I then went back downstream to check on Aaron and David, who stayed near the vehicle.  In my absence, Aaron had caught a big cutthroat on a rubber leg.   Since the fish were biting dry flies, I decided to switch over to Tenkara and a Renegade, which was the perfect combo.

As I worked my way upstream from where I had earlier left off, I thought a lot about Dad.  I wished he could have experienced this creek in its glory.  He would have loved its boulder strewn runs and pockets, though he may have had some trouble wading the slick, boulder-laid bottom in some areas.  Although he never heard of it during his lifetime, Dad would have liked the simplicity of tenkara.  A man of faith, he would have appreciated that tenkara means, “from heaven” in Japanese.  Of all people, Dad understood the strong spirituality that is connected with fly fishing and the outdoors.

June Creek” is a little generic of a name, I thought to myself. Maybe I should name this creek after Dad.

As I was thinking about these things, I came upon a dark green hole that just screamed of fish on the left bank.  I cast the Renegade into the run and the biggest cutthroat of the day rose and engulfed the fly.  Upon setting the hook, the fish gave me a wonderful scrap and just as I was almost ready to land him, my tippet snapped.  I knew there was a knot in my line that I should have fixed when I tied on my fly and that was my undoing.  I had just lost the fish of the day and all I could do was smile.  Dad, who had a great sense of humor, would have appreciated that.

Having been away from Aaron and David for a while, I decided to go check up on them and made my way across the stream to an area shaded by big pine trees.  I then saw a small swing with a wood plank seat and looked up and noticed a metal plaque secured to the tree, which read, “IN MEMORY OF DAD, 1-20-24 to 3-10-02.”

IMG_1064[1]

As I reflected on my own father, I was amazed that I stumbled upon a memorial that another family had posted for their dad.  Somehow, I don’t think this was a coincidence.   I resolved right then that the name of this creek should be “Keith’s Creek” in honor of my Dad.  I thought this was the perfect tribute to my hero and father. 

My hero
Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

 

 

 

BENKARA

My wife and I named our son, Benjamin, after the great founding father, Benjamin Franklin.  We later came to find out that the name means “son of the right hand” or “son of the old age” in Hebrew.  Since he is the last of our six kids, I figure that both meanings are appropriate, especially since Ben inherited his old man’s love of the great outdoors and fishing.

Last Friday, I took off from work early and Ben, who is almost five, said, “Dad, let’s go fishing!”  I asked him a few times to make sure that he really wanted to go and he was resolute every time.  So I donned my shorts and wading sandals and Ben put on his wading shoes.  Of course, we stopped by the store to buy a few treats, Gatorade and Nut Rolls, before we headed to our destination.

IMG_0942
Rule # 1: When you take kids fishing, you have to get treats!

Not far from home there is a tiny spring-fed creek loaded with Yellowstone Cutthroats that I dearly love.  While it has a proper name, I call it “Trickle Creek.”  I have found that when the runoff just starts to drop and the creek begins to clear, this creek really shines and you can catch a cutty in every likely spot.    I often fish it with little fly rods, but it’s perfect for tenkara as there really is no need for a reel.  The biggest fish is no bigger than 13 inches, but most are 8 to 10 inches. I figured this would be a great place for us to catch a few.

IMG_0941
Trickle Creek is a special place.

When we reached our destination, I extended the Tenkara USA, Rhodo rod that is adjustable to three different lengths, 8’10”, 9’9”, and 10’6”, which is perfect for the tight conditions of Trickle Creek.  Our fly for the night was a Renegade.   Ben and I started catching fish almost as soon as we reached the water.  Little Ben giggled with every fish and loved wading in the creek. He even didn’t mind brush bustin’ to get to some of the holes, although a few times I had to put him on my shoulders to avoid the stinging nettle and other scratchy weeds.

IMG_0936
Ben’s smile reminds me why I love fishing so much. 

 

Our deal was that I would hook them and Ben would let them go.  Of course, he had to name every fish before he let them go.  Let’s see, there was Skippy, Flippy, Ringo, Chubby, and Roly, and so on and so forth.  After landing numerous fish, I decided to let Ben bring them in and it was fun to see him fighting a fish on a rod that is easily four times his height.   And he did just fine.  I even let him try to cast a few times, but we need to work on that.

 

Ben’s enthusiasm and sheer joy was contagious.  I have fished this creek dozens of times over the years and I can honestly say this was the funnest, most memorable night I’ve spent on Trickle Creek.

IMG_0944
Little Ben brings in the last fish of the night. 

 

As we drove home sharing the last of my grape Gatorade, I told Ben, “I had so much fun fishing with you buddy! I’ve got a new nickname for you.  You want to hear it?”

“Yes, Dad!” replied Ben.

“You are now Benkara.  You are welcome to fish with me anytime, buddy.”

I’m looking forward to fishing with my little buddy into my golden years!

IMG_0939
Dad and Benkara fishing for fun on Trickle Creek.

 

 

 

 

BAD WEATHER, A BRITTANY AND BLUE WING OLIVES

“The best thing one can do when it is raining is to let it rain.”

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

As the Honda CRV turned up the mouth of the valley leading to our camping destination, I experienced a little disappointment as I noticed a dark rain cloud further up the valley.  I had hoped for sunny skies and warm temperatures, but it looked like we were in for the opposite.

That morning, I left early with my Brittany, Misty, in hopes of getting our coveted camping spot for our annual Memorial Day camping trip and to fish while I waited for the rest of my family and friends to show up.  When I arrived at the campground, however, I found the camping spot already occupied and it was raining and cold.  My mood soured even more under the circumstances.

IMG_0875[1]
Gray skies over the creek.

Trying to stay positive, I quickly picked a decent camp site on a bluff overlooking the little river and—despite the inclement weather—decided to don my waders and a raincoat and try fishing anyway.  I chose the Tenkara USA Rhodo rod and tied on a nymph and a foam indicator.  Fortunately, the fishing was good despite the cruddy weather, but I got scared off the river a few times due to the booming thunder overhead.  I never saw lightning, but understood that the two usually go hand in hand and—with a graphite lightning rod in hand and standing in water—I did not want to wait to find out if the lightning was coming.  Misty didn’t seem to care one iota about the rain or the thunder, but enjoyed being outside chasing whatever critters she could find.  At around noon, we were forced to take shelter in the car while an inch of pea-sized hail covered the car and ground around us.

IMG_0874[1]
Misty, my soaking wet fishing companion for the day.  

“Sheesh, this stinks!” I stated out loud to Misty as we sat in the car.

After the hail let up and the skies shifted from black to gray, Misty and I again braved the elements.  We hiked clear up the creek and I caught numerous rainbows and brooks on nymphs.  The storm again turned for the worse and rain began pour.  As I walked back downstream to try and get out of the slop, the river began to boil with trout as they feasted upon the abundant hatching blue wing olives.  My attitude perked up immediately.  With my numb fingers, I tied on an Adams, which worked okay, but I knew I had some patterns in the car that would be killer.  So I hoofed it back to the car as quickly as I could and soon found a Harrop’s CDC BWO pattern, tied it on to the leader, and doped it up with floatant.

IMG_0873[1]
A chunky little rainbow in the rain.
 When I made it back down to the creek, the hatch was still in full force and it seemed that every fish in the creek was feeding.  I have never before seen such a prolific blue wing olive hatch anywhere.  Harrop’s fly pattern worked like a charm, the tenkara rod was effective for casting and getting a drag free drift and I caught tons of fish.  To try and make things a little more challenging, I actually started fishing the skinniest, clearest water I could find and still caught fish.  The tenkara rod was no handicap whatsoever this day.

 

IMG_0872[1]
Beautiful brookie.

All said, in spite of the bad weather, time flew by as I fished from 10:30 am to 5:20 pm.  Misty had been a good fishing companion all day.  While I did not keep count, I believe I caught more fish on this day than any other day before.  What I thought would be a bust turned out to be a special day astream.  Though the weather improved and the fishing was good the rest of the weekend, it was not epic as on Friday.

IMG_0887[1]
We had better weather the rest of the weekend but the fishing was not as good.
Later on that weekend a friend from a neighboring campsite asked me if I was the crazy man his family watched fishing in the rain and hail all day Friday.  I laughingly replied, “Yep, that was me and the fishing was amazing!”

SIREN CREEK

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.

IMG_1279
Siren Creek

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.

MY DESERT FISHING OASIS

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. 

IMG_0387
The view from up top was unexpected and spectacular.  I thought it looks like Zion’s National Park.

 

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? 

IMG_0384
A fly fisherman’s dream.  

 

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.

IMG_0385
The glory hole.

 

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. 

IMG_0386
A unique, wild brown trout. 

 

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.      

 

IMG_0388
I will definitely be back to explore this amazing, red rock canyon creek.