There are few places left that have virtually “no pressure”. Where you can stand over a pool and catch fish after fish on any fly you choose. These places are even more rare in the desert southwest where trout streams are few and far between. Streams in this part of the world are never a secret and often a popular destination. It takes a spot that is a challenge to access to create the perfect storm of good water and seldom fished to trout. This is one of those spots.
The creek is no secret, many people know of it. I’m not going to name it but it should be easy to figure out. It’s a spot I’m not worried about becoming a popular destination or heavily fished. The drive is too far and the hike is too long for the casual day trip. In fact most of the year the trailhead is inaccessible to snow or it is too hot to attempt. There are windows on either side of winter and summer but the spring often leaves the creek swollen with snowmelt and unfishable. It is the perfect spot.
Along the hike is one of the most unbelievable spots I have ever been to. It seems more like a mirage than reality. From bone dry desert and shear canyon walls a river jets out of the cliff side. Desert brush gives way to massive cottonwoods and lush riparian vegetation. The hot hike is broken up by cool shade and refreshing spring water. It is hard to explain just how foreign this ribbon of green is in the midst of the red and brown hues that make up the canyon. This river flows for about a half of a mile before it meets up with the creek we are planning to fish. By some strange naming mix-up this is the only river I have ever come upon that flows into a creek and takes the name of the creek.
Shortly after marveling at this strange spring/river we are at our destination. Packs were hastily dropped and rods were rigged. We began exploring the “creek/river” and made our way down towards its confluence with the big river.
After just an hour or so of fishing we had our answer, this creek was the spot to be! Practically every pool had at least one rainbow willing to rise and if you were swinging a streamer through there were more to be had under the surface. Including two browns that Josh managed to get on the line. Darkness falls fast beneath the rim and with full stomachs it was quickly off to dreamland.
The following morning had time for some more fishing before making our way back up. The day before we had seen some pretty large shadows moving around in the bottoms of the pools and in Tanner’s first few cast of the day he connected with one.
The landing of this fish will go down as one of the wildest I have ever been a part of! The fish initially ran around its deep pool, pulling line and bending the rod. It then got into the current and ran downstream through some pretty dicey rocks before Tanner managed to guide it to an eddy on the far side of the creek. We had no net and with trees blocking his path I crossed the creek and ran up the far bank to where the fish was holding. After a few more short runs we had it in hand! Somehow he managed all of this on a barbless fly on 5X tippet, I have no idea how it didn’t slip the hook or break the line but I’ll take it!
With the massive high of that monstrous rainbow we fished at a very relaxed pace until it was time to head up to the truck. We did manage a few more fish on some large dries and threw some more of those monstrous dead hoppers into the river to watch the fish gobble them up.
The hike out is long and very much uphill with a little over 5,000 vertical feet to cover in the day. It does take you through one of my favorite rock layers in the canyon, the Esplanade Sandstone. This rock layer is filled with wild red sandstone rock formations. Contoured rock scattered all around that has been smoothed by wind and filled with shapes similar to those seen in a cartoon . An intact Pinyon/Juniper forest fills the gaps in the rocks. Looking at the diversity of grasses, forbs and shrubs really makes you wonder how the rest of the state would look if it hadn’t been grazed to the ground in the past 100 or so years.
The top approached and the sun sank off the horizon at about the same moment and we completed the last mile or so on top of the rim in the failing light. Almost as soon as we began driving the snow started to fall and made us grateful we weren’t spending the night on the ground. It was a magical spot to spend some time with some good friends and get to fish, I’m looking forward to my next visit!