We have a history of exploring all of Southern Utah, but this time we were out looking for trout, which took us to even more new places. We had a few pointers from the internet and the fellas at Western Rivers, and we had our trusty, rather inaccurate but “field checked for accuracy” atlas.
It’s been awhile since we visited Boulder, Utah, so we drove over Boulder Mountain (fall colors were off the hook!) and made our first stop at the Escalante River. With such easy access we had high hopes, but recent rain made this a river more like chocolate milk, so we headed up Calf Creek instead. The bottom of Calf Creek is sculpted rock (sandstone?) which makes for clear water and easy walking (but do watch out for holes), and easy sightings of all of the fish! There are some trees and bushes to contend with, so casting is more like dropping, flicking, twitching and hoping for the best. Bring a short rod. And really, for best results, leave your dogs in the car.
There are a lot of fish in Calf Creek. We caught several small to medium sized brown trout and saw dozens and dozens swim around us after being spooked by the dogs or us. There are some surprisingly deep pools and some really beautiful small falls (I’d stay away from the real falls, unless crowds are your thing). It was a blast watching the fish zip around and trying to figure out how to catch them.
Next stop was North Creek, outside of Escalante. North Creek Canyon was a surprise: very narrow and lush before it climbs up to a series of lakes. Below the reservoir the creek was muddy and above it was pretty small, but clear enough. And there are more cows than you can shake a stick at. Also, really, really brushy, and since the water was bone-chilling cold it was a tricky creek to fish. One 8” cutthroat was caught before we decided to move on.
Mammoth Creek access is elusive. Our atlas is possibly very inaccurate or the national forest is a checkerboard of public and private. After a whole lot of driving, circling and best-guessing we did come across Mammoth Spring Campground (which was totally empty and has well-spaced sites, for future reference). There are several access points below the campground. We saw zero fish and were unable to lure any out from their hiding places. I thought the water in North Creek was cold, but Mammoth Creek made my bones hurt within seconds of being in it. We did score a caddis dry fly from a branch, though, so it was worth it. We are planning to check in on Mammoth Creek again, perhaps in the spring.
A roadside dog stop along Duck Creek turned into a surprisingly good fishing outing. These fish are super spooky, so again, if catching fish is your ambition, I would recommend leaving the dogs in the car. They are half the fun, so we didn’t do this. And we saw a lot of fish even if we didn’t catch a lot of them. With team work and tall grass working in our favor, however, there was one particularly chunky brook trout that was caught. The creek has great pools and hiding places and is surrounded by aspens, pines and grasses. Really fun fishing. We might go back without dogs.
After the fishing extravaganza we rolled into our oldest favoritest place, Gooseberry Mesa, for a couple of days of mountain biking. It was windy, clear, quiet, warm, cold and techy fun riding, as always. We never know how the Goose will be, but it always gives us just what we need. This trip was a perfect mix of the excitement of discovery mixed with the comfort of routine.
Flies: Yellow stimulators with legs were the winning fly.
Camping: Awesome dispersed camping on the Aquarius Plateau above Escalante. Great views and totally quiet. Beautiful stars. The road is steep and clay and scary slippery when wet. Gooseberry Mesa has tons of scenic dispersed camping.
Cocktails: Without ice cubes we had to be creative. I made Manhattans, without ice. They were air temperature and super strong. Yum.