I pored over maps, making sure I knew what rutted two-track road to look for at o-dark-thirty the next morning.
The creek was supposedly at 10,000 above sea level, and I knew cell service would be nonexistent. I’m also one of those guys who refuses to buy a GPS. If you can’t find where you’re going with a good ol’ fashioned topographical map, then get out of the mountains.
The maps I stared at Friday evening were scrawled with my own directions and names for landmarks, but one section of road was highlighted in yellow. That was the section we needed to find. At its end lay a faint trail, and from there I had nothing but a hand-drawn diagram of the creek. I figured I’d find the water eventually.
My buddy Bridger and I made it up early the next morning, and after a three-hour ride we arrived at the trail. The air was refreshingly chilly; it’s been perilously close to 100 degrees nearly every day along the Wasatch Front here in Utah.
The creek wasn’t far from the trail, and the trail led us deep into a canyon. After two miles of walking, Bridger turned to me and asked, “When are we gonna start fishing?”
I shrugged. “When the water looks irresistible.”
The creek looked great. But I’d been told by an old friend of mine that one particular section would just take my breath away. Of course I was sworn to secrecy on the worth of my Tom Morgan Favorite WT Winston fly rod, and I was on thin ice bringing Bridger along, but I figured I’d want someone with me that far in the backcountry.
It’s odd, when you stop to think about it, just how far you’ll go in order to chase a whim. I had nothing but an old man’s story, hand-drawn map, and the promise of larger-than-you’d-expect cutthroat in my possession, yet there I was on the top of a plateau in the middle of Utah.
It took a giant leap of faith to trust the story, and a greater leap still to actually chase it.
This time, the leap paid off. Another mile passed and Bridger and I entered a stand of evergreens. I turned to him and said, “I think this is the spot.”
Runs, riffles, pools, cut banks, overhanging tree limbs – this stretch of river had it all.
It even had big fish, too, considering the elevation and size of the water.
We spent hours on the creek that day, savoring every moment of our newfound hidden gem. Although, in reality, it wasn’t “newfound.” The location had been handed to me on a silver platter, from one of my most trusted fly fishing confidants. I wasn’t exactly all Jim Bridger out there, but there are drastically few places left in the West where you can truly explore.
Perhaps that’s why our last adventure is still stuck in my head. Eventually, Bridger and I left the section of creek we’d been directed to and went as far upstream as we could, until the creek became a trickle and the trickle a few drops bubbling from the ground. A spring creek in the truest sense of the word.
The fishing was incredible, but the fish we caught were secondary to the amazement we felt as we discovered this new, previously untouched landscape. We didn’t see another angler all day. The only people we bumped into were scouting elk for the fast-approaching archery season.
Fishing is definitely about catching fish, but sometimes you need to take a leap of faith in order to find them. Sometimes, the leap is a bust. Other times, it’s better than you have imagined.
Either way, it’s always worth it to take the leap.
Spencer is a fly fishing writer and novelist from Utah. His debut novel, Learning to Fly, is for sale now on Amazon and his website. You can connect with Spencer on Twitter and Instagram @Spencer_Durrant, or on Facebook @spencerdurrantauthor.