The branches swung back and hit me square in the face, as I followed my buddy through the brush towards the sound of running water. He offered up an apology, but it sounded half-hearted at best. Even though my flesh stung, it would be difficult to stay angry, because I knew that he was thinking about the same thing I was. Trout.
We had hiked our way into a canyon that was rumored to have large brown trout in its pools and mountain lions and mule deer in the surrounding hills. We stayed focused on the water and tried to shrug off the sneaking thought in both of our minds that we may not be entirely alone in this awe-inspiring landscape. God must have been thinking about fly fisherman when he carved out the impressive cliffs and planted a mix of the large ponderosas and deciduous trees that lined the stony banks. We hiked for several miles and fairly soon the faint trail petered out and we followed the course of the creek as we moved farther into the rugged wilderness.
The beauty of the brown trout that fell for our flies matched the magnificence of the unfolding canyon. The red and brown spots looked as if someone had meticulously painted each fish to be a one of a kind work of art. The further we hiked, the hungrier the trout seemed to be, purposing and attacking our offerings as if they had not eaten in weeks. The packs on our backs made our wading legs unsteady, so we chose our footing carefully as we continued to toss bushy dry flies to the creek residents
The sun arched its way through the sky and once it started to flirt with the top of the canyon walls, we found a comfortable spot out of the wind, and commenced setting up a small camp. Hammocks were hung and firewood was scavenged and over a bowl of chili we watched the fire lap at the small twigs and sticks inside the small ring of rocks. When the fire had died and red coals were all that remained, the stars shown brightly overhead. Sleep came quickly to my weary eyes, and visions of brown trout comforted me as I swung in my hammock only a foot off of the ground.
The chilly morning came quickly and my eyes opened to an ever-lightening sky. Shaking out my boots and slipping my cold wooden feet into them, I bent over the remaining kindling and proceeded to make another small fire. After breakfast, gear was assembled, fly rigs were checked, and camp was broken. We worked our way back down towards the small stream and worked some of the more memorable pools on the way back towards the trail that would lead us out of the canyon and ultimately back to civilization.
The mountain air and the hiking combined together have cleared my mind and pleased my soul. I stop about halfway up the trail and look back over the creek, that from my vantage point now, only looks like a small blue line. Does it get better than this?
Author: Ben Smith is an avid hunter and fly fisherman who writes for Arizona Wanderings about life in the Valley of the Sun. When not hunting and fishing, he spends his time with his beautiful wife and two pups.