As a sat at Spokes drinking a beer and eating fish tacos in Moab, I chatted up a couple next to me as we watch the Cavs game. I told them I was on a solo road trip and wanted suggestions on where to stop in the general direction of Vegas. The Chick wrote three things down on a napkin that I must see:
I made it to Goblin Valley early and walked along huge red hoodoos. I couldn't find anyone to tell me what Grand Swell actually was... and then drove to Capital Reef. I had no expectations for Capital Reef and when I entered the park my mouth dropped. To the left were some of the most colorful and structurally intriguing mountains I had ever seen followed by a beautifully clear winding river to the right.
As soon as I walked into the information center I caught wind of someone saying something about fishing. I immediately started asking a million questions to one of the rangers. She only knew some general information and directed me to another information center down the road. That gentleman knew more but once again told me to go 30 more minutes to a fly shop. I happily agreed to make the drive. I passed at least two other fly shops on the way, but held out for this specific fly shop this random man told me about. I, of course, missed the turn and circled back to find a tiny little shed-like structure next to a historic home that was what I had been looking for in Loa, Utah; The Quiet Fly Fisher.
There were chickens everywhere but no one to be found. After knocking on the door for a minute or two I sadly gave up. As I walked to my truck a man appeared from across the street carrying groceries. He unlocked the smallest fly shop I had ever seen. We spoke in length about where I could go fishing. He showed me many locations on a map and then had his son retrieve another smaller map from inside the house. I had directions and some good intel on a couple places to stop.
The first couple stops were either busy or unaccessible from flood waters ( and you better believe I tried to make it down those impassable roads). I knew I had one more option further down scenic route 12 in my back pocket for the next day. I pulled off along 12 and did a little fishing for tiny Brookies as I set my truck up for the night. Camping in May around 10,000 feet proved to be much colder than I had expected. I put on the most clothes I have ever slept in, along with my winter boots and slept in my truck that night. As promised, the stars were just as beautiful as the scenery during the day. Capital Reef was one of the most unexpected naturally gorgeous places I found on that solo road trip in 2017 as well as some of the most under rated fishing I have experienced.
I woke up early that day and jumped back on 12 to find that special location that I could fish for alpine Brookies and Cutthroats. A couple miles down the road I turned off to the right to park my truck. As I walked up to the trailhead signage I saw a severed deer leg laying on the ground. This did not inspire hope, for I had just been told the previous day that I should have a gun while hiking because of the numerous black bears that live in the immediate area. I obviously had no cell phone service but decided I would make that 2 mile hike alone to catch my first Brookies and Cutthroat. I put on my waders and grabbed my rod. The trail was not extremely well marked but I just kept going. As soon as I reached the aspens I nervously decided I needed to make some noise. I grabbed a stick and started hitting it against my Orvis reel. I felt pretty stupid ( like something out of The Parent Trap) but as soon as I got to a specific spot on the trail I no longer felt stupid.
I hurried up the trail and found a picturesque opening that was close enough to the trail to feel safe. I tied on a hopper with a dropper and started hooking baby Brookies.
The creek was no deeper than 2-3 feet deep at its deepest and a foot wide at its narrowest.
After spooking the largest Brookie I had seen, I chose to keep hiking to the lake.
There were three people there when I arrived. As they left, shortly after my arrival, they smiled at me and expressed how jealous they were that they did not think to bring a fly rod themselves. I walked over to one of the higher river inlets and waded out into extremely thick weeds. As I moved copious amounts of insects got rustled and swarmed around me. I threw that same hopper only about five feet past the weed line and I saw a Cutthroat swim up and crush my dry in the crystal clear alpine water.
Within a matter of an hour I had landed my first wild Brookies and Alpine Cutthroats. I hooked three more Cutties and called it a day. It was obvious those trout did not see a lot of traffic and were hungry.
I still was not feeling great about potential bear attacks and proceeded to run down the trail as fast as I could in waders and boots. I swear I saw something that looked like a bear at another alpine lake as I hiked down... but I was not going to stick around to find out. I made it back to my truck and took off my waders as fast as I could. It was time for Vegas. With a big smile, I continued down the very scenic route 12. Overcoming my fear of bears and catching some of the most beautiful trout I had ever seen, I turned up the volume on my road trip playlist.. for that day was a great day that I will not forget.