By Dave Webb
- A remote, ugly, desert canyon, almost untouched by man's hand, flanked by dark lava cliffs.
- A small stream bringing life to a desolate area. A stream overgrown by willows, wild roses and poison ivy, with sagebrush so tall it towers over a man's head.
- A stream which attracts wildlife - we've seen deer, coyotes, porcupines, foxes, eagles, ducks, rattlesnakes and numerous other species along its banks.
- A stream which tumbles over waterfalls and backs up behind huge boulders, creating large deep pools where brown trout thrive. A stream where fishing is good for 12-16 inch fish, and occasionally a 20-incher is hooked.
- A stream which gets little fishing pressure, partly because the canyon is so ugly, the stream is so overgrown and the boulders are so big. Partly because its located in such a remote area, far off the beaten path.
Location: Halfway between Otter Creek Reservoir and Bryce Canyon, on the west edge of Boulder Mountain. The stream, called the East Fork of the Sevier River, pours out of a wild, roadless canyon. It flows down through Black Canyon, past Otter Creek Reservoir, and then through Kingston Canyon before joining the Sevier River proper near the town of Junction.
Fishing is good through Kingston Canyon and Black canyon. At the south end of Black Canyon the stream forks. The road follows the smaller fork, called Deer Creek, for a mile or so, then heads up the ridge, into John's Valley, and on to Bryce Canyon.
The headwaters of the East Fork are located above Tropic Reservoir, high on the beautiful and rugged Paunsagunt Plateau. Below Tropic Reservoir the stream is completely de-watered a good part of the year. The streambed is normally dry where it crosses Highway 12, near Bryce Canyon. It picks up water again in lower John's Valley, bubbling out of big springs in a marshy area used as pasture for cattle and horses. It flows through private property for a few miles, then plunges into "The Canyon.".
A couple rough dirt roads approach the edges of the lava cliffs above The Canyon, and allow a precarious descent down to the water. Beyond that, the stream is isolated from man, save from the happy wander who pushes into its harsh environment.
Fly Fishing The Deep Pools
The deep pools - many as big as swimming pools - along the road in Black Canyon, and in the wild, roadless canyon, are difficult to fish - I've never had much success fly fishing there. Over the years family members have tried everything imaginable: flies, baits, lures, everything. The conscious is that worms are the best choice for the deep holes. We've caught many a fish in those holes and almost always the biggest ones have been caught on worms.
I've enjoyed great success fly fishing on the section of stream in the lower half of Black Canyon - below the old flour mill - and on the calmer stretches above the wild canyon. But the big holes along the road and the big holes under the waterfalls in the canyon have been a challenge for me. The holes are deep and the big fish seem to stay down near the bottom, where they are difficult to reach with flies. Currents are surprisingly swift in many of the holes and cross currents are a problem. You drop a fly and expect it to move one direction, but it often moves some other direction.
The stream through Black Canyon was extremely high and muddy during May and most of June this year, preventing my family from making its annual Memorial Day pilgrimage. My kids wanted to go fishing over the Fourth of July weekend - and I wanted to get away from the crowds - and so I decided to tackle the wild Canyon. It had been a few years since I've done any serious fishing there and during that time I think my skills as a fly fisher have increased. I wanted to give it another shot and see if I could hook a big one from a big pool on a fly.
As I prodded my kids up over boulders and through the thick brush I marveled at how little the canyon has changed over the years. The trail which leads around the waterfalls and up the canyon is still faint and difficult to follow. The smell of the canyon is still the same. One of the most vivid memories from my childhood is the strong fragrance of those giant sage brush plants - which really do tower over my head - accompanied by the sound of the rushing stream.
I formed a battle plan as I moved toward the holes. Where will the big ones be hiding? I figured they would be at the base of rocks in deep water on the edge of the current. How can I reach them? A black woolly bugger with a little flashabou. A bb-sized split shot positioned just about the hook's eye. Cast upstream so the fly lands on a seam, and so it has time to sink before it reaches the rocks.
The biggest hole in the canyon is the size of a motel swimming pool and is located under a waterfall. It's a beautiful hole but it's never yielded large fish. I've caught one 12-incher after another from its deep reaches, but never a fish big enough to brag about.
I stood on a rock at the bottom of the hole and cast upstream. My woolly bugger landed perfectly and then moved quickly downstream - more quickly than I had anticipated. And it didn't sink! The water came over the waterfall and plunged deep into the hole then boiled upward in a current that kept my fly near the surface. I cast to different spots trying to find a flow that would take my fly down toward the rocks on the bottom, but with no luck. Finally I cast right into the waterfall. My fly plunged downward then quickly arched back to the surface. It sank a little toward the bottom of the hole, well beyond the rocks which were my target.
I put a second bb above the hook's eye and cast to the quietest water in the pool. The fly sank slowly. I pulled in a little line and aimed the fly at the rocks. It never did get down near the bottom, but it skimmed the top of the rocks. A fish darted up and grabbed the fly. I raised my rod and battled a beautiful, fat, 12-inch brown to my net.
I fished the hole for 20 more minutes with no further success. I moved upstream and caught several more 12-inchers. Before long I had moved past the big holes and was fishing quieter water in the upper part of the canyon. I cast to a deep run overhung by willows and was immediately rewarded when a strong fish took my fly. A couple minutes later I netted a 16-inch brown, my biggest for the trip.
On the next hole I hooked and played a bigger fish but lost it.
The big holes under the waterfalls are tough to fish. I do better on the quieter sections.
As we hiked back down the canyon I couldn't help thinking, "A black woolly bugger with two split shot at the eye? That's not much different from a marabou jig." Maybe I would have done better fishing a jig with a spinning rod. I'm sure I would have done better letting a nightcrawler squirm along the bottom of the hole. . .