#35: Arizona's Rare Own, the Apache Trout
We immediately set off towards Arizona, where we planned to fish the Eastern Fork of the Little Colorado river up in the White Mountains for the elusive Apache trout. We drove down through Santa Fe and Albuquerque, and then spent the remaining hours of the drive dodging huge Elk on a wide open highway in Arizona until we got near enough to our destination to stop for the night.
These trout had been overfished nearly to the point of extinction, and although their numbers have been coming back due to the stocking efforts of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, they are very uncommon. We spent the night in the town of Pinetop, and set out early the next morning for the creek. We were expecting a brutal grind, with long hikes and few fish. However, on only the second or third pool we stopped at, we saw one. Not expecting them to be found that far down in the creek, we were unprepared, and spooked the fish. But where there’s one, there tends to be more. We kept on heading up, and found a pool below a small waterfall that held around 15 fish, some hiding in the whitewater below the falls, but a few sitting in the current below. We floated small flies at them, and both being new to fly fishing we have no idea what kind of fly but it was yellow and shiny.
After only a few minutes, I hooked one and got it into shore. These fish are very unique. They are golden in color, more simply patterned than most other trout, but equally as beautiful. After carefully releasing my fish and waiting a few minutes for the trout to come back out after the commotion, Daniel tied on a similar fly to the one I had used and before long he had caught one as well. We booked it back to the car and the total trip took under an hour and a half, which we were completely unprepared for.
After driving back into civilization, we found that the Grand Canyon was under five hours away, and we would be able to make it there for the sunset. So we drove to the South Rim of the canyon. It was incredible. No picture or description can do it justice, and we took it in for a while until it got dark.
I had reached out to Donny Benkendorf, who I found on Instagram, and he fished for Bonneville Cutthroat Trout often, the Utah State Fish. He was super helpful, and gave us a spot to fish north of Salt Lake City. We left the canyon, and I drove the 8 hours all the way up through Utah. It was a crazy drive, and we stopped several times to take in the incredible sky. The stars were unbelievably bright and plentiful. I pulled into a Walmart parking lot around 4am in Salt lake city.