I’m not sure, but I think it has been about twenty years since I last fished Mammoth Creek. I got to know Mammoth when Jim Jones, my former boss and friend, introduced me to the area. The first fifteen years of my fishing pursuits were spent on Beaver Dam Creek, but Mammoth presented an entirely different experience. Beaver, a thin creek with lots of bushy vegetation along its banks, had plentiful numbers of small rainbow trout. Mammoth is a larger stream, perhaps two or three times the flow of Beaver, and it is known for its brown trout. Mammoth has several sections, but the one I fished most often was the meandering meadow section known as the Hatch Ranch Meadow. It was never as bountiful as Beaver, but it had the mystique of holding brown trout of worthy proportions.
I’m not sure what possessed me, perhaps it was the onset of cabin fever. Maybe it was the realization that trout fishing was all but over with the onset of winter. I had taken the whole Thanksgiving week off, so it could have been the desire to run away for a day. Whatever the reason, this Mammoth trip will go into my book as a trip I would like to have a “do over” on.
My trout truck computer said I was on the road seven hours and thirty-nine minutes during the round trip. I fished for about three and one-half hours, so that’s more than a two-to-one ratio of driving vs. fishing; I’d rather have a one-to-one ratio for day-trips. On the drive up I chose Utah’s Highway 89 rather than taking Interstate 15 to Cedar City and cutting over via Highway 14. Unfortunately I missed the Hurricane turn-off so I had to pay to drive through Zion National Park. I didn’t mind having to pay to see the sights of Zion, but I was very frustrated by all the slow moving sightseers along the way. That cost me an hour of travel time, at least. On top of that, once I crossed over to Highway 89 and reached the town of Hatch I discovered that its only gas station was closed, so I had to make an additional thirty mile round trip to Panguitch to gas up the truck. I didn’t get on the water until about 1:30pm Mountain Standard Time.
The meadow section is about 7,500 feet in elevation, and the truck’s computer said the temperature was forty-three degrees at mid-day. Ice had formed on the banks along the slower-moving portions of the creek. Although with the mid-day temperature rising above forty the ice was breaking up, sending slabs adrift downstream. In the three and one-half hours I fished I only worked a quarter mile length of the creek. The creek was a little low, and very clear. I saw no fish scurry for cover, which was disappointing. (Sometimes when fishing small creeks and not getting any strikes I will walk up to the edge of the water to purposely frighten any fish just to prove they exist… which is a sign of quiet desperation. Fish scurrying for cover is a exceedingly observable event in small creeks.) I did see two rise forms in one short run, likely made by the same fish. Encouraged by the visual stimuli I worked that section carefully. I managed to get one strike but I lost the fly to the trout due to a weak blood knot in the tippet. I was unsuccessful getting the trout to take any flies again.
And so, it was another fruitless trip if measured by caught trout. But the scenery was spectacular, especially the drive through Zion. And the fishing was good even if it didn’t result in a trout or two. It had been a while since I had done any stream fishing and it felt good to work the stream and place my fly into positions that looked like the best trout holding areas. Alas, there were not many trout in this section of the creek and the one opportunity that arose failed me, or should I say I failed it. But still, it got me out of town and provided lots of reflective time while driving up and back. As I think it through, I’d like another opportunity to cast to that lone rising trout. I should have been more patient, I think. Maybe I felt rushed with the shortening daylight or frustrated by the excessively long drive to Mammoth. For whatever reason, I just wish I could do that trip over. Oh well, something to look forward to next spring.