I gave up. I ended up going to one of the places you need to fish before you die: Lees Ferry in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. I don't know if this is going to bring me closer to dying, but sure got me closer to Fly Fishermen's Heaven. I'm usually quite reluctant to go in famous places because I don't like crowds. I go fishing to find peace not to bump into other people. This winter I had the opportunity to spend some time in mid and southern Utah and since the temperatures didn't even get close to allowing the water to exist in the liquid state (new personal record: -22 deg Fahrenheit, roughly -30 Celsius), I went south, looking for warmer waters in northern Arizona.
On one side of the Glen Canyon Dam is Lake Powell, the second biggest man made reservoir in the US. Below the dam, the bottom release and the lack of major, potential muddy tributaries allows for a section of clear, cool water, perfect for the rainbow trout. The 16 miles of river between the dam and Lee's Ferry are a fisherman's dream destination. This is the home of the Horseshoe Bend, one of the most spectacular pieces of art that Mother Nature has created, but this is also the home of thousands of hungry, feisty rainbow trout. Just a couple of years ago I was up on the edge, looking at the river and thinking; "I'll be back!"
You need a boat to get access to these waters since the canyon walls makes it impossible to wade for more than a few hundred feet. As a first timer a guide was a must and I did not regret it. I met Natalie and we were on fish within 30 minutes.
The technique they use at this time of the year is called "dry dropper". Basically a big, highly flotant dry fly serving as a strike indicator for a smaller nymph, usually a midge or a scud attached to the bend of the hook. This technique requires excellent line control/mending because the aim is to create a dead drift. The advantage is that you can cover a lot of water like this, just by feeding more line out. Disadvantage: quite a bit of delay in setting the hook, especially for someone used to fish without a strike indicator. However, with a few well targeted cues, the strike/fish on ration improved dramatically and I started to feel at ease with this technique. I spent the first half of the day fishing this technique and switch for a few hours in the afternoon to a more European nymphing technique, not without success (including a double).
One regret: I left my fly box at the hotel and I couldn't use the special candy I tied for the Colorado rainbows. But I did catch fish on some huge prince nymphs and the classic Lee's Ferry scud (which you can see in some of the pictures).
The fish were not big but good healthy 14-18 inch wild beasts. You need to work to find what they like and once hooked they don't give up easily. Very similar in aspect and behavior to the wild rainbows I stalked in some of the Vermont rivers.
We closed the day with a few attempts to capture the sunset and the Colorado River in low light from Navajo Bridge, as it enters the Grand Canyon.