Winter has arrived on the Salt River AZ
Arrived at the river same time as daylight broke, to show a cold early winters day. The temperature was forty-eight degrees Fahrenheit which for us dessert lizards is getting cold! We are used to lounging on hot rocks and warm waters!!
I had not fished the river since late spring just before the SRP turns the water back on from the dam. The water in the winter is cut off from the salt to around eight cubic feet per second. In the summer beginning of April, it is turned back on and this year was running approximately fourteen hundred cubic feet per second a considerable difference.
In the winter I mostly fish from where the Verde River joins into the Salt River as there is much more water flow due to the Verde which does not cut the water flow off. I park at Phon D Sutton and walk the river down to Granite Reef. This day I only walked around one mile as most of the river bed has undergone some subtle changes to the river bed. It was interesting to see and find the fish as the conditions were a lot lower than last spring. Some of my favorite spots had change a great deal.
Interestingly enough I found the trout were mostly holding in the shallower and faster-moving water. Not that prime piece of water that looked so much better! They were in the really shallow about twelve inches or so, some of these ripples you could overlook not thinking they would be holding there. It was surprising some I caught in about six inches at most. Casting the fly into this water is very quick, and they take it quickly so be ready.
I mostly fly fish this river system using an attractor dry fly pattern, named a Turk’s Tarantula. However, you may think I am nuts, but I set it up as a wet fly. I put the fly on and then about fifteen inches up I put a large split shot on the line. I then use Aquel premium floatant on the fly. This causes the fly to try and float away from the weight. Casting up into the strongest part of the current I kind of high stick it down with the flow and into the slacker water, feeling the weight bounce along the bottom. The fly is flying so to speak about six inches off the bottom as it bounces with the weight. I catch trout and bass all day long, often times at the middle of the swing and then again just at the end of the swing. Feeling the weight on the bottom, sometimes it snags, a gentle pull will release it to continue on down. Sometimes it will get stuck, you can wade up river a little usually the fly will get free to continue on.
In the winter i usually meet one or two other fly fishermen, and we always exchange tactics and fly ideas. Mostly they are surprised at how I fish this river. Unless I see fish taking flies off the surface, I have found this to be by far the best way to catch fish.
I fished from seven in the morning to around two in the afternoon landing ten Rainbows from eight inches to twelve inches and a bunch of small Bass. I lost one nice Sonora sucker that hit on the bottom then came up to just under the surface screaming across in one direction, only to abruptly change direction. At that moment I gave him a little slack in the line, and he spat out my fly giving me the tail as he dove for the bottom!!!
I think in the winter with everything being colder this can be a very effective setup, give it a try you will be pleasantly surprised.