I Fly fish for Rainbow trout in the winter on occasions on the Salt river, using light 6 x tippets. This has led me to hooking onto some pretty decent size suckers, only almost immediately for them to break my tippet leaving me with the feeling of how did I just lose that big fish?
With that in mind, after many failed attempts of landing these great fighting fish, I decided to experiment with my leaders. I use the typical Five X nine foot leader with a six x tippet. Great for the trout, but not for bigger fish. I took an old leader, Rio Fluoroflex plus, cut down the top of the butt section to about four foot, then added three feet of three x, followed by three feet of four x, then the last three feet of five x. I know that is longer than normal but these fish also like to live in pretty deep pools in the river, you have to get down to them as they are mostly bottom feeder, not to say they do not take flies on the surface they do! Mostly though they stay deep in the day, at night or early morning they will rise for hatches.
I still wanted to catch trout, so I was hopeful the five x would be OK for these smaller rainbows. Also on this set up I use a strike indicator that you can just run the line through the top of the indicator. This indicator has a small screw down system that is easy for being able to move the indicator up and down to very the depth of the flies underneath. Simple no fuss!!!
I fished the lower part of the Salt where the Verde river merges in the morning,the water was stained with decent flow. I had a few small hits trying many different flies and set ups, but no fish. At two in the afternoon decided to drive up to the upper part of the Salt river. I parked by blue pool, but decided to go down river as there were to many bait fishermen in that area.
This part of the river the water is shut down to about ten cubic feet per second in the winter, so the flow is very small, but there are deep left over pools that the fish all hunker down in, waiting for the flow to be turned back on at the end of march, running about fourteen hundred cubic feet per second. In these deep pools there are Bass, Catfish, Trout, Sonora suckers, carp and blue gills.
I crossed the river to get to this pool, casting into the moving flow and across soon landing rainbows in the eight to twelve inch range. I was using two nymphs under my indicator. The bottom nymph was a size eighteen red and black in color with the top nymph being black and silver both have worked well in the past. My technique is to let the indicator swing with the little current then very slowly pull the nymph back in, letting any Eddie current take it where it will. I find if you have a little movement in the slacker water it works well.
I always start in the shallower water then as I move into deeper water I put the nymphs down almost on the bottom. If you are too deep you catch the weeds, so just shorten the length a little until you find the correct depth. Sonora suckers usually strike hard and deep, you will feel the weight of the fish as they take off and you must let them run, it is great fun they will take you down to the backing if it is a big fish, great on a five weight fly rod, even better on a four weight! One hour into the afternoon I hooked a nice fish that took off, he ran three or four times on the reel before I could finally bring to the net. This fish felt a lot bigger than he was, but still a nice fish, beautiful colors, golden brown.
I do not know why people turn their noses up at these fish, they may not taste good, I do not know as I catch and release whatever I catch, but fight! for their size they are great!!
The afternoon turned out to be productive with about twelve rainbows, one bass and of course my fighting Sonora sucker. The small trout took my five x tippet, no issues and I caught my target fish. The test will come when I hook one of those big four lb fish, I cannot wait!