Horton Creek & Upper Tonto Creek AZ
Got off to a late start today but headed up to the Rim country to try a small creek called Horton Creek all catch and release. Walking to the stream the first half mile is underground you are walking over it, due to the limestone rocks. The stream starts as a small trickle gradually building and getting bigger as you continue to walk on up. The elevation goes from five thousand three hundred feet to six thousand four hundred feet, and you will feel it!
It is a small stream with pocket pools and a few slightly deeper runs if you follow the stream be prepared to climb, scramble up and down the embankment with all kind of brush and trees to walk around or over. It will be a workout, especially in waders!!
The stream itself has a lot of twigs and small logs in the pools to snag any droppers, as well as trees strategically placed to catch your flies!! If you are not comfortable casting at odd angles or low, less than waist high cast sideways in some places be prepared to lose a lot of flies. That does not say there are not places that are more open, there are, but if you want the bigger fish, they are mostly hungered down in tough spots to get a fly on.
This is the second time I have fished this stream, and the beauty and solitude are beautiful so quiet and calm. There is a well-marked path that does not follow the stream, and if you want to get to the spring that starts this stream it is a nice walk, but you will feel it in the legs it is all uphill with the last half mile zigging up the side of a steep hill. The sign says it is a four-mile hike, but it feels longer!
I started the day with a dry fly and nymph combination without much luck, so changed to a black wooly bugger which yielded some very small browns. The big boys I think took the day off to read the papers!!! I have seen some bigger fish in this stream and talked to other fly fishermen who have caught some browns in the fifteen to nineteen-inch range. They are there but not easy to catch. After five hours I had fished as high as I wanted to go as the last mile is very steep and narrow with not much opportunity in my mind.
The walk back, I climbed up to the hiking trail and took off, being downhill much easier! It still took me an hour of nonstop fast walking to get down to where the Horton creek underground streams join into the Tonto Creek.
When you park in the car park for Horton creek, you go over a bridge spanning Tonto Creek and then walk back over it to get to Horton Creek. I noticed in the morning a couple of nice pools on Tonto that I wanted to fish before leaving. I had a little time left before it started to get dark so headed to the first pool downstream of the bridge after a few casts caught a small rainbow that felt a lot bigger than it was as I was fighting the fish upstream in a strong current. A few more casts and time to move on up. The last pool was just above the bridge, fast-moving water narrow at the head of the pool going into deeper slacker water as it flowed towards me. This pool was typically guarded with a tree on the left of the beginning of the pool and another tree halfway up the pool on the opposite side leaning into the pool. I had to cast sideways about four feet above the water level to get the fly to the head about thirty feet away. It helped that I was using a seven foot six inch four weigh so I could cast under the tree and not too near it!
Fishing is a funny old game, I had pretty much covered this pool with no luck. I was thinking of calling it a day when I hooked a beautiful rainbow to finish off the day in water that was only five feet away from where I was standing!! It was starting to get dark, so time to head off home.