Re-introduction of Gila Trout into Arizona High Mountains

As I am sure many of you have read, Arizona Game & Fish are re-introducing Gila trout to some of our Arizona Streams, great news! The Gila trout is native to some streams in Arizona and New Mexico. The Gila trout have a yellow body with black spots. The average total length is about (11.8 in), with a maximum total length of approximately (21.7 in). Gila trout are closely related to Apache Trout, another native species of Arizona. However, Apache trout can have a spot behind and in front of the pupil (eye) and big noticeable spots on the body. In contrast, Gila trout are characterized by numerous small dark spots on the upper half of the body.

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These fish will be able to reproduce, so hopefully long term, we will have some wild fish to chase.

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I have been lucky enough to catch and release most of the fish we have in Arizona but not the Gila trout. So, Marc and I were hungry to chase these guys. It is well known where this is all going on, but if you do not know, IM me privately, and I will pass along the information.

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Up into the higher elevations away from Phoenix, we had our game plan in place. Of course, as soon as we arrived, all the car parks and entrances were closed. Look for a spot to park off the roads as long as there are no, no parking signs you should be good to go. The day we arrived, we saw two fish & game trucks parked with staff doing questionaries’ on how the fishing was going and where did you catch your fish. We had no info for them as we had just arrived, but later on talked to Sam Simmons, a great guy and wealth of knowledge, of AZGF, actually putting in new Gila trout into the stream near where we started fishing.

The water had a little color with some good flow, the night before I had set up my rig an 8 ft 4# weight fly rod, with a size 16 nymph black with silver thread jig hook as my top fly under which about 2 feet, I put a size 20 Black with silver thread midge. Using an indicator that I would through the course of the day alter to try and get my bottom fly as close to the bottom of that run or pool, so I was continually adjusting to different depths. I use this nymph a lot in the mountains of Arizona with great luck and wanted to see if I put a smaller fly under a bigger fly if the smaller fly would get a better natural drift being smaller. I put a good size split shot about 18 inches above the top fly and at least 2 feet from the indicator. In the wind, this set up is tricky, but these are small streams, so no big casts are needed! The smaller fly out fished the bigger higher fly with a fish ratio of 2 to 1.

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Marc likes to strip leeches and small trailing nymphs, so we had two different approaches to the water that day. Marc was using smaller leeches tending to the black, green, or even purple color with I think a trailing copper john or some nymph with a red color to it. He likes to drift upstream, downstream, across stream, you name it dead drift, but he covers a run. I think he catches a lot of fish this way because he ends up pissing them off, and they want to get rid of this fly buzzing over them all morning.

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We both had not fished this part of the river, so it was all new exploration for us. The first couple of runs we caught some beautiful rainbows then we started to catch the Gila trout beautiful colors. I was lucky enough to catch a decent size one whereas Marc was a catching machine catching in the top of big runs in the faster moving waters. Fly fishing avoiding all those small bushes, weeds that stick up from nowhere that you do not see until you hook one!!! We both lost a few flies and a few pounds as we had to do some mild rock climbing to get down on some of the runs.

The time sped by, funny thing when it is all going well, you lose count of the fish, but we did very well an epic day never a dull moment. We both stayed with our setups as they worked well for both of us, no need to re-invent the wheel. These Gila trout put up a good fight for their size with the bigger Rainbows doing some acrobatics for us as if to say hey we are here and going nowhere!!!

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These bigger rainbows are probably hold overs, but are in perfect condition great fins and tails and beautiful coloring, big red strips down their sides. They are harder to find, but they are there if you look!!

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A word of caution, I have noticed several new Fly Fishermen/ women who have joined the fly fishing pages on Facebook, asking for details where to fish in Arizona, which is great.

However, as most of you know, the monsoon season will be starting in June, and it concerns me that some maybe are not aware of how quickly we get flash floods in these streams. All of our streams originate in very high elevations, where it may be raining miles away from where you are fishing. The weather at your location is perfect blues skies etc. but up in the mountains, it could be pouring rain that will create a huge flash flood that will come at you out of nowhere.

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I am sure you all have noticed when fishing these quite small streams, debris, small bushes trees you name it stuck in trees or on boulders that are maybe up to fifteen feet above you. If you look at the streams and then look at all the beaten-down trees bushes grasses that mark the path of past floods, it is amazing to see how powerful and high these floods get.

I was reminded of this last week as Marc and I both past some crosses that marked the spot where people had lost their lives due to this. Very sad and so unnecessary, just a lack of knowledge on the part of these people. So if you are new to the area and look at all these great pictures we post, do not be lulled into a false sense of security. These streams were formed in these canyons by a great force of nature. My suggestion to you is always to look around where you are fishing and notice a quick, easy escape route to be aware of. The best plan is when rains are predicted in the mountains pass on that day, and if you still go be very aware of the weather above where you are fishing and be prepared accordingly, you will have little to no time at all to get out of the way.

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I have seen firsthand flash floods in some of our most popular streams if you have not experienced it, you would be shocked at how a little meandering gentle stream slowly moving along can change into a raging angry torrent in seconds!!!!

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Just a little note of interest, last winter on the Salt River, which is a controlled waterway, The overflow at the saguaro dam was opened for about forty-eight hours. The water flow went from approximately one hundred cubic feet per second to forty-eight thousand cubic feet per second. The bed of the river downstream from the release was changed drastically. If you saw a video of that, it would bring it into perspective for you. Arizona small stream while not that big is just the same.

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Most of you are all experienced outdoorsmen/women and know this, and I just wanted to point the dangers out to new people to the area. Tight lines all.

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