Fly Fishing for Sonoran Suckers in Arizona

When the winter storms arrive in Arizona in the mountains we head to the Salt River about 40 minutes from down town Phoenix. Home of Stocked rainbows wild Bass and of course the infamous Sonaran Sucker.

I say infamous tongue in cheek as these fish have a bad rap as a trash fish. They are not eating fish but fighting fish! If you have never caught one on a light fly rod, say #4 or#5 you are missing out on some great fun. I have over the years gone after these beauties.

The Salt river is a managed water system flowing out from Saguara lake, in the summer the water flow is maintained around 1200 cubic feet per second but come winter around the end of November the powers to be turn off the tap! 10 cubic feet is a little trickle but it keeps everything alive. If you have not fished this river when it is running low it is a great time to recon the riverbed so you will have a much better idea where the fish will hold once the flows come back on, invaluable knowledge! One time a few winters back they turned the flow up for a few days to 45000 cubic feet per second. Wow what a difference that made to the riverbed , so we all had to go back to square one and re learn the bottoms for future reference!

After catching some small rainbows it was off to hunt for the big boys. Marc and I have a pretty good idea where they tend to hang out so we headed in that direction. The river was packed with fly guys and girls all chasing the stocked rainbows, we had bigger game in mind so we left the madding crowds alone and headed off.

Once you find where they are for the day they tend to bunch in big groups so it can be fun but they are fickle and you have to figure it all out. Usually I look for just enough water flow going into deeper pools and drift an indicator down thru the pool. This particular day there was very little flow but the wind was up and the cloud cover was dull and gray. The wind was actually blowing the indicator back against what little current there was. Also agitating the flies up and down on or near the bottom.

Experiment with the depth until you know you are on or very close to the bottom that is mostly where they will be. Then it is a crap shot until you get the fly of interest. I have had good luck on many different combos but today the key was the old gold ribbed hairs ear on the bottom with a purple black jig rigged leech tied by my good buddy Marc.

I hit the jackpot landing 6 losing 4 more in a short 3 hour period. These fish hit and you have got to let them run straight away or they will snap you off. They will run you out to the backing in an instance then turn and run across and back to you. Reel fast or you will lose them. This will go on for about 5 to 7 minutes they are heavy fish you will feel it!! Get them on the reel and let the drag do the work. They are funny fish in the fact that once you get them close to the net they just give up. Very docile in your hands then the moment they are put into the water they will give you a huge tail slap and race away.

There are also common carp in this river , they can grow to huge sizes. I caught one last year that took me 45 minutes to reel in on a 7 ‘ 6 ‘ 4 weight with a 6 x tippet, that was a blast!! Yesterday I hooked a huge fish it could have been a very big sucker, but they way it fought I think it was a big carp, they run deep and long then they hold turn towards you stop then slowly strip the line off again. This particular fish did just that, never saw it after about 5 minutes it was slowly pulling away from me when the line just went slack. I reeled the line in my bottom fly was gone, but the unusual part was that the knot was completely intact. The line had snapped right in the eye of the fly it just frayed away. Perfect knot but no fly!!

That’s fishing!! so if you want some fun go after the big boys. I guarantee you get one you will go back for more. All catch and release so it is a fair trade!

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