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!
I have Fly fished this beautiful stream many times the last couple of years; reading other people’s posts recently, I decided to go back there during a week day to try my luck.
This stream requires stealth and a lot of patience; it does not give up its jewels easily! The water this time was gin clear and low by previous years but still had plenty of flow and some great riffles and deeper pools.
If you venture out during the summer, you will find the stream to be very overgrown and, in some areas, difficult to get thru the brush. Plus, there will be plenty of hikers, swimmers, and dogs in most of the more accessible spots. I mostly fish there in the winter; the brush has mostly died off with very few people about. However, along the stream there are plenty of rocks and boulders this time of year that are covered with dead leaves, so be careful when rock hopping, easy to turn an ankle if not looking where you place your boot!
If you have not Fly Fished here before, I would recommend using a guiding service your first time. I have not used Sedona Fly Fishing Adventures, but they are the only licensed guiding service for Oak Creek. However, I have Fly fished with some of the Local Arizona guides they bring in when needed and are exceptional fly fishers!
I have learned by trial and error plenty of errors Over the years! I have fished many of the known spots and many more challenging areas to get into with various degrees of luck. I have had days with over ten plus trout and days totally skunked!! Yesterday I was lucky to pick up a few wild brown trout here and there while checking out a new spot I have not fished. The beauty and scenery are outstanding. The road running above along the stream has many places you can drop down onto the stream if you can find parking. You will need a red rock pass, and it was $5.00 for the day; there are also a couple of spots that charge $9.00 a day to park.
As for the fishing, I spent a good hour sitting on a rock in the middle of the stream, casting dry flies with a small nymph underneath to a few rising trout. Try as I might I could not get them to eat. I throw the kitchen sink at them with no luck, other than my feet freezing into solid blocks of ice!
Moving on, I fished streamers thru the deeper pools as well as double nymphs down very deep off an indicator in the deeper pools. That is where I had most of my luck, and they were deep! The Fly they liked was a size 16 thick stubby brown with green bands on the body nymph kind of like a grub but not really. One of those flies you have and wonder when you will use, well after drawing blanks, it was time to go bold, and this was the Fly, who knew!!
It is a magical spot not too far out of Phoenix with the Red Rocks of Sedona as a backdrop. Gods country.
Get out there, wherever there is, and enjoy the fresh air, scenery, and the sport of casting a fly!
Well we got our first Fly fishing day in the new year of 2021.
I am so lucky to have a friend who is a great fly fisherman plus he is also a fly fishing instructor who has the knowledge of over thirty plus years of fly fishing and being in the industry.
We were looking for streams with some good water flow, which is hard this year as we are very low in rain fall and snow. This little stream is at about 3200 foot elevation, so it was pretty nippy that day!!
Now you might think fishing with a fly casting instructor that i have become an excellent fly caster!!! The truth be told, that when Marc and i first started fly fishing together I asked him if he had any pointers for me, to go ahead. He watched, waited and told me that I was so fuuuuuucc!!! up that it was too late. That the fact that by some miraculous manipulations I managed to get the fly in the places i needed to with a delicate presentation, he said it was best to leave well alone. Never a better word spoken!!!
Back to the present, the water was super clear and the fish that we did see were holding down deep. The funny thing though was that when I cast my bright orange indicator with a black wooly bugger followed by a green lava nymph size 18 the trout started hitting the indicator. Marc change to hopper dropper set up and landed a few right away. I was starting to think the same way , but then i started catching them on my green lava nymph about 3 to 4 feet down. I left my rig alone and so did Marc we ended up with about 10 Rainbows between us.
You will notice in my videos that we were doing a lot of roll casting sideways and vertical if we could, That stream is still pretty overgrown with tree and bush branches just in all the wrong spots.
If you need a brush up on your casting call Marc Noble Tel 415 827 6605.I am sure he will be able to help you get sorted out unless you are like me!!!
White mountains, Apache reservation and Silver creek Fly fishing in the higher elevations of Arizona.
Winter in the mountains is fast approaching, so it is with urgency we are trying to get in some last-minute fly fishing before the lakes get snowed in. The weather forecast last weekend was not good, but beggars cannot be choosers!!! Off we went, little did we know what mother nature would throw at us the next four days!Week last Friday we got to the first lake it was still low but the wind was down, nice change. There was only one other fisherman on the lake, in a small one-man inflatable tube fishing not too far from us. He was catching fish on the fly so a good omen.
This lake never lets us down it usually fishes well, but we were on the hunt for big browns that we have caught in the past there. No luck, but we did catch several nice fighting rainbows. For some reason at this particular lake they fight really well, they are good size with muscular shoulders. Nymphs do well anything with a green flare. The bottom nymph about six feet down, as do green and olive leeches stripped. It was cold and the wind did start to pick up. We left just before dark, having done ok on rainbows.
The next day was blowing hard and raining really heavy must have been around 28 degrees Fahrenheit at best. The wind made it even colder! We had a particular spot that we wanted to hike to on this lake so it was time to wrap up really warm. Fleece leggings under waders, with two sweaters then layered on a hoodie jacket then a rain jacket over that. Felt like an Egyptian mummy walking slowly but at least to start, warm.
Off we went fly casting here and there along the way catching a couple of small rainbows loosing one big heavy fish that I never saw, but it was heavy and fighting deep then gone. He took a nymph with a gold body and green hackles. The wind was now howling and the rain was horizontal to the water!! Freezing. However, I wanted to fish along this bank towards our destination. Casting two flies, split shot and an indicator in howling wind can be a recipe for disaster. If you are not a proficient fly caster don’t bother, look for a sheltered spot as you will end up with nothing but tangles.
Working along this bank in weeds, rushes, muddy sucking mud howling wind freezing hands is not easy!! However, if you can use the wind down wind to cast sideways out and walk along the drift you can catch fish. Marc had gone ahead of me so we finally caught up with each other as we sheltered behind a big pine tree out of the wind. At this time, we had been on the water for about five hours we were both soaked thru, hand shacking so much neither of us could tie on flies. A few fish between us a few big fish lost, he looked at me and said what do you think? I said let start walking back. We fished back along the way we had come, Marc caught a nice brown trout and I a few more rainbows. As we got to the truck Marc said let’s go to the dam on this lake it will be sheltered from the wind. We were both soaking wet but what the hell off we went!
On arrival we found two other fly fishermen there doing well, I thought we were the only mad buggers out there in these conditions! They left after we talked about what was working, they had caught enough and were more sensible than us. Marc and I re rigged, me using an indicator and two nymphs at first, Marc just stripping leeches we caught some small rainbow. I then changed to a black top woolly bugger with a green woolly bugger below stripped. I hooked a big fish never saw it had him tight to the line for a moment or two then he was gone. We caught some more rainbows with the wind now going into gale force mode with dark fast approaching. We called time out stumbling back to the truck and warm car seat warmers to try and defrost out our bodies!!
That night the storm winds hit hard, were we were staying in Springerville, only could guess as to how strong it was up on the lakes!!! The next morning, we found out, our plans were derailed big time! We set off, got onto the log roads on the reservation about eight miles from our first lake there was a tree down across the road blocking it. Luckily for us the top thinner end of the fur tree was long enough that we were able to snap off some branches and drive my four-wheel truck up and over it, just!! A few miles on we came to another downed tree across the road, this time it had hit with so much force that part of the tree had snapped and bounced off the side of the road leaving a space for us to squeeze by.
Finally, at out first lake we fished catching a lot of small rainbows, same rigs as the night before. It was windy and cold but not too bad!! After a few hours it was time to drive to the next lake, looking forward to what it would have to offer us. A few miles further on our plans came to an abrupt end. This tree was big it had snapped off about three feet from it base and fallen straight across our road. It was at least 3 to four feet high lying there with no way around it. I would hazard a guess if we had been able to get around it, we would have come across many more downed trees the wind was that strong that night!!
Now what? Well we thought after looking at the map there was a small road that we could use to cut thru down to the Black river and the East fork. A few miles into that we came to a gate that was locked blocking further access down. There was another way so we turned around looking to do that, along the way we would pass Big Lake.
Big lake at this time was white capped and the wind was howling, we drove along spotted an area that was sheltered along the shoreline. This was our third or fourth time to big lake having never bothered to fish it as the wind was always just too strong. What the hell lets give it a go! Again, we layered up, I had my nymph rig on and was too lazy to change. Glad I did not as we both ended up catching some very pretty small Bonneville Cutthroat trout! Both Marc and I had not caught any Bonneville cutthroat trout before in Arizona so that was fun! Why no pictures you ask? Neither of us could at any time feel our fingers and the thought of undoing all our clothes to get to our phones it was just not worth the effort. So, you will just have to trust us on this!!! In conversation Marc mentioned to me that if you use surgical gloves, they will keep your hands warmer and you can still tie flies! Great!! Why did we not have any with us?
Marc and I over the course of the year have been able to catch these trout in Arizona. Apache, Gila, Brown, Rainbow, Brook, tiger and now Bonneville cutthroat, not bad plus I also have caught some graylings, Marc as I rub it in has yet to catch a grayling in Arizona, not to say he has not caught some big ones when he was guiding back up in Alaska a few years ago!!As the day was coming to an end we packed up and headed back to our hotel and hot showers. The forecast was for snow higher up.
The next day we woke to light snow on our truck and dark heavy clouds shrouding the mountains higher up from us. Enough is enough, so we headed down to Silver creek for some easy fly fishing we hoped!
It was snowing on and off and bitterly cold, on arrival we wrapped up again. I had fished here three or four times in the past, Marc had not. I put on an orange and yellow egg on the bottom fly with a red San Juan worm above. We walked over the small bridge first cast I caught a nice rainbow, so easy!! Right, we then had to fish hard the rest of the day to get them to bite. We constantly changed flies until my old and trusty size 18 black and silver nymph took control. We found out that day they just wanted small flies’ size 18 to 20 nymphs’ different colors did the trick.
Slowly fishing up in the deeper runs we got separated. I had mentioned to Marc, that I was going to walk up to the top of the stream where there are some big pools with some very big trout in and I wanted to try for one of those. I set off in a snow storm, getting there I had changed to a purple and white nymph as my higher up fly. The snow was coming down hard and the wind was whipping up small waves on these deeper pools. The light was dull, so it was hard to see into the water and get any feel for the depth.
My third or so cast I hooked a big fish; very heavy he came up on the surface then was off running all over. I just was hanging on. After a few minutes I was beginning to think that if I got him in close, I would have to cut him loose as I could not net this fish on my own. The banks were very slippery and muddy, no way I could do both with out going into the water and it was too deep. Just at that moment I heard a voice behind me. Shit that is a big fish!! Marc had arrived just in time. It took awhile but we brought the fish in, netted quick photo and straight back in where he gave me a wet tail slap and was gone!!! What a fish!!
We fished on catching a few more but nothing like that monster what a great ending to my trip. I was just crossing my fingers Marc would get so lucky!! The end of the day came we had done well! As darkness descended, we trudged back to the truck. What a trip! Hopefully we can squeeze in another one or two before they are closed for winter.
Fishing is addictive as Marc commented to me after we had been on the road for an hour or so. I almost said to you as we were packing up let’s stay another day I have to go back and sight fish those monsters as I have not caught one there yet! My reply was, what the hell, you should have said earlier on I was game for that!!!
Great Fly Fishing trip for Four days of on the Flies. Marc Noble and myself. Camping at that elevation gets cold at night! Plus Elk moving thru our camp at 3 am, looking out of tent and seeing two big Green eyes staring back at you from about 100 feet at four feet eye level. Not sure what that was!!
Plenty of fish caught, wild brown trout, wild rainbows, wild brookies, Apache trout not a bad mix.
We caught them mostly on nymphs every day a different color seemed to work. One day in particular i was killing them on a little size 20 green Caddis imitation, every fish took that fly, until i lost it on a back cast in the trees
On the first day our little stove stopped working so it was back to the old camp fires for cooking.
One lesson learnt was that non stick porcelain pans do not do well on hot fires burnt it all off which in turn stuck to my meatless hamburger!! A bit gritty but still tasted great! washed down with a non alcoholic beer
I know, I am Vegan now after a lifetime of Steaks and Plenty of Beers, I must be a boring dude now!!! If you know me, not so, but the life style change has really helped me get fit and healthy again.
Funny story, i hurt my shoulder went to the docs, she says I have tendentious in my shoulder, too much casting?? so i have to do physical therapy to stop getting a frozen shoulder, the great news was my blood pressure was down to 115 over 72. That is low for me not that i was high to begin with but it is the benefit of being a vegan, almost one full year now after 65 years of pure hell and debauchery!!!
Just FYI I am not preaching, do what you want, just sharing a side note of life,.