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It’s a beautiful day, but the fish are not cooperating!

We had a little rain the past two days, so I went to the lower Verde and salt with high hopes!

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Just one of those days the trout were asleep and the Sonoran Suckers were not feeding.

 

Ended up with five small rainbows by around lunch time. Spent the rest of the day sight casting to Sonoran Suckers just holding in the slack water off to the side of the main flow.

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I tried just about every fly in my fly box to no avail, but it was a beautiful day!!!

Winter has arrived in Arizona, fly fishing colder water

Winter has arrived on the Salt River AZ

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Arrived at the river same time as daylight broke, to show a cold early winters day. The temperature was forty-eight degrees Fahrenheit which for us dessert lizards is getting cold! We are used to lounging on hot rocks and warm waters!!

I had not fished the river since late spring just before the SRP turns the water back on from the dam. The water in the winter is cut off from the salt to around eight cubic feet per second. In the summer beginning of April, it is turned back on and this year was running approximately fourteen hundred cubic feet per second a considerable difference.

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In the winter I mostly fish from where the Verde River joins into the Salt River as there is much more water flow due to the Verde which does not cut the water flow off. I park at Phon D Sutton and walk the river down to Granite Reef. This day I only walked around one mile as most of the river bed has undergone some subtle changes to the river bed. It was interesting to see and find the fish as the conditions were a lot lower than last spring. Some of my favorite spots had change a great deal.

Interestingly enough I found the trout were mostly holding in the shallower and faster-moving water.  Not that prime piece of water that looked so much better! They were in the really shallow about twelve inches or so, some of these ripples you could overlook not thinking they would be holding there. It was surprising some I caught in about six inches at most. Casting the fly into this water is very quick, and they take it quickly so be ready.

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I mostly fly fish this river system using an attractor dry fly pattern, named a Turk’s Tarantula. However, you may think I am nuts, but I set it up as a wet fly. I put the fly on and then about fifteen inches up I put a large split shot on the line. I then use Aquel premium floatant on the fly. This causes the fly to try and float away from the weight. Casting up into the strongest part of the current I kind of high stick it down with the flow and into the slacker water, feeling the weight bounce along the bottom. The fly is flying so to speak about six inches off the bottom as it bounces with the weight. I catch trout and bass all day long, often times at the middle of the swing and then again just at the end of the swing. Feeling the weight on the bottom, sometimes it snags, a gentle pull will release it to continue on down. Sometimes it will get stuck, you can wade up river a little usually the fly will get free to continue on.

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In the winter i usually meet one or two other fly fishermen, and we always exchange tactics and fly ideas. Mostly they are surprised at how I fish this river. Unless I see fish taking flies off the surface, I have found this to be by far the best way to catch fish.

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I fished from seven in the morning to around two in the afternoon landing ten Rainbows from eight inches to twelve inches and a bunch of small Bass. I lost one nice Sonora sucker that hit on the bottom then came up to just under the surface screaming across in one direction, only to abruptly change direction. At that moment I gave him a little slack in the line, and he spat out my fly giving me the tail as he dove for the bottom!!!

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I think in the winter with everything being colder this can be a very effective setup, give it a try you will be pleasantly surprised.

Do Individual Trout have color preferences on flies?

Do Individual Trout have color preferences on flies?

I ask this simple question as I was Fly Fishing Silver Creek AZ yesterday, catching one nice Rainbow trout that had three other flies in its mouth when I landed it.

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I had been fishing the stream all day, the early part of the day fishing with a strike indicator, with a white leech and below that a green weenie. I caught three Apache trout in deeper water with that setup.

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Later in the day moving up the stream into shallower water. I put on a grasshopper with a black and silver size sixteen nymph. The water was about twelve to twenty-four inches deep and pretty clear.  I had the nymph down about twenty inches off the hopper, immediately caught a nice Apache trout on my grasshopper on the surface. Shortly after another two small Apaches on the nymph. Fishing up and down the stream was somewhat erratic that day, most guys only getting the odd fish here and there. The weather was beautiful with clear skies and temperatures in the low Sixties. We could have done with a bit of cloud cover to help bring the fish out.

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Moving further up the stream I came across a spot holding a lot of fish of all sizes just holding in the faster moving channel. A couple of other fishermen had been fishing them hard with little luck. I could not fish there as I would have been encroaching on their spots. So I moved on.

The water was getting even more shallow as I moved up and it was getting later in the day, so I decided to head back to my truck. On the way down, I kept thinking about those big trout just holding there with nothing working for those guys in that spot.

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I decided to put on a red and black size sixteen nymph under my hopper and fish just higher up than them. I was more into the weeds on the side of the beginning of that run holding all those fish. I was very careful to keep plenty of distance between the other fishermen and me, so as not to disturb the water and show respect to them.

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First cast I had a couple of trout nose up to the hopper then turn away. Second cast much the same, I decided to let the fly move further downstream and into toward the reeds. Suddenly my hopper was racing upstream, strike fish on! I had hooked into a nice size rainbow that was having none of this and taking off all over the place. This was one wise older fish, he immediately headed for a big rock in the far part of the run to go around the back side and break off my line. I managed to turn his head away from that and off he went again, this time to my side further down where there was a bunch of wild reeds growing, turned him again. Now running downstream. This went on for a good five minutes, Every time I brought him to the net, off, he went again. I had on six x tippet, so I had to be careful not to put too much pressure on, or for sure he would have snapped the line.

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Eventually, I snagged him into the net, awesome fish!!!! Big teeth with a hook jaw. When I started to try and get my nymph out of his hook jaw, I notice a lot of lines hanging out of his mouth with flies all over the place. That brings me to my question? Are individual trout color prejudice? The first fly was a red egg, the second fly was a tiny size twenty-two Red and white midge, the third fly was a red worm, and yes you guessed, my nymph was a size sixteen red and black nymph. Red being the predominant color in all the flies in its mouth.

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I know this fish new this stream well, as he immediately headed for the back side of this big rock further across the run to break my line. It was apparent to me that is what he has done numerous times, at least four times including me, hence the evidence of the flies still in his mouth. All red themed, so was this fish unusual or does this happen more than we know?

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Of course, we all know that fish chase different hatches on their streams, with flies at that time mostly all the same colors, but do trout chase a particular color more than others, when no hatches are going on? To be honest, I have never thought about that, until now. Probably a moot point! However if you see fish and they are not chasing your flies, I for one am going to experiment with a bunch of different colors, to see if I find that one fish on the day that I can finally see his color and catch the bugger!!!!

Epic Adventure at Lees Ferry

Three Amigos take a midnight drift down Lees Ferry AZ Fly fishing. What could possibly go wrong?

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Dave a friend of mine and I left Phoenix at two am in the dark morning to rendezvous with Lou a new friend of ours at Flagstaff AZ in the early hours to head off for a three day Fly Fishing Trip to Lees Ferry in Northern Arizona.

We throw all our gear into Lou’s truck which is towing his big boat behind, nicked name Gator, to be ever notorious from now on in. The day started normal enough putting the boat in the water around eight am, loading up and off we went.

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Weather was beautiful, the river was low as they were planning a flood on late Sunday night to wash away all the silt that had accumulated over the summer. Lou knew the river pretty well having fished here many times. The rig of the day was long leaders with scuds and nymph set up below indicators and then long drifts. We fished all day with little success. Lou caught one on a fly and one spinning, did I say spinning, well yes Lou has been a spinner in the good sense, all of his life and now has taken up the art of Fly Fishing, to his I suspect frustration!

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We had taken the boat up about Eight miles of the river, then during the day started to drift back, also stopping off along the way and wading where we could. The problem in a lot of places was that along the banks there was heavy weed.  That was just running just along the edges, out in places to broad areas making it hard to find a place to cast to without getting into the weeds. We fished hard changing flies, trying different depths looking for the perfect drift. The guides had taken over all the prime wading spots so we had some limits as to where we could fish. That’s their job, and they beat us there, not much you can say about that!

I caught a small one on a nymph and much later in the day a beautiful rainbow on a semi leech when we had landed on one of the banks to look at our engine, as we were having some engine issues. While Lou delved into the engine not wanting my limited engine knowledge, I walked up along the bank looking at these deep weeds, seeing an area where I could get a fly in and let drift along this weed bank. Bang, nice trout on, brought him in, and life was getting better!

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Or was it! The news on the return to the boats was bad, we could not get it started no idea why! It was now beginning to get dark, and we were six miles up the creek, without the proverbial paddle!!!

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Plan B, well we had an electric trolling engine, which we had used on and off during the day to steer the boat in different drifts, so we really did not know how long this would last. It was getting cold and very dark, so we decided to go for it. As Lou was getting into the boat off the side of the bank, he stepped into a hole and started to disappear. I was on the other side of the boat, Dave dove around and grabbed his arm as the top of Lou’s waders began to fill with water, and he was slipping away!!! Dave yanked him up and on and off we went. Lou was now on top of things wet and getting cold.

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The current runs at about we think two knots, not sure about that but it was going in our direction, the good news, the bad news the stars look nice and bright up above the canyon walls, but no light was coming down on us. The walls run about one thousand to fifteen hundred feet in places, so you are down in a hole! After about an hour we decided that we needed help. Lou and Dave’s phones were not working, and my cell had one bar, but it was usable. First, we called our hotel to tell them we would be late but to keep our rooms and do you know of the rangers’ phone numbers as we need a tow.

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They did and said have a nice night, we hope to see you!!! Ranger one voice message no return call. Hotel again, any other numbers we could call for help? Call ranger two, here his number.  This time we did get through, Lou told him of our situation and that he was disabled had a heart issue, and Dave was a diabetic with asthma, and we could not survive the night. What!!! Ranger two, well it is too dangerous at night, and we are not allowed to come out and rescue you!!! Have a nice night! Wait what other options do we have? Ranger two, Well, you can call main dispatch here’s the number good number night!

Call the new number, but we keep cutting out, dispatcher, Lou I am losing you! No Shit!!! We know that! Hello, hello, Oh Hi Lou we lost you there for a moment!!

Well as I was saying, Lou give me the phone, we have a medical emergency we need to be towed out now. Dispatcher, Sorry but it is too dangerous, and we cannot do that”! Ok so what are our options? Dispatcher, well we can call rescue services, and they will dispatch a helicopter for you”!! That is it! Yep! Shit, I am thinking that going to be expensive, so hold off on that, we might get back to you. Dispatcher, have a nice night!!!

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We look at each other and at that moment the boat picks up speed, and we hear fast moving water, Dave turns on his cell phone light only to see that we are heading for some fast-moving water and the canyon walls, Lou turn on the troll motor, and we avoid that!

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We conserved the motor as best we could and decided to push on, as the night went on the light just diminished, even when we turned on our flashlights on our phones you could only just make out vague shapes and along the canyon edges plenty of reflected eyeballs of what we know not!

On the last turn into the landing dock it was so dark we had a very hard time making it out. The last thing we needed was to miss it as we were down on the red lights on our battery for the troll motor. We made it!!! Thank God!

 

We get to our hotel at nine thirty only to find everything closed no food, other than some great Burritos that Lou had made to bring on the trip. Best tasting. The plan in the morning was to work on the engine and if necessary go and get parts so we could get back on the river. Off to bed, the next morning we awoke to Lou banging away and telling us he has solved and repaired the problem, it was an electrical switching problem. Solved! Great, let go eat a big breakfast, just in case, and get out on the river!

Bacon, sausage, egg, toast and coffee, all fueled up let’s go! Back to the ramp offload. Dave takes the truck away, and I get on board Lou casts off boat running great! Out into the middle of the river, splutter engine stops, what the hell. Nothing, no power, dead, we are starting to drift fast down river, what are you Fu$$$!!!!@@@@@ are you kidding me!!! Lou start the troll motor, yep, nothing no power not working, boat is speeding up in the current, Lou throw out the anchor! Up front, Lou grabs his anchor throws it out nice splash, only to find out it was not attached to the rope!!!! Lou shouts to me to throw out the stern anchor, away it goes only to find it is too small and it is just slowing us down not stopping us!!! At this time there is another boat higher up that we shout too and they come and get us, towing us back to the dock.

Ok, now what? Lou goes over all the engines and finds out on the troll motor a wire had come off, so we get that repaired, working. Now, what can be wrong with the main motor?  It comes down to no fuel in the tank!! We change tanks, and we are good to go. Anchors away off we go up the giant great waterway known as Lees Ferry!

We found some water that looked very fishable off some rocks about two miles up, putting the boat on a bank, we got off to wade. I found an outcrop of rocks with fast-moving water on the main river feeding into some deeper water off to the side. Looked good. I was using a purple leech with a small grey colored scud as the bottom fly. I had about five feet of leader under the indicator as the water was about four feet deep as it passed by. Second cast, fish on took off jumped out of the water and spat my fly out! A couple of casts later caught a nice fifteen inch plus rainbow, fantastic colors and a fighting fish.

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Taking off a few times running the reel. Brought him to the net standing in fast-moving water, could not take a photo and let him go. After about an hour there we moved on up. Drifting back along the way also getting off the boat and wading. A little later on Lou could not resist and took out his spinning rod to catch a nice twenty-inch rainbow. You do what you gotta do!!!!

The rest of the day was spent drifting all different drifts and flies, no luck. We decided to go all the way up to the dam as Dave had not been there, the engine was purring like a cat, running great!!! At the top of the dam the water is very shallow and fast moving we hit one patch where our jet propulsion hit some submerged rock and banged the hell out of the bottom of the drive. To make sure we were good we pulled over and did an inspection, all OK!!!! What else could happen! After that, we drifted back fishing all over but no luck.

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About at the five-mile mark we found a little cove with a great fishing hole, deep water but sandy bottom and a lot of trout just waiting for the right fly. As we started casting, we noticed three people, two girls, and one guy skinny-dipping, no big deal as we were concentration on these elusive trout we could see. First drift over nothing, so we went back around and drifted again. The naked group where going about their business not covering up and we not paying much attention to them as we had bigger issues on our minds. Those Bloody Trout we could not catch!

No luck and off we drifted fishing different drift. We decided enough was enough, so we started up the engine heading for home. Now about at least an hour later this big power boat came alongside us, asking us to cut our engine, which we did. In the boat were the two girls and a guy. One of the girls said we owed them an apology as we made them feel uncomfortable. We asked why, they said we drifted passed once and then went around again and drifted down. I said we were looking at a bunch of trout on the bottom not at them! We did apologize, but really it is the middle of the day on a busy river, and they are buck naked!!!! If they felt uncomfortable why did they not put on a towel or their bathing suits??? Crazy, I guess if we had not apologized the way our luck was running they would have called the sheriff and we would have been arrested on our return to the dock!!!

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Off we went mumbling to ourselves about what about our rights, couldn’t we have been offended too? It goes both ways!! Around two miles out we are passing a boat that is slowly drifting down the river when they start waving at us, we go over to find that they had broken their prop and needed a tow back to the jetty. What a day we needed a tow in the beginning, and at the end of the day we end up towing someone else in!!!

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The good news was we picked their brains as they had caught a bunch of large rainbows and one twenty two inch brown. What the hell!! You want a tow? What was the secret? Turns out they were jigging a big black fluffy jig in about twenty plus feet of water, just letting it drift and bounce off the bottom. Ok, we can get down there, Plan C was hatching as we towed them back.

We needed food and beer and not in that order! The hotels and bars close at eight thirty, so we had to hurry as we were very dehydrated don’t you know!!!

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The bar menu offers a good variety of beers, I asked for IPA, no we are out, an amber out, a pale ale out, draft beer out! Ok what have you got and why no beer? This is the last day before we close for the season!!! Alaskan ale it is then!! Are you kidding me!! Nope, what about food? Wings, that’s it? Yep do you want the wings or not??? I give up, give me copious quantities of beer and whatever wings you deem fit!!! I have surrendered to the gods!

I was feeling no pain when I stumbled into bed that night!

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The last day, Sunday we had hatched our plan we were going deep, long leaders weights at the end and drift down some deep water. We tried all kinds of flies no luck. The engine was starting to play up again, what the Fu$$$@@@@@@@, no fish, an engine not doing it thing, now what?? Since we were about four miles upriver we decided to hell with it, we would just drift where ever the current took us.

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Now on to Plan D, off with indicators on with some black wholly buggers some heavy weights and we are going to bounce those fly’s off the deep bottom!!! Lou caught a couple, and so did I, poor Dave had just about pulled his hair out, but he is game to come back. All told it was an epic trip with great guys and I cannot wait to go back!!!!

 

 

Chevelon Creek Arizona, a must Fly Fish!

Chevelon Creek Az.

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Chevelon creek runs South to North around Thirteen miles long feeding into Chevelon Lake on the Mogollon Rim in Arizona. I have wanted to fish this stream for years. I finally met a fellow fly fisherman who had fished it once and wanted to go back.

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We left Scottsdale Phoenix at Four am in the morning, the drive up takes about Two hours before you turn off onto a series of dirt roads which will take you another hour of off-road driving. Easy to google the roads for directions. In the summer if there has been no rain, you could maybe use a car, but I would advise against that as there are plenty of rocky boulders along the way. In the winter if there has been any rain, you will need a four wheel drive for sure, as there will be a few mud holes that you have to go thru with no way around. We decided to take the route that was about an hour drive short of reaching the lake. It is only about seven miles further, but the going is rough. Four-wheel drive needed.

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The last mile or so is very narrow and rocky, you park at the top overlooking the valley that the stream nestles in. On our GPS we found out that our elevation was Seven Thousand and two hundred feet high. The stream when we reached it was at an altitude of just under Six Thousand Five hundred feet.

Now to put this fly fishing trip into perspective I am Sixty Four years young pretty fit and my buddy is a very fit Seventy-four year old who has spent his life wading and fishing streams, we are no wilted roses!!!!! Been there done that! So all you young guys reading this back off on my comments, as they come from the heart that to my surprise kept on beating, at times a bit irregularly!!!

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The hike down around seven hundred vertical feet drop is done on a narrow rocky path, built I suspect by mountain goats and not by the brightest animal in the pack! It is narrow, and if you did fall off you would probably find yourself Seven hundred feet below in a hurry with a few broken bone for sure, so take your time, discretion is the best part of valor!!!

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Once you get to the stream, it is broad in places, narrow in others with deep pools, fast-moving water and in other places very wide with deeper water that is very slow moving, so you have a vast range of different types of water to fish. We fished in the last week of October, so a lot of the bushes along the edges of the stream had shed their leaves making it easy to walk thru. I would think in the summer it will be more difficult to move thru. The bed of the stream consists of small to middle size boulders and pebbles which make for exciting wading, I would suggest a wading staff, I used one, and it saved my bacon a few times; however, Ken did not, and he was fine!!

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The day was perfect as we descended, cold around Thirty Nine degrees with the stream in the shadow of the valley. It would soon warm up. On reaching the stream, we walked downstream about a half mile and then started fishing back up. Ken my fishing companion went up higher than me to start, with the plan of meeting up somewhere along the stream later in the day, and then to leapfrog each other as we moved on up. In Reality, I did not meet him until about three in the afternoon as we both got into fishing our stretches.

We had high expectations, as there are some big wild brown trout in this stream. It was not to be, and that was a surprise. We fished hard all day I ended up with two small brown trout, and Ken caught three small trout. The whole day I did not see a trout rise. A few grasshoppers were floating along with very little other fly activity. I tried just about every fly in my box using a hopper with different nymphs, dry flies on top, wet flies stripped below, you name it I did it. I varied the length of the nymphs some very deep in the deep holes some shorter. I even put a split weight above the nymph to make sure it was down and dirty, also mid water, no luck!!!

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Ken was high sticking a hopper with nymphs, and to my surprise, he used a wholly bugger off the hopper that actually caught a few trout. I don’t know about you but I usually just strip a wholly bugger thru the pools! You have to keep watching and learning!

When I say we fished hard, I mean we did not stop for breaks we fished continuously all thru the day. We covered the stream well, so our fishing results were not from the lack of trying or skill! Just one of those days!!! Ken and I did finally met up around three in the afternoon and fished together the last hour.

This is important when you are fishing out in the wilderness make sure you leave enough time before it gets dark to be able to pack out. In this case, we estimated about two hours of walking, the last thing we needed was to be walking up the rocky path on the side of a steep drop in the dark. As it turned out, we ended up walking the last couple of hundred yards in the pitch dark, but we were over the worst of the trail. Ken also had a flashlight if needed but we did not.

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This stream you need to be fit, in the summertime when you can wet wade it would be easier, but in full wading gear, it is a struggle. Young guys, could you have gotten out quicker, for sure, but not by much. I would advise against fishing there on your own, I know people do, I fish alone a lot and love to do so, but if I were you, I would wait to fish there with a buddy. Better to be safe than sorry!

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This is definitely one stream in Arizona that you want on your bucket list, but go to the gym first get in reasonable shape, you will be glad you did!

The Death of a River and Fishery every year! The Salt River Phoenix AZ

The Salt River in Phoenix Arizona this summer with about 1400 cubic feet per second running thru. Beautiful!!!
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This winter water flow will be cut to under 20 cubic feet per second, a trickle maybe as low as 8, and most of the beauty will die away for the winter. Such a shame!!
 
I know 99.9% of people do not care, and population growth is putting extreme pressure on our water supply.
 
I know this has been talked about for over Thirty years.
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I know all the reasons why not!!!
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But just think, if we could only keep the water level thru the winter at 250 cubic feet per second, we could have one of the most stunning fisheries near a major city. It could be Phoenix’s equivalent to Lees Ferry up in Northern Arizona over time and with care!
I know!!
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My weekend to catch small Trout.

My weekend for catching small fish only it would seem!!!! Small Brown trout on Canyon Creek and Rainbows and Bass on the Salt River Phoenix AZ.
The pictures of the stream are from lower Canyon Creek, a beautiful place to Fly Fish!
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At Canyon Creek I was fishing a hopper with a little red and silver size 18 nymph only about 14″ off the hopper. Caught about 8 browns on that nymph, missed another 5 or so on the take off the hopper.
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At the Salt they dropped the water flow from 400 cubic feet per second to 20 feet so very little water movement had to fish the pools near the top where the flow was strongest.
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Bounced a dry fly mixture of a spider with some sparkle, a local fly I was told to use from the guys at Desert sportsmen in Scottsdale, a great fly shop. Took 2 rainbows and 2 small Bass. Gunk up the fly put a split shot about 15 inches above and bounce off the bottom with the current. Works every time!
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Later in the day the Sonoran suckers were feeding off tiny gnats on the surface all around me. I put the smallest flies I had about size 22 dry and cast among them. No luck, but great to see them feeding on the surface, big golden brown colors,
awesome to take on a dry fly!!!
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