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Chasing Wild Browns in the high desert during the noonday sun. Not Easy!

Slow start to the day arrived on the stream around eleven am, late for us, high desert elevation around seven thousand feet, air temperature very pleasant around seventy Fahrenheit. Water temperature still cool but warmer than the last time we were there.

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This steam works well on hopper dropper combos during the summer when the grasshoppers are out and about. So far this year, we have not seen many hoppers, but still, I decided to give it a go—nice grasshopper with long spindly legs with a size twenty zebra midge underneath. Marc was stripping green-purple leeches.

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The water was pretty low and very clear, stealth was the name of the game, long casts way up into deeper moving water was the order of the day. My first cast missed a brown who took my hopper but missed. Marc was further down, about an hour later we meet up, he had two small wild browns on his belt, me nothing, a fat goose egg!!!

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We decided to go upstream for the rest of the day. Marc tends to fish faster than I do, so we did not see much of each other. However, when I did catch him up, I was about to pass him when he called me over, said there was a nice brown out in the open feeding on the surface about every three minutes. Sure enough, he was there. I did one perfect cast, by luck rather than skill, landed the hopper three feet above him directly in line with a green and black size eighteen nymph trailing about twenty inches underneath. I watched as my hopper went right over his head, nothing, not a flick, watching as my nymph literally hit him on the head. I was thinking about how to recast over to him when he just slowly swam up into the head of the water under a tree on the other side of the bank. Perfect for Marc to have a go. Several casts later nothing, then Marc hooked a branch and lost his fly. That was that. Just as we were leaving that run, Marc looked down, and there was a nice black woolly bugger stuck in a bush right in front of him. Nice swop out. As the Aussies would say, Fair dinkum mate!!!

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After fruitless hours of no hits and not seeing any rises, I was thinking of changing tactics when in a slightly deeper pool, I had a flash nice brown, ok I am going to hunt you down bro! Thirty minutes later, time to change tactics and give this guy a rest.

Sitting away from the run and watching the water, I decided I was going to put on a small beaded copper john about 10 inches under a very small indicator, followed by a size 20 nymph that was red, blue, silver with a slight hackle another twelve inches down on a size six tippet, light and stealthy. Remember, this water is shallow and not moving too fast! Casting up into the faster moving headwater and getting a perfect drift, time, and again nothing. I was starting to think of moving on when he took the nymph, nice fat brown, jumped into the air ran way came back skating on the surface. Shouting to Marc, who was on the next run-up, Got the bugger!!! Reach back for the net, bringing him in across the shallow water dip the net and bam he shook the hook and was gone! At least Marc saw it, not a catch but close no cigar!

Most of you will know this, but I tend to get stuck in a rut when fly fishing on times. You have to mix it up. The point in Hand, stripping flies and dead drifts. Two different techniques, but you can mix the two together.

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I was having no luck on dead drifts; Ok, I hear you; he must have had drag on his flies!!! Not the case. I am pretty good with this presentation, as I have done it many times successfully.

 Towards the end of the day, I started stripping my indicator along the top water. Not too fast to cause a ripple from the indicator but defiantly fast enough to move the flies underneath through the water column. You can adjust the speed to see what works best, but having the flies under an indicator hanging at different depths then moving them it helps you keep the flies at different levels rather than just stripping without an indicator which will be at one level depending on the size and weight of your flies. I had the other hookups using this method.

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We can always learn however. I was fishing with a guide at Lees Ferry AZ last year dead drifting nymphs, my guide came over and said you have some drag on your flies. I looked but did not think so; she re-rigged me with two indicators about eighteen inches apart and told me to recast. I did, and immediately I could see a slight drag on one, it took a while but pretty soon I had them moving in tandem I had eliminated the slight drag I could not see. You live and learn!

The rest of the day was a lot of casting and looking for signs of life. Marc ended up with four landed wild browns. I hooked up another three, but they were soon gone as soon as they took the fly. Never the less a beautiful day in the mountains out chasing wild elusive brown trout in the high desert.

 

Marc is an expert fly fisherman and knows his stuff, I generally muddle along, but there are days and streams when you need the perfect alignment to catch these spooky fish. I always like to remind myself on days like this, it is a badge of honor when you catch these guys, and it is earnt not given!

Golden Trout of Arizona. Gila!!

The Golden trout of Arizona, Gila Trout. Ken Wade and I had another successful trip up into the high desert of Arizona using Black Woolly buggers with a size 20 black & silver nymph.

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For me each run was different, some I had more success letting the flies drop to the bottom then a slow strip back in other runs it was a slow dead drift under an indicator with the bottom fly just off the bottom. It was one or the other so if no luck with the indicator i went to stripping the flies and visa versa. On one cast i ended up with two Gilas on, how cool is that and lucky!! Both flies worked well.

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Ken on the other hand was using a 7 ft 6 ” Bamboo fly rod and mainly hi sticking with a cotton ball as an indicator with nymph under that in the shallow water, then also striping flies in deeper runs.

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After catching many fish i had just ordered a really colorful red and blue with silver sparkle size 20 nymph that looked so fishy.

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Perfect time to try, not one fish did I catch with that fly that day!!! But they look great in my fly box! I know another occasion will present itself and they will do well!!!

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Gila Trout and Coral Snakes

Had an epic day out on the streams of high country Arizona. Chasing the Gila Trout. Plenty of people away from the stream walking but nobody fishing on the stretch I was on. I am not pretending to be any expert and my advise is just hopefully useful to some. No ego, just information to be used or thrown away.
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The water was a little lower than last time but still has good color, also helping was a slight overcast cloud cover for most of the time.
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I am like a broken record but what works works!!!. As we all know you have to find where the fish are feeding so playing around with depth is important till you get some action.
 
In this case most of the runs were about 4 to 5 feet deep. Under a small indicator 2 feet down black woolly bugger, I put a small split shot right on the head of the fly, most people do not, 2 feet down size 20 midge Black & silver. Cast up into the moving water slow drifts and game on!!
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Plenty of good fighting trout only fished for 6 hours from 9-30 to 3-00 pm approx. I did land 2 fish that were at least 16″ plus and fat in the shoulders took me awhile to bring in on 6 x tippet. While taking the midge out of the first one he jumped out of my hand before i could take the selfie!!!. The next big one i put the net in the water to take my camera out and he just swam off the edge of the net giving me the finger!!! Well I had the memory!!!!
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Also of interest caught a few very small wild rainbows beautiful markings, these guys were very aggressive taking the fly as soon as it hit the water and just starting to sink!! No big rainbows this day I think the Gila Trout have taken over!
The wild life in Az is so diverse, yesterday I had a very close encounter with a coral snake, literally next too me second most venomous snake in the world. Rare to see, the good news they have less than effective poison delivery system!!!! Good news.
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As you all know I tend to fish 4 or 3# weight fly rods in these small waters so the experience is so much fun you can not over power these guys and even the smaller guys put up a great fight. I always take plenty of time to make sure they are revived.

Small trout great fun.

 

It is all about the size! Size matters she says!! what do we care? It is what it is!! However, when it comes to trout on a fly rod, now that is a serious matter! We all see the trophy pictures, the big guys in all their glory!!! I have posted a few with pride; we know how hard they are to catch!

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The other day I was out in the wilds with my trusty fly fishing pal Marc, trekking all over and chasing elusive fish in the noonday sun. We were late as we had a blow out on the rocky trail. Now in this day and age, changing a Tire is supposed to be easy, Right??? Well, Marc and I found out that NASCAR will not be calling us to join their pit crew any time soon!!!! Much head-scratching and wondering if the emergency roadside assistance numbers work out in the middle of nowhere, we finally changed it!!! Time had gone by, and the temperatures where rising the sun was high. Onward and forward!

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Back to size matters, we fished hard and walked and walked chasing those bloody trout, which I think were mostly having their high noon siesta!!! We soon split up as I had hooked a decent brown down deep on a green olive with slight hackles small size 20 nymph. Why that color?? I had tried everything in my box to no avail!!! So what the hell. Anyway I digress, I saw this brown briefly as I played him a beautiful deep brown, silver splash of color then snap he was gone. Since I knew he was there, it was time to hunker down come up with a game plan, go stealth, throw the book, different flies, depths, drifts he was having none of this! Finally, Zero, he was long gone, and so was Marc.

Now I had caught a few rainbows, a couple that looked like hybrids, beautiful colors but I did not photo as I was after the man who I felt for sure was just down the next cast!!!! Eventually, I caught up to Marc, who told me he landed a good solid 18″ brown from one of my favorite runs to fish. I had caught many small wild browns out of this pool, but never the man!!! Great, let me see the photo??? I forgot my phone, and you did not answer my calls out of the wilds, my net man, you let me down, dude!!!!! Now I know how Goose felt back in the day!

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We both trudged off going higher up the stream, beautiful day, but temperatures were rising. We caught a fair few small rainbows and Marc a few nice browns!! I have to say that Marc usually pulls a good size brown out of these streams; he is the Brown master!!! I am his net man an honor I have to say!!!

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It gets dark up here this time of year around 7-30 pm, and when I say dark, I mean dark!! This is wild country, and you need to be back at your truck before dark as who knows what comes out to play!!!

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Around six, we decided to head back and fish a few favorite runs on the way down. At this point, I had still not caught any browns. Marc hung back and fished some higher runs. I leaped frog some runs to a run I knew held browns—a couple of casts a few more rainbows, no luck on the brown. I moved into the middle of the run put on a hopper with a trailing nymph red in color, hoping to catch a late-rising feeder. Second drift down at the end of the drift, I slowly raised my fly and Bang fish on, small wild brown so happy, happy, happy, which brings me back to size, who cares? I had just caught a beautiful wild brown trout in the wilds of the high country of Arizona USA!!! Fly Fishing with my buddy Marc. Yea, it does not get any better than that, until  the big One.

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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.

Walk on the wild side in the Arizona Mountains

Went for a walk on the wild side, Az mountains. Marc and I spent the day social distancing so we did not take the pictures of the big brown he caught as I was a few runs up and did not hear his calls for help with the net!!!
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Took him five minutes to bring in.
Still we both caught some small browns and rainbows me on a black and silver size 20 midge deep,
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Marc the ninja dry fly caster, on a small blue olive, one he literally caught as the fly landed, the brown slurped it down. Nice 12 ” he missed another bigger one that took a look and then turned off it!!
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I lost 2 nice browns that took my tarantula fly that i had weighted to get down deeper with a trailing midge. Had them on in fast current, both turned quickly in the moving water and i gave them some slack. With bar-bless flies that is all they needed, off they went. Still cool to see them take the fly and feel the weight thinking what might have been!
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we had to climb into some of the pools, later walking back down stream saw some muddy parts on the trail thinking to myself that looks slippery!!! Yep slippery it was down i went but I did not break my rod, saved that and also stopped from sliding into the creek!! Felt a bit foolish but what the hell if you don’t get out there, no fun!!

Well yesterday went to a nice little stream in the high country,

Well yesterday went to a nice little stream in the high country,away from the maddening crowds!! Landed a nice rainbow, lost another one, the big disappointment was a wild brown at least 17″ plus lost at the net!!! All these fish took a size 20 black with silver thread midge, dead drifted under an indicator deep. I had a semi leech above black and purple but no takes on that fly.
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It is correct to say a lot of places are closed but only on the camp grounds, toilets, main entrances etc” I know a lot of people are going to be up in arms but before you do. I went alone on my own. I parked in an out of the way place, most do not know of. I walked in for many miles on my own!! Even the Bears were quite.
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I fished on my lonesome not a soul about or in sight. I drove home all on one tank of case. I packed my own food in and took all out.
I did not shiiiii in the woods! no need!
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However on my way home HWY 87 was closed, I could not get back to Phoenix. I was in line and then we were directed to turn around and head back to the high country. I did not talk to anyone the police were at least 50 yards away and my windows  were all up.
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There is a silver lining in this as i had to take Hwy 188 to Roosevelt Lake a beautiful drive the lake is 97% full so the west end has many trees and bushes in it perfect for Bass or Carp, it looked so fishy!!! The inflow from Tonto and the other rim streams coming in from the North West looked in good flow. There is good fishing on this I am told, as you go higher up you get into Hellsgate wilderness which has some great browns and rainbows at higher elevation but it is very rugged, do not go alone!!!
Went across the dam only to find Hwy 88 closed to rock slide so ended up driving almost to Globe to take 60 West back to Phoenix. A two hour drive home turned into five hours. I kept my sanity getting out into the wilds just had to go!!
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