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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Carp on a Fly

Carp on the Salt River AZ. I know they are there I have seen them many times, never had any luck catching them.

Yesterday afternoon I decide to go to the Salt as they had the day before changed the flows yet again! From 100 to 600 cubic feet per second. A day had gone by so maybe the fish had settle down!

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I went to the famous blue pool at the top end I could see trout at all different levels in the water column but they were not active. I tried all kinds of techniques I did get two hits but immediately these savvy guys threw the hooks.

I always fish barbless, i feel it give the fish a better chance and makes me a better fisherman having to hone my skills! All fair and square!

During this barren time another fly guy came on the river a little higher up than me, we soon kind of ended up fishing closer together and talking about how good the fishing had been this last month. Talking about different set up, flies and places on the river we had done well.

I was fishing for the second time only my new E bay special, recently I had snapped off the tip on my 4 wt fly rod. It was in for repairs. I just happened to spot an 8 ft 4 wt with one hour left for bid with no bids. I put a cheap bid in and low and behold I was the proud owner of a brand-new St Croix 4-piece fly rod for $80.00 delivered to my door.

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As we were yakking it up, I was fly fishing in close, really high sticking an indicator with a leech and on the bottom a yellow and red egg, bouncing along or close to the bottom. Not really paying attention as we were talking sets up to each other, when my rod just exploded in my hands. Fish on and a big fish on, off he went, straight across the river straight down to my backing. My rod was bent from the handle all the way up almost in a circle!!!!

I figured I had on a big Sonoran Sucker as there are plenty of them in this run.

I had no control over this fish he would run I would run along the sand banks in water trying to keep him under some kind of control. The bait guys lower down had to reel in as he was running along the channels, they were in. People stopped and watch. Time went on people stopped watching, taking too long!!!

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I did not see the fish for the first 20 minutes or so he was so deep and running. I had on a 5 x tippet and with the 4 wt rod i just tried to not snap the line.

About 40 minutes in i finally saw a large shape with some bronze color a big Sonora sucker i thought, maybe fowl hooked? as he was always head away from me and I could not turn him. Eventually and this is no exaggeration i got him in close and yes off he went again. Twenty minutes later I brought him really close to see this carp, it took me another 5 minutes or so to wrestle him to the net without breaking the line. Finally, in the net and my new friend took a few photos.

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I know there are bigger carp in there, but what a fight this guy put up. Don’t under estimate these fish on light gear it is all you can handle a great experience and end to the day

Yesterday was a wake up call

Yesterday was a wake up call for me, out on the Salt River AZ, on my own exploring some new water. Beautiful day, what could go wrong?
When the water looks deep and you are almost at the top of your waders back off!!!!
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I was fishing some new water when I snagged my flies on a submerged rock on the other side of the run. I can get that!! Big mistake and stupid!!!
Took off my vest left the rod and waded out with my wading stick, halfway over it got very deep and then I slipped and in I went over my head full waders filling up even with my wading belt on!
Now I am lucky as I have surfed all my life and I know how to handle myself in water and a situation like this. The water was pretty cold but I just pushed off the bottom and swam and pushed over to the other side. It was not far, but shock is your enemy and less experienced fishers could be in deep trouble!
Clambered out only to find I was stuck on the other side water was too deep to try and cross back.
Again you never know what is going to happen next,I looked up stream and could see some deep dark muddy water in a back flow but it was getting shallower the further up I went. I had a small cliff behind me so i could not crawl up. I had all dead bamboo brush tight into the water so I was using the bamboo like a snow shoe in the mud. However that did not work well and I was sinking deep quickly, I managed to crab some tree branches and use that as leverage to pull my self back out, very deep mud and sticky!!! I hate mud!!!!
Back to square one!
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Ok,the cliff it was, not big but vertical. I started climbing being very carefully to look before I placed my hands on on crack or ledge above me. Making sure there were no rattlers sunning them selves in early warm weather. In wet full wading gear not easy plus having to keep under all the dead trees and bushes hanging down. Made it to the top then had to walk about 1/4 mile to be able to wade across a shallower part to get to my vest and rod, soaking wet.
For what? to save two flies? I know so much better than that. I fish a lot on my own in out of the way places, so this was a wake up call to be more prudent in the future.
The day yielded one 19 inch rainbow that snapped off my tippet right at the net, one lost big Sonoran sucker that snapped off all my gear after a minute or so and one Sonoran landed.
At the end of the day some rainbows were on the surface taking flies. I rigged up only to have a strike that snapped the barb less end of my fly off. I guess that was fate telling me to go home!

San Juan river New Mexico, Fly Fishing in January 2020

Got the call from the boys, there is a small window of time this weekend in between storms do you want to float the San Juan? Do Birds Fly, do Bears Shiiiii!!!!! In the woods, sign me up!!!

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Matt and Chris Arizona Fly Fishing Guides, Dave, Steve and me the old boy!!! Out the door at four am Friday morning, the plan to rendezvous somewhere along the trip with the other truck and guys. You know what they say all good plan for mice and men! Well the other guys ran into a snow storm which slowed them down so it was every truck for itself.

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 Dave and I pressed on ahead now the pathfinders. We hit the New Mexico border only to find they have some strange animals in that there bad lands, prehistoric vistas which blows the mind with the vastness and who knew what roamed the lands!!

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Eventually we arrive around two in the afternoon to gale force winds, snow flurries and nineteen degrees Fahrenheit temps. Jump out the truck sniff the air, the question do we go or not Goose!!! One look at each other and into our waders pull on many layers and rod up. Just at this point the others turn up and off we go. The plan to fish the Braids as it is too late to put the boats in.

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If you have not fished the San Juan the Braids are just up from the famous Texas hole which can only be waded too shallow for boats.

It was bitterly cold with numb hands and no fingers to feel, we all spread out and every man for himself. All the guys caught three to five fish each, except for the old guy I was skunked that afternoon. As the light faded and the ducks winged their way in for a good night rest, we all headed back to the trucks talking about what worked and what did not. In my case a stick of dynamite, might have been better use!!! We disturbed a deer and her fawn on the trail both as cold as us!!

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We stayed at Fish Heads San Juan River Lodge where our meals awaited us. After all the talk and food back to the rooms for hot showers then headed into the war room where Matt was tying Flies that he figured would work well the next day. Orders in, off to bed dreaming about that big elusive brown that was just waiting for my fly!

Next day loaded up and we had the boats in the water by eight am, which on a normal day would be very late as the crowds are always big on this river. However, this time of year it is pretty quiet. On arrival we were the first two boats in the water with a few wading fly guys already in the water along the edges of Texas Hole.

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We anchored up trying various flies with little success, a fish here and there but not much action. After several hours we started to drift down, this river is all catch and release using oars only on the boats, no motors so it is very peaceful. We all fished different flies under indicators, some nymphs, leeches, emerges, eggs of every color and just about every color and combo under the sun. All of us had success at different times of the day with shouts of encouragements and fantastic esprit de corps!!

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Around two in the afternoon we pulled the boats up on a bank and had a great lunch, smoked salmon, jerky, salads plus so much more. Once sated back into the boats to drift the afternoon away. We all caught plenty of fighting Wild rainbows with some beautiful colored up browns. The drift to the take out point is about six miles so it is a leisurely float with mild rapids and the odd rock to avoid here and there.

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Fly Fishing with five friends for a day is very special, also have two fly fishing guides with us was invaluable as you learn so much from them. Matt Traynor who guides all over Arizona and Chris Wilson who guides at Lees Ferry. I highly recommend you book them if you are fishing in these areas!!

Both were so generous in their time and knowledge I certainly learnt from them. Many times, just watching how they approached the water, how they cast, and most importantly for me, watching how they mended their lines for that perfect drift. That is one of the most important aspects of fly fishing. Note that they were not our guides, just good friends fishing along sides us enjoying their time on the water.

As dusk approached, we landed at the take out point loading the boats on the trailers as quickly as we could as dinner awaited us.

 One thing to remember, is to get your New Mexico fishing license, pay your five-dollar park ticket to park and pinch your flies you are using as it is barbless and the game wardens are there and they police strictly.

Hot shower and sweet dreams not wet dreams!!

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Next day rinse and repeat, except this time Steve caught a monster Rainbow early in the day. Then in the afternoon Matt hooked into a big one. We were further down but we heard the drama, Matt was in the boat in shallow water when the fish took his fly. In water I had fished hard for a while with no luck!!! The fish took off down river so Matt jumped out running and stumbling along the shallow water trying to keep it under control. Shouting for someone to bring a net as he had a bloody big one on!! More shouts, water splashing laughter then hoots as they final landed this prize into the net. Sound carry so easily on water so we lived the moment vicariously!!!

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So much fun, so many moments, so much to reflect on, such as Matt with his beard and Russian looking fur cap that immediately became the butt of Russian lore!! Ivan the great, you get the drift!

 Our when one of our guys who shall remain nameless, had a stomach malfunction and had to hit the head urgently, just as we were walking into the fly shop to discuss leaving the boats in storage. Full of manly men and he shouts out as Ivan the Russian is walking into the store, he needs to hit the POTTY!!!!

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Potty what the Fuccccccccc!!!!

Ivan was sheepishly looking the other way at that point!

I have never seen a guy get out of all his padded clothing and full waders in that time frame, I think it should become an Olympic sport as there was so much grunting, cursing, stretching, panting all the while with such concentration!! Epic to watch!!! And the explosion what an encore!!!!

If you get a bunch of guys to share rooms and gas it very affordable, plus there are plenty of places to wade so if you do not have access to a boat don’t be deterred. Fish the Braids up and also fish down river plenty of walkable wading areas to be reached.Attachment

Up early Monday and head home looking forward to the next trip.

 I am blessed to have such friends. Fly Fishing what an adventure