The Tip of the iceberg Fly Fishing Arizona

I have never been much of a hiker, but when I took up Fly Fishing again after a fifty-year hiatus, I became one! Arizona Fly Fishing does not exactly come to mind when talking of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado some of the great Fly-fishing streams of America.


For those that know, they shake their collective heads and laugh!!! Now we do not have the prevalence of huge trout everywhere I am only talking about streams here. The lakes are a whole different ball game and will be visited later in other posts., but they are here in lesser numbers, and occasionally you get really lucky in these streams and catch one. We have plenty of Brown, rainbow also Apache Trout, Gila Trout, Brook Trout, and tiger trout although I have only caught Tiger trout in the lakes. Believe it or not, but there are a few lakes that have grayling as well!!!


The key is getting out there into the wilderness, that is when you will see some of the most beautiful country anywhere in America. Some streams are easy to get too, most are not. If you really want to get out there, it will take effort and preparation as well as emergency supplies, depending on how far off the grid you go.


This tale is about a small stream starting at about three-thousand-foot elevation outside Phoenix. Not that high up when you consider we have streams here well over eight-thousand-foot elevation and higher in parts of the high country of Arizona.


I have fished this stream twice before at different times of the year with no luck, and I was determined this time would have a different outcome! Interestingly in the winter, it is so different with no overgrown growth to impede you also much more water flow a whole different world.


Compare that to the middle of summer. I had to fight my way into some of the runs and pools, always looking for the shaded run!! The water was also much lower with the fish spooky but hiding out, waiting for a tasty morsel to dash out and grab!

I spent the day working my way up fishing spots I knew, but also with an eye to go higher up as I know there are some great pools and runs much further up, but time was my enemy. There still was no grasshopper action and no surface action. I could hear cicadas now again, but they were not around the stream. So, it was an underwater fly time!!!


The fish in this stream are not big, so after a few leaches stripped with no luck, I went to an indicator rig. I had one fly I have been itching to use for ages, and for some reason, my gut was telling me this is the day. Now, this is a dry fly, but it is a beautiful big bodied black ant with a foam body and short stubby reddish-brown legs. ( Brian Foss, a local fly tier made for me, great fly fishermen, friend and maker of killer flies and rods!!! )


I rig my wet flies differently to most; my usual fishing buddy goes crazy watching me catch fish this way!!!! Right, Marc?? I have an indicator that is split, so it is very easy to move up and down the line to vary the depth. Two feet under, I put this deadly ant, then I put a small split shot right above the knot, so it looks like his head, then eighteen inches under that I went with a size twenty black and a silver zebra midge. Deadly!!!


The water is shallow in the runs, maybe a foot to four feet, so you have to adjust the indicator to the speed of the flow, so you do not hook the bottom. Take the time for every run and pool as they are all different.


I can not tell you how many times I have dead drifted through a run or pool with no luck then adjusted the depth up or down and bang fish on!!! So, take the time and fish the run or pool before you move on. It will increase your catch rate!!!


I had been standing in the water at the edge for at least twenty minutes stripping leaches with no luck, that is when I put on the ant. The second cast upstream drifting down bang nice rainbow that put up a crazy fight on my four-weight rod, great sport same pool different technique fish on!!!


I used this rig for the rest of the day. I also passed up a lot of water as I wanted to get to the water, I had not fished. About Four-thirty, I reached the beginning of new water for me and caught some beautiful colored rainbows, but time was running out. Looking upstream, it was like a siren calling me! Darkness was around the next corner, so it was time to head back to the truck, which would take a while.


On my walk back, I was reflecting on the day and how lucky I am to live so near so many beautiful spots, Breathtaking is the only word to use!! The day was productive, with about eight or so beautiful colored fighting rainbows, each gave me his best!!! They all lived to fight another day. I only fish catch and release, and I am for sure going back.



Only this time, I will hike past all the stream I have fished and start fishing the new virgin waters for me chasing those elusive colored up Rainbows, and who knows I may even catch one of those legendary Browns that live higher up, or so the tale goes!!!!


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.


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.


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.


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


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!!!


Fly Fishing the San Juan River New Mexico in February 2020

SAN Juan River, New Mexico February 22 Nd 2020.IMG_3529

Over twenty-four Guides from Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona get together for a fly-fishing bonanza once a year, for fun and to exchange stories and fly-fishing experiences.

I was lucky enough to be invited to this gathering. My friend Dave and I arrived at Twelve lunchtime after leaving Phoenix at Five am! The guys from Arizona all arrived at the same time we all launched our boats for a late float down the river. Many of the other guides had arrived earlier, some launching their boats and other wading the Braids and further up the river to the dam.


The weather was bright and warm, with water flow around three hundred and eighty cubic feet per second, water was clear to murky. As it turned out that day, the river did not want to give up its gold, with fishing for all concerned difficult. Some caught up to five fish others nothing, myself at the end of the day on a late run decided to put on a chartreuse-colored egg. I remembered from one of my previous trips on this particular stretch late in the day it had been effective! Bingo one nice small brown trout on one drift thru!!! At least I was not skunked!!!


That evening we all met up at the lodge for dinner and great conversation. Long day, I think everyone was tired, so we all left and hit the beds relatively early—the plan to be launching on Texas hole no later than eight am.

The next day we all split up again some in boats others wading. The weather was beautiful bright, and clear. Again, we all worked hard with much the same results, a very mixed bag. However, one bright spot for us on the top end of Texas hole was to watch a guy wading in very shallow water across from us land what was reported to be a Thirty-Seven-inch brown!!!! It took him a while to bring in.


All I can say was that he had a big net, and this fish-filled it out; it was so thick it was a real pig. There were plenty of people around all taking photos, so it was well documented! The fish happily swam away from the madding crowd. Back to the boat, it was a difficult day with the same results as the day before. I landed four fish for over ten hours of fishing all rainbows. Back at dinner all the same results as the previous day, except for Brittany from Colorado. She killed it!!! Rumer was around thirty fish for the day.

So, you can imagine all these guys at the dinner table!!! Questions, question?? What fly worked for you??? It turns out Brittany had tied her particular fly. After much humor, she gave in and showed the fly to all. We all took photos!!! That night in my room, three guys were trying to create the new fly, they did not have the exact color materials, but they came close. I am sorry to say I am sworn to secrecy and will not divulge the fly pattern!!!


Now the next day, we were expecting a storm to come in late in the day, we awoke to some cloud cover forming and a drop in temperature. Dave and I were the first boat in Texas hole, so we rowed up to the left side dropped anchor just down from the strong flow running in from the braids. Great piece of water, very fishy!!! I left on my rig from the night before to see what would happen. I had on a size twenty-four chocolate emerger with my chartreuse egg below that. I rigged my flies with the weights below the bottom fly to get down deep in the flowing water. My leader was at least ten-foot-deep to the bottom fly, as where I was casting the water was deep.


A few drifts in my indicator disappeared, nice rainbow on!! A few fish more, and I said to Dave, who is just getting back into Fly tying, to give me one of the new creations that he was trying to make of the super-secret fly!! He will be the first to admit it was a bit motley to be kind, but to me, it looked fishy!!!!

A few drifts later, we were high fiving each other laughing that a new fly tier has been created, it worked, nice rainbow on!!!!! No stopping him now!!!

Karma is a strange bedfellow, for at that moment the hatch turned on there were trout rising all over the place. Dave took a seine net ran thru the water, we looked at the bug life, the net had tiny black larvae which were floating on the surface, Tiny!!!!


We decided to put on Big Hoppers, the bigger, the better to be able to see, as there was so much current turbulence and shadows flitting over the surface in the sun out of sun. Then rain and wind and more rain coming down it would be hard to see any fly. I put on a black bling midge size twenty-four, ten inches behind the hopper. Looked just like the larva we saw in the seine net! Dave put of a size twenty-four RS 2 emerger Black about eighteen inches behind his hopper.

The river gave back to us as we just hit gold. The strikes were swift, we both caught rainbows one after the other, but both missed a lot of strikes, they were very sneaky, all the trout we caught were just hooked in the upper lip. The hatch stayed all day, and we decided not to move as it was hitting on all cylinders. Your all going to think we were on good drugs as we stopped counting after thirty plus fish each!!! No kidding, it was wild. We fished there all day; towards the end, my arm was starting to ache I had thrown so many casts from eight in the morning to after five in the afternoon with no breaks to speak of.

The San Juan at its best Dry fly fishing that you dream about. A few bigger rainbows even inhaled the big Hoppers. They hit them hard, taking well into their mouth. We saw plenty of trout coming vertically out of the water into the air at least two feet before splashing back in.


On the odd occasion seeing a big old boat surface, you know when you see a big back and hump as the fish slurps the surface only to disappear into the depths again. There were some big boys prowling out there!!!!

What a day! Later on, we found that most everyone had a great day no matter where they were on the river. One of our friends landed a twenty-eight-inch brown after a long epic battle. After two days of throwing the book at them with little success, the fly gods felt for us, and we were rewarded with epic Dry fly fishing. The next day we were leaving; it was snowing and cold; a few of the guides stayed to fish on. Till the next trip we may be better equipped with new found knowledge, but I know the San Juan river will as usual, throw us a few curve balls going forward. That is the beauty of Fly Fishing the unknown and slowly gaining experience.


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.


 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!!


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!!


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!!!


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!!!!


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


Fly fishing road warriors to the San Juan New Mexico

Getting up at three-thirty am to eventually arrive on the river at three pm New Mexico time. We had to meet up, load up the truck and drift boat, and off we all went. Matt and Steve, who are Arizona Fly Fishing guides and very accomplished fly fishers, If you want to be a better fly fisher, go with better guys, and you will improve vastly, just like in golf! Steve, an airline pilot who has the craziest Move recollection and Me just an old dude!


The afternoon was bright and calm, with no wind, hallelujah!!!! Four guys in a drift boat does not work, so we dumped Steve the guide off on the left bank of Texas hole. The three amigos just dropped anchor up from him. As usual, there were plenty of guys in the water at the head of the hole.


We became like choreographed casters, one on each end of the boat with Matt in the middle, casting into the faster-moving water. We worked well together with no tangled lines on the backcast!


We did not have a lot of time before dark, so we stayed where we were and fished away. Matt and Steve 2 have plenty of local knowledge, which became more and more important as the trip went along. Steve 2 was a catching machine off the bank landing about a dozen nice Rainbows, while Matt landed close to the same amount, with the odd brown thrown in. Steve 1 and I landed a few fish. Steve 2 was fishing a size 22 brown, and gray Beatus fly with great success, while Matt was using tiny size 22 red-colored annelid flies. Also of note is the fact that we changed from a size 20 to size 22 which made all the difference.The strikes at the Juan can be very subtle, and you have to be very aware of any slight movement, I lost at least six fish that afternoon due to late strikes or feeling the fish on for a second before they throw the fly. Using such small flies does not give you a lot of room for error. Certainly, a great learning experience for me!


At dark off to a restaurant for steak and beers, then back to rooms where Matt and Steve 2 started tying new flies for the next day, based on what they thought would be current due to conditions. I went and had a shower dreaming of bigger fish!!

The next day up early and first boat on the Texas hole, of course again, guys were wading at the head of the hole covering one of the best spots. This time Steve 2 meet some old friends of his who had their own drift boat, so he saddled up with them for the day. We all fished the hole for about four hours roughly with some success. We all changed up flies trying all kinds of mixes. Matt and Steve 2 did very well with Steve 1 and I bringing up the rear again, due to less experience. On occasions like this, you have to watch and learn, the subtle mini mends in the line, the correct drift in the right seems all so very important. I have to say that Matt and Steve 2 were very generous with their time and knowledge on this trip, and we’re always looking to help you and point out things that maybe you were not thinking about. A huge thank you to those guys!!


Later in the day, we started the drift downriver, stopping along the way to get off the boats and wade different areas. On one stop, Matt, Steve 1, and I were on the left side of the river while Steve 2 and his friends were on the right side. On our side the trout were feeding on the surface as well as deeper down, we put on a variety of dry flies with no success and again with wet flies’ same result very frustrating!! On the other side, the guys were catching a lot of trout. Matt even used the same flies as Steve 2, who was killing it, the same flies on our side no go. Time to move on, we spend the rest of the day drifting down, catching the odd fish here and there very pleasant!


Of course, Steve 1 catches a very small last-minute trout at the landing area, only to get ribbed that he was holding us all up due to this huge fight he was having with this monster trout as we all wanted to get the boats out of the water. No mercy in this group!!!

Off to dinner and beers, tough life, but someone has to do it!!


The last day we were going to wade the braids, which is the area up above Texas hole that you cannot drift in a boat. It is all catch and releases up to the dam with great fishing to be had. The plan was to leave at the latest one pm as we had a long drive back.

We all fished various parts of the stream with Matt and Steve 2 doing well. Steve 1 caught fish but has this strange way of talking to fish in a strong Chinese accent when he is fighting the fish. I think his brain was addled from too much sun exposure. Steve 2 has the same habit, but at least he speaks in English to them!!!


I think I had my most significant learning curve that day; I had fished this one long run from early on missing about six fish just getting off the hook with late strikes and whatnot. Pretty frustrating, then the run went dead. I fished up and down, no luck. Later Matt came down, and on his second cast caught a nice brown trout, I shouted up to him what was he using? He told me a small pink egg with an annelid fly underneath. He asked, what was I using? I said a large red egg with an annelid underneath. He came over and said I needed to change up, the larger red eggs work good in the morning, but when the sun gets higher, you need to change to a smaller pink egg for this run and time of day. We changed up my rig, and off he went.

My first six casts after that I had good strikes missing the fish, then bang nice rainbow on!! This was the same run that I had fished hard the previous hour or so with no luck. It just goes to show what experience brings to the table. So, my friends, when you can fish with experienced fly fishers, watch and learn, put all in the memory banks and down the road, it will bear fruit!!!!


Leaving the river on a high note, we loaded up and became road warriors again!! We talked about all kinds of topics, interests listen to some podcast, went over the trip, and before we knew it, we were home. For me, around ten-thirty pm, happy as a clam, although I think at this point, Matt’s eyes were popping out of his head!!!