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New and Improved

On the brink of the New Year, my mind wanders over the past 80 or so posts and I ask the inevitable question of what am I doing and where is this blog going. I have had numerous encouragements and proposals on what to do with my little world that I have created for myself and my valued readers. As my thoughts began to build into dreams of grandeur, I want to be careful and stay away from the pretentious mindset that my words are gold and everyone is hanging on my every post. At the same time, my number of readers is graciously growing and I wish to provide them with needed content and services.

With that stated, I have updated my site and domain name. All new content can be found on AZWanderings.com. Several plans are in the works and over the next weeks and months, regular readers will begin seeing some more changes to the site and additions to the content. The new site’s layout was constructed by my brother (JSumnerdesigns.com) who worked tirelessly to get things ship shape.  A new review page has been added that will slowly and honestly chronicle some of my favorite pieces of equipment that see regular use. I have also had several requests from readers to purchase a few of the flies that I tie which I take as a huge honor. Always content to tie for myself and friends, I relish the opportunity to offer one or two patterns for sale in the near future in order to gauge interest.

In conclusion, the support and kindness of my readers is invaluable to me. The whole idea of Arizona Wanderings was nothing more than a simple family communication device that has grown and become an exciting project for me that never strays far from my thoughts. I do not consider myself an expert or an authority, but instead a simple man who wishes to enjoy the outdoors and participate in the outdoor community.

Thank you as always and see you on the new site,

Ben

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While I wait for the waters up north to calm down and return to a fishable state, I thought I would brag a little on how kind Christmas was to me. So in order to hold myself over until the next time I hit the water or the cactus strewn hillsides, here is a brief look at the quality items Santa brought me. I have had my eye on a new BBS reel from Orvis to upgrade my old reel that was broken and line that had large chunks taken out of it. The sweetest wife in the world found it easy to shop for me this Christmas.

Much needed upgrade for the 3 weight

As an avid reader, my Amazon wish list grows almost every time I am on the computer. This selection shows a heavy influence of John Gierach but also a Walt Prothero wild card showed up (arguably one of my favorite authors).

Updating the Library

My sister-in-law went above and beyond to make the perfect gift for a helpless fly fisherman and reader. This bookmark will definitely be utilized in my marathon of reading ahead.

Homemade "Adams" bookmark

With all of the traveling that my wife and I do back to New York, fly tying get-to-gethers, or a couple day trip up north, having my fly tying gear with me can be really convenient. I had eyeballed this Fishpond bag for quite a while but had never made mention of it to anyone. My in-laws really went above and beyond with this gift.

Fishpond fly tying travel kit

I have had an old foam target that when my wife said “I do” made the trip to our new backyard. It has raised some eyebrows, and the new puppy has really taken a liking to it. In the end it is still usable but life expectancy is not much longer. This new target will hopefully keep me in shape for the javelina season coming up.

My new lawn ornament

Another quality gift from the in-laws to keep my hands warm during our bone-chilling Arizona winters (but seriously it does get cold here.).

Winter Gloves

I do not know what my brother was trying to say, but it might be that my hunting game could use a little work. If you have not had the opportunity to play the Wii and especially the Wii hunting game, it will change your life.

Staying in shape during the off season...

My mom handed down one of my father’s old tie clips. I wear a tie maybe a half dozen times a year, but this clip will be worn at each of those occasions. This truly is a special gift that I will cherish and hopefully someday pass on to one of my boys.

Sentimental value

After this post, I think I will go do some damage at Cabelas. My wife thinks it is a real shame that the blasted store is so close…

One can never go wrong with...

Drying Station - Front

My break has been filled with shotguns and fly rods and even though our usually clear skies are gone and replaced with rainclouds, I have been busy with some smaller projects. After my furled leader performed flawlessly on a blustery day at Oak Creek, I decided that I had to have some more. So I headed to my friend Bo’s house to rig up a few more and I happily walked away with several gorgeous leaders, spun by my own hand. Bo himself is an extremely talented carpenter and graciously gifted me one of his beautiful fly drying stations. This small piece is just a taste of the work that he has done as his fly tying corner is centered around a beautiful tying station.

Fly Drying Station

More Furled Leaders

Bo also is stating to make his own fly fishing lanyards and as we were talking I mentioned my minimalistic approach to fly fishing, Bo quickly whipped up a perfect “belt hook” for some summer fishing. I think this lanyard would work well for those warm days wet wading in the small streams of Arizona. A big thanks to Bo for his hospitality and gifts.

Belt Hook

Winter Fishing...

The weather has been a little bit funky here in Arizona and my Christmas break is being threatened by rain and snow in the high country. In spite of the predicted elements, my good friend Pete and I loaded up the truck hastily made our way to Red Rock Country and the fabled Oak Creek. While driving creekside, we caught glimpses of a high, turbulent, and off color torrent that did not look very fishable. Regardless, we had made the drive and were not easily deterred. I had brought my 5 weight knowing that with high winds predicted, I would need a little backbone to cut through the wind and throw some heavier streamers.

Oak Creek Soup

With no insect activity, I opted to strip a simi-seal bugger through the first pool and on my third cast through the pool, saw a large head engulf my fly. Luck was on the fishes side and he spit my fly quickly. After several more pools, hook-ups, and fly changes, I rigged up a mini hopper and a copper john variant and drifted it several times through a likely lie. I was extatic with a firm hit on the dropper and was soon cradling a gorgeous Oak Creek Brown trout. I always feel extremely blessed when catching brown trout out of this section of Oak Creek, because I know that these fish see so many fishermen and their offerings.

Oak Creek Brown

As I continued fishing I saw a few sporadic rises, but the high, milky water made it difficult to fish small dries that wold match the small winter bugs that were hatching. Occasionally a bigger specimen would fly by and tempt me to tie on something smaller but I refrained.

BWO

Making my way upstream, I found myself again stripping a leach through a larger pool and had several larger hits on the streamer. On one last try, a strong fish nailed the fly and head shook his way to my net. At this point I was feeling very lucky as I held this football of a brown for a quick photo.

Brown Trout

With half a dozen pools left before our access point to leave, the day began to get colder. Thankfully, the inclement weather had held off and no precipitation ruined our day. As I followed the course of the stream I came upon an extremely long pool with several obstructions in the center of the pool. I worked the lower section of the pool with my bugger and had several fish follow it in but ultimately refuse it. While contemplating my next move, a fish rose and sent large ripples radiating to the banks of the stream. I quickly tied on a #16 parachute Adams, said a little prayer, and dropped a perfect cast just to the side of his previous rise. Within moments, the trout nonchalantly sipped the dry and I was latched into a large fish. Luckily, I had my 5 weight and was able to muscle the fish away from several large rocks and half submerged logs and stabbed my net a fish that could barely fit inside of it. I had heard of large fish in Oak Creek and have spooked and occasionally tied into some, but have never been successful at getting one to hand. After this fish, I did not need to fish the rest of the day. This is one of those times I wished I had a measuring tape, so without going into guessing on numbers, all I will say is that it was a big fish.

The Oak Creek Brown

Streamers, nymphs, and dries all seemed to be the ticket for the day. The high water conditions made it some of the toughest and most frustrating fishing but the outcome of the day was extremely rewarding. Quality day spent on the water with good company is a great way to spend time off from work.

 

 

Many, many thanks to Eric over at Hooked Up Films. I cannot say enough how grateful I am to him and for all the work he put into this video. Feel free to check the written documentation of our day in my earlier post. I look forward to more time on the water with Hooked Up Films.

Appropriately decorated...

A friend once told me that if you’re not losing flies you’re not casting in the right spots. For the most part he was right and the fish that were caught this summer came with a price of losing many hand-tied flies. Looking forward to the weather turning towards spring, I have started compiling a box with go-to-flies so that next summer when I am on the road I can steadily refill my creek-side arsenal. I would like to send a belated thanks to some other Arizona fly fishermen, Alex, Aaron, and Kyle, over at Fat Guy Fly Fishing for the perfect fly fishing art with which to adorn the front of my fly box.

The Box

The flies I have been stockpiling are bugs that have consistently produced here in Arizona and even back on the Adirondack streams of New York. Quick run down of what I have tied:

1. The mini-hopper (green, brown, and orange)

2. Sparkle Parachute

3. Parachute Adams

4. My version of an Ausable Parachute

5. My take on the Hopper Juan

All great flies, which are fun to tie and fish. Anyone else started their bulk winter tying?

An assortment of floating colors

Eric Davis with Hooked Up Films

Several months ago, I was fortunate enough to be contacted by Eric Davis from Hooked Up Films who had found me through the Outdoor Blogger Network. Eric hails from Bend, Oregon and was going to be in town for the Thanksgiving weekend. While here, he hoped to sample some of the local Arizona stream fishing which has been lights out all summer and fall. A long story short, all the arrangements were made and we were zipping up the Bee-line Highway headed for the Mogollon Rim early Saturday morning. Stepping out of the truck at 8:30, we were greeted by a frosty 28º as the sun was slowly peaking over the canyon walls. With high hopes, we decided to hike downstream and work our way back up to the truck. Keeping with tradition, I stopped at one particular run on my way downstream which always holds a few nice browns. As I eased line out for my three weight, I laid the dry/dropper just on the edge of a seam and was rewarded with a hard fighting 13 inch brown. As I released the fish, I was excited to see what the rest of the day would hold and anticipated a fish-filled day ahead for my visitor and myself.

Stream-side

Unfortunately, the day seemed hexed from the “first fish, first hole” curse and there was a significant amount of fishing before any more catching was to be done. The fall bite seemed to be over and the cold weather and water kept fish stacked on the bottom of deep slow pools, unwilling to move for anything. As the sun started to reach the west walls of the canyon, tiny midges and BWOs brought several fish to the surface and we were able to bring a couple small fish to hand. Overall, I was disappointed with the catch rate, but any day on the water with a friend is a good day.

Small Brown

Eric Davis is a quality individual and really knew his way around all small stream. His website, Hooked Up Films, focuses on the diversity that Oregon’s water has to offer and really deserves a quality look-over. I look forward to making my way up to the Northwest to investigate all that it has to offer. I think the quality fishing on the Rim is mostly over for the winter, although I am sure I will head up a few more times to flog the water.

Stream-side

* Note: Eric has a real talent for videography and will be putting some of the footage together to showcase a small taste of what Arizona has to offer. Stay tuned for the final product due out in a few weeks. Thanks again to Eric for making the trip down and for the good time spent on the water.

Early morning brown

After a few weekends of no water, it was time to get my fix. Jake and I headed up early and found ourselves alone in the frigid mountain air. It was not surprising that no one else was present in the wee hours of the morning as the temperature gauge in the truck read 27°. The morning was slow and cold with only a few willing fish coming out to taste our wares and at mid-day we switched streams and found our luck changing. Over the summer, I had many days logged on this particular creek and have been stunned by the reliable fishing that it provides. Jake and I landed fish after fish, most of which were wild browns over 13 inches.

Wild Brown

Mini-Hopper still doing the trick...

The midday sun warmed the canyon to a mild 60° and took the bite out of the frosty landscape.  Small hatches of mayflies were coming off the water and caddis and other terrestrials could still be found fluttering along the banks. The creek was in pristine condition and it appeared to very healthy. Jake and I spotted several monsters that we attempted to target but to no avail. One was well over 20 inches in length and was hanging near the tailend of a large pool. Several casts sent him scurrying letting me know that my presentation could use some work. Another interesting sight was after laying my first cast into a long pool, a behemoth brown launched itself out of the water only a few feet from my fly. After many attempts, nothing I could offer would induce the same action from the fish.

Trudging back to the truck and stepping out of the waders, I realized that this creek deserves more of my time and energy. The quality of brown trout fishing is fantastic and I believe I am only scratching the surface of the opportunities that this beautiful stretch of water has to offer. I hope to have a couple more shots at these browns before the Rim is snowed in for the winter.

A special thanks to Matt Smythe over at Fishing Poet. He sent me one of his t-shirts which I wore while fishing today and I attribute my good fortune and success to him.  Check him out at Fishing Poet.

The Fishing Poet

 

Mini-Hopper

At a few requests, here are the fairly simple steps to tying the Mini-hopper. I cannot really take any credit for this fly as I have taken most of the ideas from other sources. Together it really does the trick as a summer terrestrial or caddis imitation pattern. Without further ado here we go:

Materials

Materials needed:

1. Dry fly hook (preferably #12-14)

2. 2mm foam (I have found just about any color I tie up produces. The brighter colors are nice for rougher water. I buy sheets of foam at the craft store for a fraction of the price posted at most “fishing” stores and the craft store has every color of the rainbow.)

3. Dubbing and matching thread (I prefer black 6/0 thread and Hare Tron Dubbin in black. The dubbing is mixed with some silver and has a nice sparkle to it. The matching color is nice, as you tie in most of your material in the same spot.)

4. Elk Hair

5. Barred Sili Legs (I have tied both green and orange and have not distinguished much of a difference between the two)

6. Super Glue (Makes life easier when your fly can stand up to the punishment all day or until you lose it in a tree)

Thread Base

1/4 inch strip of foam

I usually add a dab of super glue before attaching the foam with strong thread wraps

Tie in stacked elk hair

Tie in barred legs

One more dab of super glue before pulling back the foam and tying it all down

Whip Finish and Trim up the Foam

Underside

Topside

Slice of Heaven

It has been a little over a year since my uncle dug my grandfather’s old fly rod out of his garage and passed the beautiful Fenwick on to me. My first fly fishing trip in Arizona was to a small stream on the Rim that holds a great population of wild rainbows mixed in with a few browns. This stream was not the ideal place to put my meager fly casting knowledge to use, but the lessons were quick and many, and before long I was generally staying out of the trees. I returned to this stream on Saturday with my good friend Jake and we hiked down in to the creek in search of those willing rainbows.

The day started cold with the temperature hovering at a brisk 46°, but I cherish the days when I am not constricted in a set of waders, so I chose instead to wet wade. Cloud cover kept the temps low and the heat of the day only reached the mid-60s. The overcast light seemed to really turn the fishing on and rainbows were attacking dry flies from the moment that we stepped into the cold creek. All of the fish we caught were the wild rainbows that call this creek their home. Their spots and colors were extraordinarily beautiful and unique to each specimen and each fish showed its spunk and tenacity with they way they  would fight and jump. I did bring one brown in full spawning colors to the net but quickly released the healthy fish without a picture. We spotted several browns that were going through the spawning motions and attempted to leave them alone.

A disapproving eye on my casting ability...

Fall Colors

Fall colors were in full swing with the trees creating a beautiful backdrop to fly fish. Wildlife was in abundance as we walked the creek. Several whitetail does showed up to watch my ugly casting and try and figure out what fool would be standing in the frigid water waving a stick around. They stuck around for a little while, apparently unconcerned and realizing that I was not after them. I could not help but smile and chuckle, thinking about all of those deer hunters trucks on the top of the ridges, knowing most of the deer are going to be sneaking around in the lower canyons and creek beds. Another interesting sighting of the day was a coatimundi who was slowly making his way along a ridge above the creek. I had only seen one other coatimundi in Arizona and find them a fascinating creature, cherishing any sighting of these bizarre animals.

The Prize

Several very big fish were lost throughout the day. Jake missed a bigger brown and I also missed a large fish. While casting to a dark pool nestled up under a tree trunk, I made the perfect cast that bounced my mini-hopper off the tree and deposited my fly a few inches from the bank. A massive nose broke the surface and slowly and  nonchalantly slurped the  dry fly. I waited and as he turned I lifted the rod and felt the bend, but as he turned, one powerful kick left my fly rod limp and flyless. Moments like that break a fisherman’s heart, but are one of the reasons I will go back again and again. Most of the rainbows in this creek do not get much bigger than 10 or 12 inches, but I did land the beauty above who pushed 14 or 15. After a spirited fight, the fish posed nicely and showed the beautiful spots that mark most of this stream’s inhabitants.

Rim Rainbow…

Looking back and seeing how far I have come and how much I have learned since I first set foot in that creek over a year ago is a little more than amazing. I am thankful for every chance that I have to get out into God’s creation and experience all the beauty that radiates from his handiwork.

Destination fishing...