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

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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.

AW Crayfish

This is a good pattern to drift or strip through those crawdad infested streams and lakes that can be found throughout Arizona’s high country. A couple of people have emailed looking for more specifics, so here are the basic steps for tying up AW Crayfish. Enjoy…

Materials:

Hook: #8 streamer hook

Thread: Brown 6/0 Uni-Thread

Tail and Arms: Cheap assorted marabou feathers (local craft store)

Eyes: Bead chain

Rib: Vinyl ribbing

Dubbing: Simi-Seal

1.In the first step, I like to build a little platform of dubbing. This will help at the end when the fly is completed to be able to actually find the eye and tie a knot.

2. These feathers can be found at your local craft store in assorted colors. I used to only use the bottoms as marabou tails, but now the tops have a use too.

3

4

5

6

7

 8. In this step, I like to actually post the two “arms” much like you would on a Wulff pattern. This keeps the two arms separate once the fly becomes wet. 

9

10

Finished Product

Underside

Preteding like I know what I am doing for the guys...

Spent an evening with some new friends on the west side of Phoenix. It was nice to only drive a few streets over for a tying event when most are posted for the other side of the city. Bo, Gary, and Jason were all stand up gentlemen that were more than willing to share and impart their wisdom to me. It is always interesting to hear what others are throwing and where they are fishing. I look forward to more get-togethers with more photos of the flies and happenings of the evening.  This was the first of what hopefully will be a bi-monthly event and if you ever find yourself out Surprise-way, feel free to join. Thanks again to the guys for letting me tag along.

*Photo courtesy of Jason Jones

Tools of the Trade

Spent a short morning in the field with good friends and plenty of birds in the air. Dove season is back on and there were no lack of hunters or birds out for the reopening weekend in Arizona. All four of us limited out (some faster than others) and made quick work of cleaning the birds. Dove is not my favorite game bird by any stretch of the imagination, but one of the guys cooks up a mean dove sausage. It was good to get out and dust the rust off of my shooting which is always in need of practice.

Signs of success

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

My new crayfish pattern to tempt the browns up north...

Morning

I spent Saturday with a hunting rifle slung over my shoulder picking my way through hillsides of cat-claw. The search was for a mule deer buck which have an uncanny way of disappearing into the endless miles of rolling hills and jagged landscape. Most of the day was spent hunkered down staring through a pair of binoculars in search of something moving. Having grown up in New York and Pennsylvania hunting deer, the spot and stalk style of western hunting has taken a bit of getting used to.  For the first couple of years in Arizona, I had an extremely difficult time spotting animals. Practice makes perfect and although perfection has definitely not been achieved, I have been able to glass more successfully the longer I am at it.

The Countryside

As the sun started to shed light on the surrounding hillsides, my morning opened up to a herd of javelina being chased by three coyotes. Watching the scene unfold before me was one of the most interesting and intriguing experiences of my life. As I saw these javelina scurrying in every direction and getting lost into the brush with coyotes hot on their heels, it took me back to the years of my youth and the movie The Lion King. Very “circle-of-life-ish” After working my way over several hillsides, I had just finished up grid searching a hillside and repositioned myself to check the hill across the canyon. As I turned, I saw movement through the thick cat-claw and as I drew my binoculars to my eyes, all I could see was antlers. The large mule deer paused several times and looked around, but did not appear spooked as he disappeared over the ridge. I quickly gathered my belonging, made a game plan and made a beeline for interception. Long story short, I made it to my intended destination out of breath and having walked through a mile of the thorniest terrain in AZ and could not find my intended target.

Arizona Sunset

It was enough to get my heart pumping and made for a positive day spent in the field. As I bounced my way out of the backcountry, I was grateful for another beautiful Arizona sunset that never seem to get old no matter how many I see. For a late season hunt I was just happy to see animals, but after seeing such big antlers on a desert deer, I could not help but being a little disappointed about going home empty handed. Next time…

Next time out, maybe I'll go fishing...

 

 

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...