Arizona Fly Fishing: Catch and Release

Arizona Brown Trout

Arizona Fly Fishing: Sustainability

When most people think of Arizona, fly fishing is not the first thought that springs to mind. Although rattlesnakes and saguaro cacti are the typical icons of this great state, I would like to draw attention to another section of wildlife. Fish.

Arizona has some of the most rugged and beautiful landscape in America and nestled in this harsh desert and high mountains are some beautiful trout streams. Although many of them are of a put and take nature, there are several creeks that I frequent that have wild, naturally reproducing communities of browns, brooks, and rainbows. These watersheds are priceless and, in my opinion, extremely vulnerable and because of these reasons I believe it is important to practice certain strategies in order to protect and promote those gorgeous populations of trout.

Arizona Brook Trout

Catch and Release: What this means is that even though I love the taste of trout cooked over a campfire, I do not take these wild fish home for a meal. I get the question every time someone finds out I went fishing for the weekend. “Did you bring any home?” Same response, “No, I let them go for next time.” I usually get the puzzled look and then have the opportunity to explain why I catch and release. By allowing wild trout to be released, I am hoping that that creek will continue to thrive and bring me the same joy and pleasure each time I go back to fish it.

Barbless Hooks: It is pretty simple to clamp down the barb on my hook when tying up a few flies and ultimately it makes the releasing part of “catch and release” simple and less traumatic for the fish. It has been claimed to lower the mortality rate of caught fish which is always a good thing in my opinion.

Arizona Rainbow Trout

Leave spawning trout alone: Since natural reproduction is an important part of our Arizona fisheries, I think it is important to leave spawning trout alone. I had some awesome opportunities this year to fish during the fall and see many fish couples doing their thing and also multiple redds along the streambed. Leaving spawning fish alone, even though some of the big ones are now more visible, is an important aspect in a wild trout population’s sustainability.

Common sense/education: Lastly, I believe common sense and education is an important part of protecting wild trout fisheries. Washing boots, waders, and line are simple common sense steps that prolong the life of gear as well as keep the waterways clean. I am careful when I speak of these creeks and streams, for fear of who might be listening. I believe that in order to pass on these resources to our posterity, we must take the simple steps in order to preserve their sanctity.

The view from the Rim...

Note: This blog entry is my submission for the GreenFish and Outdoor Blogger Network Writing Prompt Giveaway

15 Responses to “Arizona Fly Fishing: Catch and Release”

  1. Bruce

    What a well written piece. This is truly great work, and anytime someones gives me grief for catch and release I am going to point them to this post. Somethings in here are right out of my vocab, and others are put much better then I would. Lastly the fact that you had a category for common sense is great because of the lack of it in the world. Sorry this is a long comment, but the post sparked some good stuff.


  2. azwanderings

    Don’t apologize for the comment. I appreciate the kind words and I’m glad that I am on the same page as you. I just keep after it and try to be pleasant when people look at me like I’m crazy when they found out that I fished for 4 days in the backcountry and did not keep a fish. Thanks again for the positive comment.


  3. Mysticfish

    It is truly difficult for many people to understand that
    it is OK to catch and eat some fish from certain environments but not a sustainable choice in others.
    Wild naturally producing cold water streams need C&R. Most folks are just are not aware of the huge productivity differences between warm and cold water and between certain fish species. Nice post.

  4. azwanderings

    Thanks Mystic. I appreciate the thoughts. I think you are spot on with your point. Here in AZ, our streams are pretty special but extremely fragile. C&R is a way of life for me. Thanks for the kind words.


  5. The River Damsel

    Very simply put, but yet so powerful!! I couldn’t have said it any better…My family and friends just don’t understand my thoughts on the catch and release. I will keep your post in my thoughts the next time around! And glad you mentioned the washing of gear and equipment…there are some that don’t abide by that principle and it is so important! Very good post!

  6. azwanderings

    Thanks RD. Glad I struck a chord. Honestly, I have this conversation with people all the time and every time I get the same puzzled look and head shake. Not much you can do other than keep fishing and keep releasing. Thanks for the support.


  7. Iain


    As usual, your most recent entry is thoughtful, relevant, and reflects your passion and love for wild trout and the beautiful places they haunt–nicely done. I would agree with you that Arizona is a special place for trout fishing, in the sense that the wild trout fisheries are often rugged, remote, and wonderful, and also highly vulnerable, due to limited population sizes, the stresses of low flows and high water temps in drier years, and a lack of protective regulations for many streams and rivers in the state. Posts like yours can only help to spread the important message of actively working as stewards to help protect and maintain the health of these priceless fisheries. All of the points you touch on are good, and the one about using some discretion when describing certain locations is one I have thought a lot about myself, and practiced when it seems appropriate, at least with the unknown masses.

    By the way, that AZ brook trout is a real beauty–nice image!

    Tight lines, Iain

  8. azwanderings

    Thanks Iain. Glad you approve. I agree there needs to be more discussion, and also agree these gems should remain hidden. Arizona is an amazing place to live and fish, I just hope that enough of us can keep these beautiful places sacred for future enjoyment. Thanks again for the kind words.


  9. Matt K @ GearGuide

    Ben, Great stuff as always. Dig the photos too. Been meaning to ask, what camera are you using these days? I may be in the market for something new. Thanks.

  10. azwanderings

    Thanks Matt. In the field I use on older model Nikon Coolpix. It works fine, but I don’t know how many more dunkings it can really take. We got a really nice Canon DSLR for a wedding present that I use for the at home photos. I am very pleased with both of them but when the Nikon eats it, I am going to buy something waterproof and shockproof. Hope that helps.


    • MattK @ GearGuide

      Thanks. I’m also using a Coolpix that’s ready for an upgrade. I hear good things about the Pentax Optio. The W90 is waterproof, shockproof, etc. I believe that’s what Tom Chandler’s using for Trout Underground. And it looks like they’ve just release an updated version (WG-1). I can’t quite bring myself to purchase a DSLR. Heck of a wedding present though. I’d definitely take that over the bread machine we received 😉 Anyway, keep in touch and keep the great posts and reviews coming.

  11. azwanderings

    Yeah, I like the look of the Pentax Optio. I almost pulled the trigger on it around Christmas but controlled myself. Once this Coolpix bites it, I’m going to get a camera that is at least waterproof and I have heard great things about the Optio, so that may be the one. Thanks for the kind words. Tight lines.


  12. Brandon

    What a great piece, thank you for sharing. I completely agree with everything you wrote. It’s one thing to take a few fish home from somewhere managed as such…I do it occasionally. So far this year my only two fishing trips were both to Deadhorse to fish for the stocked rainbows. I took a few trout home each time, and am ok with that because of where I was. If they aren’t fished out, they probably won’t survive the summer heat. And Deadhorse is managed as put and take, that’s why G&F dumps a few thousand of them in every two weeks. But I have a couple streams I also like to fish where I would never dream of keeping a fish. Barbs are crimped, and fish are handled as little (if at all) as possible. We really live in a great state for trout fishing, and hopefully anglers will understand that steps must be taken to keep it that way. Thank you for addressing this topic, it’s great to have it here where it will get exposure.

  13. azwanderings

    I hear you Brandon. I am definitely of the same mindset about keeping a few stockers. Arizona is a phenomenal place to live and fish and I hope it remains that way forever. Thanks for the kind words and kindred spirit.



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