Since the inception of the fly fishing virus in my life, I have always wanted to go farther and fish harder. My research and attentive listening continually came back to one particular creek that is said to be the place to go in Arizona for big browns. The creek is a little deeper in the Arizona backcountry and in order to hit some of the better water, should be done as an overnighter.
With school out, I had the time to invest in just such a trip and I called a couple of buddies to see who would be up to the challenge. My buddy Jake was free and so we planned a non-weekend trip in order to skip the crowds and have the water to ourselves. The goal was to get into this creek while the water was still up (water is already getting skinny here in AZ) and to fish it before Memorial Day weekend, a holiday in Arizona where ever stretch of water is occupied with bobbers and beer cans.
With anticipation running high, Jake and I bounced the truck in to the trailhead and once the packs were loaded on our backs, we started our decent. Our first indication of the tribulations to come was the tent and spinning gear at the bottom of the canyon. The couple we spoke to were nice enough, but stated they had been camping since the week before and the fishing they had experienced was marginal at best. So much for a pristine, angler free creek. We hiked up the creek a mile or so and set up camp. With hammocks hung and fly gear ready, we worked some of pocket water close to camp.
The creek is dominated by brown trout who work their way up from the lake in the fall to spawn in the moving water. Many of the fish stay and live long lives in the deep pools of the creek. The fish grow to enormous sizes as do the stories about this fishery. We pulled several meaty brown trout in the 10 to 12 inch range in some of the faster water before moving on to some of the bigger pools… and then the wind came.
We fished diligently and threw everything in our fly boxes, but the wind was unbearable. With a steady wind (not breeze) and strong gusts, the fishing was not happening and at times there were actually whitecaps on the water. We continued to fish were we were able and made a good attempt to fish some of the deeper pools with only a bump here or there. Jake and I were both baffled because we were fishing what looked to be really quality water but with nothing really to show for it. After fishing almost two miles up, we found the reason for our problem. The first angler was coming back downstream and after chatting with him for a bit we hoped our luck would change once we went further than he did. Then we met the second angler.
At that point with the sun starting to dip behind the canyon walls we decided to turn back around and head to camp. Once there, the wind died down and gave us a chance to fish some of the same pocket water we had fished earlier in the day and the water seemed to come alive.
Feisty brown trout started coming to the surface and fed ravenously on the mini-hopper. Most of the trout were again in the 10 to 12 inch range, and on such a slim section of the creek really fought and dove for cover like old, wise fish.
Fish were coming out in just about every likely spot and crevice.
Even though the mayflies were showing up pretty steady, I stuck with the mini-hopper as it seemed to be getting it done.
I did pull this really nice fish after a slow and almost lethargic rise. Once I lifted the rod, the pool exploded as the big brown realized he did not like sharp objects in his lips. He made a strong run for an underwater rock but with a little persuasion I convinced him to turn and ultimately brought him to the net. I love big fish and just the excitement of cradling life in your hands if only for a moment and appreciating all the colors that are painted on the side of the fish.
We finished up with the pocket water and as the canyon started to get dark, we cooked up some easy mac which always tastes a little better with the cold mountain air and the smell of pine. After a hard day of hiking and fishing, it was not too hard to fall right asleep with high hopes for the next day.