After a scorcher of an Arizona quail hunting opener, I sat in the shade of the backyard enjoying the cool breeze. My little girl stood at my shoulder, listening and watching as I told her about my morning and showed her the pictures from my time in the field. She held the male Gambel’s in her small hands, examining his feathers, commenting about how soft it was, and asking about his topknot. I took my time and chose my words carefully as I explained why I went hunting and ultimately where our meat comes from.
Post skinning and cleaning, we breasted out several birds and prepared the fixings for quail nuggets. Dunk in eggs, roll in breading, and straight into the cast iron skillet. A few moments later, we were dipping fresh quail nuggets into honey mustard sauce. It was a fine way to start the weekend and the Arizona quail hunting season.
I spend a fair amount of my fishing time flicking flies on small creeks. Arizona has a good number of these small waters to choose from and the fish are usually quite opportunistic and willing to take a well presented fly. The Frye Creek Special is a super simple pattern that I always turn to if I need trick that picky fish holding in one of those deeper plunge pools. Plus, I’m always looking for a use for my Mearns quail feathers.
The #8 hopper splatted on the surface of the small creek and swirled momentarily in the foam line before disappearing in a flash of orange and brown. The scene replayed throughout the day in all of the typical runs and pools with several nice fish showing my fly love. The real gem of a fish came on an articulated streamer pulled through a deep run created by a large rock on the far side of the creek. The big brown must have been waiting there in the slack water biding his time and waiting for his unsuspecting prey when my streamer swam by.
The fishing was good that day, although I was more excited about walking through the woods and hearing the creek, and birds, and wind, and the rest of nature moving around me.
The days have been hot, and we don’t often look for a reason to head out into the blast furnace that is Phoenix in July. But, I take a certain satisfaction from stowing away clean gear, so we donned our swimsuits and headed out into the bright morning sunshine.
After washing down and giving them a gentle scrub to work off the dirt and mud, I had my assistant give it a thorough spray down with some 303 Aerospace protectant. Landeen turned me on to it when I first bought my boat, and it has kept the pontoons looking fantastic over time.
As with any water project with a two and half year old, the job took three times as long and ended in a water fight. My hope is that she learns two important lessons: put gear away clean and never miss out on a water fight.
After a day of fishing dry flies to Apache trout at Christmas Tree Lake, we ate like kings around the campfire. Waking up the next morning with a half a day to kill, we broke camp and headed to Becker Lake to see if we could tease out a couple of those big rainbows that live in the lake.
The lake was like glass when we pulled in to the empty parking lot. After a short row across the lake, I followed the lead of my two buddies who had fished the lake before, and started searching the water with a big foam hopper. Just as I was giving up hope, the water around my fly erupted as a Becker Lake rainbow savagely attacked the hopper. After a hard hookset and a pretty good fight to the net, I cradled the 18″ fish in my hands before releasing it back to the lake. I fished for a couple more hours before rowing back to the boat ramp.
My first trip to Becker Lake was a memorable one. As an avid stream fisherman, I’ve really enjoyed learning about still water fishing and experiencing the high country Arizona lakes. I’m grateful to have good buddies who I can ask questions and glean information from regarding fishing still water lakes. With temps soaring here in the Valley, I’m already looking forward to loading up the truck and heading north.
The fly dropped softly, a foot short of the center of the concentric ripples and the krystal flash wings gleamed in the morning sunlight. There was an ever so slight pause before the nose of the Apache trout broke the surface. The ant pattern disappeared, the hook was set, and the fish danced its way to the net.
This scene played itself many times over for most of the morning. At Christmas Tree Lake on the White Mountain Apache Reservation, the Apache trout like to rise to dry flies until the sun gets too high in the sky. Around eleven, we switched things up and stripped small leeches, damsels, and nymphs off of the banks with pretty good success. As evening approached, there was another flurry of activity on the surface as trout began rising again to ants and mayflies.
Back in the Valley, the temps were well over 100 degrees, but after a light rain as we got off the water, the mountain air was crisp and clean. It’s easy to have a good day when the fish are biting and you’re hanging out with a couple of good buddies.