Deer season started Friday while I was busy at work, but my stands have been set for a couple of weeks to allow nature to get back to normal. I drove up early Saturday morning to try and sneak in before the sun peaked over the ridge. I had set up two stands, one a tree stand and the other a pop-up blind. Truthfully speaking, I really enjoy hunting out of the blind better due largely to the concealment factor. I make it a point to sit almost all day and I like to read, drink water, fidget, and lay down for several power naps without worrying about my movement throughout the day. So as I pulled my truck up to walk to my stand I notice another truck already parked along the road. As I walk down the beat up ATV path, I come across another truck and about the spot I would turn into the woods towards my blind, another truck is parked with 4 guys gearing up, talking loudly, and having a beer…at 5 in the morning. I made an executive decision to turn around and sit in the tree stand, but already my day felt ruined. My best laid plans had gone awry and my spirit was greatly deflated. A long story short, the only wildlife I saw was a pack of blue jays which squawked so loud all morning it gave me a headache. I sat until 11 when the sun was high in the sky and I decided to make another change of plans.
I was on the water by noon, fly rod in hand and a smile on my face. It was a Saturday, the Rim was crowded with weekenders, and I had the small stream completely to myself. The fish were eager and hungry even during the hot midday of August and the mini hopper proved again to be extremely effective. I fished every pool slowly, taking my time, until the monsoon rain opened up a few hours later. I took shelter under the large pines that guard this creek and as I stood waiting and watching, I took stock of my situation in life and wondered again why God continues to bless me in every way. I have a beautiful wife who does not raise her eyebrows when I tell her I am going fishing or hunting, I have a job I enjoy, I have a roof over my head and food in my belly, and I am standing next to a beautiful mountain creek catching wild fish on dry flies. God is good and I thank him for these things.
Lesson of the day: Always bring your fly rod when you go hunting, just don’t expect to hunt too hard.
I finished a fantastic week at school where I have a great team and really nice students. I am looking forward to this year and all of the great things that are going to happen. Having said that, the first week is always tough trying to get those old gears working again, not only for the students, but teachers as well. By Friday afternoon, I was feeling the exhaustion starting to seep in and knew that a day on the stream would fix all that. I was able to hook up with a younger guy, Jake, from church and at 4:30 we were on our way to the Rim. We fished one of my favorite streams that is loaded with wild rainbows and heavy browns and rarely sees visitors.
The fishing was good, but not as outstanding as usual. Normally every pool and riffle will have a hungry trout ready to nip at whatever is in front of him, but for some reason the bites were fewer and farther between. We focused on dries for much of the day but had some success when we fished the dropper later in the day. We ended up with 15-20 fish between us and some of the colors were absolutely stunning. Unfortunately the upper portion of the creek was busy and full of day users who had been walking and swimming in the creek. We decided to call it a day and fish our way back down. It was a beautiful day that warmed up fairly quickly, but a great way to spend a Saturday after a long week of work.
Everything must come to an end, and as I sit here the last hours of summer break are slowly slipping away. I spent the last week getting things ready at school and finally feel as if everything is ready for tomorrow. The start of school is always followed closely by the start of archery deer and turkey season and the dusting off of treestands and hunting blinds. I spent Sunday on the Rim placing stands and double checking trails and shooting lanes. I could hardly waste the afternoon so I brought out the 3 weight and hit one of the streams on the way home and found some success tempting the browns and bows of this small creek. There was a fallen tree out on the path so I contacted Tree Quote to get it removed.
On the drive home, my mind wandered over my current situation and tried to wrestle with dilemma of the next couple weeks. I love to archery hunt and have done so since I was a teenager in Pennsylvania, but I also love to fly fish. Due to my location in the middle of the desert, I end up driving anywhere from 2-3 hours to get to a decent spot to hunt or fish. The true dilemma is that even though I enjoy to archery hunt, the time I spend in the tree stand waiting for something to happen is difficult to compare with the action packed day of moving and seeing new water while fishing. With my time in nature being so limited, every moment is so precious and critical, and I want to use it wisely. To be honest, I find it difficult to sit the entire day waiting when I know that there is a gurgling stream a few miles away teaming with hungry trout. It is a true test of my will to sit but I have purposed in my mind to put in a solid day on opening Saturday in hopes of the elusive Arizona Coues deer to walk by and present me with a decent shot. Wish me luck…
It has been some time since I been to one of my favorite creeks on the Rim. This creek has taught me so much about fly fishing over this past year and has been my trusty standby when I need a day to myself. I fish it so often that I have more or less memorized the flows and the pools of the stream and have a fairly good idea where most of the big boys are hiding, even though I always spook them. This stream is full of vibrantly colored wild rainbows, most of whom are 5-8 inches with a few that bump up to 13. The creek is also full of resident browns who feed off the plethora of crayfish and smaller rainbows.
Yesterday, I awoke early with the whole day in front of me with nothing to do but fish. As I drove along the base of the Rim, everything was soaked from rain the night before. Monsoon season has hit this region and more rain was called for in the evening. I parked the truck and quickly geared up and as I stood along the side of the creek my heart sank a little. The stream was slightly swollen and was running off color and in my mind I was thinking this would make dry fly fishing difficult. Having already tied on my standard parachute, I decided to fish a pool or two with it before switching things up and on my first cast brought a feisty brown to hand. From that point on, fish in every pool came out to play and latch on to my #12 Adams parachute. Throughout the day I caught countless rainbows and the intermittent brown.
As I worked my way up the creek through the familiar pools I came to one of the several pools that I know holds big browns. I always slow down and take a seat on a rock and just study the pool for a few minutes, catch my breath and come up with a plan that usually fails. Normally, the pool is crystal clear and once the smaller fish in the back spook, the big boys in the front are long gone. With the heavy cloud cover and off color water, luck was in my corner. I crept through the willows and played out a little bit of line while casting close to the bank. As my fly lazily sat on the water I saw a large trout slowly rise and inhale the bug. I set the hook into a freight train and started praying that my 5x tippet would be able keep up. At that inopportune time, I also realized that my net was hanging in the closet back home and was not going to be much use. After struggling to keep this fish out the weeds and away from several deadfalls I cradled the 18 inch brown in my hands for a quick photo and then released him back to his home to grow bigger for next time. It was truly a great experience pulling such a large fish from this small stream and it put me on cloud nine for the rest of the day.
Towards midday I tied on one of my new ties, the mini-hopper. They worked extremely well and on two separate occasions I had two fish jumping together for this fly. All the colors worked, although the brighter ones were easier to see, and I will be tying more of these for these next few months. I continued fishing even thought the rain started in the afternoon and decided it was in my best interest to turn around once the lightening and thunder chimed in. On the way out with the ground quiet from the rain, I walked right up on two small bucks still in velvet. It really started me thinking about setting up stands for the quickly approaching archery season. My day was a success even though it was cut short by the inclement weather and I was extremely happy that I had got my lazy butt out of bed.
Spent some time at the bench and tied up these balloon caddis with legs. I feel like the will offer an alternative to the larger Hopper Juans that I have been tying and fishing. On Arizona’s small streams, the bigger hoppers tend to make quite a splash which often spook wary trout. I felt these mini hoppers tied on #12-16 better represent the crickets and smaller hoppers found in this state and they are much quicker to tie. We will see how my hypothesis works out next time on the water.
I spent most of my childhood in a small lake town in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. Being surrounded by endless miles of pine trees and water that ran cold all year long, I developed that fondness for the outdoors that now seems to take up every waking free moment. This past week I went back to that sleepy little town that I called home but some things were different. I have a wife and responsibilities that I suppose have changed me and given me a new perspective on life. Luckily for me, my beautiful bride enjoys her sleep and can often times be found sleeping in until the the two hands point to noon. I took advantage of this time and woke early to chase trout on those waters that I had not visited in some years.
Monday morning was a dark drizzly day with the clouds clinging to the mountains and laying low on the water. It was a refreshing change from the dry heat that plagues Arizona and even though I was drenched in just a few minutes, I was happy to be on the stream. The stream I chose was only 15 minutes from my mom’s house and situated next to the cabin of my friend Tony Tenda, but this stream has the rare quality of being full with native brook trout. The number of these creeks has been in decline since the early 1900s but recent efforts to save native fish habitats has helped to stop and even reestablish certain lakes back to their original state.
Upon stepping into the stream, I caught a small brook trout on the second cast and the world became a little less complicated. I fished up the stream for maybe a half mile and caught fish in all the likely spots. After a few hours, I turned around and headed back to the vehicle.
Tuesday, I decided to change my tactics and fished the tailwater of a small lake where in previous summers had caught countless trout and seen a friend lose a monster fish. I fished again for several hours and had a fish chase a bugger in and several hits but no other action. With nothing happening, I opted to cut my losses and head home.
With one final day of fishing, I struggled between fishing the same stream that I had on Monday or opting for a completely new stream that I had never fished. The lure of catching fish called to me and I decided on the tried and true from earlier in the week. I was not disappointed. I fished hard and fast and covered more water than I had on the first day. There was so much positive looking water I was tempted to stay all day and just keep fishing. Brook trout rose to my number 12 Adams Wulff and I was extremely pleased with all of the beautiful fish that I caught. I ended up leaving my camera in my pocket and just quick released most of the fish in the water. I could not help taking a photo of the monster 13 inch that swallowed my dry fly. All of these fish came with bright orange underbellies and the pictures do not do them justice.
My trip was complete and I was extremely happy with my time on the water. Fishing some of these old haunts brought those nostalgic feelings and made me realize that I had been surrounded by some of the best fishing on the East Coast. Arizona is a wonderful state, but the Adirondacks hold so many secrets that provide a lifetime of exploring. Where ever I fish, I always feel an ache every time I leave. Schroon Lake was no different. When I head back next summer, I look forward to catching that brook trout again once he has grown a little bit bigger.
I grew up moving from house to house around the states of New York and Pennsylvania. During the 18 years of my life at home one place remained constant, Grandma’s Cottage. This cottage has been in my family for several generations and I imagine it will always remain a family heirloom to be shared and enjoyed together. Every summer, my brothers and I would spend weeks swimming, boating, fishing, and playing cards with friends and family at “Kamp Karefree” as it has lovingly been named. As we get older, the torch falls to our younger cousins who live closer to discover everything that the cottage has to offer. After Michelle and I touched down in Albany, NY, we spent the night in Schroon Lake and then made our way south to PA for a weekend of clambakes and barbecues. We spent three days at Highland Lake enjoying the company of family and the beauty that the lake offers. The weekend of course would not be complete unless I could break out the fly rod and fish the same waters that had taught me so much as a boy.
To be honest, the fishing did not live up to my recollections. Water temps were high and most of the bass and walleye had moved to deeper waters. I managed to pick up one bass early on the first morning but the rest of the weekend held innumerable amounts of sunfish and bluegills. I remember when I was younger, I only carried one lure with me for my spin rod, a gold standard rapala. Times were good and I would throw to the bank and reel in fish after fish. One great experience occurred during this trip, when my two younger cousins, Daniel and Pete, wanted to go fishing one morning. So we loaded up the rowboat grabbed the fishing poles and headed to some likely looking spots. Sunfish were on the menu, but these two were astonished and slightly peeved at the amount of fish that I was catching off my standard Simi Seal Bugger. So I took off their lures and tied on some very heavily weighted Buggers and turned them loose. By the end of our short fishing expedition, I was fairly certain I had converted two new fly fishermen.
The weekend was gorgeous and the bright sun kept everyone down by the lake and in the water. It is always difficult to leave the lake and all the magic that happens there. The ride home is always a little longer than the trip there. I count the days until I can go back to Kamp Karefree.
I struggled to get out of bed Tuesday in order to meet Pete and get to the Rim at a decent time. We were off in short order and were on the creek by 7:30, but the first fish did not come for an hour. While the sun slow baked the valley to a comfortable 110, our day started at a perfect 66 degrees and slowly warmed to the low 80s. It never ceases to amaze me how one can drive an hour and a half and drop 30 degrees. I stuck to the top water throwing a tarantula pattern that had been given to me some time ago, and I found that hugging the bank with the fly would produce good fish. Most all of the fish brought to hand were healthy brown trout in the 10-12 inch range with a few pushing the bounds of 13 inches. It was a short day on the creek but extremely rewarding with the fish and wildlife we saw.