My friend Travis invited Michelle and I to his in-laws ranch in New Mexico for the 4th. The ranch is located north of Reserve outside of the little town of Apache Creek. I brought my fly rod along hoping to get a few hours of time to check out some of the local creeks.
I first stopped at Tularosa River later in the afternoon and rigged my rod up for about an hour. The portion of “river” (and I use that term loosely) ran though pastureland which I gather must have impacted it’s quality. The river was small with places to step across but the water was full of crawfish and some type of fish, which I imagine were chubs. The afternoon sun made it difficult to fish and time restraints pushed me back to the ranch.
The next day, Travis and I woke up early and met an old timer who was going to drive us to a remote spot on the San Francisco River where hopefully we could get into some fish. From the hills above the river we were pretty excited about our prospects but as we walked along the river we were sadly disappointed. The cattle had done a number on the stream bed which was extremely silty and the river flowed very wide and slow. What little quality river the cattle had left had been further decimated by beavers who had chewed down most every tree in the two miles of river we walked. On our way back to the truck we were fairly disappointed that we did not even see a fish, but I stopped at the three fishy looking holes and threw a simi seal bugger with legs into each of these holes. All three held at least one fish and I actually hooked up with one of them but he quickly jumped off. It was a tough morning and left our spirits fairly low.
That evening the whole group made our way to Quemado Lake to try out the fishing there. In the hour and a half we spent on the shore, the wind put up a pretty serious fight. After helping to rig up some poles for the kids, I briefly attempted to throw my 3 weight into the steady wind. After throwing everything and no luck, everyone packed up and headed back ranch.
This was my first time to the area and these were the closest pieces of water. After taking some time to think about it here are some things that I would do different:
Tularosa River – After doing some more reading I probably was too far downstream to see any real success. Add the fact that it was 3:00 in the afternoon in New Mexico and there is no big surprise I did not catch anything. In the future I would head farther up.
San Francisco River – Although from above this river looked great, upon closer inspection the section of river we fished was such poor quality. If I went back, I would make a day trip and hike to the Box where the reports are better. In truth, I learned much about the fragile nature of a stream and how outside forces can be extremely destructive to a fishery.
Quemado Lake – Bring the 5 weight and boat/float tube
In closing, there were several other waters that were close that I did not have time to check out and creeks and rivers that were a little bit of a drive that also had positive reports. The Gila Wilderness is also not far and could offer many opportunities to fish new water. I look forward to getting back to New Mexico and scouring this area for productive water.
Pete and I spent a couple days on the Rim and had some success getting into some fish. We must have been right behind the hatchery truck because we were catching an insane amount of rubbery stockers at most of the road crossings. Catching stockers is enjoyable but not my favorite thing in the world; so we moved farther upstream and found several ideal holes where several larger fish were lurking. Gorgeous weather greeted us in the mornings, but both days saw ominous thunderheads rolling over the Rim in the late afternoon. The name of the game was the simi-seal leeches drifted deep under an indicator. I really like using simi-seal because it is so colorful and catches the light really well. This product is also extremely efficient so I can knock out tons of these leeches in a short amount of time. In the end, the new water we fished was very promising and I look forward to getting back up there and going much further upstream to see what this unique stream holds.
I like to camp. I like to hike. I like to fly fish and hunt. Put those together and it was only a matter of time before I would be investing (sinking some serious coin) into some backpacking gear, including the best backpack from https://thepnw.co/. I am also interested on investing in gold. Since recently getting married, I convinced my beautiful and easygoing wife to join me in the investment and we soon found ourself perusing the maze of gear at a few different outdoors stores. The first thing that really smacks you across the face is the simple glance at the price tag. Quality (and I use that term loosely) gear is less than affordable and the price can quickly spiral out of control. We decided to start with the basics but to also by quality gear that would stand up to years of abuse. Backpacks and sleeping bags were the big ticket items that put a dent in the budget, but in the end we were both pleased with our purchases. Two other important items also made the cut: water purification system and a jet boil with a French press attachment. The jet boil is not the smallest or the lightest product, but I will sacrifice the extra weight for a quality cup of joe in the morning or mid-morning or lunch or whenever seems appropriate. We already had an extremely nice tent that is sufficient for our current trips, so that relieved another expense that really would have put us in the weeds.
Michelle and I are avid car campers, having made our way across the United States last summer, but this was our first real backpacking expedition. We wanted to keep things simple, short, and relatively close to home. We opted to visit the tall pines and cool water that are afforded to the hiker at the West Fork of Oak Creek. In order to camp on this trip, the hiker is forced to go a minimum of six miles to get out of Red Rock and into the Wilderness area. The first three miles is relatively easy with the last three being a little more demanding with several areas to wade and bushwhack. With a little bit of a late start, we arrived at Call of the Canyon parking lot and started on our journey. We made our six miles in relatively good time, set up camp in a beautiful location, and made ourselves some dinner. The light still hung in the sky so I broke out my fly rod and fished the couple hundred yards below camp with nothing to show. We played a few hands of cards and then crawled exhausted into our sleeping bags.
I arose early and as is my lady’s custom, she slept late. I spent an hour or so, just sitting and being still, enjoying a marvelous cup of coffee in the peace and quiet that only God’s creation can share. The world seems to truly come alive when one becomes quiet and just looks and listens to all the creatures, rocks, and trees around them. As I sat, the sun crested the hill and made it’s way higher into the sky chasing the shadows out of the canyon. After breakfast, we broke camp and made our way back to the car. The pack out was much faster than the pack in with dreams of Subway dancing in our heads and quickening or pace. We arrived at the car dirty, tired, and hungry but very much alive and happy.
Our experience overall was positive. Everyone had a good time and we learned much about what is necessary and what is not. We look forward to a few more trips this summer with our goal at some point to hike into the Grand Canyon and then back out. It is a pretty tall order but one that could be done if we put our mind to it.
Since moving to this state I have heard stories and read accounts of the White Mountain Apache Reservation and the miles of trout water that can be found there. Pete and I spent Thursday and Friday driving around, getting lost, and sampling several different locations found in the heart of the Reservation. Having never been to that part of the state and armed with a few very inaccurate maps, our goal was to see what was there and really get our bearings for future trips. The fishing was slow and much time was lost trying to figure out where we were and where we were going but in my opinion the trip was a success.
Our first stop was on the North Fork of the White River where we first set up camp and hiked up from the campground in the afternoon. Our first hint about the fishing should have been the large numbers of campers there on a Thursday with more than a few with a stringer full of trout. Most of the sites were full and even though we walked a mile or two we only had a few hookups a piece with no fish brought to the net. The evening was spent around a campfire discussing the following day’s options. We awoke for coffee and found that we had two large steers as breakfast guests. After breaking down camp we made our way to a small stream (shown above) flowing from one of the high mountain lakes and spent an hour or more exploring the canyon.
One small rainbow came out to play in a stream that looked unable to support any life whatsoever. We climbed out the canyon, had a bite to eat and blundered our way to Earl Park, a fly fishing designated catch and release lake. The time that we spent fishing this lake was not ideal being in the middle of the afternoon. We stayed at the lake for roughly three hours but the wind was so steady and miserable, we opted to check out one more spot before we embarked on our trip home. The East Fork of the White River was by far the most appealing piece of water that we stepped foot into with perfect pocket water and a multitude of bugs coming off the water. Despite these near perfect conditions, we did not have any luck connecting on any fish and darkness soon pushed us back to the truck and onto the road for the long ride back to town.
Overall, this trip to arguably one of the most beautiful spots in Arizona did not turn out like I had imagined. In planning, I had envisioned multitudes of fish being brought to my net, but that was not to be the case. Instead, much of our time was spent driving and scouting the area that was largely unmarked which made it difficult to accurately navigate the confusing backroads of the reservation. In the end, the experience and information gathered over the two days was extremely beneficial and I look forward to getting back to the White Mountains to put that information to good use.
I wanted to say another big thank you to Rick over at Whitetail Woods. He randomly drew my name and I was the winner of a fine CVA muzzleloader which I look forward getting familiar with. A few simple photos of my prize will have to suffice for now with more to come once I can get out on the range. Thank you again Rick for your generosity.
After the Titanic-themed morning on Thursday, our original Captain Jeremy felt bad about putting us on a sinking ship and took us out for an evening of bait-fishing. Each evening before a charter, the captain of the boat speeds out in the dark to fish for scad mackerel or ‘opelu as the Hawaiians call it. This 6-10 inch fish serves as the perfect bait for mahi, ono, ahi, and just about any other big fish cruising around the fishing buoys. Fishing for the ‘opelu was interesting and once you got the technique down it was pretty easy. We put out into the main channel and jigged for the mackerel with miniature glowing hooks. Since ‘opelu have such soft mouths, setting the hook has to be done gently and playing the fish to the boat is important so that you do not rip a hook right out of their jaws. Between six of us, the live tank was filled with 30 fish in under an hour with a good time had by all.
On Saturday morning, we stood red-eyed and ready on the deck of the floating Kai Akua and rumbled out of the harbor for a two hour ride to our fishing spot. The sky was getting light as we pulled up to our intended destination and lines were immediately put into the water. The first reel started to sing and I had a fish on. Adrenaline coursed through my whole body as a worked the fish closer to the boat until finally the ahi was gaffed and pulled into the boat.
The boat saw two other bites and two other “small ‘kine” yellowfin pulled in but nothing else. We cruised through one section of water that appeared promising that was teaming with dolphins, a good sign of other fish, but had no other bites for the day. We headed back in to the harbor where we took some pictures and then filleted our catch of the day and realized we were the only boat to catch anything that day. For the next day until we left I enjoyed fresh delicious ahi which was the perfect meal to end our stay on Maui. Overall we had a wonderful time and would highly recommend this trip to anyone who would be on that side of Maui for any length of time. Captain Jeremy Webb of the Kai Akua is a standup gentleman who runs a great ship.
After tying the knot with my beautiful wife, we scuttled off to Maui for our honeymoon with couples massages, our high end hotel room equipped with BirchBoxes for my newly wed wife to use each morning, and walks on the beach in our thoughts. Before choosing Maui as our honeymoon destination we were using this Travel Destinations website which helped us consider other destination options. Since this is more an fishing/hunting chronicle, I will skip to the romantic part where my gorgeous bride proves herself to be a class-A girl. As we roamed the streets and shops of Lahaina town on West Maui we found ourself walking by the marina where many different canopies are set up displaying boating packages to do anything from scuba and snorkeling to sunset dinner and even… fishing. I tell the truth when I say that this was her idea, and as we walked amongst the different fishing vessels and talked to a few different captains, we settled on the Kai Akua, captained by Jeremy Webb. Jeremy did not have anything on the day we wished but pointed us to one of his associates who would be able to take us out on our desired schedule. All was set and we went to bed early to meet our captain at 2:45 am to catch the morning bite on the backside of Lanai.
2:45 came early but found us loading food and beverages on the boat ready for a big day ahead. Our new captain explained the game plan for the day and had just finished explaining where the life jackets were when he fired up the engines and slowly moved the boat out of the slip and towards the exit of the harbor. Never having been on a boat this big, I really did not know what to think, but I did notice that we seemed to be tipping or listing. Our deckhand opened up hatches to the engine to find excessive amounts of water gushing into our hull. We were about a hundred yards from the slip and made a dash to get back before the boat literally sunk. Everyone on board had to stand in the exact center of the boat so that it would remain afloat and once we were close enough to the dock, the girls were put on dry land and everyone else started bailing. Long story short, we bailed for over an hour waiting for someone with a pump to show up. When no one did, we abandoned ship and sat and watched the seawater pour over the sides and push the boat to the bottom of the harbor. Sandwiches and drinks floated in the oil stained marina as our bait fish swam around the deck of the boat. No one was going fishing today.
Now you may be thinking to yourself that if one was lucky enough to sink in the harbor and not in the open ocean, they should call it even and not tempt the ocean again. Not us. We took the approach of “get back on the horse that bucked you.” We had planned on going fishing, and we were going to go fishing.
P.S. We were truly lucky to be in the harbor when the ship started taking on water. I cannot imagine being in open water at 3 or 4 in the morning bobbing around in the pitch black with live and dead bait floating next to me. Later evidence showed that the exhaust had somehow blown a hole and was sucking in water faster than we were actually bailing. The ship was pumped and brought to the surface by the end of the day but the company and captain have some decisions to make about whether to repair the boat or scrap it. Scary situation, but a real gem of a memory.