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.
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.