Winter has been long and wet. Rain and snow has made fishing difficult and slow, but the large snow pack will provide a good amount of water to sustain a quality summer fishing season. I have had the past week off of school with the added bonus of next week too. Life is good, but the first half of the week found me checking off a to-do-list. Tomorrow, I will be headed to the Rim do a little reconnaissance fishing for next week. If tomorrow shows promise, you will find me huddled around a campfire for a few nights next week as I continue to fish the Rim. Tying has continued to involve most of my down time. After being booted from the dining room table (which was perfect because of the plethora of room), I managed to snag a rickety little “desk” for the hunting room and continue to practice wrapping feathers onto hooks with grand visions of the fish they will catch.
My buddy Pete and I planned earlier in the week that today, Saturday, would be a fine time to stretch our legs and see what is happening in some of the different waters here in Arizona. Several suggestions were tossed around and we were finally able to agree on Oak Creek in Sedona. Last weekend left me hopeful for warm weather and sunshine, but the narrow canyon of Oak Creek had different plans. I checked the weather report before I left and rain was forecasted, but as we pulled into our staging area, we were greeted by snow flurries. It was not very long before both Pete and I were soaked and cold from the wintery mix that plagued the day. We threw a delicious feast before the trout in the creek but it was not until Pete chose stonefly nymphs that we saw any sign of life. Pete had several takes but neither of us brought a fish to hand. Overall, I was surprised that the creek was not higher, although with the precipitation that was coming down, who knows how it will be after these next couple days. The day ended with a fine dinner affair at a local BBQ restaurant that left me uncomfortably full and not in any condition for the drive back to the valley. Even with no fish brought to the net, I consider the day a success. I spent the dark drive home planning time to tie stonefly nymphs and take another trip to Oak Creek.
Normally weekends can find me fishing the small streams that Arizona has to offer. Unfortunately, many of those creeks are running full tilt due to rain and runoff. My buddy has been asking me to go to Lake Pleasant with him for some time and so I conceded. I have been working on tying up several different patterns specifically for the lakes. The “frog” is constructed from sparkle foam from a local craft store and when I tried him out at the local pond, his open face created the perfect effect of a swimming frog when stripped across the surface.
No day fishing is a waste. Having said that, trying to fish rivers and creeks overflowing with runoff rain and melted snow can be frustrating and slow. Weather reports predicted a beautiful warm sunny Arizona day and their forecast was correct. I had read different reports on this particular creek and had passed it several times on my way to Oak Creek. Knowing full well that everywhere else was going to be equally horrific, I chose to explore here for several hours. Wet Beaver Creek shows promise as it looks like most other small Arizona Creeks, and in my mind I can imagine big brown trout hunkered down behind each large rock, but today was not one of those memorable days of dragging in fish after fish. The creek was bloated with cloudy water and both banks were packed with sediment, logs, and whatever else the water picked up in the epic downpour. I fished extremely hard but did not even see a fish or feel a bump, but made use of my time practicing my roll casts and unsightly double-haul. In the future, I can see spending the time to hike in further and camp once the weather warms and the water recedes. I would like to think that I learned a valuable lesson today about not fishing saturated creeks, but rest assured I will be whipping the same horse next weekend. On a side note, I wrestled with actually posting this picture taken on my cell phone, and eventually decided to leave it as a reminder to myself that cell phones are for making phone calls and I really need to bite the bullet and buy a real camera.
I began teaching at a Phoenix area school this year. This particular school has so many great programs that invigorate students to be active and these programs create a campus life that is like no other. Within a short period of time, several students found out that I had a fishing addiction and began pushing the concept of starting a fishing club. Within a few short months of the seed being planted, the Fishing Club began to take root and grow. Our inaugural outing with the Fishing Club resulted in one fish for the group during the 4-5 hours that we fished. I had the opportunity to tie on and bait hooks, attach bobbers, undo
“rat’s nests” and a small opportunity to wet my own line. It was really a great experience at our first trip to the Salt River. Unfortunately, due to the historical rainstorms that swept through and flooded the valley, the fish seem to have migrated south into Mexico. Our school photographer showed up and managed to catch me deciding which fly to throw at the mysteriously absent fish. Overall, the students and I had beautiful weather and made good memories outside of the classroom. The goal of the Fishing Club is to give students an opportunity to be outside with others and enjoy the art/activity of fishing. We are attempting to plan an outing each month to different locations around Arizona. Our first trip was a success with many more to come…
When reading back over my limited experience fly fishing, one can see that a majority of my limited success in catching fish has come from very specific flies. The parachute adams and other variations have produced very well for me largely in part because I can maintain visual contact with my fly and see the strike. Since buying a vice, my main goal was to become proficient at producing these flies with my own hands. Tonight I found several moments to give it a try and came up with something relatively close. As always, these metal hooks ensnarled in thread and feathers are very far from perfect let alone good, but I could not help but smile when they were done. I must keep practicing.
I find myself wandering more than I should over various blogs and sites looking at tyers that are more practiced and skilled than I could ever hope to be. It never ceases to amaze me the imagination and creativity some possess. Since buying my vice and my few meager supplies, I wander frequently to one particular site in particular and I have had my eye on tying the “Hopper Juan.” I sat and tied feverishly for an hour and completed two flies that slightly resemble the original and several that will find their way to the scrap pile. Summertime will be prime time to tie this to the end of my leader and tempt a fish or two. They truly do not do the creator justice so please check out the original at the Hopper Juan.
Despite monumental amounts of rain in the Valley of the Sun and road closing snow in the high country, my mind never wanders far from fish filled waters. I spent a good amount of time this week at my vice. My tying is far from perfect, but it has become much more enjoyable because my flies are taking on some resemblance of their desired goal. Starting off, I stopped by the Orvis store in Scottsdale and had it in my mind to spend a Christmas gift card that my very understanding uncle and aunt had given me. It took me less then 15 minutes to blow through the limit, which is actually more time than I had thought it would take. Loaded with tying materials and a good book, I was on my way to start tying up some flies. I started easy and launched into a batch of brassies followed by a more laborious project of the bead-headed pheasant tails. Over time, I actually started to enjoy tying the pheasant tail nymphs and look forward to getting them wet in Arizona water.
I always look forward to Fridays. Generally, I am able to escape from work a little earlier than the usual 4 o’clock quitting time and my trip home takes me home close enough to stop by Cabelas or Sportsman’s Warehouse to say hi and paw through tying materials. This Friday, as usual, I stopped and was looking through various feathers and furs and actually opted out of several purchases because of the price. Usually my thought is, “I’ll just keep my eyes open,” or “maybe I can acquire what I need while I’m hunting.” After church on Sunday, Michelle had to stop at her “Cabelas” a.k.a. Jo-anne Fabrics. Usually, I wait helplessly in the front sitting area of the store specifically designed for men to drink coffee and look dejected. Today was different. Today, I felt empowered and started pawing through beads, feathers, fur, foam, and yarn. I believe I actually walked to the counter with more in my arms than my fiance did. I found that Jo-anne Fabrics is not a complete waste of time. I was able to find much cheaper beads, marabou, goose biots, and foam. Since being turned on to Jo-anne’s though, now I’ll have no excuse to complain when we go to a craft store. I had a bit of fun with foam once we left and tied several beetle/ant/bug contraptions. They are not pretty, but others seem to have success with them and they are extremely fun to tie.
I am looking forward to tying more and can not describe how much joy I receive from tying flies, but there is no substitute for standing knee deep in water and feeling that tug on the end of my line. Michelle agreed and looks forward to the day when her kitchen counter is no longer considered “fly tying central.”