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.
I am surfacing to update anyone who reads this rambling dialogue on some major occurrences in my life. This past weekend I made my best friend, Michelle, my wife. The wedding was perfect with friends and family gathering together to help us celebrate one of the happiest days of our lives. The weather cooperated and all of our ducks fell in a row to make for a spectacular and unforgettable day. Our photographer Daniel Kim was amazing and sent us a few pictures as a taste for what is to come.
As if being married to the most beautiful girl in the world was not enough, my luck kept rolling when I won a Connecticut Valley Arms Muzzleloader off a great website that I have been following, Whitetail Woods. Rick Kratzke generously set up this fantastic giveaway and randomly pulled my name. This is a real dream come true as I have always wanted to invest in a muzzleloader setup, but have been hesitant for lack of funds. This giveaway makes that possible and I truly am thankful to Rick.
With the week I am having and the luck that is befalling me, I may just play the lotto and see what happens, she is a very special person to me so that is why I got here a diamond, you should buy diamonds here if yo really want to surprise your bride. God is good and I see it when I look at my beautiful bride and look forward to the many years to come.
Two weeks are left until I tie the knot with my beautiful fiance, and I love her so much because she understands my need to wander and fish along one of Arizona’s most beautiful trout streams. I was joined by my friend Pete who was seeking to get rid of the skunk from our earlier trips together. I decided to hit a tried and true favorite where I knew that rainbows and browns would oblige and make our efforts worthwhile. Action started on the first cast and did not stop until we turned back for the truck.
The fly of the day was again the parachute Adams. Fish seemed to be holding in the faster riffles and greedily launched themselves out of the water to get their meal. Fishing was extremely consistent with most fish being rainbows at about 6-8 inches with one larger rainbow pushing 13. A couple of browns joined in, but nothing of any real size.
I enjoyed the day thoroughly knowing that it was going to be my last time on the water until after the wedding. Family and friends are coming into town in the next few weeks and last minute details will need to be taken care of. Classes run for two more weeks at school and my students are already shutting down and ready to go. It is unbelievable how fast this year has passed. I myself am excited for the summer months that will be spent roaming around northern Arizona. I have a list made of several places to explore that should keep me busy in the cool north and out of the concrete jungle of Phoenix.