While most fly fishers that pass through Phoenix, Arizona don’t bring their fly rods, I always do. In fact, Phoenix is one of my favorite places to travel for work because the fishing here is so enjoyable. Personally I like chasing the grass carp (white Amur) in the ponds in and around the city limits. Grass carp are incredibly challenging with the fly and chasing them is the ultimate. Not only do these ponds have the grass carp but also koi, common carp, largemouth bass, bluegill sunfish and black crappie. Sometimes I venture northeast to the Mogollon Rim where trout fishing can be fantastic or not too far beyond even fish for Apache Trout. And when I get the chance I love to fly fish the reputable bass lakes found in every direction.
I arrived in Arizona last night and will be presenting my latest creation, “Fly Fishing Through Midlife Heaven” to Desert Fly Casters on Wednesday night. This is a PowerPoint presentation highlighting what I can honestly say has been the best year of fishing and traveling of my life. A year ago I was a little nervous about my career adjustment but so far it’s surpassed my wildest expectations.
I’m here early so I can do some fishing. Today I went with friends and hosts Steve Berry and Cinda Howard. Both of them are locals and know the fishing inside and out. Steve is a fulltime spokesman and helicopter pilot for the city of Mesa, Arizona Police Department. He devotes much of his free time to fly fishing. He not only fishes but he is very involved with the community teaching fly fishing and is president of Desert Fly Casters fly fishing club. Cinda is fulltime in the fly fishing business. She manages the Orvis Fly Shop in Scottsdale, AZ, teaches fly fishing and is also very involved in Desert Fly Casters fly fishing club. She is frequently found harassing the fish of Arizona but also hosts trips around the world. Her most recent adventure took her to Alaska with Midnight Sun Trophy Pike Adventures where she landed numerous northern pike over 45 inches!
Our jaunt began today with a three hour drive to Canyon Creek on the Mogollon Rim. Although scorching hot in Phoenix, it was a comfortable 70° in the mountains. We arrived at the creek at about 9:30 and hiked a mile downstream from where we parked and cut off to start fishing. This stream is tiny. In some places it’s as narrow as three feet across and in its widest spots not more than fifteen feet. I don’t do enough small stream fishing at home so today was a true pleasure. While Steve and Cinda rigged up dry-dropper rigs (a dry fly with a nymph dangling below tied off to the hook of the dry fly) I went straight dry with a size 10 Chernobyl ant.
On any small creek I prefer to start downstream and fish up. Assuming most river trout face upstream into the current, I have a better chance at them not seeing me and spooking. I fish fast but thoroughly dropping my fly on all the good looking spots. I generally find small stream trout aren’t too selective so if I don’t get a strike on the first drift I move up a few steps and hit the next spot.
The other thing about a small stream like Canyon Creek is that if you’re fishing with friends you either split up and fish different sections or stay together and take turns. You just can’t have three people jockeying for spots and expect the fish to hang around. Cinda, Steve and I have a lot of catching up to do so we stayed together and took turns. Cinda went first and Steve and I kicked back to watch. It quickly became apparent that there were plenty of aggressive small brown trout that were literally only 4 to 6 inches. Steve dropped into the next run and hit a very nice rainbow that I’d of guessed to be nearly 14 inches. I was surprised to see such a nice sized trout out on this tiny creek but it turns out Cinda and Steve have caught a few monsters over the years that broke the 20” mark!
Canyon Creek was not only full of trout today but it was absolutely gorgeous. The trees are just beginning to turn and while the most places are full swing into fall, it is just starting here. Between the three of us we must have caught a dozen trout and a wolf spider. Yes you heard me correctly, a wolf spider. The spider was nearly the size of my Ross Evolution reel. We spotted him crossing the road near the river and after a photo or two I messed with him for a minute. I set my Chernobyl in front of him and twitched it a few times. At first there was no reaction but then like a striking rattlesnake he attacked my ant and went into a full blown wrestling match with the fly. When he discovered it wasn’t real he let go and appeared very embarrassed.
We ended the day with one of the best meals imaginable. We had it thanks to a mutual friend, Chef Michael DelMaria, who kindly invited us to have dinner with him at his fantastic new restaurant called Heirloom. Heirloom is located in North Scottsdale at the DC Ranch. I have known Chef Michael for years because he is a veteran angler of the Jackson Hole One Fly Contest. All I can say is that if you ever get the chance to eat at Heirlooms, I’d highly recommend it. Every course of the delicious meal was superb starting with our appetizers and ending with our desert. Chef even has his own special blends of coffee to finish off the evening.
Tomorrow is an urban fishing day in the lakes and ponds around Phoenix. We are fishing around the city because we need to be done early as I will be giving my presentation at the Desert Fly Casters fly fishing club. Expect to see some cool carp pictures here tomorrow!