Fly Fishing for the Sonora Sucker

by | Feb 22, 2021 | Sonora Sucker fish

fish-ArizonaThere haven’t been a whole lot of fish to brag about this week on the blog despite being down here in Phoenix, Arizona on some of my favorite carp haunts.  The main reason is because the waters are cold due to snow melt from the Arizona mountains and chilly temperatures in town dipping to the low 40°’s at night and only upper 60°’s for a high.  But good news, each day this week the temps are rising and tomorrow it’s forecasted to reach 80°.


Mike-FaulkinburyIn order to give the urban fishing one more day to warm up, I asked my friend Steve Berry if we could fish outside the city and try to get me a new species on the fly, the Sonora sucker.  Steve responded, “Absolutely”, and then called friend, Mike Faulkinbury.  It turns out that Mike not only fly fishes for Sonora suckers often, but he’s retired and came to join us to show us around.


Salt-RiverI’m not too worried about hordes of anglers chasing down suckers on the fly so I can report that we met Mike at 10 AM below the Stewart Mountain Dam on the Salt River.  The dam forms Saguaro Lake and a beautiful desert river with low flows this time of year.  The water is clear and while most anglers seek the stocked rainbow trout, there are plenty of largemouth bass, carp and suckers.  Mike was quick to point out several suckers clinging to the bottom.


Sonora-suckerThere are at least 16 different species of suckers in North America.  Its not normal for this family of fishes to take a fly because their primary way to feed is to vacuum the bottom sucking on rocks.  But they do eat nymphs and over the years I’ve taken a few different species by accident.  Still, to flat out target one of these Sonora’s wasn’t going to be easy.


Jeff-CurrierThe method to catch any sucker is to get a nymph or small fly of some sort within inches of their face.  With current and sometimes deep water, this task isn’t so easy.  Mike, Steve and I all worked profusely for hours trying to entice a strike.  It was me that hooked up first.


There was a problem however, although it looked as if this Sonoran sucker charged my fly, he was fouled by my damsel nymph.  I got him right in the pectoral fin.  Nonetheless, the fish put on an awesome contest and this particular one nearly showed me my backing twice.  I was fishing my new Winston Air 2 5-weight and all I could think was – I better not break this new rod!


Currier-Sonora-suckerUnfortunately, snagged fish don’t make my species list.  Regardless, this was the first Sonora sucker I’ve ever held and I admired him to the max.  This was a big guy over 20” and likely around 4lbs.  The colors are amazing as are the scale pattern and huge tail.  After the good look I released him and went back to work.


flyfishingAfter that excitement the three of us continued to try to fool one of these unique fish.  We found a good spot where all three of us could try.  We had a nice school of Sonora’s and they didn’t spook (which tells you how bad they see).  Finally, after several hours passed and we were nearly ready to give up, Steve had one legitimately pick up his small nymph.  Game on!


Steve-Berry-flyfishingMike and I watched yet another good battle from the desert dwelling fish.  Steve got his rod bent deep for several minutes.  Finally, the first officially caught Sonora sucker of the day came to hand.  We snapped of a few quick pictures and released him back to the wild.


We fished hard for another hour but none of us could hook another sucker.  Mike moved on to some small bass and caught a few.  Steve and I kept trying but as the sun went down it got tougher and tougher to see them.  Soon we called it a day.


Sonora-suckerWell, you win some and you lose some.  I thought for sure I’d pull off a new species today but it wasn’t in the cards.  I had my chances.  I simply couldn’t get it done.  As bleak as it may seem, it only gets me more fired up to get one of these Sonoran rascals in the future.  Tomorrow its back to the grass carp canals of Phoenix!


Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing


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I started fly fishing at age 7 in the lakes and ponds of New England cutting my teeth on various sunfish, bass, crappie and stocked trout. I went to Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, where I graduated with a Naturalist Degree while I discovered new fishing opportunities for pike, muskellunge, walleyes and various salmonids found in Lake Superior and its tributaries.

From there I headed west to work a few years in the Yellowstone region to simply work as much as most people fish and fish as much as most people work. I did just that, only it lasted over 20 years working at the Jack Dennis Fly Shop in Jackson, WY where I departed in 2009. Now it’s time to work for "The Man", working for myself that is.

I pursue my love to paint fish, lecture on every aspect of fly fishing you can imagine and host a few trips to some of the most exotic places you can think of. My ultimate goal is to catch as many species of fish on fly possible from freshwater to saltwater, throughout the world. I presently have taken over 440 species from over 60 countries!