Most people will never understand why I get up before dawn, in the rain, snow, or summer heat, to stand at water's edge. Whenever I am asked why I do it, my response is..."for the rise."

Esox of AZ

Posted in Arizona on July 10th, 2011 by kyle

Esox Lucius…. Doesn’t that just sound mean?? Esox Lucius, or more commonly referred to as Northern Pike, is just that; a mean, hard fighting, predatory fish. I can’t think of a more fun fish to chase this close to home with a fly rod. Native to the far North, Pike have found their way into many cool waters further South. Just a few waters in Arizona hold them so I felt lucky to go chase them with Matt Harrison on Saturday.

It was 91* at 3:00 AM when I picked up Matt. After a long week we were ready to get out of the Valley. We headed North towards Flagstaff and watched the temperature drop down to the 50s as we left the freeway surrounded by Pines.
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Our target lake was reached before 6:00 AM. Lake Mary offers the best chance of catching numbers of smaller Pike. Recently the Game and Fish caved to the pressure of the trout loving bait chuckers who cried about how the pike had “ruined” their good trout fishing. Game and Fish netted most of the large pike in the State out of Ashurst Lake this Spring. Ashurst was pumping out 20lb fish in recent years. Its beyond me why someone would rather catch finless 10 inch stocker rainbows instead of trophy Pike but thats another story.

Back at Lake Mary we got out of the car and stretched with big smiles on our faces to be breathing cool mountain air and fly fishing for Pike. An Elk was bugling just out of sight in the far trees across the lake. It was just a good morning!
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Matt is an incredible tier and had a box ready with LARGE rabbit fur streamers.
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Matt picked a good one and got to casting.
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I did the same and within 15 minutes I was fast to a fish. The Pike grabbed the fly about 10 feet from me and absolutely burned the line through the water and through my fingers in an initial run. As the fish was slowing down, sadly, the hook pulled free. I was shaking and excited and immediately got back to casting. What a rush! The fish felt huge but in hindsight was probably around 30″.

20 minutes later I got a second chance and hooked into a smaller, but still feisty Pike. After a short battle the fish came to hand and smiled for a few pictures.
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Matt hooked a big fish a half hour later. The fish chased the fast moving streamer to the surface. When Matt pulled the line tight the fish exploded on the surface. We both got a quick look and figured it was probably just over 30″. The short fight sounded like a bowling ball was dropped in the water and the surface was disturbed for quite a while after. Fun fishing.

A few more fish came to hand for both of us over the next hour. Nothing huge but each one unique.
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A huge thanks to Matt for providing the flies and great company. Also the stunning pictures. Most of these (all of the good ones) are from behind his lens. Besides a talented fly fisherman and tier he is also an accomplished photographer. I’m sure we’ll be back again to get those big ones that got away. The Esox will be waiting, ready to smash the daylights out of anything they can fit in those toothy jaws.

Apache Weekend

Posted in Arizona on June 20th, 2011 by kyle

A few months ago a trip was planned by www.azflyandtie.com.  We rented out an entire lake in hopes of incredible dry fly fishing for Arizona’s own, the Apache Trout.  This fish, found nowhere else on earth, looks like a cross between a Brown Trout and a Bonneville Cutthroat.  Imagine a Bonneville Cutt as far as markings and size go, but yellow/gold in color similar to a Brown.  Our destination was Hurricane Lake on the White Mountain Apache Reservation.  This lake is managed only for Apache Trout and produced the world record Apache weighing almost six pounds.  I’ve been excited about this trip for months.

Unfortunately, on May 29th, an enormous forest fire ignited in the beautiful White Mountains.  Due to high winds, hot temps, and a dry winter, this fire has burned for nearly a month.  As of three hours ago this fire had consumed over 500,000 acres of the worlds largest Ponderosa Pine forest making it the largest fire in Arizona history.
http://www.inciweb.org/incident/2262/
I’ve heard numbers like close to 80% of the Apache Trout restoration literally went up in flames with this fire.  :(

Hurricane Lake was directly effected and the forest service has closed it for at least the next 90 days.  The trip was called off… then rescheduled for Hawley Lake.  I almost canceled, knowing that Hawley is mostly a put and take with a slim chance of a big Brown.  I did some research and found Earl Park was close by, and that it held nice Apaches on occasion.  Game on!

I left work at 3:00 on Friday.  The temperature in my car read 111* as I drove to meet Jason Jones.  The mountains were calling in a big way.  After a three hour drive we arrived to beautiful Hawley Lake.  We found a good spot for the tents, set up camp and got out the camp chairs.  I was short on a few flies so broke out the vise and tied half a dozen midges for the next morning.
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My bench for the evening.
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At 4:15 we arose and made the short, 1/2 mile drive to Earl Park.  In the early light we could see several fish rising. We set up the toons and I snapped a quick pic of the pretty little lake.
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Neither of us had fished it so I spent most of the early morning paddling around its 47 acres.
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It seemed most of the fish were concentrated near the ramp.  I fished hard on the far side hoping to find some hungry fish but didnt even get a tap.  ”Never leave fish to find fish”, I kept saying to myself as I paddled back to Jason.  I was almost into position when a big yellow fish slammed my bright orange indicator. haha

I set out of surprise then cast back to the same spot hoping the fish would hit on the fall.  Nothing… I worked the area some more and five casts later my indicator tanked and I was fast to a fish.  The fish went nuts, the 3wt VXP bent deeply and the click pawl reel sang as line flew off of it.  As I got the fish closer I realized it wasn’t a Brown but a HUGE Apache Trout.  I netted the fish a minute later then lifted 20″ of Apache from the water!
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Talk about being spoiled!  The world record is 24″.  Pics were hard by myself but I got a few.
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This was my only fish of the morning.  We called it and headed in after that.  As we were pulling the boats out we notice a few nice fish cruising near shore.  Jason made a good cast and the fish took!  He fought it to the net which measured the fish at 18″ but when he took it out of the net it squirmed free and swam off.  I was next and put a blood worm in front of one of the cruisers.  The fish tipped up and sucked the fly in not 10 feet from me.  Oh yeah!!
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It was a clone of Jasons and much more colored up than my first.
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I was in heaven and more than satisfied with the trip already.  We headed back to camp to eat and get ready for the afternoon.  Our afternoon target was a nearby stream with more Apache’s.  The stream did not disappoint. Perfect pocket water everywhere.
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On the first drift an Apache came up and hit the size 10 Stimulator!  I missed the take but put it right back where I had cast.  The fish came back from under the rock and hit it again.  I missed again, threw it back and it came back again! haha  I finally connected and brought the little gem to hand.
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The next two hours were fish after fish.  Most of the fish came on the SOS nymph but several smashed the dry as well.
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Jason scored the best looking fish of the day.  I was floored by the color.  I’ll be back to this stream.
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We ran back to the Earl hoping the night bite was on.  I broke off another big Apache on a sulfur dunn then caught
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I actually yelled, “they do exist!”.  Meaning Brookies in AZ.  There are not too many Brookies South of where I was until WAY past the equator.

Dinner last night was a pot luck.  I ate entirely too much of all of this and lots more I didnt take pics of.
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After all that food I two Aleve and crashed after one incredible day.  I never imagined i’d have a day like that my first time in the White Mountains.  I’m so glad I didnt bail out and look forward to many more adventures in Arizonas high country.

Sedona

Posted in Arizona on May 8th, 2011 by kyle

Caught my first AZ trout today. Felt good to catch a slimer again. :p

My family and I spent the weekend in beautiful Sedona.
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Woke up at 445 and cruised up the canyon to one of the many campgrounds. It was 45* and felt cold after being in 90-100* for weeks.
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Too cold and early for hatches, I chose to nymph with a small PT and a Higas SOS. The SOS did it, bringing 4 small Bows to hand and a Brown.
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Finished up before the sun hit the water and was back for blueberry pancakes with the fam.
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I should be fishing a bunch this month. Stay tuned for more reports.

Saguaro Lake

Posted in Arizona on April 23rd, 2011 by kyle

I’ll try to make this as interesting as possible. Be warned, this post will not contain pics of twenty something inch trout and all photos are from a phone. I know, i’ve been slacking on reports.

In January I moved my family down to GIlbert AZ. Its definetly different from Utah but we like it. I actually like everything about it besides missing my family and the fishing. Having been suffering from trout withdrawals, I was trying to get up to Becker Reservoir today but waited too long to plan it. I couldnt find anyone to go with and with gas at $3.75 I couldnt justify the cost to go by myself.

I bought a Sage 3200 reel and had to try it out so I loaded up the family and we headed to nearby Saguaro Lake. The drive up along the Salt River is really pretty.
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Its wasn’t too hot today, mid 80s, so we packed a BBQ. When we got there we unloaded the car then headed down to the lake. With my wife and baby on the shore I couldnt fish long. Our daughter watched with great anticipation.
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The wind was blowing and the Sage I was tossing is just a 4wt. I made about 20 casts, caught 3 Bluegills, wet waded in the warm water, and broke in a new reel. Felt good to be casting again.
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We made our way back to the shade and ate grilled honey cajun chicken, chips and pink lemonade.
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All in all a good day. I really like the 3200. Its really light, pretty, and I dont miss the drag at all. I’ll try to get out after some trout in the next two weeks. Apache Trout pics to come!