The Arizona Wild Trout Challenge, Day Four

Written by: Tyler Coleman

I hope this spot, overgrown and forgotten, continues to stay a secret.
Photos by Tyler Coleman

Day 4 of our adventure started early, with the normal morning rituals: taking care of Sebastian, eating breakfast, and packing up camp so we could head to the creek. There was a lot of discussion on which creek we would fish for brown trout. These fish seem to be the most difficult for me. Most of the time its not so much the fish, but the bad luck we run into on the days we choose to fish for them. Knowing my previous success rate, we decided to try a creek not too far from where we camped first and hope we would not need a plan B or C.

As we pulled up to the parking area, I was a bit bummed to see a a lot of people in one of the campgrounds. We got our gear on, put our rods together, and got Sebastian strapped in to his pack. It was early and the campsites were quiet, so I was hoping to get in and out before things got busy. When we came to the first water crossing, it was a bit of a shock to see no water. I had fished this creek a few times in the last few months and always had to cross moving water at this point.

Not a bad place to enjoy morning coffee.

Anastasia suggested that we should skip this creek and head to the next one, but I had caught some decent-size fish here in the past and wasn’t quite ready to give up on it. One of the pools I had caught fish in was a just ahead, but again we came to the bank only to see a dry wash. I talked her into hiking up to a deep pool that is pretty easy to miss if you are on the typical trail, so it seems to get less fishing pressure. Finally, we found water, and I crossed over to the pool I had been looking forward to in hopes of finding a hungry fish.

The last time I had fished this pool, I sneaked up to a large over hanging rock, dropped my fly just above the plunge, and immediately had a tight line. The pool is tight, only about 7 feet from the plunge to the tail end, but is deep enough for some nice browns. As I approached the pool, I figured what worked last time might just work again but found out quickly that I was wrong. Anastasia watched from a distance as I tried a few different presentations but eventually decided to move on.

Keeping Sebastian clean, dry, and happy was a big part of the trip.

Upstream we went, and the pressure of catching five species in five days started to take its toll. We had been on the road for four days, hiking all day, not getting much sleep, and making sure we kept our son happy. Anastasia wanted to head out, but I had found a few pools with fish. For one reason or another, however, I left with nothing in net. Finally, after the campers started coming out and the hiking trail got busy, I swallowed my pride and agreed to go with plan B.

I would like to think I am not alone when it comes to being determined to catch fish in a spot you know has been good to you in the past–especially after losing a few decent ones that day. With not much time left to meet the Wild Trout Challenge deadline that I had set, I knew this was no time for letting my stubbornness get the best of me. We hiked back out to the car and drove to the next spot.

The rock at the head of this pool looks like a good hiding spot.

Keeping a low profile is important on these small streams.

The first creek receives a lot of fishing pressure, which takes a toll on the trout. The second spot is supposed to be more of an Arizona secret. A lot of people have done what they can to keep it quiet, but I seem to run into new people there every time. It seemed weird having my gear on and the rods ready to go because its not often we switch creeks in the same day. Leaving the car was much quicker than normal for that reason, and we headed down to the creek, excited to get on some fish.

As we got to the beggining of the trail, I heard a bell and started looking around for what could be making the sound. Around the corner came a little Dachshund and its owner, who had fly fishing gear in hand. I was not too excited to see another person because that normally means the spots we were going to had just been disturbed. However, it was nice to meet another person who had the same passion for wild trout as us. He told us he had been fishing the creeks in this area for around 20 years and shared some stories of how great they use to be. We continued on our path to see what the area would be like. It was warming up and we noticed a few hatches in the areas of the creek that had sun on them. Our first sign of life was a rising trout ahead. I have never been so excited to see that movement, so we switched flies and watched from a distance as the fish came up a few more times.

Changing flies and presentations wasn’t helping me land a brown trout.

My first couple casts drifted down with nothing showing interest, but I was then interrupted by a splash coming from the next run. When I looked upstream, I saw a tight line, bent rod, and all smiles. This was Anastasia’s first brown ever, so she was beyond excited to finally catch one. The fish was netted in the water, while I dug out the camera. After a quick photo, the happy trout was off to be caught another day.

A little snow, pock-marked with canine prints, was left in the shaded areas.

Now it was my turn. It sounds simple enough to catch one brown trout in a day, but not that day. We hiked farther into the mountain hoping to see feeding fish, but no signs of life were present. I put on a nymph pattern, and a few casts later I felt the tug I had been longing. I immediately set the hook, then stripped my line until the fish was in our net. It was a small, but that wasn’t what was most disappointing. Today was planned as the brown trout day, and this little guy was a brook trout. I was happy to not be skunked for the day but decided to try plan C to finally catch my brown.

Anastasia’s first brow trout ever.

For the second time, we hiked back to the car and headed off to fish another spot. I was disappointed and it was last few hours of day light, so all I could do was focus and not give up. Fishing from sunrise to sunset can make for a long day, but fishing three different hike-in creeks was starting to wear on us.

It was less of a walk to get to the water, but if the first runs didn’t produce a fish, then it would be a long journey back in the dark. The water was moving pretty good from recent melts, but not too fast. We fished a couple spots that were pretty open with not much area to hide from the view of the fish below. As I worked my way along the steam, I hid behind some vegetation and roll-cast into a nice bubble line, watching as my fly drifted downstream. Right when it got to the tail end of the pool and I prepared to pick up for another cast, I was surprise by the flash of an aggressive fish. I set and was quick to grab my net, so I wouldn’t lose what could only be the species I was in search of. Finally, I had landed my brown, got the picture documentation for the trout challenge, and let it go so it could grow.

A fish yes but not the one I was looking for as you can tell by my strange facial expression.

I had beaten the browns that day, but they sure as heck made me work for it. Since this trip, I have decided to fish more for this species and attempt to figure them out the best I can. When talking to people from other states or looking through photos online, the browns seem to be pretty prolific, making them easier to catch. I even know a few local guys who have caught monster browns in Arizona or are pretty constant catching browns each trip.

My progression as a fly fisherman was the main motivation for this trip. As a beginner, I wanted to get out in search of new species and locations and learn what it takes to catch a fish in different environments. People say “the tug is the drug”–which I completely understand–but to me it’s the thirst for knowledge that keeps us putting miles on our boots in search of wild trout. We fished our way back to the car and had some luck, but it was time to get our camp vibes going, as well as a nice fire to warm up.

Day 5 was the one I had the most confidence in because it was a spot I had fished many times and always had good luck. The only species left on the list was my favorite, so I think I saved the best for last. Either way, I was pretty happy to spend the last day of the trip fishing for some wild brook trout. Join us in two weeks for another Wild Trout Wednesday and Day 5 of our Arizona Wild Trout Challenge.

I am still dreaming of large Arizona Brown Trout bending my rod and over filling my net.

Home for the night came with a great view.

A Gatorwire so.

These small streams can’t handle very much angling pressure, so keeping a secret is important.

A tree provides cover while fishing a small pool.

Follow our adventures in search of wild trout each week for Wild Trout Wednesday and stay tuned next week to read about our fifth day on our Arizona Wild Trout Challenge trip.

Click here for “The Arizona Wild Trout Challenge, Day One” Day Two, and Day Three.

Tyler Coleman lives in Arizona. Check him out on Instagram: @thecolemancollection. Follow the Colemans’ Wild Trout Challenge experience here for the next few Wild Trout Wednesdays.

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