Written by: Tyler Coleman
As I headed off to the state I called home for most my life, the excitement of familiar waters was setting in. I knew that with fall came aggressive feeding and bold colors, so I couldn’t wait. My friend Ricky picked me up with plenty of time before sunrise, and we made our way into the mountains eager to get our flies wet.
The first spot we had planned to fish had been a flop for me once in the past, but the timing was much better for this trip. We parked the truck at our first stop, got our gear on, and began the hike down into the canyon. A few minutes later, it was down to business figuring out what the fish would be keyed on. When the sun crept over the cliffs above, I felt the warmth of Arizona stream fishing. Not much later, I noticed a bug moving in the tall grass, which brought a smile to my face as I tied on a hopper. I began to work my hopper along all of the places that looked fishy. Soon my line was tight and the battle was on. I was surprised to see a wild rainbow on the line, since brown trout seemed to be more plentiful from everything I had read about this water.
After some more fishing and not much luck, I decided to add on a dropper. I had been successful with this particular rig in Michigan, so I figured I would give it a shot in hopes of finding more fish. Well I was right and the fun began. The dropper was the popular choice of the brown trout for the day as my net met more and more fish. Desert colored Browns and even another rainbow who was happy to take my hopper. If we stayed fishing this spot all day I’m sure I could have predicted the species on the line based on what fly it ate.
After we caught a few more fish and took a quick swim to cool off, we decided to hike back to the car and see if we could get a third species for the day. This next stream is one of our favorite spots and can be tough to fish. You never know what the water can be like in small stream fishing because a little weather can make a huge difference. This day was mostly sunny, with bugs in the air and warm weather making for some happy fish.
Having fished this place many times, I knew a few small pools I wanted to check for those fish that had gotten away in the past. The water was pretty low and clear, making for even spookier fish than the past, but I took that as a challenge. Every crunch of a stick, movement of our rod or shadow seemed to send the trout into hiding, no matter how far back we were from the creek. I decided to go with a hopper, guessing that these fish were very aggressive and would come out of the water for a fly. Luckily, I was right and the fish did not disappoint. The pockets I normally fish were empty but lurking in the undercuts were fish I had only seen once before.
Anyone who has followed along on my posts here knows I am a fan of small-stream brook trout. This day only furthered my love. The rest of the day was spent trying to set faster than they could leap for the flies, getting our lines out of trees, listening to bugling elk, and catching some fun fish. We kept at it until the sun began to set and then made our way out of the mountains. I am grateful for days like these, which remind me how much fun a day on the water can be. Even though my time in Arizona was short, it was one of my favorite times fishing there. Thank you to my good friend Ricky who no matter how crazy the adventure is always up to spend the day in search of wild trout.
Tyler Coleman recently moved from Arizona to Michigan. Check him out on Instagram at @thecolemancollection. He is a frequent contributor to this blog.
7 thoughts on “Photos: Back to Arizona for High-Country Trout”
Awesome trip report, beautiful fish
Thank you Brian! I just got back from another trip to AZ that treated us really well! While most of the country slowed down it seems AZ fishing heated up!
Tyler, where was this? Care to share? I’m new to fly fishing and just moved back to AZ(from NorCal and Colorado). I’ve benn to the Rim several times to camp but curious where these streams are.
Hope all is well in Michigan!
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Amazing photos. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you Mark!