This is a bittersweet post for me, as this was my last trip fishing the Arizona small creeks as a resident of the state. The time has come to relocate my family to Michigan, where we have opportunities that we could not pass up to build a great life for us and our children. With our big move only a few days away, I had a trip planned to wander some new creeks looking for wild trout. This trip was even more exciting because I had just received my new 7-foot 3-weight Superfine Glass rod, perfect for getting into the brush of small creeks. I could not wait to get that first tug on the new rod.
I headed off early to the mountains with my good friend, Ricky, into an area neither of us was familiar with. I had done a lot of research on these creeks but never had the chance to explore them. After hours of driving, we had finally gotten out of the heat and into some cool mountain air, but even that was unusually warm. After wandering around the woods trying to find the correct forest road, we found a spot and decided to hike down creek while the hatches were good. Right off the bat, I had a fish come out from an overhang and nail my fly, but I broke my tippet on the rock. I tied on a new fly and hoped the fish would eat again. After a couple passes, it was back on and running down creek, but it didn’t quite behave like a trout. I got the fish into my net and wasn’t sure what to think.
This was a native species of desert sucker that I didn’t know even lived in the creek. This was a pretty exciting find for me and a great way to break in my new rod. As we wandered farther along the trail, we found some great pockets holding small brown trout, and eventually I got into one that would show me how fun this fiberglass rod can be. I had walked up on a nice-size pool that had a good pocket next to the plunge. As I cast, I hoped something would be eager to eat, and right after the splash of my fly, I saw two smaller trout dart out ready to attack. It seemed like they spooked each other and went back in, so I let me fly drift down the pool and made another cast. Again, right when the fly landed, a fish came straight for it and this time took a bite. I set and prepared for a short battle but was surprised to see a nice fish on the line. The trout darted all over the creek, while my Superfine was bent. Luckily, my friend Ricky was right there and quick to get the net in the water, and I had successfully landed a nice small-stream brown trout.
With a smile on my face, we fished the last few hours of sunlight, catching more small brown trout before heading into town for some dinner. On the drive, we lost count of elk after about sixty and saw a couple deer hanging out a long the road, as well. With full stomachs and tired bodies, we found a spot to camp for the night and hung our waders up to dry.
After a good night’s sleep, we were back on the creek in search of wild trout. This part of the creek is rumored to hold a few different species, but we were not sure what we would find. The winding creek was pretty low and clear with not much cover to hide from the fish. As we got farther along the trail, there were large schools of small trout swimming around the pools, which made us feel pretty good. With nothing but grass around, the fish only have the undercuts for protection from predators, so I began dead-drifting flies past them in hope something would be fooled to come out of hiding for a snack. In the blink of an eye, there was a flash, so I set and again the rod was bent. I was excited to see my first Apache trout of the trip in the net and quickly sent it on its way. We continued upstream, catching a few more of our native species. As we climbed in elevation, we caught more fish, and the species changed which was exactly what we had hoped for.
The rumor of brook trout in these meadows had proven correct. With such a small stream, we didn’t expect any record-size fish, but even these small trout are a blast to catch on glass rods. Soon we had reached the end of the boundary line, so we worked our way back down to another tributary to catch a few more fish before calling it a day. This area had more Apache trout eager to eat and send us home with on a positive note.
I will surely miss the mountains of Arizona, but I couldn’t be more excited to explore the overwhelming number of fishing spots that Michigan has to offer. This trip was a great way to say farewell, catching three species in one area and longing for more adventures in the Arizona mountains. We joke that we will be the youngest snowbirds when we come to visit each winter and we will definitely continue to wander all of our favorite small streams in Arizona.
Tyler Coleman lives in Arizona. Check him out on Instagram: @thecolemancollection.