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newby 09-25-2012 06:49 PM

Killer Time in the White Mountains- AZ
WARNING: Long Report, Picture Heavy!!!!! Read at your own risk! ;)

I recently got back from 3 full days in the whites mountains of eastern Arizona plus a little time after I arrived and before I left. It was great. The fish were looking up and taking hoppers of the surface VICIOUSLY. Hoppers were flying around in the meadows in great abundance. The fish seem to be out of their dog days mode, at least in the streams and rivers.

Arrived late on Friday 9/14. Had about an hour to fish and picked the hatchery apache spot. It was pretty fished out considering 700 had supposedly been dumped here two weeks prior. I had about six hits, all resulting in hook ups.

Next day I fished an apache trout recovery stream. The fishing was slow and we didn't really know much about the stream, other than the area we were fishing should have had fish in it. I finally coaxed a wild apache to take one of my hand tied imitations. We then went back and fished a trib on the way that was ridiculously tiny. A gorgeous little golden gem took my hand tied mini hopper from this small stream.
Yes, that is my tiny 7'3" 2wt fly rod with a little reel lying across the stream.

Good company and great fishing meant the catching didn't have to be on the same level. Walking back to the vehicle, this little guy meandered across the road, and of course I had to get a picture.

Once the horned toad realized I was a gentle giant, and that my hand was forty degrees warmer than the ambient air temperature, it was hard to persuade him to leave, and he wasn't too happy when I gently nudged him off.

That evening I switched tactics and hit a stream for some wild apache trout. It started off slow as I had to get my small stream mojo and stealth back on. Once I had a few things figured out, you couldn't keep the voracious little streambred apaches from taking an olive rubber legged stimi. The fish during the entire trip weren't too picky about what they ate, as long as stealth, good presentation, and a decently long cast were used. They did seem to prefer something with legs, however.

I picked up over 20 in an afternoon's worth of fishing.

This apache had a little deformity, but it didn't stop him from feeding like he was in a Liberian prison camp for the first half of his life.

Some of the scenery after the day's fishing was done.

The next day I fished a semi-remote stream that held LOTS of eager, wild browns. They were definitely no dummies in this lot, however. A shadow or a heavy footstep would spook them, so I put all my small stream skill (what little I have) into finding them.

Again, hoppers and foamy things were the ticket. Green, tan, and orange worked best. The takes were fast and furious, and hook sets had to be almost immediate or they would be gone.

Gorgeous wild brown trout came to hand. Undercuts, pools, and deeper riffles were the ticket to finding them, as was pocket water.

newby 09-25-2012 06:49 PM

Re: Killer Time in the White Mountains- AZ
I LOVE to stalk fish. maybe it's the hunter in me, but for some reason the stealth, the cast, the presentation, all which ideally culminate in the quick flash of gold, all of it just makes sense.

I fished a big stimi under an undercut bank where I knew a brown trout just had to be laying. I couldn't even see the fly as it went around the bend and through the undercut. I know this sounds weird, but I was listening, and just waiting to "feel" the take. I guess it's kind of like how you start to get up, not even realizing why, and then the phone rings...

I couldn't "feel" it in the conventional sense with the slack from the mend, but somehow I just sensed that a trout had taken it. The rod tip jerked upward as I set the hook and felt pressure.

YES!!!! Wait, No?

The line was taught but I seemed glued to the side of the undercut. My fish was just probably a root or clump of grass.

And then it started to MOVE. I tell you, he wasn't huge, but he fought me like only a wild trout can. I had to horse him from the undercut, where he was diving for the safety of weeds. It was a little nerve racking on 6X, let me tell you.

My plan was to remain dry on the bank, but all bets were off when I got him out into the current. Diving into the water like a trained Seal, I chased after him and netted the gorgeous brown.

The hook slipped from his lip and I had time to take two quick pictures. Neither really emphasized his beauty, his thickness, or his length. He wasn't a gaint, but for this stream, he was a trophy. I didn't have a tape measure with me on this trip, but who cares? It was about more than numbers and ounces.

He finned his way back into the water, as lively as any fish I've seen. For a moment I felt satisfied with the number of fish I'd caught, and then I realized that was ridiculous, who can catch enough fish to satisfy them?

This fish tried to escape, but I won in the end, getting a decent picture.

I ended the afternoon with around 20-25 browns, a few misses, and a couple of LDR's.

The next day I explored a stream in the morning, and kicked back in the afternoon. The inhabitants were gorgeous, and in their fall colors. I didn't realize it at the time, but the rotund little ones were probably females full of eggs. Thankfully, they all cooperated and I was able to treat them VERY gently. This stream was small, and VERY hard to fish. I did end up with 15+ for half a day's fishing.

Honestly, is there a prettier fish than a fall brook trout?

The artist who painted these was more skilled than Van Gogh

The next day I had to leave, but I went back to the brown trout spot. My mojo was off that morning, missing and ldr'ing 10-15, but I regained it and by 3:00 had a great last day. Caught a bunch like these.

It was an EPIC trip! All the research paid off.

The first night it froze, got down to 29 degrees. but the hoppers were still active in the afternoon. Every other day they were prolific. Even caught a brookie with a mini hopper that hadn't even swallowed the last hopper he had eaten.

Each day I caught between 15-30 fish. The numbers were good, all were caught on hoppers, and the beauty of the trout was unmatched.

We had a 200 lb cinnamon black bear boar run across the road in front of us on the drive up, and I saw a larger sow on the way back feeding on something in a meadow. We saw deer, turkey, elk (including a big bull) and all sorts of other animals. The elk were bugling there heads off, the fall is starting to show, and everything seemed perfect. What a trip!

It's good to live in AZ :D.

mcnerney 09-25-2012 07:18 PM

Re: Killer Time in the White Mountains- AZ
Newby: Great trip report and photos, looks like you had an outstanding trip, I'm jealous with all that top water action you enjoyed, congrats!


jmac321 10-14-2012 03:42 PM

Re: Killer Time in the White Mountains- AZ
Very Nice report, excellent pic's. The white mountains I'll have to try that area of the state sometime.

tennessee dave 10-14-2012 04:03 PM

Re: Killer Time in the White Mountains- AZ
Great report and photos. Thanks for sharing. There is NO more beautiful trout than the fall brookies.

mysticm 10-14-2012 05:12 PM

Re: Killer Time in the White Mountains- AZ
Sounds like you had a fantastic trip. Thanks for sharing it with us.

double dry 11-27-2012 12:50 PM

Re: Killer Time in the White Mountains- AZ
Just came across this post. Looks like you had a great time. I grew up fly fishing the White Mountains. My mom still lives in Pinetop.

Your post brought back some memories. Thanks!

il_wi_fishing 11-27-2012 01:30 PM

Re: Killer Time in the White Mountains- AZ
really a super post, i certainly appreciate the effort that went into to show all the pics

does the state of AZ have natural reproduction in its streams?

newby 11-27-2012 02:59 PM

Re: Killer Time in the White Mountains- AZ

Originally Posted by il_wi_fishing (Post 501893)
really a super post, i certainly appreciate the effort that went into to show all the pics

does the state of AZ have natural reproduction in its streams?

Yup. Every fish posted in that report is wild and streambred.

It is actually kind of funny. We have some streams that are largely put and take, like Tonto Creek, that still have wild rainbows and browns that reproduce, and then we have catch and release streams like Canyon Creek which (at least the lower portion) rely exclusively on natural reproduction.

We don't have ANYWHERE near as many streams as most states, and the ones we do have are concentrated up in the higher regions (mogollon rim, white mountains, etc......). Living in a state with more than six million people and at any given time only 200-300 streams, many of them remote, that hold trout can be tough, but there are certainly gems to be found.

Long story short a good number of streams in Arizona, even ones that get hit hard by bait fisherman, have natural reproduction in a lot of areas. Just a few weeks ago the browns and brookies in two of my favorite streams were pairing up and getting on redds- that was one cool trip just to watch that happen.

il_wi_fishing 11-27-2012 03:11 PM

Re: Killer Time in the White Mountains- AZ
thanks for that, ive always kinda wondered about that

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