Following my pointless moan on the previous post I decided to resurrect this article that I have started and abandoned several times.
Arizona ~ April 2007: Even though summer had not yet got into full swing it was dry and very, very hot. I was grateful for the cold water swirling around my legs as I waded further into the Lower Salt River trying to read this strange body of water, so unlike anything I had fished before. The parched valley runs west through the desert from Saguaro Lake towards Scottsdale and the river’s course is picked out from the surrounding desert browns in a vivid green line of Palo Verde and Mesquite trees, home to Red Winged Blackbirds and Black Chinned Hummingbirds.
No sane angler would venture out in cloudless blue skies with temperatures topping 100 in England but the Arizonan trout is made of sterner stuff than it’s European cousin and doesn’t seem to mind the blinding sun. I caught several small wild fish to Andrew Cartwright’s excellent Sparkle Arse nymph during the hottest part of the day.
The Lower Salt is quite near to where I stayed during my visit and it was handy to pop out for an hour or two to pursue the local brownies but the real quarry on this trip was the Apache Trout, found only in the White Mountains of Arizona.
I had arranged a couple of days out on the Apache Reservation near Pinetop with a guy called ‘Chief’, the acknowledged expert in the area. Sadly, he had to pull out at the last minute so my short period of self indulgent ‘me time’ turned into a traveling circus; my hosts entire family and my wife, a total of ten people in all, made the journey northwards and upwards, over the Mollogon Rim to Pinetop [7200 ft] where we rented a cabin for the weekend.
Barely 3 hours from the desert heat of Phoenix, gone are the Saguaro & Ocatillo Cactus, replaced by Bristle Cone Pines and the last of the winter’s snow lying at the side of the road. The whole place has the fresh feel of the Tyrol about it – it’s no wonder so many city folk have weekend retreats up there.
Without the Chief to advise me I had to pass up on the rivers and streams, so we headed out to Hawley Lake – Me, and two new converts to the fly. We took a few small Apaches between us but I watched in amazement as some locals bagged fished after fish on a spinner. Every one of them went on a stringer – c’mon! No-one eats that much fish 😦
There were hungrier mouths on the lake that day. Towards evening, with storm clouds massing on the mountain tops I was starting to get a few more takes on a tiny Copper John. I was concentrating hard now, watching for the leader to move when it came – tug, tug SPLASH! An Osprey dived into the water and took off a few seconds later clutching the largest fish I’d seen all day. I’m not saying that it took my fish, but it hit the water so close to the end of my leader that it must have been mine or a very close relative.
Back down in the desert I fished the Lower Salt again, this time in the company of Mike, the moderator of the Arizona Fly & Tie forum. Time was limited so we fished a short stretch just below Blue Point Bridge where the river takes an abrupt turn producing mouth watering creases & popply water. Despite the scene being so perfect, the fish hadn’t read the script and we both skunked [see Mike, I’ve been learning the language]. Nevertheless, it was great to spend a couple of hours fishing and chatting with the man who had been so helpful when I was arranging the trip.