In my last article, I shared my excitement for the new stream improvements on the East Verde River at Second and Third Crossing. I actually saw a trout rise next to one of these new structures soon after they were installed, so I thought I had it all figured out when I finally had time to break out my fly rod and give both areas a try.
I should have known that kind of thinking doomed me to a fishless day. You should never feel confident you have it all figured out with fishing!
My plan was to head downstream from one structure to the next and hopefully find a few holdover trout from the fall.
I started at Second Crossing and was fishing the water like I normally do during the summer. I fished the faster runs that had cover and hit the new structures as I moved downstream.
The first fish I saw was in the shade in the middle of a quiet, shallow pool where I was not expecting him. As soon as he saw me and before I could make a cast, he headed for the nearest new stream improvement device and disappeared.
You’d think I would have learned, but this happened twice more at Second Crossing and again with a nice trout at Third Crossing before I came up with a theory why I was missing the location of the fish. By that time, I had run out of time and stream improvement devices.
During the winter, with much cooler temperatures, the fish are apt to roam more freely and use some relatively shallow, quiet pools as the conditions are less stressful for them than during the summer. The cooler water holds the dissolved oxygen better and they don’t need the faster runs that help oxygenate the water.
Even as I investigated some of the shallow pools, the trout quickly showed that they appreciated the quick access to cover that the new structures provided them.
I learned another important piece of information with the new timber barbs at Second Crossing that I hadn’t considered. When I fish them on Canyon Creek and Tonto Creek, these log barbs have been in the water in both creeks for five or more years. I rarely have a problem dragging my flies across the structures on these creeks as the water over the years has worn the bark off and they are smooth and slippery. These new East Verde structures still have the bark on them and often grabbed my flies.
As frustrating as that sounds, it is something that I like. It will cause me to change my casting approach and demand greater accuracy for each cast. I love new challenges on the stream, and it makes fishless days more fun.
I also learned on this trip that my plan for casting downstream and drifting and stripping wooly buggers was not what I needed to do to catch trout in the quiet pools. Next time I will cast dry flies, hopeful for a delicate landing on the water that will entice one of those roaming trout to grab my fly well before it knows that I am there.
As tough as fishing can be this time of the year on the creeks, it is a favorite time for me to get out on the stream. I love exploring waters that I have all to myself. There are enough fish to keep it interesting, and I always seem to find holes I hadn’t noticed because of the overgrown banks during the summer; or the fall and winter high water conditions have changed a familiar hole into something new for me to learn.
I am looking forward to years of fishing enjoyment on the East Verde River with these new stream improvement devices. I know that they are great for the fish and will improve fishing for years to come.