Silver Creek, outside of Show Low, is a spring-fed creek that maintains a consistent water temperature all year. It is stocked with Apache trout and very large rainbow trout for the opening of the catch and release season that runs from October 1 through March 31.
During this season, no bait is permitted, and only single point barbless flies and lures can be used. It is important to return the fish unharmed as quickly as possible to the creek. Then, starting April 1 through September 30, normal statewide fishing regulations apply.
Silver Creek is generally a narrow, slow-moving creek that is characterized by steep banks in most locations. Along extended stretches of the bank, reeds further impede access to the creek. Fishing is done entirely from the banks, and there are plenty of access points to fish. A long-handled net is a necessity.
There are many trout I pass up, even though I would have no difficulty casting to them. I know that if I hooked a big fish in a reedy or steep banked area that I could not get to quickly, that I could break off and lose the fish, or even worse hang up the fish, and not be able to get to it to release it.
In a normal year, I would carpool with some friends for the two-hour trip to Silver Creek. That ride always provided a lot of laughs and great conversation. There was talk of strategy, best flies, and the size of fish that always seemed to stretch by a couple inches in the time from netting it in the creek to the drive home.
I recently made my first trip to Silver Creek this year, and it was quite a bit different, but equally enjoyable; perhaps even more so. I drove separately from my fishing buddy, Dave Rozema. Instead of scattering to different sections of the creek as I had been used to in the past, Dave and I stuck close by as we fished.
While good fishing can be had within a couple hundred yards of the parking lot, we decided that we would walk the 30 minutes to the upper section. The water can vary from being pretty murky to running clear. While I wish for more rainfall and a decent snowfall this winter, the lack of precipitation left the creek running pretty clear. That certainly helps you see the incredible number of large fish, but it also means that the fish can easily see you as well.
As we walked up the creek, we watched for trout. Every fish we saw seemed to be 18 inches or much larger.
What made this trip fun was being able to talk with Dave and strategize as we took turns casting to individual trout that looked like they were feeding, or even to pods of fish. With a fishing partner, we gain a spotter to identify fish moving into casting range from up or downstream, and two pairs of eyes to see how the fish reacted to the fly presentation.
We both were using two fly rigs, and so could also try a variety of patterns to see what the trout were most interested in, and then provide that updated information to each other immediately. There are days when it seems any fly will work on Silver Creek, and other days that I have changed flies close to twenty times trying to coax a strike.
When we got to the Upper Section, which has the deepest pool on the creek, there were some truly giant trout that looked to be two feet long or longer. It was quite crowded, however, Dave didn’t even bother fishing, while I tried it for a little while. Fishing the Upper Section might result in some truly massive fish, but you risk a crowded pool and possibly wasting more fishing time getting there and back.
I am usually content to fish the section of the creek starting upstream from the foot bridge about a hundred yards from the parking lot. I encounter all the fish that I can handle in a few hours in that first quarter mile stretch. I am sure that is what I will plan on for my next trip.
You can learn a lot from other anglers on Silver Creek. The openness of the terrain along the creek, and the easy conversational distance with other anglers as they walk behind you on the path, or talk across the stream seems to create a great camaraderie on the creek.
Folks will share information on what fly and technique is working for them in hopes you have similar success if you have had a tough start to the day.
On this trip, it was fun watching a friend cast to a fish, see the take of the fly, and watch the battle as the fish finally came to net. Another advantage is that a friend makes netting a big fish so much easier between the reeds and steep banks.
I hope for the return of safe carpools and the fun conversations that are a part of those trips, but even when that happens I think I will prefer the buddy approach to fishing Silver Creek that I enjoyed on this last trip.